Boiling Point: Cliffhangers

As we enter the final few weeks of the fresh TV season, we’re coming up against a lot of Season Finales.  Often, these episodes can be a bit lackluster, so in response to a neutral or negative response, studios and productions will often try to ramp it up and hit us with a big cliffhanger.  And that sucks.

Listen, I get it.  They want us to come back for more.  They think by dangling some cliffhanger over our faces we’re going to come running back.  They think we’re that stupid.  I think if a show is good, we’ll come back.  Take a look at all the shows that are episodic, that virtually never have a cliffhanger ending.  Shows like Monk, Psych, Seinfeld, The Simpsons, or Law & Order.  These shows rarely, if ever, left us hanging, especially in the season finales.  Yet these are some very popular shows with regular viewers.

It’s cruel in a way to give us a cliffhanger ending and then walk away for six months or more.  Why do that?  When we see a movie, we expect it to be wrapped up nicely.  We don’t want to be forced to the sequel.  Or what about the plethora of shows that tease us with cliffhangers and then get canceled?  I’ll bet those guys wish they would have wrapped things up and told the story when they had a chance.

I’m not overly critical of regular season shows ending with a cliffhanger, that’s cool, whatever.  But the season finale, I mean, damn!  Give me a break!  You don’t need a gimmick when your show is good!  Take the examples this week of Entourage and True BloodEntourage finished without any real cliffhanger.  There were hints and teases of what’s to come next season, so we’re interested and have an idea of what’s coming.  But there was no real drama left to antagonize us over the next few months.  On the other hand, True Blood finished with a cliffhanger, a mystery that is going to nag at me and countless others until next summer.  At the end of the night I was a bit frustrated with having to wait so long to get an answer to a pretty big question with the vampires, but I was left satisfied with no major questions about the celebrities.  I’ll be turning into each next season.  On one extreme end, how about Battlestar Galactica? Big cliffhanger and then what feels like years for answers.  Seriously?

So I know, you want us to come back, but you made a good show!  It’s cool, man, we’re going to hang out again.  I like little answers still up for grabs – What’s up with Scorsese’s movie or why did Sam pull all that money out of the safe? – but big things, damn if I don’t hate the wait.  All I want is for these shows to tease me.  Flirt with me.  Give me a little taste.  Don’t punch me in the dick or slap me over the face with a big question you’re not going to answer.  It’s just mean.  So maybe I’m not blowing a blood vessel and maybe some people like these cliffhangers, but when it comes to the season finales, big questions left lingering just push me past my boiling point.

How do you feel about cliffhangers in season finales?


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