Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Do you ever wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, worrying yourself awake over Angela Chase's eventual choice of high school beau? Do you find your mind racing over the endless possibilities, considering the implications of taking a pro-Jordan or pro-Brian bias? No, no, of course you don't. That's what I'm here for. To carry your unshouldered burden of those unsolved 90s pop culture mysteries.
It's the ultimate case of The One That Got Away. We found a TV series we enjoyed, we became invested in the characters and plot lines, and then suddenly the reality of poor ratings and low ad revenues kicked in and the network would yank it from its lineup. This is disappointing in any case, but it's especially vexing when the writers leave important plot threads dangling. We never saw it coming. At least when a series that plans its own finale, we get that closure we so desperately crave. Everything wraps up neatly and we can all sleep soundly knowing that our characters have found their peace.
Sometimes, though, the writers may not know they're teetering on the brink of imminent cancellation. They write a season finale as a cliffhanger, hoping to keep their loyal viewers in suspense of a surprising twist in the next season's premiere episode. We're all waiting anxiously for our favorite show's return, eager for the answers to our most pressing plot questions when we hear the bad news: the show has been canceled. The canon on its storylines is officially closed, and we're left to speculate forever on the true nature of the show's intentions. I'm still vacillating over the whole Jordan/Brian ordeal, and it's been over ten years.
Like many young girls of my time, the show started its decline in my mind the minute JTT left. It just wasn't the same without his endearing floppy-haired precociousness. Aside from my own bitterness at his departure, most viewers had a bigger issue with the iffy series finale. After nine years, you would think they would at least have given us a little something to hold onto.
The final episode features a wealth of deliberations for the Taylor family. Tim films his final Tool Time and producers beg him to stay. Jill gets a job offer to be a psychologist in Indiana. It looks like they're going to Indiana, moving their house one piece at a time...or are they? Yup, we potentially got Dallas'ed. Is it a dream? We'll never know.
They did, however, at least have the common courtesy to leave us with a cheesy montage and a final curtain call:
Caroline in the City
This show may not have been quite as culturally persevering as Home Improvement, but it did fare pretty well for awhile in NBC's Thursday night line-up. The writers dish up another heaping serving of What Might Have Been, though they leave us to ponder whether or not it will be. Caroline's all set to marry Richard, he tells her he doesn't really want kids, she freaks out a bit. Fast forward six months, Caroline's about to marry Randy, and wouldn't you know it, there's Richard! Who would've thought? Anyway, the clip isn't available anywhere on the interwebs, so you'll have to settle for this montage of Caroline and Richard and just hope that was the finale's intention.
Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Remember, if you can think back this far, a time before Terri Hatcher was a Desperate Housewife and Dean Cain a desperate Ripley's Believe it or Not host. In the 90s, these two embodied the updated Superman and Lois Lane. The series' last episode is a real puzzler, though. The two find a baby on their doorstep with a note. We don't get much more than that. They thought the show would get picked up for another season, but we were stuck with this ending. If it helps, though, one of the writers later revealed that the baby was a Krypton royal who they needed to shield from deadly assassins. I think I liked it better when I didn't know.
Someone's pregnant! Moesha's brother's been kidnapped! It's all pretty exciting stuff, but unfortunately we don't get to find out what happened. They'd originally intended to resolve the issues on the spin-off The Parkers, but there just wasn't enough time. Besides, at that point, I'd lost interest anyway.
My So-Called Life
Ah, the classic cliffhanger ending. MSCL didn't have spectacular ratings, but it did gather a fiercely loyal fanbase. You can imagine the anger they felt when they found out that the eternal question of Angela's love life would never be resolved. Angela's all about hunky and semi-illiterate Jordan Catalano until she finds out at the end of the episode that his heartfelt love letter was ghostwritten by none other than geeky but kind-hearted Brian Krakow. Like I said earlier, this one still haunts me. I'm sort of a Brian fan, but I had a huge crush on Jared Leto. I don't know what I wanted, I just wanted an ending, dammit.
I'm still not totally sure why I loved this show as a kid. It wasn't particularly good, nor was it remotely appropriate for my young age. Regardless, I have a soft spot for this one and I'd really like to know how it all played out. This one was so bold to splash a big To Be Continued.... across the screen, meaning they were pretty cocky about their chances for a second season. There's a wedding, an assassin points a gun at several different characters, camera pans away, we hear a shot. And then...nothing. No answers. Several years down the road, E! aired an alternate ending that gave us some closure. Unfortunately, I never saw it. If any of you did, let me know what happened.
Oh, wait, never mind. Here it is. Thanks, YouTube!
Did Cybill and Maryanne kill the infamous Dr. Dick or not? They thought not, just a simple blow-up-his-boat operation. Next, they're arrested for his murder. The show was canceled so suddenly, we never got a chance to find out what might have been. Either way, I think he deserved it.
I spent many of my high school years pondering the age-old question: was I Brooke or a Sam? I realize now that I'm probably not missing anything by not falling into the categories of bulimic cheerleader or repressed lesbian. I've really got to get some new role models.
Anyway, this show was, as the title implies, pretty popular for awhile. The WB pushed it into the black hole of the Friday night time slot and the ratings plummeted. The cliffhanger was pretty juicy, too--we probably all would've tuned in for a little tying-up of loose ends. Brooke's fellow cheerleader Nicole Julian gets drunk and runs over Brooke with her car. How could you not want to know what happened? My curiosity is pretty persistent.
I couldn't find the ending, so you'll have to settle for the intro. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to iTunes to go download that theme song.
We may never know what happened in most of these scenarios, but perhaps it's better off that way. Leaving the story open-ended lets it lives on and gives it a potential that probably exceeds whatever the writers would have actually come up with. They also taught us the valuable life lesson of learning to live with disappointment. Sure, I was upset when I didn't know how Home Improvement wrapped up, but it did prepare me for the continued grief associated with opening one of my current paychecks.
And for the record, Runner Up: Dallas. It got resolved in a TV movie, anyway. Plus, what kind of a 6-year old watched Dallas? I have no context for it. On the other hand, I watched Cybill, so my tastes may have been a bit more mature than I'd initially thought.