home North America, TV This season’s network TV finales end with a whimper, not a bang

This season’s network TV finales end with a whimper, not a bang

This week marked the season finales of a number of shows in the 2010-2011 television season, which was less than stellar almost from the start. (The networks promise to liven things up a bit in the fall and we’ll have more coverage on that at Global Comment very soon.) Mid-May is when the finales start coming thick and fast to set us up for next season and a new merry-go-round, although a few stragglers (I’m looking at you, House) like to hang up their hats later than the rest of the crowd. So, how’d we do?

The Cliffhanger

A long-standing tradition in television, the cliffhanger ending showed up with a number of this week’s season finales, including Chuck and Castle. NBC’s Chuck has had a rough ride; despite being endearingly geeky and winning a loyal fanbase, the show can’t seem to pull down the numbers the network wants to be viable, and it’s flailed of late as it runs out of plot possibilities. This season’s finale continued the show’s tradition of setting up a cliffhanger to resolve at the start of the next season, but I suspect it may have been bittersweet for some fans, who are already well aware that the show is not headed for a renewal after the partial episode order for next season.

Castle went the cliffhanger route with this week’s episode as well, and also conveniently brought us some closure in Kate Beckett’s long-running storyline. It’s important for her as a character to move forward and the timing was entirely appropriate. Glad to see that the Castle team is ready to let their little girl grow up a bit.

The big reveal in this week’s episode was a bit of a shocker, but not nearly as much of a shocker as seeing Beckett gunned down graveside! Given the importance of the role she occupies on the show I suspect we’ll see her alive and well in the leading episode of the fall, but her experience may give the show some time to explore the aftermath of trauma and the change in the dynamic between Castle and Beckett. Hearing is the last thing to go, which means we’ll be seeing a lot more of Castle’s declaration of love. (And about time, too!)

The Oh-Snap

Shonda Rhimes promised a ‘mellow’ finale for Grey’s Anatomy and delivered anything but, with an episode that exploded relationships and turned over some big stones along the way in classic Grey’s fashion. Meredith is finally facing the consequences for a major breach of medical ethics, her husband is leaving her even as she takes her adopted baby home, and Christina and Owen are on the rocks. One thing Grey’s has explored really well this season is the theme of bodily autonomy and reproductive rights, and the Christina/Owen storyline served as a nice recap for viewers. If anyone was in doubt about ‘her body, her choice,’ they shouldn’t have been by the end of this season! This was, overall, a very solid episode and a good showing for Rhimes; she reminded us she’s still got it.

Bones also delivered a nice twist to this finale. In a fairly sleepy and actually somewhat dull episode, between monotonous bowling scenes and painfully fake staged labour scenes, Bones was still able to throw viewers at the last minute. The ambiguous ‘did they or didn’t they’ that’s been quietly hovering over Booth and Bones has been neatly resolved with her revelation that, apparently, they did! (And a handy workaround for Emily Deschanel’s pregnancy, which seemed much more apparent in this episode than in the past, and now I guess we know why.)

The Meh

Speaking of Shonda, Private Practice also turned in its finale this week, and like the rest of the show, it was a hot soapy mess. The show’s managed to neatly destroy one its best characters in Violet Turner as it has shifted her into someone that pretty much everyone loves to hate (ad nauseum, every review of Private Practice these days seems to feel obligated to get its hate on for poor Violet). There’s an increasing sense of disconnection with many of the characters on the show and while Private Practice left us with a cliffhanger, as a viewer, I didn’t spend very much time wondering about Pete’s fate. Or the show’s, for that matter. This is one ABC could stand to cut from the schedule.

ABC’s been hitting the primetime soaps hard and Desperate Housewives went with an extremely soapy, cliffhangery two hour finale this week. This comedy-drama is perhaps the best example of high bedroom farce on the airwaves right now, and despite my love for this genre, I have a tough time getting into this particular example. It’s getting hard for all but the most dedicated viewers to follow and the finale was no exception as a series of tangled storylines unfolded and ended with a shocker to set us up well for the start of the eighth season in the fall. Those who cover up a murder together stay together, right? I guess we’ll find out!

This season’s crop of finales has been, overall, more mellow than usual, wrapping up a generally lacklustre season. A few bright spots do stand out, but in the balance, it feels like the 2010-2011 season is going out with a decided whimper, most certainly not a bang. Some shows are starting to feel past their expiry dates and it’s high time for the networks to mix things up a bit. Whether that means bringing new material on board or taking some old favourites in a radical new direction, or jettisoning some dead wood, they’d better do it fast, because more and more of us are turning to cable for our entertainment.