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How to Win and Lose at Series Finales

WARNING. THERE BE SPOILERS IN THIS POST. YOU WERE WARNED! THIS IS ALSO A REALLY LONG POST!

Unless you just avoided social media and entertainment this past week or you just don’t care, you may have seen that How I Met Your Mother ended this week after nine years. You also probably saw that the series finale had very mixed emotions from viewers ranging from “Great!” to “WORST THING EVER”.

Series finales are tough to do. How do you end a show for good after it has become loved and adored by millions of viewers? It’s really hard to try to answer every question, wrap up ever story line, or make everyone happy. Should you cater to the fans and give them what they want or do what you as the creator/writer wanted to do from the beginning?

Disclaimer: I’m one of the few who did like the series finale of Lost. I felt like that needed to be said.

I’m one of those people who has issues with continuity. I realize that sometimes it is hard to keep track of everything that happens. But what I don’t understand is when writers (of books, movies, and TV shows) just ignore everything that happens in the past and just tries to write around it and pretend it never happened. I’m not talking about a remake or a reboot. I’m talking about kids disappearing halfway through the show only to show up in the finale like it never took place.

There are the shows that end up getting cancelled way before the creators intended it to. Sometimes it’s right in the middle of a story line that leaves major cliffhangers. Other times the show gets cancelled abruptly and the last episode is not a farewell episode at all and is pretty bland. An example of the latter is the series finale of Full House. Sure Steve comes back in a cameo appearance but the rest of the episode doesn’t tie up series loose ends (Will Danny ever remarry? Will Jesse and Becky stay in the house forever? Why is Michelle still there?) and just leaves the viewers thinking that next year everything will be the same. Except there wasn’t a next year. There have been series finales when it turns out everything was just a dream (St. Elsewhere, Newhart) and ones where it turns out to just be a backdoor to another series (Andy Griffith Show). Then there’s the series finale of M*A*S*H which is the mother of all series finales because everyone and their mother in the US was watching it as its STILL the most watch series finale in history, and until Superbowl XLIV, the most watched television broadcast show in American history.

Let me give two examples of what I thought were good series finales to me.

1) Breaking Bad – As someone who had only started (binge) watching in the last few weeks of the show, I hadn’t been invested for a long time period as others from the beginning. But still there was great anticipation for how everything was going to play out. And as the weeks kept going by, the shows creators and writers managed to fulfill every thing I could think of. By the time the end credits rolled, I was completely satisfied. I did not need a spin off, I didn’t want to throw my remote at the TV, I was able to be like “Yes, this is how its done.” Loose ends were tied up, questions were answered, what I wanted to happened did, there was pretty much no other way it could have ended. Well done. Yes there’s going to be a prequel but the story is essentially done.

2) The Office – I was a big fan of The Office, until Steve Carrell left the show and then I stopped watching for several years. To me, Michael Scott WAS the show and without him, it wasn’t the same. But when the series finale came, since I had invested several years into it, I tuned it. And it was lovely. Even though I didn’t know who some of the people were, even though I didn’t know what some of the subplots were about, even though I still need to update myself with my favorite characters’ lives, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I even cried. I felt that the writers realized that old fans were going to return and made the episode a good bit of nostalgia mixed with the current trajectory of the show. (They even added in David Brent!) And it was a great sendoff and good closure.

Basically it’s like when I close a book. If I am satisfied with the story and I don’t need more, when I feel like I can let the characters or their legacy live on without more episodes, without spinoffs, or even a prequel, then that’s when the show has closed out for good for me. It doesn’t have to end happily. People do not even need to be alive. But I don’t want to see sloppy writing or rushed events or to play with the viewers’ emotions just for the sake of ratings or other things.

And in my personal opinion: How I Met Your Mother did not have a good series finale. I did not enjoy it. I’m not going to argue with you if you liked it. I’m not going to try to convince you to NOT like it nor are you going to be able to convince me on why I SHOULD like it. For me, personally it hit a little too close to home. You can read here about my love for the show. Basically I started watching it because I was in a Ted/Robin situation and I had to find a way to distract myself when things didn’t go as I planned. And it kept mirroring my life and I grew heavily invested in the show and the characters’ lives. To me the ending was basically the creators fulfilling a slap bet with me and delivering one to MY face. And the best part? There are so many people who felt the same way.

You can argue against me all you want and completely disagree with me and that’s fine. It’s not going to change my mind. It was a personal experience and we’re all going to think differently. But I’m just going to state why it was not good for me.

