Thoughts on the “How I Met Your Mother” Finale

Sometimes you just connect with a TV show. Something about it just works for you, even if it’s not always perfect, even if it sometimes frustrates you. It just clicks for you. There are only three or four TV shows in the last decade that I’ve really loved like that. Lost, Mad Men, maybe The West Wing… and How I Met Your Mother.

In fact, there’s no show I’ve ever watched from beginning to end as long as How I Met Your Mother.

It seemed promising even before it premiered: a sitcom featuring an endearing Buffy alum, a former child star and theater performer who was rumored to be gay, a cult TV actor — and a cool storytelling gimmick to boot? Sign me up.

It hooked me from the start. Unlike other sitcoms, it was unabashedly heartfelt and sincere, with a romantic, idealistic main character — who, refreshingly, was a man. The unconventional, witty flashback narrative structure, the quick scene cuts, the Lost-like mini-mysteries… it all pulled me in. Not to mention the infectiously catchy theme music.

Surely it would be canceled, just like every other quirky show that was too good for TV, like Wonderfalls. In the first few years it was always on the bubble. But miraculously, it survived — for a whole season, then two seasons, then three, and eventually, improbably, it became a hit.

In later years it went downhill. Barney went from endearingly irritating to repellent, Ted got pompous, the plots got ridiculous, the jokes got crude. Ted fell for an annoying environmental activist. I never cared about Barney and Robin as a couple.

But even when I didn’t like the show, I still loved it. It was still special to me. I still loved Ted and Marshall and Lily. There were still inventive episodes and moments that made me laugh. Never for a moment did I consider giving it up. It made me look forward to Monday nights. (It was the rare long-running show that aired the same night during its entire run.)

And then… last night.

This entire final season was problematic and misconceived from the start. The writers brought in the wonderful Cristin Milioti at the very end of last season, only to almost completely waste her. After eight years of buildup, there was no way the mother could live up to the hype — but miraculously, she did. She lived up to all expectations. She was perfect casting, the perfect match for Ted. Her few scenes with Josh Radnor were magnetic. How often does something actually succeed like that? Their scenes were tantalizing hints of the season that could have been.

But instead the writers squandered this terrific gift they’d been given, all in the service of a rigid, preconceived, off-key ending, not to mention an interminable season-long wedding weekend for a couple that, after all the buildup, got divorced in the very next episode.

Up until the ending, I actually enjoyed the finale. It was a nice tribute, with lots of callbacks to various running jokes over the course of the series. As we saw the characters’ future lives, I felt happy that we didn’t really have to say goodbye to them, reassured that they’d continue on without us. There were a couple of moments that got me teary: Robin and Lily arguing in the eerily empty apartment, Marshall telling the young guys at MacLaren’s about what a special place that bar was.

Barney and Robin’s divorce was shocking, but I went with it. But then — Barney getting a woman pregnant? Maybe it was supposed to be ironic that after years of consequence-free sex, he finally had A Consequence, but it seemed inconsistent with the spirit of the show: he never got an STD, but he got someone pregnant? (And his announcement of impending fatherhood — that would have been a better moment for Marshall’s Final Slap.)  His emotional breakdown in front of his new baby daughter was sweet, but too sudden and rushed for me. And we never see the baby’s mother?

And Ted. Are we really supposed to believe that Ted Mosby, the crazy hopeless romantic, would put off marrying the love of his life for five years? That he wouldn’t immediately marry her upon learning she was pregnant?

And then — just as had been hinted at — we learned that she was sick. I hoped it wouldn’t happen, but it did, and it hit me in the gut. Right then I broke into sniffles and tears and little stifled sobs. I was so sad that I had trouble focusing on their very first conversation in the next scene.

And then, insult to injury. Instead of getting to mourn this wonderful woman whom we’ve been conditioned over the last nine years to adore and idolize and worship — because our protagonist kept telling us how wonderful she was — we see her just tossed aside, and suddenly the kids and Ted are all in love with… the emotionally immature Robin? Seriously?

Yes, the characters had six years to mourn and accept the mother’s death and move on. But we didn’t. It was jolting, tone-deaf and cruel. Yes, it’s just a TV show, but it was cruel. I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been if they hadn’t hinted at her death a few weeks ago.

