originally published September 25, 2014
It’s a completely valid question.
For the past 50 or so days I have been fielding one question more often than most: what am I going to do for Day 1000? Will the final kilograph reflect upon the 999 that came before, like some extended clip show of my greatest guffaws and most aww-rending moments? Will I spend my final entry in closing-credits mode, thanking those who have made this all possible and put up with my considerable dearth of free time over the last 2 years and almost 9 months?
In short… no. While my original intent was to meander down that self-serving footpath for my final article, I decided that I would only do so if I could cite the Wikipedia page that had been created about me – as it turns out, that doesn’t exist yet.
In order to figure out my final missive, I felt I should turn to the moulder of my wisdom, the sage oracle who has helped to shape my morality, my perception, and even my understanding of the world: television. I have experienced the highs and lows of series finales – certainly at least one of them could illuminate the road to a poignant, entertaining, and (most of all) worthy coda to this monstrous undertaking.
My first option is the beloved trope of bringing back a classic character for the finale. In my case I could introduce a surprise cameo by Yoko Ono, Craig David, Mary Nissenson, or if I really want to stretch to my roots, Phineas Gage. I could style the entire piece in a blend of haiku, musical theatre and secret code (did anyone ever figure that one out?). It sounds trite and cliché, but that’s always a place to start, isn’t it?
Shelley Long nearly stole Sam Malone right out of Cheers in the show’s final episode. Ron Howard opted to remind everyone how much better Happy Days was before he’d left, as did Topher Grace in the final entry of That 70’s Show. Dr. House welcomed back most of his former colleagues in the finale, including the guy who’d killed himself in season 5. Michael Scott returned to The Office, Fox Mulder helped to seal The X-Files, and even Eldin showed up to tweak Murphy Brown’s house after a few years’ absence.
There are many precedents for this, though I don’t think it would make sense for my project.
If one question has rivaled the popularity of the finale question, it has been what I will do next. 2000 Words, 2000 Days? No chance. 1000 Complaints About The Government, 1000 Days? Too negative. 1000 Sexual Partners, 1000 Communicable Diseases? That one is intriguing, so long as I’m only the documentarian, not the subject.
I will not be using tomorrow’s pulpit to announce a spin-off, though there will be another project taking shape within these electronic walls in due time. Besides, spin-offs that launch from the boot-end of a successful series tend to be obvious attempts to milk a franchise, and I’m not just talking about AfterMASH and W*A*L*T*E*R. Did our culture really benefit from 22 more episodes of Jack Tripper in Three’s A Crowd? Mayberry R.F.D. lasted for three seasons in the top 20, so I suppose this gimmick could work – hell, Boston Legal lasted a while too after having swept James Spader and William Shatner clear of The Practice.
Maybe I’ll wait to see how Better Call Saul turns out.
Perhaps there should be some concern that my exit from this stage may be a little premature. Many shows have run series finales under the belief that their network’s shiny silver ax was set to dice it into cancelled chum. Maybe there’s a Day 1001 waiting to pop up on Saturday morning, extending my tenure beyond my initial plans. Of course that would betray the site’s original intent (not to mention its registered domain name), so I’d call that fairly unlikely.
Sledge Hammer! wrapped up season 1 by nuking Los Angeles, as they were pretty certain they were on the cancellation block. They were wrong, and season 2 was awkward and ultimately fatal to the show. Scrubs was offered one final half-season by ABC after the My Finale episode, and poor Futurama has endured four distinct and legitimate series finales. The latest show to offer up a pseudo-ending was Community, which satisfactorily wrapped up last spring under an uncertain renewal decision by NBC. Time will tell whether they should have let the show die or whether Yahoo! will make another season worth our while.
As for this joint, let’s safely bank on #1000 being the final curtain.
What if I totally blow it? What if my final thousand words are pedantic and uninspired? What if I disrespect the entire run of this project and piss off my fan-base, maybe by finishing off at 995 words? What if I leave a bunch of unresolved loose ends? Considering the lack of a story arc in this little universe, that might not be a concern. But there’s a lot of pressure here.
The creators of Seinfeld provided a karmic closure to its four reprehensibly selfish characters, while also opening up the door for many of their most beloved one-off characters to return for the finale. Yet the audience mostly loathed that final episode. Even more controversial was the cryptic church scene at the end of Lost that invited more questions than it answered.
Nope. I need to do it right. I want to be lumped in with the best. Inasmuch as this will be compared with any other finale to a large writing project; I can’t let my metaphor blow my perspective here.
A perfect finale can take many forms. Breaking Bad finished with a final episode worthy of the brilliance of the series’ entire run – resolving every storyline and completing the arc of each character. The Fugitive’s last show was the first finale to truly earn the next day’s headlines, as it closed off a 4-year story with a tremendous punch, at a time when most shows were happily thwacking the reset button every week.
Friends said goodbye as it was meant to, by terminating the weird vortex of New York in which six people could almost never actually work, yet could afford upper-middle-class lifestyles in Midtown Manhattan. Star Trek never got to end its five-year mission to its fans’ satisfaction, but Star Trek: The Next Generation concluded with a magnificent intertwining of multi-dimensional philosophy.
Then there’s the 135-minute epic that brought M*A*S*H to a close, landing a 77% audience share, which beat out The Fugitive’s 72% share to become the most-watched series finale in history. Was it the best ever? Probably not, though the story that wrapped up the arc of Charles Winchester may have been the high point of the entire series.
Perhaps I need to look at a classic twist. Newhart’s big reveal was that the entire series had been a dream by Bob Newhart’s character on his first successful sitcom – my pick for the greatest series ending ever. No, I might be overthinking this. Maybe simplicity is the key here. It’s like I’ve always said: “Don’t stop believin’. Hold on to that feelin’. Streetlights people, don’t stop