Barney and Robin get divorced within 15 minutes of the show’s opening. We just spent AN ENTIRE SEASON having their wedding shoved down their throats. We were forced to witness this wedding hour by hour. WE INVESTED TIME IN THIS WEDDING. Only to have it casually end as soon as the broadcast starts. I’m not denying that this doesn’t happen in real life. But I’m thinking the only reason why the wedding weekend lasted so long was because the writers weren’t sure that Season 9 was going to happen at all, and when they were granted the opportunity they had to find some way to milk it out. And so they did, forcing the viewers to become emotionally invested in something and then just act like it didn’t matter at all.

Ted finally meets the mother. And it was glorious. I loved their meeting. It was everything I wished it would be. Except. They don’t get married for 5 years, even after two kids. In what world, does Ted Mosby NOT marry the mother of his children? Don’t tell me that Ted finally learned what love really is. No. If you love someone, you will want to commit to them and marriage is that. And PLUS: during the episode “Trilogy Time” in 2015 while Ted is holding baby Penny, HE IS WEARING A WEDDING RING. It’s not that hard to go back and check on this!!

The mother dying. Honestly I’m ok with this. It’s sad and I would have loved a happy ending but it happens. No, what my issue is we never see Ted mourn. We grew to love the mother with the mythology and build up over the years and then Cristin Milioti was just fantastic. But we never see get to really see Ted with her. Had the show done it right, I feel like we would have at least had time to process and then not gotten our hearts stomped on and be forced to accept that….

THE MOTHER WAS A RED HERRING ALL ALONG. The show has always been how Ted and ROBIN were meant to be together. Because in the last few minutes, we find out that Ted has basically told the story to his kids and it’s really asking their permission to ask out “Aunt Robin” which the kids give because “Mom was barely in this story!” (The scene with the kids was taped before season 2. So all along they were going to kill the mom and have Ted end up with Robin. I despise this. I feel like they forced themselves into this.) The entire series we’ve been so sick and tired of Ted and Robin, will they, won’t they? Because Robin made her decision. She has shown over and over that she only wants things when she can’t have them. Robin is the girl every guy dreams of. No emotional crisis, drinks Scotch, smokes cigars, loves sports, and is super hot. In this sense she is perfect for Barney. But that even couldn’t last. Ted was willing to be everything she wanted and needed and she still didn’t want him. So he FINALLY lets her go. They made Robin LITERALLY float away. Ted meets the mother.

Tracy (the mother) is basically the woman who gave Ted kids because Robin could never do this. Yes, she is the perfect woman for Ted but not the love of his life. Ted is a suburban dad with two teenagers. Robin is TV anchor who travels, lives in the city by herself, with 5 dogs and is independent. Is she really going to drop all that for Ted’s life? Ted has been holding onto a hope for Robin ALL THESE YEARS. I got out of this, “Hey! That guy I’ve been in love with for years that I keep waiting and hoping on? I’m going to let him go literally and figuratively. Then I’m going to meet the guy who is going to be the perfect guy for me. And we will be happy for a few years. And then he’s going to die. But there’s a happy ending because I will still get to end up with the first guy!”

I have other issues but I will leave you with this Buzzfeed post which other than number 14 (mixed emotions? no, I know how I feel) is exactly how I view this situation.

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And so for (insert my name) of (insert my hometown), opportunity knocks!

So in fun news for today: I can officially announce that I’m going to be contributor for Entertainment Weekly‘s new blog The Community.

community

How did this happen? Well, I happened to be on Twitter (ok ok, I’m always on Twitter) and saw that the EW was looking for bloggers about television shows. So I applied. I then got back an email asking for writing samples about shows I’ve written. I sent in my blog posts about How I Met Your Mother, The Walking Dead, and Doctor Who. Apparently there was something in there that was good enough because then I got a reply back saying I had been chosen and could I be available to speak on the phone with an editor?! I’ve been chosen along with 20 other bloggers to write about TV shows and I’m geeked. It’s been an awesome whirlwind experience over the past few months and I’m really excited about doing this. I mean basically I get to do what I’m already doing, just with a potentially bigger audience.

If you like TV shows, you should definitely check out the blog. It’s written by other superfans so you’ll get a nice variety of shows and different styles of writing. While the blog is already up and running, I won’t start posting until the week of April 20.

The first show that I’ll be covering is Metal Hurlant Chronicles on the SyFy channel. (It’s ok. I hadn’t heard about it either when I was originally assigned to it.)

