Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Film on TV: 24, Scrubs, American Idol, and the End of an Era

Allow me to emote.

It’s taken me a little while to digest last week’s 1-2 double whammy of Sayonara Jack – with all the buzz and backlash surrounding the end of LOST, the pseudo-demise of 24 went almost entirely overlooked. But it did indeed happen – 24’s clock clicked its final television tick last Monday, announcing the end of a decade long drama. And in its absence, I feel an intense and foreboding communal loss.

Truthfully, I won’t really miss 24. At time it was a struggle to force myself just to sit down/sit through these last two, wildly uneven seasons. In a way 24 died several years ago, even as it labors toward a wholly unnecessary feature film adaptation. But as underwhelming and overdue as it was, the series finale of 24 stood for something bigger in my life, and in the lives of so many television fans around the country, and the world – it was the end of an era, and even more overwhelmingly, a final nail in the coffin of television as I knew it.

Sound dramatic? Every year television fans bemoan the loss of shows close to their hearts…or at the very least, shows engrained in their weekly traditions of escapism. But never (at least in my skewed, subjective memory) has the loss felt as large, important, or defining. In many ways I feel as if a period of my youth has come to an end, and I’m left wandering into a great unknown, weary of the adventures to come.

For years shows like LOST, 24 and Scrubs (yes, Scrubs was still on...in Saved By the Bell: The New Class form) have clamored for my space and attention on my DVR, for as long as such a technology has existed in my household, and for many years before, in the prehistoric days. They offered characters I knew as well as – if not better than – my own neighbors, and stories I remember as well as my own. They were there, and now, in something resembling a mass exodus, they will not be. And that just feels weird.

It might seem silly, but the show that really hammered in the finality of it all was American Idol. Say what you want about that candy-coated pop monster, but it’s been a part of my life for as long as any show not called SportsCenter or The Simpsons. I didn’t always watch it. In the earlier days I left that task up to my wife, her girlfriends and millions upon millions of Americans I was “cooler” than. But I was aware of it, as was every fan of music or television or pop-culture.

Eventually I joined my wife in the annual spring viewing-thon. I let this show take over a portion of my life, just to share in the spectacle of it all. Now after almost a decade, Simon Cowell’s calling it quits, and we are too. The show will go on, but without him, without us, and without anybody else looking for a reason to quit it. Frankly, I’m more relieved than anything. But I can’t help but feel the tiniest bit of sentiment.
And compacted with everything else, that sentiment has turned into a giant, emoting post monster.

TV shows come and TV shows go. Like everything else in entertainment, it’s a continuously revolving door of options, enjoyment and replacements. These shows live on now, on Hulu and DVD and IPods or whatever. But they will never again be new. They are dead. Maybe they’re in purgatory. And now there are hungry new shows clamoring to replace them, on my DVR, and in my heart.

Maybe they will. Maybe No Ordinary Family (think The Incredibles, but in live action, and with Michael Chiklis) will be my new favorite shows. Either way there are plenty of slots to fill.

Maybe you didn’t care for these shows. Maybe you enjoyed Nip/Tuck, Law & Order, As The World Turns, Brotherhood, Guiding Light, Monk, Reno 911, Ugly Betty, Ghost Whisperer, Numb3rs, Heroes, or some other long-running program. Chances are if you’re a fan of television, at least one of these has occupied your time and space over the years, if not several.

We’ve got a summer to mourn, and maybe a few weeks in the fall to feel their absence. In television, that’s the rub. But it’s also the beauty.

Bring ‘em on.

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