Hunch forward and glue your eyes to the page, writing compadres, and join us in this look at a few of the most emotionally satisfying TV series of all time.
And, yeppers, we’re including the Game of Thrones finale because, well, a lot of us loved it, y’know?
by Jason Hellerman
The best television show finales leave us wanting to watch the pilot all over again. They’re celebrations of the series and usually of the creators and cast.
In light of the recent ending of Game of Thrones, we decided to dig into television finales to talk about how you can stick the landing for your shows. Whether you’re the most popular TV show of all time or creating a web series that needs to please the thirty dedicated fans who found you, good endings are necessary.
We’ve gone over how to write a TV pilot, so you know all about beginnings. Now it’s time to help you land the plane.
[Warning: Lots of spoilers to follow.]
What should every TV finale have?
As I mentioned in the opening, you want to leave the audience feeling satisfied with the journey and the lessons you wanted to impart. It doesn’t mean you have to tie up every loose end or storyline, but it does mean you owe the audience closure on the general problems you put forth in the pilot episode.
Endings are a lot like beginnings. We need to know where the characters are in their final stages and their arc. Lots of times, endings are mirrors of the first episode. They take characters back to how it first began and what was learned over time. Think about the Lost finale. When the show ends, we’re back in the jungle with Jack….
Considering all there is to fight about in this world, we at TVWriter™ have decided to stay shtum about the opinions in the article below. But just between us, what a pleasure to witness the beginning of a debate that, you know, just plain doesn’t mean anything at all.
Your friendly neihborhood mixers present:
Welcome to the era of Peak TV or the Gilded Age of television — you can thank FX chief John Landgraf for coining both of those terms — when the glut of offerings on the small screen has yielded an embarrassment of series riches. It’s not just that a crowded marketplace has pushed creators to become even more innovative and daring in their work to gain attention; the very definition of what TV is and how to watch it has allowed an unprecedented freedom in storytelling.
Do you want a revival of an avant-garde series that reveres a damn fine cup of coffee? Are you itching for a show like “The Good Wife” but even more progressive? Want to revisit the Minnesota-nice flavor of a 1990s Coen Brothers film? Are you craving ridiculous puns with your existential crisis? There’s a series for every single one of those desires.
This level of excellence on the small screen, however, hasn’t spontaneously arrived, like Athena fully grown from Zeus’ head. No, television has been on a steady climb since the Golden Age, which critics estimate started around 10 years ago. Therefore, IndieWire’s team of TV experts deemed it necessary to celebrate some of the best TV shows of the past decade.
With so many TV shows on offer, it seemed prudent to set forth strict guidelines to narrow the field. This was by no means an easy task and caused endless debates and gnashing of teeth. But in the end, the rules of engagement for the list are as follows….
You like overviews? You want overviews? Great! Cause you’d better believe us when we say THIS is a goddam Overview!
by Steve Greene
There may come a day when the tide of TV programming starts to subside, when networks decide that sheer quantity is not enough t–
Ha, who are we kidding, there’s always going to be way too much TV to watch. So, in our ongoing quest to help viewers prioritize 2019 TV shows, we’ve assembled a giant list of every IndieWire TV review of the year, organized by the letter grade (A+ to F) that accompanies each of them. Some series have prompted follow-ups after pivotal episodes or finales, but the links below will take you to season reviews of all the shows listed.
These reviews were based on various numbers of episodes per season. (Due to the nature of production, sometimes only a handful of episodes are available before a show’s premiere — other times, the whole season is ready to be previewed.) So, with that context, let us offer our best attempts at a TV starting point for the year….
NOTE FROM LB: This is the review that I should have written about The Good Fight. But Michelle Goldberg has done it much better, so:
by Michelle Goldberg
In the second season of the serial drama “The Good Fight,” Diane Lockhart, an attorney played by the regal 67-year-old actress Christine Baranski, makes a heated speech at a meeting about a legal strategy for impeaching Donald Trump. “I have spent the last few months feeling deranged,” she shouts, though she uses an expletive before “deranged.” “Going numb! All Trump, all the time. What’s real, what’s fake? Well, you know what? I just woke up.”
This captures a pretty widespread feeling among Americans right now — consider all the women who mobilized for Democrats in the midterms — but it’s surprisingly rare to see it expressed in pop storytelling. Part of the dystopian character of Trump’s presidency is his ubiquity; he dominates the news cycle, late-night TV and book publishing. Yet Trumpism has, with only a few exceptions, gone weirdly unprocessed by fiction, either written or filmed.
Perhaps that’s because people are desperate for a respite from Trump, or because the imagination can’t compete with the strangeness of reality. It means that while there’s an explosion of news stories about the current moment, there’s a lack of the sort of human tales that might help discombobulated Americans make sense of what we’re going through.
Sure, “Saturday Night Live” makes valiant attempts to parody Trump, but it’s hard to caricature a caricature. And there are shows coming out that seem at least obliquely inspired by Trump’s odiousness, like Ava DuVernay’s dramatic mini-series about the Central Park Five, a group of wrongly imprisoned teenage boys demonized by Trump, which debuts at the end of the month. But the feeling that makes otherwise sane people wonder whether we’re all living in a computer simulation gone glitchy hasn’t yet been successfully channeled into any art that I’m aware of.