I guess this worked on paper. And given these characters and their history, I can see how it could have ended this way. But it didn’t feel real. TV characters are different from characters on paper. They’re played by flesh-and-blood human beings, actors who either have chemistry or don’t. Whatever chemistry Ted and Robin might have had early in the series (and they had some) had long dissipated over years of drawn-out plot points and character developments. Ted and Tracy – they had the real thing. Alan Sepinwall has the best analysis I’ve read of the finale so far: the writers should have seen what was organically happening, adjusted their plans, and gone with it. Instead they gave us an ending that was an emotional betrayal. Fan-service pandering is lame, but giving your audience a huge middle finger is worse.

This all might sound overwrought. I know it’s just a TV show. But it’s a show I cared about, with characters I cared about, for nine years.

Somewhere in an alternate universe, someone has recut this season and deleted some scenes near the end. Robin finds love and happiness with a great guy. Ted marries Tracy, and they grow old together.

In my dreams, I guess.

Saturday Night TV

The TV networks have completed their upfronts, the annual presentation of their fall schedules to advertisers.

Looking at the Fall 2012 programming grid, the thing that really jumps out is how lame Saturday night network programming is these days. It’s all repeats or sports, plus a news magazine show.

When I was a kid in the 1980s, there was lots to watch on Saturday nights, especially on NBC. For years, NBC had a two-hour sitcom block on Saturdays, including such shows as Diff’rent Strokes, Silver Spoons, The Facts of Life, Gimme a Break, Mama’s Family, and The Golden Girls. We usually had a sitter on Saturday nights, so it was great TV fare.

As I got a little older I would also watch The Love Boat on ABC; it was followed by Fantasy Island, but that was at the very adult hour of 10 pm, which was too late for me. And anyway I was never really into that show like I was into The Love Boat. I had a TV in my bedroom, and I have this memory of watching the closing credits of The Love Boat and being sad because it meant Saturday night was over and I had to go to bed so I could get up the next morning and go to Hebrew school:

If you’re curious, here’s the 1983-84 network TV schedule. (Ah, Jennifer Slept Here. Mr. Smith. We Got it Made.)

At the bottom of that page you can see links for other years.

On Glee

Glee drives me nuts. It has some nice moments, true. But to get to those moments you have to wade through an enormous amount of ridiculousness.

Here are some things I hate about Glee:

(1) Blaine’s bow ties. I viscerally loathe Blaine’s bow ties. When I see Blaine wearing a bow tie, I feel almost… angry. Bow ties are for suits. You do not wear bow ties to school. You do not wear bow ties with plaid shirts or polo shirts.

But it’s not that I’m some fashion maven. Far from it — I tend to dress pretty plainly. And I think that’s the issue: I don’t like it when people try to get attention for themselves by dressing outrageously. Why can’t you just trust that people will get to know you and find out what a unique person you are? Why do you have to proclaim your individuality so aggressively?

From a production standpoint, I do not understand why the show’s costume designer thinks Blaine looks cool this way.

I also hate almost everything Kurt wears.

(2) The extremely unrealistic musical performance process makes me batty. I know, it’s just a TV show and I should just relax and enjoy it. I’m not usually one to point out plot holes in other shows, so I don’t know why it bothers me so much here, but it does. Maybe it’s because I did musical theater in high school.

If the production of “West Side Story” is opening in a few days, why are Rachel and Blaine standing around a piano instead of in a full dress rehearsal? And why aren’t they off book? And how did the musicians get permission to change the orchestrations? (And as Matt pointed out, why did they perform the film version of the show instead of the stage version?) And why did it take them several weeks to put together a production of “West Side Story” but they were able to throw together “Rocky Horror Picture Show” overnight? And why doesn’t anyone ever need to rehearse anything? And what the hell kind of glee club is this in the first place?

(3) The ridiculous plot points regarding adoption and congressional elections and a splinter glee club.

(4) The wildly uneven character writing. What are we supposed to think of Mercedes, who hides her extreme insecurity behind some diva attitude she learned from watching movies and other TV shows? Are we supposed to feel sorry for her? Are we supposed to dislike her? (Because I kind of do.) Or is every gay viewer just automatically supposed to love her because we’re all supposed to be stereotypical gay men and identify with divas?

