Series Finales, part 2

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Now, as announced, my four worst series finales ever.

The Prisoner
A wonderfully quirky show created by the series star, Patrick McGoohan. After a secret agent quits, he is abducted and placed in "The Village" where he is held prisoner. There, he is questioned about the circumstances behind his quitting and any other information he may have. He has no idea who has him or what their goal is. It was a show that was very much a commentary on life and the trappings that we are bound by, the show was clever and interesting for the most part. Then came the last episode with expectations that the story would be resolved. And all insanity broke loose. The final episode was completely nonsensical. It resolved nothing and betrayed it's own level of realism. Some look for symbolism in the episode. I suppose it can be found, but that's not what I was wanting. Fortunately, I'm able to distance that episode from the rest of the series and I still enjoy what it was for the first 16 episodes or so.

The A-Team
For five years, and for an unseen ten years before that, John "Hannibal" Smith, Templeton "Faceman" Peck, and Bosco "B. A." Baracus, along with their crazy ally "Howling Mad" Murdock, were on the run from the law and the military. While fugitives, they helped common folks, sometimes for money and sometimes for free. They were the good guys, able to do whatever it took to bring justice to a situation. Not bound by any law. Completely free. Finally, it looked like they were on the path to getting a pardon from the president, but we never made it to that point. The show was canceled and the last episode was one of the worst episodes produced. Upstaged by a large group of senior citizens who rode a bus around and fought crime with their canes, the original team congregated at the end of the episode to ponder what they might do with their lives should they get a pardon. And that's it. No resolution. Just a tacked on ending that talked about what could be. Ah yes...what could have been...

Enterprise
I hesitate including this show because I didn't feel like it was that great of a show to begin with. But in their series finale, they went back and spat in the eye of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Twelve or so years after the episode "The Pegasus" was produced, the final episode of Enterprise takes us back there and fills in the gaps between scenes. Of course, I never realized there were gaps. And I want to know how Riker and Troi aged and deaged, enlarged and shrank from moment to moment. We find out that Riker had a crisis of conscience that could only be resolved by going into the holodek and reliving the final mission of Captain Archer's Enterprise. In using this set up, they completely ignored the cast of the show and created something inferior to either show's standards.

The X-Files
I didn't watch this show in the same way most people did. Instead of watching it over the course of nine years, I watched it in about 14 months. And in watching it at that rate, I was able to see that a lot of stuff didn't really add up. The "mythology" of the show was contradictory, convoluted, and dull. I no longer was interested in Mulder who had been absent for a year and came back for the finale. Upon his return, he reclaimed the show causing new series regulars Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish to become Coy and Vance to Duchovny and Anderson's Bo and Luke. The show ends with nothing completely resolved and no sense of what is to come other than impending doom that the heroes ultimately could not stop. Well, maybe "heroes" is the wrong word now that I think about it.

There's one more way that a show can end badly, but it presents a different list. Sometimes a show is canceled and the last episode is a cliffhanger. It's a rarity when the show can be brought back and resolved. Alien Nation did it. Farscape did it. Firefly did it and made it to the big screen. But many others have not. Next time, in finale of my series finale series, I'll list some of the best (or is it worst?) cliffhanger series finales.

Series Finales

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I've recently had the opportunity to watch two different television series finales. It's always interesting to me to see how a series is concluded. Television shows can be broken down into two major categories: episodic and continuous. One show I concluded recently was Alias which very much carried "mythology" from episode to episode. Missing one or two episodes would seriously hinder your understanding of the plot. The other show I concluded recently was The A-Team which was episodic. Very few storylines carried through from episode to episode and anything that did, was rarely addressed.

I think no matter what kind of show it was, we always want to see our favorite shows wrapped up nice and neat by the final episode. Sometimes the conclusions can be too neat as maybe was the case in Alias. And sometimes, circumstances get in the way of the conclusion being a 90 second add-on at the tail end of an already awful episode, as was the case in A-Team. Either way, we can spend years with these characters, we want to know that even though we may never see them again, they've achieved their purpose or that they'll live happily ever after.

With major spoilers ahead and embedded YouTube videos, the links of which will probably be broken within the week, I present to you a list of what I believe to be the best five series finales ever...

Babylon 5
Successfully completing the five year run, the final episode of Babylon 5 skipped forward almost 20 years after the events of the previous episode. The surviving characters reunite one last time as John Sheridan knows his renewed life energy given to him at Z'ha'dum is fading. Rather than be a conclusion, this is one brief snapshot of where things stand in the lives of these characters 20 years after the show took place. It's a simple, sweet episode that leaves enough room open for further adventures within the universe, but gives a definite endpoint for many of these characters. I do still believe that some dangling plot threads introduced within the show should have been resolved within the show. Unfortunately, some of those answers had to come from the books (considered to be canon by creator J. Michael Straczynski). Still, those unresolved plotlines don't take away from the emotional coda written and directed by the show's creator.