Except, that is, for “The Good Fight,” the only TV show that reflects what life under Trump feels like for many of us who abhor him. Its showrunners, the married couple Michelle and Robert King, have figured out how to alchemize our berserk era into entertainment. When historians look back at this ghastly moment — if there are still historians when it’s over — this fizzy, mordant cult series is likely to be one of its richest artifacts. It’s a balm, a reminder, on days when I feel like I’m cracking up, that it’s really the world that’s gone crazy….
Cold war intrigue is upon us this spring — not from Washington, D.C. or the Kremlin, but from ABC. Viewers need only turn to the alphabet network on Wednesday nights at 10:00 pm to catch the ambitious new hour-long espionage series Whiskey Cavalier.
The lightweight spy spoof/buddy comedy follows the escapades of an inter-agency group of agents who join forces to save the world from the worst the enemy has to offer.
Scott Foley (The Unit, Scandal) stars as Will Chase, an FBI super-agent whose official designation is ‘Whiskey Cavalier.’ He’s earned a reputation as a top-level spy, yet his mojo is currently on the fritz due to a nasty breakup with his fiancee (the as-yet unseen Gigi) six months earlier.
In the pilot episode, Will met and matched wits with his no-nonsense CIA counterpart, Francesca “Frankie” Trowbridge (The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan), as the two pursued rogue NSA systems analyst turned hacker Edgar Standish (Tyler James Williams, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders), who was wanted for treason after he amscrayed from his department with covert intelligence files.
With their competitive natures, Will and Frankie (whose own field designation is ‘Fiery Tribune’) played a dangerous — and often comic — game of one-upmanship in order to deliver Standish to their respective agencies. Their rivalry in turn became the greatest threat to the success of their mission.
But when the Russians showed up to steal Standish from both of them, Will and Frankie were forced into an uneasy alliance that not only thwarted their opponents but led to Standish’s vindication.
Their bosses were so impressed by the joint venture that they decided to keep Will, Frankie, and Standish together in an inter-departmental effort between the FBI, CIA and NSA. Joining them are a support team of fellow spooks: Dr. Susan Sampson (Ana Ortiz, Ugly Betty), a top FBI profiler who also happens to be Will’s analyst; and CIA Weapons Specialist Jai Datta (Vir Das), the only person in the world Frankie sincerely trusts.
Then there’s Ray Prince (Josh Hopkins, Quantico, Cougar Town), the FBI’s Head of Evidence Response. Ray wants to be a part of the team, too. Problem is he’s incompetent and untrustworthy — and could very well be a double agent.
The five mismatched agents must pull their resources while keeping their egos in check. To protect their true identities from the rest of the world (particularly their enemies), the team poses as a group of friends partnering up to open a New York Irish pub called ‘The Dead Drop.’ In essence, it becomes their batcave.
Will and Frankie make for an interesting pair. Their strengths and weaknesses could either make or break their missions. Will is emotionally needy, while Frankie is withdrawn and unavailable. Yet despite their differences, these two oddball agents have somehow made a mutual connection. There’s always a chance that they’ll end up satisfying each others needs, which might lead to romance. But let’s hope they’re able to become friends first.
Whiskey Cavalier is one of the more ambitious programs to hit network TV recently. ABC placed an initial order for 13 episodes, then sent the cast and crew packing. The series is set in different foreign locale each week, but rather than recreating the world on L.A. soundstages, the producers opted to add authenticity by filming on actual locations in and around Prague and other areas of the Czech Republic. Production commenced on September 8, 2018 and wrapped on February 23, 2019, just one-day before Whiskey made its high-profile debut following this years Oscars telecast.
Not everyone, however, is thrilled with the lighter moments of the show. Whiskey is a ‘dramedy, ’ but today’s audiences may not be as open to the genre as past audiences were. It’s like trying to sell fans of Daniel Craig’s James Bond on “Moonraker” or “Octopussy.” It’s become a sore spot with many viewers.
Yet one look at the names of those working behind-the-scenes on Whiskey and suddenly the programs often comedic tones will make a little more sense. The show was created by David Hemingson (Just Shoot Me) and produced by Bill Lawrence (Scrubs).
The reasoning behind the move, according to Scott Foley in early interviews, is that there’s so much violence and hate in the real world — and on TV — that they wanted to do something that would provide fans with both thrills and a bit of escapism.
Once Foley signed on, he packed up his entire family — his wife Marika and their three young daughters — and made the six-month shoot in Prague an extended family affair. The girls even attended school there for a semester.
The series got off to a great start with its post-Oscar show preview, scoring impressive numbers (including an 85 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer) and positive reviews.
But in its regular Wednesday night timeslot, viewership has dropped consistently over the past five weeks, and analysts are predicting that the future of Whiskey Cavalier will most likely ride on how the two episodes scheduled for April 10 and 17 perform in the ratings.
Perhaps Standish can hack into the Nielsen computers.
Doug Snauffer is an Ohio-based freelance writer. His work has appeared in myriad publications and on SyFy Channel and includes several cult horror films and the books The Show Must Go On and Crime Television. Check him out on IMDB.