Gee, you seem to dislike this show so much. Why do you keep watching?

Aw, heck. Because there are some good moments. The Kurt/Blaine/Sebastian plot last night was great, and it was nice to see Kurofsky again.

And the music performances, as ridiculously overprocessed as they are, are fun to watch. Sometimes.

There’s a good show hidden inside Glee. It’s too bad you have to dig so hard to find it.

Watching TV

Lately I’ve been nerding out with a terrific book: Watching TV: Six Decades of American Television, by Harry Castleman and Walter J. Podrazik. It’s an incredibly detailed history of American television, organized season by season. The first three chapters cover the invention of TV and the beginnings of TV broadcasting, and after that, each TV season is covered in great, engagingly written detail, one chapter per season, from 1944-45 all the way up through 2009-10. (So far I’m up to 1978-79.) Most chapters are about 7-8 pages long, but the book is 8 1/2″ by 11″ and the text is in two columns per page, so on ordinary-sized book pages, each chapter would probably be about 20 pages long. (The chapters have neat titles, too. Here’s an explanation of each chapter title.)

The season-by-season structure lets you follow the story of TV over the years: the rise of the networks, the completion of the coaxial cable that allowed live TV from coast to coast, the move of TV production from New York to Hollywood. You can follow the flow of broadcasting trends over the years: TV experimentation in the 1940s, variety shows and anthologies and Westerns in the 1950s, action-adventure shows and rural escapist sitcoms in the 1960s, smartly-written CBS sitcoms in the early 1970s, and so on. You can follow the changing fortunes of the big networks: CBS was king for the first few decades of TV, but in the mid-70s ABC suddenly rocketed to number one with entertaining escapism like Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Charlie’s Angels. (That’s where I am right now.)

The book also covers government regulation of TV and the rise of public TV and cable TV, and it touches on national and world events when relevant. Did you ever wonder why network prime time runs from 8-11 pm (7-10 pm Central/Mountain), except for Sundays when there’s an extra hour? Did you ever wonder why TVs used to have both VHF and UHF dials? It’s in this book.

Each chapter also has a prime-time grid of the networks’ fall schedules for that season, as well as a sidebar listing some important events from the season.

This will sound silly, but I love this book. I’d always been a TV history nerd, but I didn’t know this book existed until a year ago. (It’s actually an updated edition; it was first published in 1982). I haven’t loved a book so much since The President’s House, a two-volume history of the White House, covered chronologically by presidency, that I read a few years ago. I guess I enjoy incredibly detailed, information-packed, well-written chronological narratives about topics I’m interested in.

Yeah, I’m a nerd, and proud of it.

Missing Mad Men

The new season of True Blood begins on Sunday, so we’ve signed up for HBO again. We don’t really watch HBO during the rest of the year, so we don’t see the point in paying $16 a month for it, but it’s worth it during the summer.

I associate True Blood with summer Sunday nights: sitting on the couch in shorts and a t-shirt, turning off the air conditioner so that we can hear the TV.

Unfortunately, my sense memory keeps tricking me into thinking that Mad Men is also coming back soon. Because that’s the other thing that makes me think of summer Sunday nights. For the last couple of summers it’s been a great TV combination: Bloody vampire southern Gothic on HBO at 9:00, followed by New York midcentury modern on AMC at 10:00.

I am SO ABSOLUTELY BUMMED that there will be no Mad Men this summer. And I’d thought it was coming back in January, but no – it’s actually not coming back until March. MARCH! Are you kidding me?

I wonder if there’s anything else worth watching on summer Sunday nights. Any ideas?

Oprah and Sisterhood

So, the other thing I was going to say about Oprah was:

Sometimes I romanticize things, but thinking about Oprah last week made me envy the idea of a “sisterhood.” It’s a total stereotype, but I’m thinking of small groups of female friends who live in the South or somewhere suburban where there’s mostly shopping centers and chain stores, and when each of them is alone they watch Oprah and wish they could make their own lives better, and when they get together as a group of friends, they all discuss Oprah.

I’m not sure why this idea appeals to me. Maybe it’s because I’m sentimental and don’t have many friends. And men aren’t traditionally supposed to be sentimental and have heart-to-heart talks with each other. Despite having come out of the closet more than a decade ago, I’m still sometimes ashamed of the parts of my personality and emotional makeup that are not traditionally seen as masculine.

