I don’t usually cheat like this, but I thought the subject was good enough for a Blog post of its own. So, here are my comments to Ryan, as they appeared in that comment thread. I invite comments of your own…
If ever I were “on the fence” between the episodic and serialized formats for TV series, 2010 would clearly place me on the episodic side!
People will debate the merits (and lack of same) of the finale of LOST for some time to come. And, it will be little more than just “people’s varying opinions”. One thing you CAN say for LOST, is that, regardless of your view of it, it HAD an ending after taking us on a six-year ride.
But, where I’ve recently determined that the serialized format does NOT work, is for series that do not have the luxury of choosing their own “end time”.
Just before NBC dropped everything for the Olympics, HEROES had just set up the storyline for its fifth season. Now, it’s not coming back! Perhaps, if one chooses to purge one’s memory of the final act of the final episode, one could say HEROES had an ending. But, the bad taste of being left unsatisfied after following it for four seasons remains.
ABC was once pushing FLASH FORWARD as the successor-in-interest to LOST. They aired half a season, took a break, released a DVD of that half season to hook people for the return… and wrapped up a great ongoing, weekly mystery series in a way that resolved nothing and made little or no sense – other than to arbitrarily fulfill the plot’s earlier prophesies. There is NO DOUBT that the producers of FLASH FORWARD intended to go into another season – and were forced to cut it off now.
On the other hand, when episodic TV ends with a poor, or at least “less worthy”, final episode, you don’t feel nearly as shortchanged for your investment. Of my pronounced favorites from “days of old”, I’d say STAR TREK (The Original 1960s Series), LOST IN SPACE, THE WILD WILD WEST, TIME TUNNEL, and THE INVADERS all had “average to poor” final episodes – compared to what each series did at its best.
But, on the whole, I don’t much care because the “ride as a whole” was great and (very important point) was NOT dependent on the quality of the final episode!
VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA had (what was for its time) a great closing episode, with even a hint of finality to it – or, at the very least, sufficient satisfaction at how it wrapped. They even titled it “No Way Back” for good measure! I’d say that might have been because they knew the show was going to be “retired” at the end of the 1967-1968 season.
THE FUGITIVE is said to have had the greatest such closing episode of the era, but (more’s the pity) I never saw it, and so cannot comment.
UPDATE for 2012: I have since seen the final episode of THE FUGITIVE – and was it ever great… especially for its time!
The final two episodes of LAND OF THE GIANTS were actually two of the best of the series, but that was probably more a case of “luck of the draw” than design.
Perhaps the best compromise would be a series like STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION, which walked a fine line between “episodic and serialized”, knew when it was going to end – and had a superb final episode ready for the occasion!
So, what say you all? Do you prefer the “Serialized” approach, with the crushing disappointment of a potentially poor final episode to show for your investment?Or, are you partial to “Old School Episodic”, with little in the way of week-to-week continuity and cliffhangers to intensify your interest?
Or, some sort of “hybrid” of the two? And, if a hybrid, how many successful ones have there been?
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