 

But after watching the trailer, I’m excited to see it. It’s a sci fiction book based on a comic book series. Meaning, yes it’s a geeky show.

Synopsis from Wikipedia: Métal Hurlant Chronicles is an English-language Franco-Belgian television science fiction anthology series based on the popular comics anthology magazine Métal Hurlant, known in the United States as Heavy Metal and in Germany as Schwermetall. All the episodes are a self-contained story taking place on a different planet with a different cast, linked together only by the idea that an asteroid, the “Métal Hurlant”, passes the planet in question during the events of the story. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%A9tal_Hurlant_Chronicles)

It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s ok. The next few weeks I’m going to spend time doing some research on the show and comics so I can familiarize myself as best I can. Either way, this should be a fun time! If you follow me on Twitter or on my Facebook page, you’ll find out when I’ve posted!

Addendum: This is a really interesting opportunity for me. Unlike the other folks that are also going to be writing, I am not a journalist. I didn’t plan on writing about entertainment for a living (though it’d be pretty cool) and except for a few years as a high school correspondent for my local paper, I haven’t really tried my hand at journalism. I have a career outside of this. Yes, I like writing. Yes, I like to blog. Yes, I love entertainment. But it’s not what I was originally planning on doing. So it feels a bit weird to get chosen to do this and sometimes I really question why I got picked. Also it doesn’t help when I go online and see articles saying that I shouldn’t be doing this and that “exposure” doesn’t count as compensation and how I’m just screwing things up for “real writers”. It’s really easy to have all the insecurity slip in right now, and tell myself “you’re not that good!” or “you shouldn’t be doing this!”. But you know, I’m not going to focus on that. Right now, I’m ok with just getting experience and exposure. And no, nothing is wrong with me for wanting that. I’m also looking forward to learning things that I wouldn’t have I not been granted this opportunity. This isn’t a full time job for me and I’ll always have this blog to fall back on. So if next year I’m right back where I started, it’ll be ok. I’m excited to do this and we’ll see what comes out of it. I’m also going to have to grow a thicker skin it seems.

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The Bible on the big screen? BRING IT.

So more fun again with talking about faith and entertainment.

It’s a well known fact that when it comes to translating the Bible into works of art, there is always much debate over how it’s done. Whether it’s in books or movies, when you take the Bible and transfer it to a different medium there are always going to be people who find this offensive and sacrilegious no matter how well it’s done.

Me personally: unless something goes so far off the deep end that it really feels like the author/director is purposely mocking my faith with their work, then I really have no problems with creative license. My faith is strong enough that one movie or book isn’t going to shatter it.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing the movie Noah directed by Darron Aronofsky that’s coming out at the end of March. The story of Noah is well known to anyone and it hasn’t been done SO many times that it’s repetive. The cast list is fantastic (Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson) and Aronofsky is an awesome award winning director. I’m really excited that this is being done as a Hollywood movie because that means that the special effects, acting, and directing will actually be GOOD. Because I’m sorry, 9 times out of a 10, a movie made by Christians just doesn’t have the same artistic value.

In an article posted in The Hollywood Reporter, Aronofsky was quoted as saying:

“We wanted to smash expectations of who Noah is. The first thing I told [star] Russell [Crowe] is, ‘I will never shoot you on a houseboat with two giraffes behind you.’ … You’re going to see Russell Crowe as a superhero, a guy who has this incredibly difficult challenge put in front of him and has to overcome it. … I had no problem completely honoring and respecting everything in the Bible and accepting it as truth. … For people who are very literal-minded, it would be great to communicate that the themes of the film are very much in line with the themes of the Bible—ideas about hope, second chances and family. If they allow that, they’re going to have an incredible experience with the movie. If they don’t allow it, it’s theirs to lose.”

Now for me personally, I’m perfectly fine with his explanation and I’m ready to see what he’ll bring to the table to the story. Because for me, even though the story of Noah is in the Bible, there’s still a whole bunch that’s missing. This is why I like Biblical fiction because you can expound on the lives of the characters that the Bible leaves out. And for me as long as accurate historical research is done (that’s the historian in me), I’m fine with creative licensing to flesh out the characters and make their stories come alive. My only quip would be if they got things historically accurate, and I’m a bit surprised that most of the cast is white, but as long as the story is good, I’m ok with that.

But not everyone agrees with me. I’ve been reading comments where people are already planning on boycotting because they feel that nothing should be added to the story. And how it’s sacrilegious to bring this on the screen. Many of these comments are from Christians, who from what I can tell seem to be VERY conservative in their thinking and to me seem a little close minded. They don’t want to give it a chance. The comments then becoming judgemental and honestly a little ignorant and the legalism in these folks makes me want to keep slamming my head on a desk.