I feel like Oprah’s show is meant for women and that men aren’t supposed to get anything out of it. But the ideas she talked about in her final episode apply equally to men and women: find your calling, take responsibility for getting there, and remember that you’re as worthy and as allowed to be happy as everyone else.

Thoughts on Oprah

I only saw Oprah Winfrey’s show a handful of times over the years. But I watched her final show a couple of days ago, and I was strangely, surprisingly moved by it, to the extent that I keep thinking about her.

Some people like to make fun of Oprah for the emotionalism she’s brought to our culture; some people like to criticize her melding of consumerism and spirituality in a way that, for better and worse, is so incredibly American. My opinion is, you can take from Oprah what you need, as long as you continue to think for yourself. Ignore the silly things like new-age medical cures or The Secret; take the lessons about how to live life in a way that makes you happy, as long as you’re not harming other people or the environment.

Her final episode was essentially an hour-long monologue, or speech, or sermon, interrupted by commercial breaks. It was a summing-up of her show, of her message, of everything she’s tried to teach people over the years. Here’s the full text of what she said.

Parts of it really resonated with me – most of all, this:

What I knew for sure from this experience with you is that we are all called. Everybody has a calling, and your real job in life is to figure out what that is and get about the business of doing it. Every time we have seen a person on this stage who is a success in their life, they spoke of the job, and they spoke of the juice that they receive from doing what they knew they were meant to be doing.

[ ]

Because that is what a calling is. It lights you up and it lets you know that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. And that is what I want for all of you and hope that you will take from this show. To live from the heart of yourself. You have to make a living; I understand that. But you also have to know what sparks the light in you so that you, in your own way, can illuminate the world.

[ ]

Each one of you has your own platform. Do not let the trappings here fool you. Mine is a stage in a studio, yours is wherever you are with your own reach, however small or however large that reach is. Maybe it’s 20 people, maybe it’s 30 people, 40 people, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your classmates, your classroom, your co-workers. Wherever you are, that is your platform, your stage, your circle of influence. That is your talk show, and that is where your power lies. In every way, in every day, you are showing people exactly who you are. You’re letting your life speak for you. And when you do that, you will receive in direct proportion to how you give in whatever platform you have.

My great wish for all of you who have allowed me to honor my calling through this show is that you carry whatever you’re supposed to be doing, carry that forward and don’t waste any more time. Start embracing the life that is calling you and use your life to serve the world.

Also, this:

Nobody but you is responsible for your life. It doesn’t matter what your mama did; it doesn’t matter what your daddy didn’t do. You are responsible for your life. … You are responsible for the energy that you create for yourself, and you’re responsible for the energy that you bring to others.

And this:

The show has taught me there is a common thread that runs through all of our pain and all of our suffering, and that is unworthiness. Not feeling worthy enough to own the life you were created for. Even people who believe they deserve to be happy and have nice things often don’t feel worthy once they have them.

There is a difference, you know, between thinking you deserve to be happy and knowing you are worthy of happiness.

Oprah Winfrey is not the first person to say these things. But they’re important to remember and ponder.

I have some more thoughts on Oprah, but that’s for later.


Smallville ends on Friday night after 10 seasons. I’ve been watching it almost since the beginning. It’s not a very good show, but a few years ago I decided I wanted to see it through to the end. Unfortunately, it’s taken three or four years longer to get to the end than I thought it would.

It’s not that it’s a terrible show. It’s just not good. It’s gotten better; the insufferable Lana Lang (played by Kristen Kreuk) is long gone, and the acting skills of Tom Welling (Clark Kent) have improved a little. (Not that he has much to do besides act as the straight man to all the weirdness going on around him.) Erica Durance joined the cast a few seasons ago as Lois Lane, and she added a needed spark to things. The best thing about the show for a long time has been Alison Mack as Chloe Sullivan (Clark’s best friend, who doesn’t appear in the comic books), but she’s been missing for most of this season. And the death of Jonathan Kent a few years ago (Clark’s father, played by John Schneider) was sad, but at least it put an end to his interminable lectures about how the Luthors may have lots of money but we Kents are simple, good people and I don’t want you getting corrupted by them.

