Friday, May 18, 2007

With a Bang and a Whimper

Well, my Tuesday nights are free now. The CW has pulled the plug on both Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars, two of the best-written, most interesting, most compelling series ever aired.

The difference is that GG really had reached a natural stopping point with Rory's graduation from Yale; fans, actors, and producers alike were mentally ready for the end; and although it would have been nice to have another season, the show had a chance to make its farewells and tie up the loose ends. Whereas VM is still fully in midstream, with Veronica in college, the Fitzpatricks still on the loose, and corruption in Neptune still begging to be fought. Everybody was still desperately hoping for a network reprieve, which makes the last-minute stab through the heart even more painful.

So, was the GG finale everything I hoped it would be? Well, no, not quite. After all the angst of the past two seasons, I would have liked more resolution to the Lorelai/Luke romance than a kiss we barely saw, a necklace, and a smile. Some I Love Yous, some hints of what's next (let's go out on the boat/let's go ride on the roller coasters/let's run off to Vegas and get married) would have been ideal.

Christiane Amanpour's long-anticipated appearance was kind of a waste. Emily's declaration that she was proud to be the grandmother of the wonderment that is Rory was just embarrassing. And I certainly could have used about 75 percent less Taylor.

But that's just quibbling. They hit all the notes they needed to, and they hit them with grace. Rory landing a job and heading out into the world. Lorelai realizing she needs to let go. A definite thaw in Lorelai's icy relationship with Richard and Emily. Luke stepping up and showing not just his love for Lorelai and Rory, but his natural place of leadership in the town. Acknowledgment of Lane and Rory's enduring friendship. A final bittersweet goodbye to the townies. Lorelai and Rory having one last overly enormous breakfast in Luke's diner. Oh, shut up, I am not crying.

VM's actual finale is next week, so I don't know if I'll be able to say the same kinds of things about it, but I doubt it. Whether Keith wins or loses the sheriff's race, there will still be the questions of the Fitzpatricks' criminal empire, Vinnie's possible collusion, and Dick's dealing with his postponed guilt over Beaver's death, not to mention (and I kind of wish I didn't have to) the romantic entanglements of Veronica/Piz, Logan/Parker, and Max/Mac. (And can I just say right now, re: next week's previews, the idea of a Pizonica sex tape? Makes me shudder.)

VM's demise can't be laid entirely at the network's doorstep. After the brilliant first season, Rob Thomas had definite trouble repeating the magic, struggling with pacing, making good use of characters, and developing relationships. But the basic quality of the scripts, the daring noir nature of the Marsverse, the eerie beauty of the continuity, and the kickass acting might have been enough to allow the show to recover its footing, had it not been for the unforgiveable, ham-fisted interference by the network.

I don't know nothin' 'bout runnin' no network, but it does seem obvious to me that if you're trying to attract viewers to a struggling show, you should NOT:

  • Change the innovative and previously successful format
  • Change the emphasis from story-driven to relationship-driven without giving those characters the things they need to do to make them interesting to watch
  • Force the producers to introduce characters who have no organic place in the overall story
  • Program the commercial breaks with "features" that are mind-blowingly dumb
  • Yank the show in midseason for almost 2 months, incidentally forcing a second, last-minute format change
  • Fill the resultant hiatus with crap that the discerning viewers you're trying to attract wouldn't be caught dead watching

Excuse me while I take a deep breath. OK, I'm better now.

Anyway, it's over. Goodbye, Lorelai, Rory, Luke, Richard, Emily, Sookie, Jackson, Michel, Paris, Doyle, Lane, Zach, Brian, Gil, Babette, Morey, Miss Patty, Kirk, Lulu, and Gypsy (and thank God you're off my screen forever, Taylor, Christopher, and April). And goodbye, Veronica, Keith, Backup, Logan, Wallace (and Alicia and your invisible baby brother), Weevil, Dick, Mac, Max, Madison, Duncan, Vice Principal Clemmons, Vinnie, Cliff, Sacks, Deputy Leo, and Helga, as well as you ghosts of Lilly, Meg, Beaver, Aaron, and Don Lamb. Goodbye, Stars Hollow and Neptune. Goodbye.

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