I curse the day somebody thought of the Who Shot J.R.? campaign. To the best of my knowledge, the Dallas season-ender to season three spawned plenty of publicity back in 1980 and one of the most unfortunate trends in television history.
John Doe, which had a GREAT cliffhanger and no pay-off, isn't the only or even the latest offender to the sensibilities of viewers wishing for closure (aka END of the story). It seems just about every episodic TV show wants some hook to bring back the viewers come fall (or whenever 24 comes back). Isn't just producing good entertainment enough to guarantee returns? I can live with 'To be continued ..." for shows that have guaranteed return dates. But for shows on the bubble or headed for inevitable cancellation, a cliffhanger is a breaking of a covenant with the viewer.
I watched the season set for October Road over the last couple of nights and there isn't a reason in the world that the show deserved a third season. EXCEPT, that the creators didn't dump a cliffhanger on we few people who watched the show (even belatedly). That's respect (or at least foreknowledge of impending cancellation doom).
The show had its moments, but had a severe flaw in having boy coming back for the girl, only to have the girl against all intelligence decide to marry the town jerk. The fact that boy is probably the father of the girl's young lad seems to play against that decision, but the whole show is basically predicated on it.
When the last musical montage rolled over the last few minutes, I was content. There was more story to tell if the show was renewed. Would the girl still marry the jerk? Would the boy's new girl friend continue to pick him over his brother? Would the boy's father survive a bout with cancer? Would the shut-in escape his self-made prison? Would the high school heartthrob forgive his girlfriend's moment of weakness? Not a single one of those questions was vital. In fact, I probably won't be thinking about them at all about 48 hours from now.
And that's all right. A story was told. It had a beginning, a muddled middle and a sort of ending. No one was in peril. No emotional investment left unspent. I can live with this ending.
But I sure would have hated the show and its creators a whole lot had Brian Greenberg's character not turned around and came back to Knight's Ridge to be with family and friends. THAT would have been a cliffhanger to add to the list of infamously failed final shows.
Let's suggest a new law. No renewal notice from the network, NO CLIFFHANGER!