As far as the plot, the writers have never known how to structure a season-long story arc. Developments occur and then are forgotten. Characters talk about some incident of which you have no memory, so you wonder if it actually happened on the show and they didn’t bother to put it in the previouslies, or if they just did some telescoping. There’s no momentum over the course of the season. Events occur in fits and starts and things kind of sputter along every year until the season finale.

So what’s kept me watching all this time?

I don’t know, to be honest. I’ve always been a DC Comics loyalist and I mean, come on, it’s Superman. And the show does have moments of humor. And it’s been kind of neat to watch Clark evolve from a Smallville farmboy into a Metropolis newspaper reporter, and move from dating Lana Lang to dating Lois Lane, and slowly become Superman.

Michael Rosenbaum is returning as Lex Luthor for the end, so that will be fun to see.

But if Clark doesn’t finally fucking fly in the finale I’m going to be pissed.

Being Erica

My new favorite TV show is a Canadian series called Being Erica. We just finished watching the first three seasons, and I adore it.

It involves two topics I’m interested in: time travel and therapy. The main character is Erica Strange, a 32-year-old Jewish woman in Toronto who, one day when everything in her life is going wrong, meets a mysterious man who offers to be her therapist. He has Erica write a list of all the regrets from her past, and in each episode he sends her back in time to relive — and try to change — one of those regrets, which usually has some connection or parallel to what’s currently going on in her life. It’s sort of like Quantum Leap meets My Name is Earl.

The show is more than a wish-fulfillment fantasy, though. Erica doesn’t always succeed in changing her past. Sometimes the thing she regrets winds up happening to her in a different way, and sometimes she’s compelled to act the same way she did originally just because of who she is, and sometimes changing the regret leads to unexpected consequences.

Almost every episode makes me think about my own life. I have a few things I really regret, and it’s nice to have the fantasy of being able to go back and change them. But you can’t really change your past. You couldn’t have done things differently than you did: you were who you were at the time, and you had no way of knowing how things would unfold. I wish I hadn’t come out to my parents when I was 19, because they reacted terribly, and I wasn’t prepared to deal with that, and I wound up going back in the closet until I was 24 and wasting the prime sexual years of my life. But there’s no other way it could have happened. My intentions were good: to be open and honest with my parents about something in my life that was important to me. I just had no idea that I was so psychologically ill-equipped to deal with the consequences of telling them.


Being Erica is a terrific show that slowly expands on its premise over three seasons, plays around with its own formula, and goes in unexpected directions.

Erica is played by the immensely appealing Erin Karpluk. The show’s also got a great supporting cast, including the adorable Tyron Leitso, who played the bartender on the unjustifiably short-lived Wonderfalls and who reminds me of a young Matthew Fox.

If you’re interested in time travel, therapy, Canada, Judaism, hot guys, whatever, I totally recommend this show. I hope there’s a fourth season.

Mad Men and Color TV

On Mad Men, whenever someone is watching TV, the TV screen the character is watching is in black and white. Lately I’ve been wondering: when are we going to start to see characters watch color TV on the show?

On the show right now, it’s the late summer of 1965, which is around the time that color TV really started to take off.

According to Wikipedia, the 1964-65 TV season was the first full season in which NBC broadcast more than 50% of its schedule in color, but most of the shows on ABC and CBS were still in black and white. The 1965-66 season — which Mad Men is about to enter, since the most recent episode took place in August 1965 — was the first TV season in which a majority of prime time shows were in color. By the start of the 1966-67 season, practically every prime time show was in color. Those of us who first experienced the classic 1960s sitcoms through reruns know that weird feeling when you’d somehow run across an early black-and-white episode of Gilligan’s Island or Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie; each of those shows began in black and white and transitioned to color after its first or second season.

So will we see color TVs on Mad Men soon? Well, even though most programs were in color by the fall of 1965, by 1966 fewer than 10 percent of homes had color TV sets (that chart is located here). It wasn’t until 1972 that a majority of homes had them. But this is Mad Men, where some of the characters are rich corporate types — and Harry Crane is in charge of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s TV advertising division, so maybe we’ll see a color TV in his office. That would be neat.

