No guarantees for a happy ending

It’s the time that TV fans hate: their favourite show comes to an end. But is there a way to appease faithful viewers?

With Breaking Bad cleaning up at the Emmys a couple weeks ago the highly anticipated conclusion had TV watchers buzzing — including me, who had never seen the show before, though I watched with interest as Breaking Bad wrapped up its run to see if viewers would be happy with the outcome.

Even before the episode aired at the end of September, critics had already compiled a list of points that would disappoint the audience.

When I chat with people about how series finales are written, some don’t understand the difficulty writers and producers have with wrapping up a storyline.

“These people wrote the show for so many years, how can they have such a stupid ending?” asked Melinda in an email to my syndicated radio show.

What is the answer? I’m not sure, I don’t write TV shows. But the legendary John Cleese once said that when writing a screenplay you have to have the beginning, middle and end mapped out before you come up with any sort of witty dialogue or shocking plot twists. Granted, he wasn’t referring to an entire series, rather talking about writing one episode of a sitcom.

Rarely will a producer or writer have the entire storyline for six or seven years mapped out because with TV there is no guaranteed shelf life.

Oftentimes shows work on a season-to-season basis — and even then, they can be cancelled mid-run — so it’s next to impossible to have the entire story mapped out. Should they write for 12 episodes or 200?

You also don’t want to have a cliffhanger because there is no coming back. It’s not like they need to hook you to watch the next season premiere because the show is over. And in the end, what do the writers care if they disappoint you – they’re out of jobs, anyway!

Then again, I equate the disappointment of a final episode to the fans’ sadness that the show is coming to and end. After all, how many shows have you faithfully watched that you were happy to see end?

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