TV Finales FAQ
All That’s Left to Know About the Endings of Your Favorite TV Shows
TV Finales FAQ brought back a lot of fond memories for me, in two distinct categories. The first was that of watching many of the various TV shows covered. The second was when I used to scarf up books like this one, media surveys and volumes of pop culture trivia, back before we had the internet for that purpose. I’ve missed these kinds of volumes (although my slimmer shelves thank me).
Stephen Tropiano and Holly Van Buren have written an overview of the last episode phenomenon, from both storytelling and historical perspectives. This chunky volume is divided into six categories:
- The Most Watched — which includes The Fugitive (the first show to have this kind of wrap-up episode), Seinfeld, Friends, and of course, M*A*S*H* (still the most-watched, and in an era of fragmentation, likely to stay that way)
- WTF? — the confusing or argument-provoking ones: St. Elsewhere, The Sopranos, Lost
- Finales that jumped ahead in time — Gossip Girl, How I Met Your Mother, Dawson’s Creek
- Daytime and Late Night — where soaps and talk shows are covered in brief
- Saying Goodbye — which seems to be stuff that didn’t fit anywhere else but that people want to remember, including Frasier and 30 Rock. The authors describe this category as the shows where the characters “close[d] up shop and move[d] on”
- The Best — the classic Mary Tyler Moore Show, which showed us how it should be done (and established the workplace-as-family approach); Newhart‘s famous call back to an earlier show; Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel saving the world
There are more shows covered in each section than I’ve listed above, but the ones I’ve mentioned were some of my favorite chapters to read. I was reminded throughout of how much enjoyment I got from watching some of these series over the years, and how emotionally involving some of them could be.
Each chapter goes into detail, enough so that you can understand the storytelling if you never saw the episode(s), or so you can remember the experience of watching these events play out the first time you watched. Each show is put into cultural context, with information on what else was airing at the time, how the series came to be, what drove the decision to end the series, and how it was received. Plot elements are reported and key moments of the show’s history listed. A lengthy appendix has short summaries of many other series finales.
TV Finales FAQ, although saddled with a clunky title (because it’s part of the FAQ book series), is a wonderful time capsule with plenty of important TV history. The authors do a great job in these 400+ pages summarizing some of the best TV shows of all time, making the case for their cultural significance. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)