These TV Series are Over, But Did They Satisfy?

By By Susan C. Young
|  Wednesday, Jun 2, 2010  |  Updated 11:45 PM EDT
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These TV Series are Over, But Did They Satisfy?

ABC

How happy were you with the "Lost" ending?

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You’re still puzzled by what you watched on “Lost,” haunted by that final scene on “Nip/Tuck,” comforted by that cozy closer in Trafalgar Square on “Ugly Betty” and wondering what’s become of your “Heroes.”

Series finales are always tough on both the viewers and the writers. Fans want perfection, and like children hoping to offer up an A-filled report card to their parents, writers strive to deliver.

Oftentimes, disappointment results on both sides, especially when iconic series come to a close, but not always. Here’s a look at how five series ended this year, and what some show creators thought of the way things wrapped up.

‘Lost’
In the end, “Lost” producers delivered exactly what they promised.

 

Those dwelling too heavily in the world of polar bears and sequenced numbers felt slighted after a finale filled with emotional reunions and spiritual awakenings reaped little in the way of specific answers.

It was a brilliant move by producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse to leave the audience still questioning and pondering after the final credits rolled. One thing was certain: The two men stayed true to their word that “Lost” was a show about people. Dharma Initiative, Temple dwellers, Charles Widmore, Smoke Monster, time travel, car crashes, water references and those devilish numbers all just served as an interesting way to propel those stories along.

“ ‘The X-Files’ wasn’t about aliens invading, but about the relationship between Scully and Mulder, the balance between faith and science,” Lindelof said. “(‘Lost’) is about people who are metaphorically lost in their lives and get on an airplane and crash on an island and become physically lost on Earth. Once they are metaphysically able to find themselves in their lives again, they will physically find themselves back in the world again. When you look at the entire show, that’s what it will look like and that’s what it’s always been about.”

In the minds of those who cared more about seeing Claire and Charlie, Jin and Sun, Juliet and Sawyer and Sayid and Shannon joined in forever-after bliss courtesy of island caretaker Hurley — who ends up with his own happily-ever-after — the show ended on the perfect note. As for the mysteries, those can wait for another day.

It’s an ending that echoes the satisfaction Lindelof felt when watching his all-time favorite finale, “M*A*S*H.”

“I remember watching that with my folks and how emotional it was when Hawkeye breaks down saying, ‘It was a baby, it wasn’t a chicken’ and the chopper took off and Klinger stayed behind. That’s stuff that has stayed with me for my life,” Lindelof said. “To end a show people still care about and give the characters incredibly fulfilling resolutions, ‘M*A*S*H’ is still the pinnacle of what we would like to achieve.”

“Lost” could never satisfy viewers who wanted every key to unlocking each of the mystery doors. Many answers were parsed out as the series wound down, but never enough for hard-core fans. That could be one of the finales’ greatest successes, to give the characters resolution while still continuing the discussion as to what it all means.

 

24
If you didn’t think that the ending of “24” was perfect, then you don’t know Jack.

Impossible, improbable and often times ludicrous, “24” managed each year to deliver a non-stop thrill ride with Jack Bauer at the helm. Main characters were killed and sometimes resurrected to live another day. This final season, Jack finally lost it as he started the day as a doting grandpa and, within 24 hours, ended up gutting a man for a swallowed SIM card and taking down a corrupt president.

It was just another day, until fans discovered more than midway through that this would be the last for Jack Bauer. So how could this series possibly end with him making it out alive? And how could he die if there was going to be a non-prequel movie?

The finale made us almost believe that the end was near for Jack, right down to the scene when a government agent is about to assassinate a kneeling, handcuffed Jack the way Jack once took out his boss at the bidding of the president. This time, however, the president reversed the order and Jack was saved to run away yet again.

The haunting last look into the drone surveillance camera showed us a broken man, limping off to lick his wounds. Maybe he’ll end up like most grandparents, taking care of his beloved granddaughter. But we suspect that if the money planets align, Jack could be back on the big screen. And this finale offered a way for fans to say goodbye no matter which fate awaits him.

It’s an ending that closely aligns with another iconic series.

