The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Finale freakout: The end of three seminal television shows

March 31 might have been the start of a new quarter for some students, but for others it marked the end of an era. Television shows come and go, but while they are here, they can become a special part of viewers’ lives.

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER | 2005-2014

The characters and the relationships they form are a few of the things that encourage people to watch week after week, said Paul Booth, a Media and Cinema Studies professor. He teaches classes related to fan culture, television narrative and media studies. Booth has seen the majority of series over the last 15 years.

“They become like friends, like family,” Booth said. “You want to follow their lives.”

Last week’s edition of The DePaulia featured a review of the “How I Met Your Mother” finale. “HIMYM” is one of the most recent television shows to fade to black for the last time, joining notable shows like “Breaking Bad,” “Dexter,” “Raising Hope” and “Psych.” The ending created controversy among fans. There were those who were satisfied with the ending and those who felt deceived by it.

Junior Torey Lenart is a digital cinematography student who works on shows that film in Chicago and enjoyed the way the show wrapped.

“I was really satisfied with how ‘How I Met Your Mother’ ended,” Lenart said. “I thought it tied up loose ends.”

The creators of “HIMYM” have known how it would end since season two, when they filmed Ted’s kids’ reactions in 2006, before the actors could look too old. But even with a set plan for how to end the show, the “HIMYM” finale faced some problems. The entire final season, 22 whole episodes, was one big diversion. The question at the center of the show, how Ted met the mother of his children, was there just to distract the audience from what was actually happening.

As Emily Boyd, a senior scenic design student and avid television fan, points out, shows have to adhere to the rules they set out in the beginning.

“When you stick to them the whole time but then don’t follow through, that’s a problem,” Boyd said. “If the surprise doesn’t follow the rules, it pulls you out.”

“HIMYM” ultimately breaks a rule that it created in the pilot episode: Aunt Robin.

“(‘HIMYM’) was interesting as an experiment,” Booth said. “They had an ending in sight and were winding our way to it. They picked an ending people didn’t want to see. The fact that people are unhappy about it says more about the people than the show. As an experiment in having an ending in sight it is really interesting.”

LOST | 2004-2010

While “HIMYM” got a lot of heat for having a mapped out finale, “Lost” had the opposite problem.

“‘Lost’ made everything that came before it seem pointless,” Boyd said. “There were so many questions left. The first three seasons were great because it was somewhat feasible. But then they started time traveling. It was a genre shift. There were rules of the piece that they didn’t adhere to.”

Chad Morgan, a senior media and cinema studies major, disagrees.

“The end of ‘Lost’ became a beautiful allegory for the viewer about life. It took on a new meaning,” Morgan said. “Instead of being a show that just failed at wrapping on the plot, it was a show that presented you with mysteries and life challenges and baggage, and just like the characters on the show, the viewer had to accept that in order to move on, you don’t need the answers, you just need to drop the baggage.”

Morgan, who is currently completing the LA Quarter program through the College of Computing and Digital Media, intends to work in creative programming, while writing and producing TV shows, to ultimately become a showrunner. He admits he did not always feel so positive about the “Lost” finale. When the episode aired, he planned a finale viewing party with his friends involving dressing up as characters and recreating marketing photos.

“‘Lost’ was my obsession, and my biggest one to date,” Morgan said. “We all sat down that day and by the time the credits rolled, I remember seeing red and being the angriest, most livid person ever. I wanted to throw away my DVDs and forget I ever gave so much love to the show. I was quick to tell anyone off who said they liked it. But then as a few weeks went by and the initial anger ebbed, I realized the genius.”

One of the issues many have with the “Lost” finale is that it did not answer the numerous questions posed over the six-year run.

“When I first saw the finale, my fanboy-self needed closure, and I was so angry because at the time, I didn’t sense any closure or point to it,” Morgan said. “I was so angry at first because I couldn’t see narrative closure.”

Making sure questions are answered is one vital part of series finales, although Booth is quick to point out that there is no right formula for mapping out the ending of a show.

“There isn’t one answer,” Booth said. “Every show is different. Finales that have been successful leave viewers satisfied. Enough of an answer has been given that leaves them feeling that their time was worth it.”

BREAKING BAD | 2008-2013

One reason why “Breaking Bad” ended with rave reviews was that every piece of the puzzle fit. All loose ends had been tied up and Walt finally confessed his true feelings, which he had kept hidden throughout the series. The characters the audience cared about were all addressed.

“The audience needs to feel like this world still exists,” Booth said. “We want this world to live on.”

While “Breaking Bad” gave definitive answers and resolutions, “The Sopranos” had an open-ended finale. “The Sopranos” finale brought in big ratings – 11.9 million – and a big debate.

“The controversy was that it didn’t answer the question that people wanted to know, which was whether Tony was going to be killed or not,” Booth said. “The abrupt cutto- black was avant-garde and striking. I know I actually checked my TV to make sure it hadn’t broken and I think others probably did too. And that made it seem even more dramatic. They managed to make a dramatic end to a show that people are still talking about, even without resolving that central enigma at the heart of the show.”

Despite having a plan or not, answering central questions or leaving the audience hanging, when the show is over, the biggest variable to whether it will stand the test of time depends on the fans. The audience provide the biggest factor in a television show’s success because they create their own meaning from the text.

“They invest time and energy. If a fan doesn’t enjoy it, that’s valid,” Booth said.

There will never be an answer to what makes a good series finale or how to properly end a show because each fan’s individual reaction and experience.

“An ending that would be satisfying for everyone would be satisfying for no one,” Booth said. “Think of something like ‘Raising Hope.’ Instead of having a huge blowout episode, it had just a nice episode. It felt right. It’s about finding that balance between matching fans expectations and the tone of the show.” But as Boyd points out, it is ultimately outside of the audience’s control.

“When you have good writers you have to just trust them,” Boyd said. “They’ve put this much effort into this, trust them. It’s someone else’s work, it’s their job, it’s their baby. At that point, you’re going to watch it anyway. You’re not gonna not watch the last show.”

As shows come and go, it is important to keep in mind the ever-changing nature of television and to not judge a show by its finale.

“TV is temporal,” Booth said. “It stands time in a way other media don’t. Any one particular moment isn’t indicative of the whole.”

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