Woe is me. I am grappling with the decline of the human condition … well, as it relates to television. (Never let it be said that I am not deep.)
I turn my focus to the season finale. Once the pinnacle of a TV show's season, the season finale has now become a farce.
A season finale is supposed to leave you gasping for breath, clinging to the arm of the couch, and questioning your own emotional ability to continue your existence until the next season kicks off and allows you to fill the giant abyss that's been left in your gut.
This year, nothing even came close!
I watched a variety of finales to make sure I opened myself up to all that is out there in the land of the magic box.
I was infinitely disappointed. (Remember how effective this was when your parents said it?)
First and foremost, The Sopranos turned out to be a devastating letdown. We knew Jackie Jr. was going to buy the farm, but a bullet in the back of the head and he's dead?! Unfair! Surely, we deserve more of a bloody cliffhanger than that.
Instead, we got an hour of ongoing drivel with the Soprano children. Certainly there is a method to David Chase's madness, or in this instance, blandness, but watching Meadow unravel in her spoiled, Valley girl (albeit Jersey Valley) fashion was a snore. Then, to polish off the show with the miraculously cured Uncle Junior doing an 11-minute aria … Quite frankly, I was ready to take a hit in the back of the head myself.
I could even have handled the anticlimactic ending if I didn't have to wait almost A FLIPPIN' YEAR to see another episode. The fourth season of The Sopranos doesn't kick off until April 2002. That's just wrong.
Annoying Ally and Dour Dharma
From the sublime, to the ludicrous …
Ally McBeal: Let me be the first to say "uncle." (Not Uncle Junior either). In the season ender, Ally learned boyfriend Larry Paul had gone back to Detroit, again. Only this time it's for good. Not a surprise, since we know Robert Downey Jr. is, shall we say, "unavailable" to continue. Then, as per usual, Ally was depressed and hallucinated throughout the show.
Been there. Done that!
Ally needs to go see Oprah's Dr. Phil and she needs to go soon. She also needs to get fat because most women eat when they get dumped and she's been dumped enough to turn into ? well, I already mentioned Oprah.) Plus food would keep her mouth shut. This is no "Who Shot J.R.?" It's more like "Who Dumped Ally McB.?" — only the difference is no one cares. David E. Kelley needs to retool over the summer. Period.
Then I had a look at Dharma & Greg, a show I watched in its infancy, but grew increasingly bored with because they were having waaaaay too many real-life problems. It was becoming far sadder and less funny.
So, what happens with this season finale? Dharma and Greg decide to stay together and work it out. No big surprise here since the only option for next season would be to rename the show Dharma OR Greg. But, in the final seconds the two lovebirds got into a horrific car accident that should've left them both roadkill. Only we know THAT won't happen. Their final lines: "Dharma, are you OK?" "I don't think so." And on screen the words "to be continued."
If they had any guts at all, it should've said, "The end. They're dead!" Then you have a reason to tune in next season to see, more than anything else, how they can continue a show without its two main stars. Instead, we'll wait to see the extent of their injuries, which still won't be critical enough for one of them to die because, again, it would have to be called Just Dharma or Just Greg. Not likely.
Finally, I checked out NYPD Blue, which has turned into NYPD Boo Hoo. The season finale had Danny Sorenson (Rick Schroder) missing and Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) weeping. This is the same guy who proudly portrayed himself as a semi-recovering alcoholic and a racist. He also referred to just about everyone as a "miserable hump." Confrontation was what he ate for breakfast. No more, though. Now he's concerned with people's feelings. He has become The Weakest Link.
They've lost a slew of cast members. Andrea Thompson (aka Jill Kirkendall) decided to become a news anchor and bailed at the end of last season. Kim Delaney (Diane Russell) ditched to star in her own show and Lt. Fancy fancied another job. Charlotte Ross and Esai Morales are hot additions to the dwindling cast, but this is another show that has lost its oomph. Will Danny return? Will Sipowicz stop crying? Will I be watching next season? Doubtful.
As a sidebar, I considered commenting on the Star Trek: Voyager series finale, but decided against it. I'm not a Trekker, and I understand it's a whole different universe if you are one. I'll be sad to see Kate Mulgrew leave series TV as she is one of those "great actress, doesn't get enough recognition," cases. Other than saying that, I will simply readjust my aluminum foil antennae and move on.
I have decided to use my summer wisely ? devoting it to television prayer. In case you want to join in, it will go something like this:
"Dear (Fill in your deity here):
"Please let the next television season be better than this television season. Let The Sopranos stay bloody and violent and conclude some story lines. Let Ally McBeal finally meet someone who sticks around for more than a season so we can enjoy the OTHER characters on the show. Bless Dharma and Greg or Just Dharma or Just Greg and please, oh please, let Andy Sipowicz fall off the wagon and turn nasty again. Amen."
Heidi Oringer is director of entertainment programming at ABCNEWS Radio.