Tuesday, May 25, 2010

End of the yarn

Unlike a few of my friends, I never got into the TV show Lost. The few episodes I sat through came across as philosophy for dummies mixed in with a random plot generator. However, I have been quite interested in the reaction to the series finale.

It seems that US TV treats its shows as a business more than a story. Keep them ticking over as a going concern and endings, when they do arrive, should be messy and bankrupt. Cracked has seven of TV's worst endings, including Alf, Dinosaurs and Third Rock from the Sun.

The rebooted Battlestar Gallactica finale went a similar way to Lost, relying on way too much Deux ex Machina to tie up loose plot points. This doesn't stop MSN TV listing both in their all-time best endings. Seeing how the list includes the Roseanne Barr does improv ending for her 90s sitcom, it shows what little thought goes into the endings.

US TV can respect its audiences. Six Feet Under and M*A*S*H* showed how to pack an emotional punch without cheap manipulative contrivances. The Sopranos ended exactly as it should have. Sure, I misinterpreted the last scene for a while. That's ambiguity for you. I now accept that Tony Soprano was shot, largely thanks to this encyclopaedic and convincing argument.

The Brits know how to wrap things up. A great example of this is Blake's 7. The series hero returns as a complete bastard and everyone dies. Brilliant. Life on Mars nodded to this finale in their quadruple whammy ending for Sam Tyler (When the US got around to their version of Life on Mars, it wound up in space. Talk about insulting the audience).