Like the Last Days of School
Season finale time is upon us, and I'll try and post my reactions to the finales of the shows I watch. (I won't post my reaction to the finales of shows I don't watch. That would be silly.)
Already posted, here, about Gilmore Girls, and have yet to see the Scrubs or How I Met Your Mother finales. Finally watched the The West Wing finale on the train this morning, though. My verdict: very good. Wells nailed the right dynamic, tone, and structure here - no big earthquakes, no histrionics, just a seamless and well-made tapestry of small, impactful moments. WWLD. The napkin. Jed giving Charlie his Bible. Josh taking one more run at CJ to stay. The nervous banter between the new President and the new First Lady. Donna's reaction to her new office. The small, elegant will he/won't he stuff with Jed signing Toby's pardon. Charlie quietly leaving. "What's next?" "Tomorrow." The temptation to do something big and grand was probably there and enticing, but the path they took was the right one. Quiet satisfaction and nervous anticipation. I do wish there would be a new season though. Although, to be fair, were we getting a whole new year with a new administration, I really think it should have been Winnick's. Still - a great finale. Will Wells show similar restraint when it comes time to end ER?
Also saw the The Office and My Name Is Earl finales last week. Earl ended nicely, with some nice symmetry with the pilot, as we saw exactly what happened with that scratcher after Earl was hit by the car and before it found its way back to him. I like Earl very much, but do worry that the formula is a bit too rigid. Reminds me of House, in an odd way. Great cast, great writing, good stories--but all in the service of a maybe-too-rigid formula. What it adds up to is that I don't mind if I miss an Earl, or a House, because I don't have that same sense of missing out on something important, something I'll need or want to have seen to really appreciate the series.
The Office, on the other hand, even though it is hardly dependent on a serialized story, with the eps being, more or less, stand-alones, is a show I'm sorry to miss. Yes, part of that is the one serialized sliver they've worked in with the Pam/Jim story. But part of it is also that every episode of the show doesn't follow the same formula. (Although they do, I think, have to be careful about not going to the "the office workers go out as a group" well too much. That particular story bit could become tired if abused.)
The finale was wonderful, with all the characters getting some laugh-out-loud moments, and with the could-have-been-Three's Company-esque Michael-has-two-dates storyline handled in a wonderfully underplayed way. But the meat of the ep was the surprise ending, with Jim declaring his love for Pam. Such great acting from these two here; their ability to mix the serious and funny is impressive indeed. (Although it shouldn't be overstated--that The Office utilizes such a realistic style to begin with makes the transition from comic to serious easier than it would be on a traditional sitcom. In a lot of ways, the real emotional stuff on, for example How I Met Your Mother (Lily's breakdown to Ted on the highway in the penultimate episode, for example), is harder for the actors to pull off than the emotional stuff here.)
It was a great move by the producers, to take the crutch of the will they/won't they tension away from themselves before it started to overcome the show. And, of course, this new development opens up lots of opportunities--and, even better, non-status-quo opportunities--for next season. Kudos.
Still to come: The aforementioned Scrubs and Mother, this week's Will & Grace, next week's Lost, and the following week's The Sopranos and Big Love. I think those are the only finales I really expect to watch. Most anticipated of the bunch? Lost. Easily.