(Update: here’s an in-depth article on “the color revolution of 1965.”)

“As the World Turns” Says Goodbye

“As the World Turns” went off the air on Friday, ending a run of more than 54 years.

I never really watched “As the World Turns,” but I’m a soap opera fan, so I wanted to see the last episode. To prepare, last month I decided to watch the final three weeks of the show so I’d have some idea of what was going on.

The last episode of a soap opera is a weird thing. Normally, a soap opera is a perpetual motion machine where nothing really ends: stories just continue, or evolve into other stories — just as in life — and cliffhangers abound. But on Friday, various couples found happiness, or contentment, or normalcy, and some people moved away. The venerable Dr. Bob Hughes, played by Don Hastings — who had been with the show since 1960, and who was on the live November 22, 1963, episode that was interrupted by the news of JFK’s assassination — retired as hospital chief of staff and bid his office, and the audience, a simple “Good night.” It was the final line spoken on the show — a nice bookend to the very first line spoken on the very first episode in April 1956 by Bob Hughes’s mother, Nancy Hughes (played by Helen Wagner, who just died in May): “Good morning, dear.”

There are now just six soap operas left on daytime TV:

  • “General Hospital” (began in 1963)
  • “Days of our Lives” (1965)
  • “One Life to Live” (1968)
  • “All My Children” (1970)
  • “The Young and the Restless” (1973)
  • “The Bold and the Beautiful” (1987)

The soap opera era is fading. When I first got into daytime soaps in the 1980s, there were 13 of them. In addition to the above — minus “The Bold and the Beautiful,” which wasn’t yet around — there were “Capitol,” “Guiding Light,” “Loving,” “Ryan’s Hope,” “Search for Tomorrow,” “Another World,” and “Santa Barbara.” Since then, a few others have come and gone: “Port Charles,” “Generations,” “Sunset Beach,” and “Passions” — the latter three on NBC, as the network tried again and again to find something that worked.

Here’s the daytime TV schedule from the spring of 1986, when I first discovered the soaps. And here’s the daytime TV schedule as of this coming week. The soap operas are in green. Look how many fewer there are today.

(Not to mention all the departed game shows!)

There was a time when soap operas were cash cows for the networks: they were cheap to produce and they got stellar ratings. In the ’80s and early ’90s, my soap of choice, “Days of our Lives,” spent lavishly on location shoots in the U.K., Greece, and Mexico. (Bo and Hope’s enormous wedding was in London; Justin and Adrienne Kiriakis got married in Athens.) Those days are long gone: the audience is literally dying off, there aren’t many housewives anymore, and talk shows and reality shows provide more fireworks.

Yes, soap operas move slowly, and they have their stale clichés, and they’re melodramatic and cheesy. But I like what someone on this page says:

I’m mad at the general ignorance that shows when anyone would say something like “soap operas are outdated and need to end” without ever actually watching the damn shows. Ten minutes doesn’t count. One day doesn’t count. One week doesn’t count. Soap operas are made to be long term, so any proper assessment of them can only be made if someone invests as much time into them as it takes to tell whatever story they want to tell. You can’t read one chapter of a book and then assess that the rest is not worth reading. You don’t watch the first ten minutes of a movie and leave the theatre. If you do either, then you don’t (in my opinion) deserve to have an opinion on the entirety of the book/movie/show if you’re only basing it on what little you’ve seen. Likewise, you can’t watch one episode of a soap opera and assess that the next six months is not worth watching, or that the past 54 years were not worth making.

I like the soaps despite their low production values, despite their recycled and slow-moving plots, despite their melodramatic acting style. I like the soaps because they symbolize continuity: they’re on every weekday, five days a week, with no repeats. The same families continue through the years, with new children born into them even as the patriarchs and matriarchs die. The soap I grew up with, “Days our Lives” — which I started watching because of my mom, who has watched it almost since the beginning — still features a slew of Hortons and Bradys.

I hate change. I hate goodbyes. I like security and continuity. That’s why I like the soaps. I like knowing that the soaps are there, every day, even if I rarely watch them. It just makes me feel good knowing that they’re still around.

But we’re now down to six daytime TV soaps. I wonder how much longer they’ll be there. ABC has three, CBS has only two, and NBC has just one, the one I call my own: “Days of our Lives.”

