Cancellation Blues And Other TV Thoughts

– Several long-running canceled shows will go off without much in the way of a finale. My Name Is Earl was just canceled, but its last episode seemed to operate on the assumption that there would be another season. In fact, it ended with a “To Be Continued” caption, the absolute worst way to end a series. The Unit, which CBS just canceled as well, at least went out with a wedding. The importance of series finales can be overstated (like season finales, they are a relatively recent invention), but it does seem like a show that’s on the bubble should at least try not to end the season with a cliffhanger, just because it’s going to piss a lot of people off when the show gets rerun; people have been angry about the ending of Soap — which ended with a character about to be executed by a firing squad — for over 25 years now. Of course, you could turn that around and argue that it’s in the producers’ interest to end with a cliffhanger because they can then offer a reason why the network should pick them up: they’re not out of stories to tell. (In Earl’s case, they were hoping that Fox would pick them up if NBC didn’t.)

Update: My Name Is Earl‘s creator, Greg Garcia, claims that ending with a cliffhanger was a strategic decision to help the show’s chances of getting picked up by another network: “There’s a lot of reasons the show would work well on another network, and I think we’d do very well with some promotion. We certainly feel like we have more stories to tell. That’s why we left the show on season 4 on a cliffhanger.”

– When I said that Mitch Hurwitz was the unluckiest man in TV, I was unaware that he was one of the executive producers of a show that did get picked up: Fox’s football-player comedy “Brothers.” So while that’s a Friday-night show that’s not likely to last more than a season, he at least has a show on the air. The creator of Brothers is Don Reo, who must have one of the longest careers in television at this point. He wrote for Sonny & Cher, became a writer-producer on Rhoda and M*A*S*H, ran the cult flop Action and Everybody Hates Chris, and has been creating his own shows for over 25 years, including the fantasy spoof Wizards & Warriors, Blossom, The John Larroquette Show, and star vehicles for everyone from Damon Wayans to Rhea Pearlman. Except for a fascination with recovering alcoholics, I don’t know that there’s a lot of consistent themes or styles in his work, but apart from having done some good stuff (particularly season 1 of John Larroquette), it’s impressive that he’s managed to be a viable, in-demand TV writer-producer in Hollywood for 35 years. How many other people have managed that?