Newhart
This was lost on me when I first watched it at the age of 13 or 14. But ending the show by making the entire series a dream of Bob Newhart's character on his previous show was brilliant and unexpected. And while I'm sure many of the viewers of "Newhart" watched "The Bob Newhart Show," it was brave to refer to a show that had been off the air for 12 years.

Here's a clip of how the show ended:



Angel
I'm still hazy on whether this was intended to be the series finale or not. And it doesn't matter. Angel and his surviving teammates meet up in an alley and an army of monsters are pouring towards them. Angel stakes his claim on the giant dragon and the team rushes into fight. Cut to black. The over-arcing subplot of Angel regaining his humanity is unresolved, but that doesn't even seem to matter. The fact is, Angel and his crew will fight to the end. If this is the end, then it's the kind of "blaze of glory" we want to see our heroes go out in. And if Angel and his crew survive, then it's good to know they're still out there fighting. Either way, that was a great place to stop.

Here's a clip of the final minutes of Angel:



The Office (UK)
The British version ran for 12 half hour episodes and then concluded in a 90 minute special. The show was a mockumentary of sorts and the special picks up a few years after the series had concluded with the documentary team returning to now orchestrate a conclusion for these office workers they followed around for quite some time. The show ends with characters making serious decisions about their lives. We finally see a glimmer of hope that David Brent is maybe redeemable after all. And the love story subplot is brought to its rightful conclusion in just the way that it should be. The documentary-style allows the characters to share with the viewers their internal thoughts in a way that no other show really can. Well-crafted from all standpoints, the creators didn't want to continue and bring the show's quality down. Instead, they went out while they were still great and on their own terms.

Farscape
Technically speaking, the series finale was not great. The fourth and fifth seasons of Farscape were renewed at the same time, so the writers wrote season four's ending as a cliffhanger. Then, Sci-fi reneged on their deal and canceled the show anyway. However, they did pickup a four hour mini-series entitled Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars. And it was the best four hours of television ever produced. It's only fault was that it was not longer because it was obvious that every 20 minutes we were seeing what would have taken an entire episode or two to cover. So, within four hours, we got to watch an entire season of Farscape that had a bigger budget and raised stakes. Almost too good for television.

Here's the trailer for the mini-series. Be careful, you might feel compelled to watch all four hours right now:



When it comes to finales and how best to approach the idea of ending our look into the lives of these characters, Tim from the British version of The Office summed it up best:

I don't know what a happy ending is. Life isn't about endings is it? It's a series of moments. And, um...it's like, you know, if you turned the camera off, it's not an ending, is it? I'm still here. My life's not over. Come back...come back here in ten years, see how I'm doing then. 'Cuz I could be married with kids. You don't know.


So, those are the best. Next time I post, I'll give a list of the ones I consider the worst series finales. In the meantime, I look forward to your comments specifically about the ones you feel to be the best.

Captain Kirk, meet K.I.T.T.

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Since the time I could understand what they were, I've found TV show crossovers to be fascinating. Seeing how favorite characters from different environments interact with each other is the primary draw, but there are also several "inside baseball" factors which have nerd appeal (the behind the scenes finagling to bring the crossover to reality, how the "guest" characters are written when not on "their" show, what the producers or network were trying to accomplish with the crossover, etc.).

Some of my favorite crossovers include:

  • Transformers/G.I. Joe – An elderly Cobra Commander appears as the villain in an episode of the Transformers cartoon. Even as a kid I knew that animation studios took a lot of shortcuts, so I thought they were just reusing the character design (and voice of Chris Latta) up until the very end of the episode when Cobra Commander lets out a "Cobra!" battle cry before disappearing into the night.
  • Magnum, P.I./Murder She Wrote – This was a two part crossover that began on an episode of Magnum and concluded on Murder She Wrote. Even though the Murder She Wrote episode portrays Magnum as a buffoon, it's still Magnum and therefore I still think it's awesome.
  • Family Matters/Step by Step – Any crossover that begins with Urkel crashing into the secondary show via a rocket pack is one you have to see.
  • Batman/Green Hornet – There is something quite surreal about seeing Bruce Lee, of all people, in a fight scene featuring animated KAPOWs and WHAMMOs.

And if you're wondering about the title of the post, yes there is a connection between Knight Rider and Start Trek. The Crossovers & Spin Offs Master Page at Poobala.com covers this sort of thing with unbelievable detail. Poobala is one those amazingly bizarre sites that the Internet was made for.