Friday, November 25, 1960, is known as “the day radio drama died.” On that day, the day after Thanksgiving, CBS network radio aired the final episodes of its last four remaining radio serials. It was the end of an era.

The day that the last daytime soap opera airs on network TV will be the end of another era, and it will be just as sad.

Network Evening News Schedules

Every weeknight, Matt and I TiVo “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams.” Just more evidence that we are 36 going on 70. We watch it during dinner or after we get home from whatever we’ve been doing that evening.

For the last two decades, the three network evening news broadcasts have all aired at 6:30 p.m. But when I was a kid, they all aired at 7:00. At least in the New York City area they did — I don’t know about the rest of the country. But even though they aired at 7:00, they still taped at 6:30, so perhaps they aired live at 6:30 in most other parts of the country. Perhaps people ate dinner earlier outside of the New York area.

I remember being surprised when the national news broadcasts first moved to 6:30. Six-thirty seemed too early for a nationwide network broadcast. Network primetime is from 8:00 to 11:00, and to me there seemed to be something more prestigious about airing at 7:00 instead of 6:30.

A couple of years ago I did some research to find out exactly when the three networks moved their news broadcasts — in the New York area, anyway — from 7:00 to 6:30. It turns out they didn’t all do it at the same time.

“ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings” was the first to move from 7:00 to 6:30. It moved on December 15, 1986.

“The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather” was next. It moved on September 5, 1988.

Last was “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw,” which moved on September 9, 1991.

So for the last 19 years, the three shows have gone head-to-head-to-head at 6:30 instead of 7:00. And instead of Dan, Tom and Peter, it’s Katie, Brian and Diane.

The nightly news is largely irrelevant now. By the time I watch it I already know what’s happened that day. But it’s a nice evening ritual.

(And no, I can’t imagine this post will be interesting to everyone, but hopefully it will help random Googlers out there who are looking for this info.)

Quotes About Lost

Running list of great quotes about Lost as a whole (perhaps to be updated as I find more).

Drew McWeeny:

[N]o matter what I think of certain ideas or elements of not just this season but every season, I think “Lost” will stand as one of the biggest, boldest, strangest shows for a network to ever nurture and complete. The show existed on its own crazy terms for six years, and they’ve been six of the best years of TV I’ve ever enjoyed.

Alan Sepinwall:

Ultimately, “Lost” didn’t succeed because of the mythology. We’ve seen too many examples of mythology-heavy, character-light series fail over the last six years to think that. “Lost” succeeded on emotion…. When “Lost” was really and truly great, it locked you so deep into the emotions of the moment that the larger questions didn’t really matter.

Lost: The End

Thoughts on the end of Lost:

— The episode title had a double meaning. Not just “The End” of the show, but… the real end. Death. The end of the show was about Buddhism. Letting go. Accepting death. All questions lead to more questions, as Allison Janney’s character said in “Across the Sea.” You get no answers in life. Life is about being lost. Death is the only place where you are not lost. It is the eternal answer.

It gives greater symbolism to all those times on the show when we focused in on someone’s eye opening. Waking up, pain, constant conflict and struggle, terror, alertness, awareness of suffering: life. With the end of the show comes the end of Jack: death. The end of pain and suffering and struggle.

Rose and Bernard had it right in last season’s finale, “The Incident.” When Sawyer, Kate and Juliet ran into them and explained how they had to stop Jack or they all would die, Bernard shrugged and said, “So we die.” Rose and Bernard had already learned to let go.

— Even though this wasn’t the answer for the flash-sideways universe I would have written, I accept it. It was poetic and poignant. It worked for me. I respect Cuse and Lindelof’s choices.

That said… a bit too much deception and manipulation on their part. This whole season, it seemed like the flash-sideways world was a result of the nuclear bomb. In “Happily Ever After” (that episode title makes more sense now), I thought Widmore put Desmond into the electromagnetic chamber in order to make him see the flash-sideways universe, because Widmore somehow knew about it, and Desmond’s knowledge of it would somehow help save the island. I thought the flash-sideways characters and the real characters would somehow penetrate the barrier between their two worlds and help make things right. But it turns out there was no connection after all. Widmore put Desmond into the chamber merely to test his electromagnetic resistance and see if he could survive in the Heart of the Island in order to help save it, yes. But what happened to Desmond in the flash-sideways world in that episode wasn’t connected plotwise to what happened to him in the real world in that episode. I think.

