So long, farewell: Series finales 2006

Spoiler warning: Read at your own risk.

As the 2005/2006 television season ends, several of my favourite shows are coming to close. Series finales are usually some of the best episodes. They might reward fans by summing up the show’s long run (like Seinfeld did by bringing back guests from throughout the series to testify at the gang of four’s trial) or tie up the narrative threads in a climactic event (Angel and Buffy both faced huge battles, losing a few characters in the process; Star Trek: Voyager saw the crew finally returned home to the alpha quadrant), and many often end on a turning point (Friends’s finale saw Chandler and Monica moving to the burbs with their new twins, and Ross and Rachel finally together for good; Frasier ended with the wedding of father Martin, and the birth of Niles and Daphne’s child). This year, Charmed, Will & Grace, That 70’s Show and my good friend, Alias, will all be having their series finales in May (so will The West Wing and 7th Heaven, but I don’t watch them so I don’t care). Before the final curtain, I just wanted to comment on these old faves and discuss what’s in-store for the finales.

Charmed has had an uneven history. Many feared that the show had “jumped the shark” after Shannen Doherty left, but I think they had some of their best episodes in season 4 and later (Alyssa Milano’s Phoebe marries the prince of darkness and bears his demon-spawn—that’s good stuff!). I think the end of last season was meant as the series finale. The characters were at pretty good places in their lives and they faced a major evil in their own home that resulted in the faking of their own deaths. When the show got renewed, they had to come up with another season, so they apparently followed (exactly) the same method as Alias and brought in a new younger blonde to be trained in the ways of witchcraft (or spycraft). As the finale approaches, it looks like the new witch and her evil sister are going to face off against the Charmed Ones (Bad new blonde witch!)—also, Phoebe’s supposed to be getting married. This finale seems kind of contrived. The “villains” are not very villainous. Unless some major twists occur between now and the finale, I think this will be unsatisfying (expecting 3 out of 5).

Will & Grace has been a pretty good show all these years, not because of the ground-breaking prominence of gay characters, but because it’s been a witty, heartfelt depiction of friendship. In recent seasons, there have still been tons of funny lines and moments, but I find that the characters have become more caricaturish. Will is a fuss-budget and Grace is a glutton, we get it. Karen has become more confused and Jack more clueless. At this point, Will’s father has passed away and ex-boyfriend Vince has returned. I’m guessing that they will be together in the end. Also, Grace is pregnant with her ex-husband’s child, so we will probably be in for another finale-baby-birth. It seems like there might be the same kind of new-direction-taking that Friends ended with. Perhaps Will and Grace will finally separate—hey, it’s possible (expecting 4 out of 5). Sadly, I don’t think anything can save That 70’s Show from a dismal ending. Kelso (Ashton Kutcher) is supposed to be coming back for the finale, but I haven’t heard that Eric (Topher Grace) will be. I have not found this final season to be funny at all. They’ve all graduated from high school, but they still hang out in the Foremans’ basement? Hyde owns a record store. Surely he can afford to rent an apartment. I didn’t discover this show until the early seasons started to rerun in syndication, but it’s very funny. It’s a lot of fun to watch friends who will goof on each other but also really care about each other. This show just needs to fade away. No tears here (expecting 2.5 out of 5).

I’ll save all my tears for Alias, which I will really miss. I’ve enjoyed this show from the start and stuck with it even through the 3rd and 4th season when they really pushed the believability too far. I think this season’s reboot with new characters has been refreshing. Even though the new villainous organization, Prophet 5, is nothing more than a reheated Alliance, the joy is in seeing the characters play undercover roles, hack and break into impenetrable compounds, and play out the “family” drama in high key. It’s nice to see Irina, Will, and Anna Espinosa back; Nadia will get out of her coma (not that anyone cares); and who really believed that Vaughn was dead anyway? They’ve promised to tie up loose ends and explain a lot of the open-ended mysteries. I know these guys can do a good show, so am really looking forward to it all coming together in a glorious finale (too bad “finale” means no more episodes) (expecting 5 out of 5).

Even if you’ve never seen any of these shows, you might want to check out the series finales anyway. They’re usually very good episodes. With the prevalence of shows on DVDs, you’ll soon have the whole series behind you. So if you like what you see, you can start from the beginning and catch up with what we fans’ve been watching all these years.

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