Ever watch a fat man sob on a couch clutching a bottle of pinot noir while the credits to the final episode of 30 Rock scroll up the screen? Do you want to? I could make that happen for you. It’s easy, really, because it is a very common Saturday afternoon occurrence in my house. Granted, you might have to swap out 30 Rock for Buffy, Veronica Mars, United States of Tara, or any of the litany of other shows I’ve given large chunks of my life to.
“Why? Why would the end of a TV show get someone so worked up?”, you may ask. Well, you little shit, good TV builds a relationship up between the characters and the viewer. It’s a faux-friendship or sorts. The worlds are allowed to be more nuanced and unfold more organically (at best) than in the few hours of a movie. Each character has an infinite expanse of stories to share with you. In the case of long-running dramas, they have hundreds of hours to build on the emotional bonds you’ve forged (only to slice your favorite bundle of bunny-fearing wit in half without a second thought*).
But, that’s just it—isn’t it? The slow build up to force you to put some emotional skin in the game. Buffy t swan-dives off a tower into a blob of crazy times-wimey-multi-dimension-y stuff and you’re thinking “They can’t kill off the title character. They just can’t—can they? Oh god, is Dawn going to cry? IS ANYA DEAD TOO?!?”. With a comedy, it’s a little bit different. You know, with the “I AM Liz Lemon” and all that. Still, a bond is a bond. And, when it’s over, it’s over. For the most part, that final credit sequence is it. You’ll never be in Sunnydale again. You’ll never see another dance sequence in the unisex again. For some reason, it doesn’t even matter how bad the show has been recent, that end still hits hard.
Did you keep watching Weeds, hoping that it would go back to being a good show? Why? Was it because you were attached to the characters, place, and world of the show and knew the potential it once held? That’s the exact reason I kept going with it. Sometimes shows do turn for the worse before you’re attached enough, though. Heroes? I dropped that like a bad habit—not even Kristen Bell herself could fix my feelings for that once.
That’s a bit off point, though. Because it’s when the show gets it right at least most of the time that things can get real. Sure, once it’s over you can look back and pick at the seasons with short-comings. Season 4 of Buffy? Yeah, there are some great episodes, but mostly it was a terrible Frankenstein tale. Do you skip it when you’re watching all of it in order from start to finish (something totally normal people definitely do)? Nope. Even though you know it’s not that great, it still provides context for some great stuff that’s coming down the road.
PS Tracy Morgan doesn’t exist anymore. He is not Tracy Jordan.
*I will never forgive you, Joss Whedon!**
**I’ve forgiven you, but damn, it gets me every time.