Friday, May 19, 2006

Endings, Endings, Endings

More thoughts on recent season finales:

The idea of three pregnancies to deal with next season should be just silly and overkill, but I'm very curious to see what Lawrence and gang will do with it. Especially since they've gone to such great pains to make each of the three so different (surprise child for veteran parents, first baby for young couple, and accidental pregnancy for just-started-dating couple). Given that Scrubs is a medical show, and that they have three pregnancies to deal with, and the show's history for throwing thematically dark monkey wrenches into its fantasy-filled plots, I am wondering, though, if all three are destined for happy births. You almost never see a network show deal with miscarriage; if any sitcom could do it, and do it well, this one could.

How I Met Your Mother
Well-played. We know Ted and Robin don't end up together, so, instead of doing an endless will-they/won't they thing, the writers actually get them together. Next season will be rife with dramatic irony as we, the audience, knowingly laugh at the happy (but, we know, doomed)couple. And the (I'm guessing temporary) split between Lily and Marshall was gold. Kudos to the writers for getting real humor into a painful series of scenes through the ingenuous "pause" device. And for delivering an entirely credible and moving story about a young woman scared to settle her life too quickly. This show has done a great, so far, job of balancing ongoing and dramatic plots with the more traditional stand-alone and clever/wacky/funny impulses of a traditional sitcom. I hope they can keep it up--and that a move to 8, with nothing leading into it, doesn't hurt the ratings too badly.

Even I was a bit bored by the 37th ER shooting, but by tying the fireworks into Sam's doomed ex-husband, they made the whole thing a bit more compelling. If ER goes into a 25th season, I do hope we get to see how ridiculously messed-up Sam's kid turns out to be. Kid's gonna have issues. Maura Tierney continues to impress with her portrayal of Abby; I'm wondering if, after that final scene, they are leading towards a big meltdown for the character next season, with old habits coming roaring back after a tragic miscarriage. And Parminder Nagra is simply brilliant--killing Gallant was kind of a tired thing to do, an easy going to the tried and true drama, but damn if she didn't make the most out of it. A very convincing portrayal of grief.

Will & Grace
I have a feeling much mockery will be coming my way for saying this, but this was one of the best series finales I have ever seen. Just superbly written and executed. They did so many things right:

Faking us out with the "Will and Grace in fifteen years thing" and having it be a dream. And then ending the show with Will and Grace 18 years later for real.

When Leo came in and professed his love,and Grace revealed the pregnancy, I was wincing--expecting to be in for an hour of Grace hiding from Will, missed communications, with a happy "Will lets Grace go" ending. Then - boom - next scene we see Will feeding a baby. "Damn," I thought, "they're going to spend the hour cleaning up the mess from Grace not going with Leo, and of Will and Grace trying to raise this baby together. "Ugh." Then - boom - no, we realize that the kid is Will's and Vince's, and that Grace and Leo are together and have their own kid. Brilliant. And let me say here that I can't remember seeing such natural interactions between parents and children on a sitcom ever. Excellent stuff.

And then, to bring the plot to a "Will and Grace are estranged" place was great. Excellent acting here as the two get back together after two years of no communications. I believed it. But, I was thinking that this was kind of a lame ending - they realize that they can be together and still have their lives as well. But then, as Grace was saying goodbye, we saw the sadness, and the realization that they weren't going to go see that movie. And then - boom - the dual dialogues in which both Will and Grace tell their loves about how they always thought they were destined to be a real, important, part of the other's life forever. And how that wasn't to be. They actually split Will and Grace up. And let them have their own happy lives. I was astonished.

Then - boom - we flashback to a badly cast young Will and young Grace meeting in college, acting out the story they had just told Vince and Leo. Sweet, I'm thinking. But then - boom - no; it's eighteen years later, and this is Grace's daughter and Will's son, and they are clearly destined for each other. Will and Grace reconnect after eighteen years, both happy to have found each other again and a little sad at those eighteen years. Perfect.

We end with Will and Grace once again as friends, having planned their kids' wedding, but clearly not the deep, close, almost symbiotic kind of friends they used to be. The central question of the show was always whether two people who would have been life-long, romantic, fated love story if not for the fact that one was gay could still be the most important person in the other's life without romantic, sexual love. Could they have that kind of relationship without it being that kind of relationship? And I never thought they'd actually answer it in the finale, or answer it with as resounding a "no" as they did. Excellent.

Oh, and the duet between Jack and Karen? One of the sweetest, most well-done, expertly performed uses of singing on a sitcom ever.

Until Whenever

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