Great Finales & Fall Show Pickups

By People's Choice | 8:33 am on October 19, 2010

Did you vote? Did you make your voice heard in the PCA nominations process? Stay tuned for more and we’ll let you know about Tweeting nominations, etc. So today let’s talk about TV, and how conditioned we may be becoming. Or at least I’ve become. Sunday night was the season finale of Mad Men, a show that in my mind is so beautifully written,  so consistently good, so unpredictable and acted with such nuance that it pretty much blows any other drama out of the water. But that’s just me. Yet – and here’s my point – the internet is completely abuzz with  commentary saying that the finale was unsatisfying because it was  too low key. When in fact the finale was especially powerful because (and beware – I think of this as a NEGATIVE SPOILER: ) there wasn’t a death, there wasn’t a firing, there wasn’t an infidelity reveal). There were certainly surprises, but they built slowly and they were measured – and for a show that just racks up Emmy after Emmy, nobody on that writing staff seems to be resorting to any publicity grabs for their last program of the year. In fact our anticipation and near dread was so ratcheted up during the episode that the moment anyone set foot near a swimming pool viewers were certain tragedy would strike. Is that because we are so used to action-packed finales? Are we so conditioned now that if there’s no operating table in sight or a heart monitor beeping we feel cheated?  The season’s not complete until a few surgeons and interns get gunned down? I’m going to say yes. Couple this finale with the following announcement: NBC has just given full season orders for these shows: The Event , Law & Order: LA and Outsourced. So here’s how I understand this: The Event as been getting generally good buzz. People enjoy it – I certainly thought it was an interesting example in the let’s-explore-an-apocalyptic-event-over-a-season -category. Plus there’s no denying the charms of Blair Underwood,  Laura Innes and newcomer  (but old soul) Jason Ritter. Then we have Law & Order:LA. There are probably several reasons why this is a go: a)  it’s part of the L&O franchise & features writers who have delivered some of the most compelling drama ever to hit the small screen. b) Skeet Ulrich has drawing power ,  c) it’s set in LA where, coincidentally, most of the network executives are also set, so they already have an affinity and d) NBC probably doesn’t feel like letting go of a valuable part of this franchise when the original was canceled after a hundred and forty-six years.  Now, what about Outsourced? Which I think is terrible. But here’s the what: 22-year old men, 30-year old men, 35-year old men – all the guys in that age group think it’s hilarious. And those are the guys people worry about keeping happy when they’re trying to launch a new TV show because these are the young men who buy the stuff that gets advertised on bad shows like Outsourced. So if they like it, it’s a go. I think these are some of the guys who also made Jackass 3D the biggest October movie opening ever  — $50 million dollars. Yet,  for some reason, the quiet stuff (even Emmy-winning quiet stuff) doesn’t get the attention it deserves and we fall prey to the shiny stuff that may involve firearms, true global menace  and lowbrow comedy.  So when Mad Men does end, what do we make of a non-apocalyptic episode?  Are we right to wonder about its sublety? And have we all become so trained  by the OTHER shows out there (I know I have) that we’re even more shocked by the lack of a shocker than anything else?  I think that’s what’s happening here. I guess what I’m getting at is that perhaps we don’t need to be so conditioned, and perhaps we need to look out for some of the quieter shows that may even be hidden gems.  That’s not to say that The Event and even L&O:LA aren’t good shows. But I do think we shouldn’t look at all TV through the same lens and judge everything by the amount of explosives detonated or hare-brained & perilous stunts performed. And just because the TV Guide lists an episode as the “Season Finale” doesn’t mean it’s got to involve a cliffhanging Armageddon.

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