We experience loss in all sorts of ways. Family, a loved pet, and yes, even TV series ending. For some people a show ending has far more importance because we invest in them more than we do our human relationships which only defines our humanity further.
What do you do when your favourite show is ending?
My favourite ever show is Doctor Who. It’s not ending, calm down. It did, however. Back in 1989. We said our goodbyes. I’d turned 18 and had found new hobbies, like drinking, dancing and penises. I was doing Year 12, my HSC, and I just didn’t have time for The Doctor anymore. The magazines, the Target books, the fannish nonsense that I and millions of other socially awkward individuals ravenously collected to prove how much we loved our favourite tv show. It never really ended, though. It finished it’s 26th season, like it had finished the 25 before, and it never came back. Until 1996. And then again in 2005. I’ve never really had to say goodbye to Doctor Who, and for some reason that makes me think my other favourite shows will one day come back, but I know they can’t. It’s just not possible to do a Lost reunion special. They tied a big fat bow in that show and even gave us a whole sideways world to do our mourning in as they hurtled toward the finale.
Over Christmas I finally brought myself to watch the last eight episodes of In Plain Sight, an adorable witness protection procedural starring Mary McCormack from The West Wing and Murder One. It was a quaint little show with quirky characters set in the almost horrifically bland town of Albuquerque – a perfect place to send people in witness protection, I imagine. Like Adelaide, if it was next to Mexico. I loved Mary Shannon, the character that McCormack brought to stark, brilliant life every week. She looked at the highlights and lowlifes in her work and home life with a jaded sense of humour that you started to believe was more defence mechanism than personality quirk. A police-style drama about a woman older than 22, with a strong moral centre, who can make you laugh, is as rare as diamonds in the television landscape, and I cherished each little morsel that came my way. Almost all of McCormack’s West Wing co-stars made guest appearances at some point or another, along with some of the finest character actors in television playing various crooks, innocent eyewitnesses and members of Mary’s extended family. Lesley Anne Warren as her mother, Jinx, was particularly memorable in her many appearances over the five seasons. Mary’s long-gestating issues with her fugitive father were played out beautifully when the show was given a final order for 8 episodes that aired early last year.
This is how I wish all my shows would end. Knowing that it’s coming and planning for it. The final episode of Lost, which I know some people find contentious, is a perfect example. Those of us who were watching week in and week out in that final season, who wondered just how that sideways world was working, threw our arms in the air and said thank you. The writers had been preparing us for the end from the very beginning of season six. The whole of the sideways world was our reconciliation with the end of all things, our chance to say goodbye to the characters, all the while following their final days on that loopy la-la polar bear infested cork island where Alison Janney mothered a smoke monster. I loved it, and it made sense to me, and I was happy to say goodbye to it, because it was ready to go.
The same with Fringe, another of JJ Abrams’ babies, which ended a few short weeks ago. Aussies John Noble and Anna Torv have turned in some breathtaking performances in that show over the last five years, and this final season did everything you had ever wanted that show to do. They brought back all sorts of nonsense from the the preceding four seasons, they prepared us for a tragic ending by putting almost every single character in some kind of mortal danger for the final 13 weeks, and they foreshadowed the final moments of the show in each and every episode of the fifth season. When it came, it was no surprise, nor were my eyes dry. I think I went through at least six tissues, as each of the characters said goodbye to each other, just as we, the audience, were saying goodbye to them on screen. Even writing this, and remembering Walter uttering the line “You are my favourite thing,” is making it hard for me to see the screen right now. Not just because of the intensity of love the characters on screen had for each other, but for how much I loved spending time with them in their terrifying worlds, and how much I would miss them.
So how do we say goodbye to our favourite show? I guess we hope that it lasts long enough, and the people who make it care strongly enough, to send it off in style. Even a show like Awake with Jason Isaacs, that only lasted 13 episodes, they knew the end was nigh, and they wrote themselves a finale that gave the preceding 12 a frisson of meaning. More than anything, we need an ending. Not a cliffhanger, not a breathless moment wondering what happens next, and certainly not a questioning moment of ambiguity. We want Mary Richards switching off the lights in the newsroom, we need Sam Tyler to go back and kiss Annie and we crave, more than anything, something like the closure we get from the spectacular montage at the end of Six Feet Under as Claire drives off into the sunset. We want a chance to say goodbye to the characters who become part of our lives week after week, month after month, year after year. Even if we’re watching a box set over a weekend, we want those last few moments where we can say farewell.
So to the casts, crews and creatives behind the shows I adore, who are all packed up and on their way to pastures new, and the characters, who live on in my memory, who I may see again when I catch a repeat late one night, I say goodbye. You are my favourite thing. My very favourite thing.A standup comedian since 1997, Adam has performed all over Australia, Britain and the USA. He began his gossip queen career as Triple J’s Mister Bitch (2002/3) and has spent the last nine years as The Fabulous Adam Richard, part of Melbourne’s Number 1 FM breakfast team, the Matt and Jo Show on 101.9 The Fox. Adam has appeared as a guest on such embarrassing ventures as Celebrity Dog School, Hole in the Wall, and The Footy Show. He has also appeared in more classy fare, like Can of Worms, Chelsea Lately, Rove and Spicks and Specks (where his impression of an Australian Idol audition remains the most viewed Spicks and Specks clip on YouTube). He is the co-writer and co-star of the ABC1 comedy series Outland, about a group of gay science fiction fans and master of the Talking Poofy and The Shelf podcasts. He tolerates SteveMolk in the nicest of fashions.
A beautiful article, Adam. The two shows that I thought did the finale thing right was The West Wing and The Shield. Even though the West Wing lost its way for a little while after Sorkin left, it found its feet in the final two seasons and it tied the Bartlett administration (and the future) up so nicely that it was hard not to smile a little at the end.
With The Shield, Shawn Ryan did such an awesome job of making sure everyone got what they deserved harking back to episode one, you really felt like the series had reached a full stop (and Michael Chiklis’ silent acting in the last two or so minutes of the final episode was nothing short of brilliant).
Twas a sad day when I found out Hit & Miss and Outland weren’t going into Series 2!
Great article. I STILL miss Claire, David and Nate…… I STILL miss Tony, Carmela and Paulie…. but it was easier letting them go when I knew what happened after. Well said sir.