2009 TV Finales

Auuugh! I have so much work to do. But here I am at 10:30pm on Sunday night taking a break to blog about something really inconsequential: TV.

Yep, the last few days I’ve spent immersing myself in the various finales (both season and series) of my favourite TV shows of this year. Beware: spoilers abound. Here’s my countdown of the top 9 finales of 2009.

9. Hell’s Kitchen: Yes I watched this ridiculous show, mostly because Gordon Ramsay’s unabashed arrogance fascinates me. Never again, though. This show is pointless and staged, with amateurish editing passing for drama. Give me more of Ramsay’s more serious British shows, where the reality provides the drama, and less of this American tosh which tries to manufacture drama from dysfunctional personalities and improbable scenarios.

8. Celebrity Apprentice 2: Midway, I was really enjoying the show. I enjoyed how the producers apparently hate C-list celebrities, and were eager to show their shallowness in full colourful glory. But Donald Trump’s cronyism, his illogical and inconsistent decision making, and his uncanny ability to offend all my sensibilities simultaneously have conspired to keep me away from his fatuous face for the rest of his TV career. If I never see the monstrous Joan or Melissa Rivers, or the weirdly self-aggrandizing Annie Duke, never again, it will be too soon.

7. Heroes: I don’t even remember what happened. I’ll probably watch next season; but really, what’s the point?

6. Smallville: Oh Gawd. Jimmy Olsen is dead…. but he wasn’t the real Jimmy, so that’s okay. Clarke still can’t fly. The Green Arrow thinks he’s Batman. Supershmuck’s epic battle with Doomsday –the only creature to have actually ended his life– lasted all of 5 seconds, with the climax shown as stock footage of a factory explosion. Booooo! Still, I’ll watch the 9th and hopefully final season next year.

5. Survivor Tocantins: JT won. Everyone knew he would. Meh. While Survivor may not be particularly relevant anymore, this year gave us Coach Wade, who is either profoundly impressive or overwhelmingly delusional. Still, he provided an opportunity to question some of the emotional aspects of feats of deprivation, about which Survivor is all about. He was worth watching.

4. Lost: The ending of the penultimate season of this most impressive of TV shows was somewhat banal, but instrumental in moving the landmark tale into a new domain. Lost has been a wondrous achievement for sticking to a complicated, mysterious narrative that nonetheless has a plan— a rarity in TV history. Unlike The X-Files, which was great at piquing interest, but lousy at providing any narrative pay off, Lost clearly is headed somewhere. Its final 16 hours, to be broadcast in the Spring of 2010, will focus on the implications of the killing of the demigod Jacob. Lost has a rich mythology potentiated with strong acting and excellent writing. Its season finale, however, suffered from a ridiculous love quadrangle that just got in the way. But let’s not focus on that.

3. Battlestar Galactica: This was one of the most anticipated series finales in the history of television. I enjoyed it, and hope to provide my review on Skiffy.ca very soon. But, you know what? It doesn’t linger. It wasn’t disappointing, but it also wasn’t a transformative experience. And don’t you doubt for a second that excellent television can be a transformative experience. This should have been one.

2. Prison Break: Yes, I know most people have stopped watching this show. But this 4th and final season was actually pretty interesting, as it managed to bring all the clumsy threads from the previous seasons together. I rank it as the second best finale this year for one reason only… Michael Scofield’s very sad death. It was done with dignity. And while some see it as a kick in the collective nuts of all the fans, it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t linger. As a result it’s the one season/series finale that I can’t stop thinking about. There’s something profoundly poetic about a a man who struggled and succeeded to save everyone else, but failed to save himself. Mind you, a direct-to-DVD movie is coming out soon about the circumstances of his death, so I’m a bit afraid that Michael has actually faked his death and is living on a beach in Panama with a transexual hooker. Boooo!

1. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Check out Deemack’s review of season 1 on Skiffy.ca. Here is a classic example of a show too smart for its own good. It never found a core audience large enough to justify its expense. What a shame. Of all the shows I watched this year, Terminator is the only one that I could never predict– that’s how unusual the writing was. And its finale –what a work of art! All season, watching Garbage‘s Shirley Manson coax the manbot John Henry into the world of sentience was treat enough; but then seeing these activities culminate with a trip to the future to change the course of human travail was quite the adventure. Its final scene, with John Connor arriving in the future to find that no one knows his name, his father alive and well, and the female Terminator he secretly loves manifesting as a flesh and blood woman –all shown in slow motion, softly lit with suggestive music– was one of the most charming and emotionally powerful scenes I’ve ever seen on American TV. Well done indeed.

Too bad it’s been cancelled. Now on to summer reruns and the return of British science fiction…

PS, Honourable mention goes to the finale of House. Enjoyable and well written episode. But with House, I’ve come to expect the predictable mind fuck, and that’s what we got.