Which then frustrates me because these are the same people that complain that Hollywood will not ever cater to those who are Christians. Yet here again is Hollywood putting out a movie by a well known and respected director who is saying that he DOES accept the Bible as truth, and Christians immediately want to boycott without seeing anything. And you wonder why Hollywood doesn’t put out faith based movies? Because when they test the waters, YOU RUN AWAY FROM IT.

Here’s the other thing. The story of Noah is from the Old Testament which is really the Torah which is of course the Jewish holy book. Aronofsky was raised Jewish so he knows the stories. I think some Christians tend to forget that what is in the Bible isn’t 100% just for Christians. While I’m not denying at all that what is in the Bible isn’t truth and God’s word, there’s also a lot more that happened in those stories that we just don’t know because we weren’t there. I don’t believe it’s “adding to the word of God” anymore than I felt The Da Vinci Code did. I’m strong enough in my faith to not believe that one movie or story is going to wreck it.

And that’s why I’m looking forward to this movie and any other Biblical adaption that’s coming out this year. For me personally, these things will always be a good discussion starter. I don’t come out of any movie automatically believing what I’ve seen is true. I am not the person that instantly believes everything I hear or see. And if this movie can bring this story to life and eventually change lives, I’m all for it. If it’s just entertainment to me, I’m still all for it. I’m just not going to immediately boycott something BEFORE it even comes out because it may or may not be what I want it to be.

So while there will probably be a lot of Christians that refuse to see this movie, you can count on this one Christian that’s going to be there. At the Alamo Drafthouse. Eating endless bowls of popcorn with butter. Anyone want to join me?

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Faith + Entertainment = ?

If you’ve been reading my blog for any good amount of time or you know me in real life, then you are fully aware of both my strong faith and love in entertainment. While I’m pretty conservative on some things, I guess you can say I’m pretty liberal in my entertainment choices. I basically like everything or at least will give it a chance.

I fully respect your right to not want to watch, read, or participate in something because it conflicts with your beliefs whatever that may end up being. You are perfectly in your rights to not want to do something that you are uncomfortable with or that you feel may cause some sort of harm to you.

What I don’t understand is why there are so many Christians that are so judgmental of others for their entertainment choices or the fact how negatively vocal they are when it comes to things they don’t like.

I was reading the Facebook page of a Christian based entertainment review site. Now I normally have no trouble with the actual reviews themselves. The reviewers cover pretty much everything in movies, TV shows, video games, and music and usually give a fair review of the content. Their target audience is quite conservative so they tend to give more of play-by-play of content IN their review (ie. sexual content, language, violence) vs their overall opinion. Sometimes it can be a little too broken down for me (ie. sexual content = characters hold hands) but I still appreciate the fact that they will still go review rated R movies or play video games rated mature M. Why? Just because someone is a Christian doesn’t mean they are going to stop doing these things plus what may not be appropriate for one person doesn’t mean another person isn’t going to enjoy it.

But even though these reviewers understand it, apparently sometimes their audience does not. And that is what frustrates me. The attitude that some Christians can have towards other people who don’t share specifically what they believe in. The Facebook comments from the entertainment site wanted to make me punch a hole through a wall because I could just feel the close mindedness and judgmental attitudes of some people.

Like banning books. I never can understand the practice of this especially when I find out that the parents wanting to uphold the ban have NEVER READ the books they want to ban. You don’t want your kid to read it? Fine. But who are you to say that no one else can?

Growing up there were some things that my parents didn’t want to expose us to because they felt it wasn’t appropriate at our age. And that was fine. Whether or not we actually were, we were still minors living at home so they had every right to impose that on us. But did they ever try to force their particular rules on other people? Nope. Did they condemn others for not sharing their same opinion? Nope. Did they judge other Christians for letting their kids do what they wouldn’t allow us? Nope.

It just amazes me how quick to judge some Christians can be and how they don’t seem to realize how callous and judgmental they look. If the point of our faith is to show the rest of the world that how different we are from those that don’t share our beliefs, being the stereotype that drives away those who we would like to reach out to, is NOT the way to do it.

I could go on about this for a long time and I may write more posts about this in the future regarding certain types of media or how just because something is Christian doesn’t mean it’s artistically something I want to support. I have issues with legalism because it goes against everything that I believe about what my faith really stands for. So consider this just a warm up post for posts later to come.