January 16th, 2004

Final Episode

A lot of people hated the last episode of Seinfeld. There was a two-hour block of time set aside for it: the first 45 minutes was a clip show, and the last hour and fifteen was the last episode. People griped because they felt the episode was like another clip show, it didn’t live up to their expectations, yadda yadda yadda.

Me? I loved it. Not only did I feel the series finale was a perfect ending to the series (they got put on trial for the very behavior that made the show so funny!), but I don’t have any problems at all with clip shows. Think about it: you’re getting the best parts of the show without having to wade through the not-as-good parts. And, on seeing the best parts, you’re instantly reminded of the episode that the part was taken from. If you’re a fan, you say, “Yeah, that was great!” If you’re just starting to watch the show, you say, “Hey, I want to see that episode!” If you hate the show, well, you’re probably not watching the clip show, are you?

People gripe about clip shows a lot, and I’d have to say, I don’t care for mid-season clip shows. If I see in TV Guide that this week’s episode of something is new, I expect it to be new, for crying out loud. “Clip show” is network-exec speak for “repackaged rerun,” and they have no business being advertised as “new.” Clip shows have their place: at the end of the show’s run, or at a milestone in the show’s run. Have you made it to 100 shows? Good for you! Have a clip show! 250? Even better! Have a clip show! 20? Um, no.

Essentially, isn’t a clip show how we present ourselves to others, anyway? Think about your current resume – it’s basically “My Greatest Hits.” First date = rerun of the clip show. Take the best parts, leave out the garbage. Maybe that’ll get someone interested in the whole show.

Whenever you meet someone, it’s like a pilot (the new TV show kind, not the airline kind – stick with me here). You’re floating yourself out there to see if anyone will keep tuning in. Most TV pilots don’t make it. Think of that – the junk on TV is considered the best of the bunch! And even if a show does make it to more episodes, how long does it have? A year? Two? 14? The Simpsons just started their 15th year, and what do you hear about it? “It’s not as funny as it was.” It’ll be done in a year or two. The last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation was aptly named “All Good Things…”, as in “must come to an end.” I’ll admit, I feel bad when a show gets cancelled, especially if it’s been popular at some point. I’ll tune in to “last episodes” of shows I’ve never seen, just to see how they’ll wrap it up. Whether a show’s been on for 6 months or 10 years, it’s still sad to see it go. But, that’s the nature of the biz.

Is that the nature of our biz, too? How do you keep your ratings up for 30, 40, 50 years? How do you “keep it fresh”? Will the addition of new characters help or hurt? What about a new setting? New location? If the audience stops tuning in, what do you do then?

There’s a phrase out there these days: “jumped the shark.” It means “that point in a TV show’s history where it lost whatever magic it had and has turned to ridiculous stunts to try to keep the show going.” It refers to that moment in Happy Days when Fonzie – you guessed it – jumped a shark while waterskiing. So, if it’s easy to tell when a TV show has jumped the shark, is it easy to tell when you have? I’m guessing other people can see it – just ask them, if you can take it.

Unlike TV shows, we don’t get reruns. Sorry, Apu – no such thing as reincarnation.

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