“My favorite television series finale was ‘The Sopranos’ because it was pitch perfect and it didn't try too hard to be ‘the end,’ ” said “24” producer Howard Gordon. “In terms of how Tony’s story could have played out or punctuated, there were really only three options: He could have been whacked, arrested or kept doing what he's been doing. David Chase allowed enough ambiguity to allow any of those possibilities, ultimately telling the audience it’s the end because it’s the end.”

 

‘Nip/Tuck’
Unsettling.

That’s the best way to describe how this graphic series opted to go out in the end. Yet creator Ryan Murphy still managed a few semihappy endings, which was more than what fans might have expected in a series that constantly yanked the glad out from under the feet of every character who came close to discovering peace.

The Carver didn’t come back and stage a massacre at the plastic surgery office, and no one ended up in a bloody heap on the floor. Instead, viewers were treated to an episode that had a senior citizen going out in a blaze of porno glory, Sean McNamara getting a second chance at being a dad and doing something nice for humanity, and Christian Troy moving on and finally putting his friend first.

Maybe it was finding his bliss on new creation “Glee,” but Murphy gave fans an ending that allowed some sunshine to creep into these dark and dismal souls — even if that meant we remained concerned about the future of at least one innocent.

It wouldn’t be “Nip/Tuck” without at least one cringeworthy moment. That came when Matt McNamara hijacked his beautiful toddler daughter and offered her to his transsexual love, Ava, with a line about how he might not be the perfect person she’s looking for, but he’s got a perfect baby she could have. This after Ava gave up her physically defective adopted baby to Sean.

While concern for the little girl’s future might keep fans up at night, at least the finale offered some measure of peace and closure.

 

‘Ugly Betty’
Those familiar with the Spanish language series upon which “Ugly Betty” was based probably assumed they knew how this American version would end.

But they were at least partially wrong.

This series burst on the scene in 2006 with a cutting edge look, and for the first time, a Latina carrying a network TV series. While it would have been nice to send Betty off into the world as a strong single Latina, that wasn’t the case.

Just like her Spanish-language counterpart, Betty indeed developed from awkward duckling to sexy swan. In the end she didn’t fall into the arms of her playboy boss and steadfast pal — although she might have leaned in that direction.

In a satisfying but in no way unexpected way, everyone snags a happy ending on this show that was all about Cinderella possibilities. Despite the fact that Prince Charming arrived in town without a job — Daniel had given the reins of Mode magazine to his long-time tormentor, Wilhelmina, before tracking down Betty in London — he still had enough cash to take her out to dinner and romance her into a new relationship, or so the ending implied.

 

‘Heroes’
The show hit it big in the beginning as the superhumans faced off against the bad guys in this moving drama.

Stalled by the writers strike in 2007-2008, the series never came back strong after being one of the bright spots on an otherwise dismal NBC schedule. And when the series was canceled after the final episode aired in February, there was no way to have a true series finale.

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

Talks are underway for a movie next year to wrap up all the loose ends, but for now fans who stayed on to the bitter end can only find satisfaction in knowing that Hiro reconnected with Charlie, only to come to the realization that a hero has to put true love on the back burner when he’s responsible for saving the world.

Whether he gets a chance to pen that finale or not, “Heroes” creator/producer Tim Kring said no finale gets it absolutely right for everyone.

“What makes these zeitgeist shows so popular is that they create a highly personal relationship with each member of their audience,” Kring said. “As such, a show’s ending is judged by vastly different expectations.”

Kring noted the “M*A*S*H” finale was the most realized of all the finales, an emotionally satisfying goodbye to the show and the characters. However, there wasn’t a lot of plot in “M*A*S*H” that required resolution.

“So, with that in mind, my vote has to go to ‘Lost,’ if nothing else, out of sheer respect for how much they had to wrap up,” Kring said. “It’s like a whole other category than say, a situation comedy where very little is left hanging from week to week. So, a big kudos to Damon and Carlton for managing such huge expectations with a wonderfully deft touch.”

Perhaps if Kring gets a chance to do a finale movie, Lindelof and Cuse can return the compliment.

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