Band Nerds

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Following up on some earlier comments . . . I have always been interested in the correlation between nerds and music.

One of the hallmarks of nerddom is an obsession with trivia, and the music world gives you many opportunities in that regard. CT and I had a coworker in the publishing business who bought CDs by metal bands from all over the world --- especially the hokey old-school guys with the Dungeons and Dragons imagery and the leather pants.

I tend to go through different phases, but for several years, my bread and butter was "soul jazz" --- very accessible blues/R&B/gospel flavored jazz, usually with a wailing tenor sax and a screaming Hammond B3 organ. During this phase, I was playing in an R&B/oldies band and got stuck driving to gigs with a guy who was into progressive jazz fusion kind of stuff. We took turns playing CDs and generally grew to hate each other's music.

Nerds have an urge to categorize and put things into boxes, and that's certainly how I come at music. When I get into something new --- say, surf instrumentals --- I'm always trying to figure out where the music came from, what defines the genre, what it evolved into. Some music nerds takes this tendency and become purists and get very intolerant about what is allowed in a particular style, too --- bluegrass and Irish traditional music are full of these characters (although more often among the fans than the players themselves).

Me, I'm always interested in understanding the "pure" form of the music (although most music ends up being a hybrid of some earlier styles, on closer inspection), but I also want to know what happens when you add some different ingredient to the mix. An earlier poster mentioned Gaelic Storm, which is a good example --- an Irish band that uses a djembe, an African drum. To mention another pet project of mine --- a rockabilly band with a 50's R&B-style saxophonist (not a huge stretch).

Another option for the music nerd is to find a more overt combination of nerd pop culture and music. The Renaissance Faire bands, the filk singers that do songs about fantasy and sci-fi, even Led Zeppelin doing songs about the Lord of the Rings. I've thought for a long time that a surf instrumental band could borrow imagery from Silver Age comics --- Lee, Kirby, and Ditko, but also that old DC stuff like Challengers of the Unknown and Sea Devils. I helped my friends the Poprocks [www.poprocksfanclub.com] write a comic book awhile back that features the band booking a gig in Hell, too...

The Rewatchable Walrus Film Festival

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I type this as I sit here drinking a cookies & cream milkshake. The night began with a plate full of homemade nachos. Then I sat down and watched Office Space, the first movie in Carlin Trammel's Rewatchable Walrus Film Festival. I'm not a huge fan of comedies in general, but this movie strikes a chord in me. Maybe because it is so real in its portrayal of not just the work place, but people in general.

Up next...Braveheart.

CT's Ten Movies in a Weekend, part four

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Well, I'm making final preparations for the ten movies that starts tonight with Office Space at 6:30 EDT followed by Braveheart. I'll be providing a modest nacho bar for anyone who shows up tonight.

I also realized that the copy of Army of Darkness (Sunday @ 2:30 pm EDT) I have is the Director's Cut. And while I do enjoy that version, it does not contain the S-Mart ending. So, I went out and bought the other version today. I had a Best Buy coupon so I picked it up for just over $5. Good deal.

I'll be setting up my video camera to record some of the best bits of this film fest. If I get anything good, maybe I'll have a video up sometime next week.

I hope some of you out there reading this will be able to join me in watching a movie or more. Check out the schedule to the right and pick a time and movie and post some thoughts.

Where A Nerd Draws the Line

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There are three groupings of nerd activities that I don't participate in.

There's the stuff I just haven't checked out yet --- like watching Dr. Who, f'rinstance.

There's the stuff I've checked out enough to say, nope, that's not for me --- like anime in general. Tried it, gave it a fair shot, not interested.

Finally, and most dangerously, there's the stuff that I would secretly kind of like to do, but I fear that it will seduce me to the Dark Side and turn me into one of those intolerable nerds whose lives are a mixture of absolute arrogance and childlike enthusiasm towards their chosen hobbies and incredible cynicism and inability to function in the real world.

It's the stuff I might do if I had a little more time and a little less shame. And there are surely other fine nerds out there who do this stuff and still function in the real world, but still, I fear it...

1. Go to sci-fi conventions in a costume.
2. Live action role-playing.
3. Writing fan fiction.
4. Attending Renaissance Faires.
5. Start a band that plays scifi conventions or Renaissance Faires.
6. Start playing a dead instrument like the bagpipes or the lute.
7. Learn Gaelic, Latin, Klingon, or Elf.

And yes, the idea of playing a cittern and singing songs in Elfish sounds freaking awesome . . . and yet, shouldn't I be mowing the lawn or something?
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