You can’t blame COVID-19 for the end of lots of TV series this spring. The decisions were made ages ago and the finales have been in progress for a while. So it really just is coincidence that so many TV shows that I watch regularly have now ended their runs. I’m not going to describe any plot in detail and in a few cases, I’ll be intentionally vague to not give things away but if you are worried about spoilers for a particular show, it’s probably wise to skip over that series’ summary below.
The first to sign off was a show that I never really intended to care about, The Good Place. My wife thought it sounded good and suggested we watch. It was clear in the first episode that it was a different kind of show and I realized soon into it that it was going to be a good “different” sort of like how Pushing Daises was a good “different” (also a show that my wife had encouraged me to watch). But as the first season went on, it became clear that The Good Place was a supremely well-written show and had more going for it than the gimmick of showing a possible view of the afterlife. Exceptionally clever and witty, the show was both engaging to watch and laugh out loud funny. There were only 4 seasons and some of them were somewhat short but the creators realized they had gotten to where they needed to be and had said what they wanted to say. The finale was more satisfying than I usually find finales to be. It didn’t tie everything up or answer all of the questions – in fact I’m not sure it really answered any. But the final scene with people just sort of leaving was really sort of zen-like calming.
The next to sign off was Schitt’s Creek. For my wife and I this was sort of the opposite from The Good Place. Early on the characters were difficult to have in your house – that was sort of the point where they were unpleasant people brought to a pleasant place and they didn’t fit in. This one was my choice and I watched on my own for a season or two until my wife was gradually drawn in as the characters became less cartoonishly annoying. You began to care about them and see them with more depth. My wife is more discerning in her TV choices so when she started getting sucked in, it was a sign that the show was maturing well. It didn’t hurt that the cast was so strong too. Favorites for my wife and I were Jocelyn, the mayor’s wife, Stevie, the hotel worker/owner, Ted, Alexis’s boyfriend, and Patrick, David’s partner. There were also awesome side characters like Ronnie, Twyla, Bob, and Ray. And the main cast was awesome too including Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara who were the main reasons I started watching in the first place. The show was on for 6 seasons which seemed about right. Even though the show’s writing was really just hitting its stride and the show was reaching its widest audience, I think the story had pretty much run its course. From the first episode, the question was whether the Rose family would return to wealth and glory or would they realize they were better off in Schitt’s Creek. As the characters developed and you understood how they were evolving, you could see how either possible result might work. And in the finale, when you realize that the family doesn’t end up going together to the same place, it’s actually good that the adult children have finally become adults and are going off on their own adventures. That finale was one of the most satisfying finales I’ve seen in a while – as a regular viewer, it was nice to get a sense of where the characters were headed and feel like you got some closure on the open questions without needing to see glimpses of their future.
After 11 seasons, Modern Family ended its run. From the get-go, the show was genius. In a lot of ways it was standard sitcom fare with multiple story arcs in each show. But the stories were very clever and frequently worked together to tell a single point. And the way the stories wove together was often a work of art. After a few years and lots of Emmys, the show did lose some thrill for me and for others. I think I watched all of the episodes through the years though I may have missed some. I don’t know that the show changed or the writing diminished so much as sometimes it felt like the characters were becoming a bit too cartoonish in an attempt to not repeat what had been done before. And Mrs. Katharsys got a little tired of how mean the couples ended up becoming towards each other. But whenever I saw it waiting on the DVR to watch and thought about just deleting, I’d begin watching and was drawn right back in by the great writing. As the final season was wrapping up, there were some obvious plot manipulations to help drive the characters to where they needed to be at the finale. But it was worth it so that the finale had the ability to settle the story and the characters. The show ended with a satisfying finale that gave you enough about what the future held for the characters but also didn’t blow up anything to make you feel cheated by what had happened before. It’s a bit easier with a show like Modern Family with a focus on family than for a drama, but still, Modern Family managed to stick the landing and left me satisfied with how it all wrapped up.
Will & Grace ended it’s run for the second time. It ran for 8 seasons initially and then returned for 3 more starting in 2017. From what I remember of the original run, it was very clever and very funny. And from what I remember of the initial finale, it was not very satisfying – it sort of blew up where the characters had gotten to and didn’t leave you feeling like you knew what had happened. I was skeptical when the show restarted in 2017 but it immediately proved itself worthy of the restart. Plenty of pointed commentary on the current politics of the day made the show feel relevant and the writing was still as sharp as ever which made it enjoyable to watch. However it had lost some of its mojo by the third restarted season so for it to call it quits seemed like the right choice. It spent less time on current events and how the characters fit in the new world and more on the two lead characters expecting children (separately). I get that the show wanted to undo the prior finale disaster and I get that they wanted to give both Will & Grace something more in their lives than their various failed romantic relationships. But I’m not sure that I ever really bought into either of the self-absorbed characters being able to be a parent. And while the final storylines for Jack (buying a gay bar and being happily married) and Karen (accidentally successfully leading a minor league team to a championship) seemed satisfying and the writing was still clever, the way Will & Grace ended up buying a house together for the future children didn’t really make sense to me. The finale felt like a regular episode right up until the last few minutes when it felt rushed.
Lastly, the 2010 reboot of Hawaii Five-O ended it’s 10 year run. I’ve had a real love/hate relationship with this incarnation of Hawaii Five-O. I love the Hawaii set drama but I hate the routine “world-is-ending” scripts. I loved the diverse characters the show created but found some plots to be mindnumbingly stupid with holes you could fit a volcano through. I liked the new characters they created to replace the originals who didn’t return due to contract disputes but I thought they handled the departure of the original characters poorly and the introduction of new ones well in some cases (Junior) and poorly in others (Tani). They tackled some important topics well including substance abuse, military service veterans, importance of ohana (both that you are born with and that you choose), women’s equality, domestic abuse, etc. but they also waded into useless areas like the challenge of opening a restaurant. They had a deep stable of recurring characters that were fun to see pop up and that you felt like you got to know as much as the main characters but sometimes you ended up wondering what became of the recurring characters. I liked the technology they used on the show but sometimes it got a little over-the-top in terms of what could be accomplished with the tech and the show fetishized weapons too much – it isn’t uncommon and many of the characters were formerly military, but a bit less Michael Bay and more police detective show would have been better. As for how the show ended, returning to the original season’s question of what happened to Steve’s father was a decent premise but considering what Steve had been through during the run of the show (and previously), it seemed a bit out of character for him to decided he’d had enough. And I always thought one of the weakest characters to have been on the show was Catherine – points for creating a military wiz who happens to be a woman but points deducted for casting the wrong person in that role (the actress who was brought in the last season as Quinn Liu would have made a way better Catherine, for example) – so including her in Steve’s future made the ending even less satisfying for me. (Some of the characters may pop up in the reboot of Magnum PI and it will be good to seem them there but that show has some serious issues too.)