You are sitting at home watching your favorite show, just as you do every week, waiting for the “wrap up” to occur, followed by previews of next week’s show, this is pretty typical and sounds familiar right? Oh and for those of you unfamiliar with the “wrap up”, that would be the last 10-12 minutes of your standard hour long drama in which they solve the case, catch the killer and generally save the day. Now the exception to the textbook “How to make a successful television show” story is usually the season finale.
Here is where we are usually left with a cliffhanger, the suspense of waiting all summer to discover “Who shot J.R?” and the like. Now frankly I get aggravated by the “to be continued…” that is inevitably shown on the bottom of the screen in little white letters while one of my favorite characters may or may not be dying in the car I just saw explode or if he/she was the target of the shot just fired. Season finale cliffhangers are usually immediately followed in my house, by screaming things like “No freaking way” or “Are you kidding me?” at the television and possibly tossing a throw pillow.
I understand the basis behind the cliffhanger and it often serves the intended purpose of break room discussions, blog and chat room debates and generally keeping people interested of the show until it returns in the fall. Though I will say things could go both ways; being that if the show wasn’t interesting enough to maintain viewers all season will some big marketing explosion and whodunit of a finale keep them watching after the question has been answered.
If you are not invested in the characters and the show then chances are you don’t really care who gets murdered. On the other hand, would loyal fans of a show be as excited and continue to tune in if the writers were to wrap up the season finale in a nice little bow and all the questions were answered? Personally even if I knew which of the team was blown up on Criminal Minds or how Mack is going to get out of his predicament on CSI: NY, I would still be tuning in next season.
The downside, in my opinion, to the cliffhanger is if they get it wrong; if the writers kill off the wrong character, which granted the actor may be leaving for personal reasons or whatever, but if they kill off a character that is well liked by the fans without any sort of hint of possible departure, i.e. pregnancy, possible retirement, fictional job relocation, you then run the risk of putting a bad taste in viewer’s mouths and they may not return past the season premiere.
As most television shows premiere their finale episodes and the debate rages on, I’m left thanking the cable gods that some of my favorite shows are just beginning. If it weren’t for My Boys, So you think you can dance, and The Closer, I would be forced to watch the ridiculously horrific “reality” shows debuting this summer. I guess I’ll put the remote down, pick up a book and wait for fall.