Closure, Part 2?
The Need for Ending In The Age of the Reboot
Several years ago, when I was just starting to blog seriously about TV, I wrote an article about to need for closure when a series came to an end. At the time, I was talking about the necessity for a satisfying ending as a constant viewer. I had worried about the end of series such as Lost and 24 providing enough information for fans to let go. However, I didn’t even have the slightest idea what was coming.
Over the past few years, more and more networks are trying to reboot or do new episodes for series that have been gone for years. I have had something of a mixed relationship with such ideas. I didn’t quite approve of the graphic novel continuations of such series as Buffy, Angel, Charmed and Smallville, because it seemed an unnecessary adjunct to series that had, more or less, come to a suitable conclusion, and were eventually fouling the memories of good shows. But it was comic books, and I didn’t think it mattered much as canon. Then came the fourth season of Arrested Development. That series had been killed way too soon, so I had no objections there. I didn’t even mind that much when The X-Files was granted new life, first in comic book form, then on television. There was still a loyal fanbase out there, and there had been a movie before, so it didn’t seem to matter that much.
But now it seems, we are being drowned in reboots of series that wrapped up in more than satisfactory ways years earlier. First, we got more adventures with Jack Bauer in Live Another Day, and now 24 is set to return on Monday, albeit with a new cast. Twin Peaks is due to return in May, this time on Showtime. We’ve already had a Heroes reboot, a Gilmore Girls addendum, and God help us, Fuller House, which is coming back for a third season, even though no one liked the previous two. Still come is a fifth season of Prison Break and new episodes of Will & Grace. I could keep going, but I don’t have the heart.
Now, things seem to be getting more and more out of control. I realize that the networks, desperate for bigger hits in the era of fragmented TV viewing, figure that bring back old successes might work. But so far, it hasn’t. Live Another Day’s ratings were weak even compared to 24’s final season. X-Files ratings were barely above ten million (big numbers today, but nothing compared to what the series had in its peak) Heroes couldn’t even manage decent numbers in comparison to its final season. Yet despite all evidence to the contrary, and with limited space on TV schedules already being filled with film and comic book remakes, we keep getting more of them. The fans clearly don’t want them, and new viewers aren’t interested, so why do we have to keep seeing them?
More to the point, I fear what this may mean for showrunners who want to try and end a series, and yet now have to consider the inevitable reboot and movie franchise a few years down the road. Will this affect their overall planning to bring a series to a definite end? One may have thought series finales for The Sopranos and Lost were ultimately divisive as to whether they work, but at least David Chase and Darlton made clear they were finished with the work they had been a part of. Some of the best episodes of series have been their last episode — Six Feet Under, The Shield, and Breaking Bad come to mind.
Already one gets the feeling that such finales may be hedging their bets. The Good Wife’s finale was such a bizarre hodgepodge that one wonders if the Kings hadn’t already decided to work on The Good Fight a few months later. But its been proven you don’t need to write a bad finale to make a spinoff — Vince Gilligan has already demonstrated that with Better Call Saul (although, to be fair, this is a prequel) Will this kind of thinking forestall showrunners coming up with a conclusion that is fitting for everybody in case someone might offer them something down the road? It doesn’t seem to include logic — Prison Break is restarting even though the series ended with its protagonist dead and buried.
I will admit that I crave some of these reboots as much as the next one — I want to see the new Gilmore Girls, the next Twin Peaks, and if the Bluths ever do a season 5, I’m in. But if the overall consequence is that we get series were nothing ever ends, I think we will have sacrificed something vital to a viewing experience. I may not have liked the way Dexter or Mad Men ended, but that’s no excuse to revisit those worlds that their creators have wrapped up. Some doors should stay closed.
I realize the world will little note nor long care about my opinion, and that not long after this review is published we’ll probably get word that ER: The Next Generation is a go. But in a world where there’s so many options for sparkling new entertainment, do we really need to revisit old ones? Especially if they weren’t that good when they finished the first time.