I have two loves: baseball and television.
The Angels are my team. I’ve loved them since childhood and will probably have the game on in the background years from now when I’m on my death bed. I’ve cheered for them through the rotten years and through the great years. No matter what they do, how they perform, which players they trade and which they keep, I watch every year.
This year was a great year for Angels baseball. Despite tragedies and setbacks, they played a fantastic season. Right up until the championship series against the Yankees. That was a decidedly lousy way to end an otherwise amazing season.
But, I’ll be there on Opening Day, ready to cheer them on. Because that’s what you do when you’re a true sports fan. You stick with your team, no matter what.
It’s not the same with TV.
When Taylor Hicks won American Idol two years after the awful Fantasia Barrino, it turned me off to the show permanently.
When Meredith told McDreamy she wouldn’t marry him, I said good bye to Grey’s Anatomy.
When Nathan Petrelli turned Heroes into a cheap version of X-Men, I was done.
But when they opened the hatch and made us wait four long months to learn what was inside, I was completely sold on LOST.
It may not be fair, but television’s just held to a different standard. There are so many programs out there competing for our attention and writers and producers have to constantly be aware of their audience’s expectations.
I’ll forgive a show if it’s got a couple of lousy episodes. I’ve even stuck with a series that’s had a fairly lame season. Because I always hope the finale is going to blow me away, change my thinking on what I’ve been watching, and leave me desperate for more.
Sometimes that works, and sometimes Joan Rivers is the next Celebrity Apprentice.
In sports, there is only one real goal. I want my team to win. Sure, I’d like to see John Lackey to throw a lot of strikes and I want Torii Hunter to hit a lot of homeruns, but at the end of the game, all that really matters is the number on the scoreboard, and not necessarily how they got there.
TV is completely different. It’s all about taking the audience somewhere, asking them to trust you, and trying desperately to write something they’re going to want to stick with for a year or two or five. It’s a lot harder to gain their respect and even harder to keep it. The average season is somewhere between 22-24 episodes. For a one-hour drama, that equates to about 24 hours of life that you are dedicating to just one series. It’s a big commitment. Does one hour at the end really make that much of a difference?
For most shows, yes. The finale is truly that. The final. The end. It silences the speculation. It’s the summation of everything the audience has been waiting for. It’s the opportunity for a series to answer the question of how Pam feels about Jim. It can shock us with the surprising revelation that Sydney Bristow’s mother is not only alive but also a seriously evil spy. And it can take us into a new direction by showing us an existence in which the World Trade Center is still standing.
Would the show be just as good without these surprises? Would we keep watching if there wasn’t some big gasp-worthy moment? Maybe. But where would be the fun in that?
“They” say life is about the journey and not the destination.
Not so with television. TV is really about the destination. And I don’t want to go somewhere that’s gonna suck.