But… Eloise wasn’t part of the group who created the flash-sideways purgatory. The group would have had to create her. But none of them knew that she had killed Faraday and that she would therefore not want to let go of that world. So… that didn’t really make sense. Actually, I guess Jack and Kate read Faraday’s journal in the Others’ tent in 1977, and could have pieced it together, right? So they could have known.

Still, I don’t know. Cuse and Lindelof were a bit too clever by half in their deception (or not clever enough?), and the execution was kind of sloppy. Doesn’t totally make sense as a story. But even if it didn’t totally work for me logically and intellectually, it worked for me poetically and emotionally. I don’t totally buy it, but I do accept it and love it for what it is, if that makes sense.

— I guess Ben wasn’t ready to let go. Still atoning? Wanting to spend more time with imaginary Danielle and Alex, even if he knew it was imaginary?

— I really lost it when Claire gave birth to Aaron and Charlie came back in and all of Claire’s memories of the two of them came flashing back. Full-on waterworks. Tears, sniffling, shortness of breath. It happened again to a lesser extent when Sawyer and Juliet reunited. Those moments were just incredibly sweet and touching and emotionally fulfilling.

— As I said on Twitter: Jack Shephard was the William Henry Harrison of Island protectors.

— I wonder what year Hurley and Ben finally died. How long did they protect the island? I want to see a show where they have eternal life and they eventually bring another group of candidates to the island who arrive in a futuristic robot plane or boat and they are cyborgs.

— So Shannon, not Nadia, is Sayid’s true love?

— I really want to know what happened to Sawyer, Kate and Claire when they left the island and got back to the real world. What did they do for the rest of their lives? Especially Sawyer. Did he spend the rest of his life alone, pining for Juliet, until he died?

— Took me a while to figure out what the ending meant, especially when I saw the shoe still stuck in the bamboo tree after all this time. First I thought the whole island experience had turned out to have been a figment of Jack’s imagination, and that he had actually died in the first few seconds of the pilot episode. But no, he wasn’t wearing the same clothes as in the pilot, and he saw the Ajira plane overhead, and of course if he died in the pilot, he would never have had the profound experiences with everyone on the island, and what his father said to him in the church (that they all created this purgatory/holding area together because they had their most significant experiences of their lives together) wouldn’t have made sense. (Nor would Ben’s conversations outside the church with Locke and with Hurley.)

— So… I liked the ending. Everyone together and happy. It gave me this nice and warm feeling: this tight group of people who had these transformative experiences together.

Lost is over. But I won’t be letting go of it for a long time.

R.I.P, Losties.


Lost ends on Sunday night, and I simultaneously can’t wait for the finale and don’t want the show to end. I’ve remained adamantly spoiler-free as to plot and guest stars, and I plan to keep it that way, but I’m really, really excited to see what happens.

I’ve loved the show for six years, but I’ve really immersed myself in it this season. While watching season six, I’ve also rewatched the first five seasons in order — all 103 episodes. I finished my rewatch a couple of weeks ago. (It helps that I work from home a few days a week; I’ve been able to knock one episode off during lunch and another one right after work, plus a few more at other times.)

It was a terrific experience. I hadn’t seen most of the episodes since they first aired; it was especially fun to rewatch season two, with the hatch and the button. And it was neat to watch earlier episodes knowing how things would later turn out. There were some interesting insights: for example, Jacob was first mentioned a lot earlier in the series than I’d remembered. And the convoluted timeline of the last few seasons was easier to follow the second time around: because I rewatched the episodes during such a compressed time period, it was easier to remember what was happening and keep the bigger picture in my head.

I was also shocked to realize how much of Lost I’d forgotten. There were a few scenes I literally couldn’t remember at all. Um, Juliet got branded on her lower back? (Part of the meandering season three.)

One thing I’ve paid more attention to the second time around has been the music. I’ve always loved Michael Giacchino’s beautiful score; Lost is rare in that it uses a full orchestra to record its score, rather than a synthesizer. But I never realized how complex that score is: there are so many different recurring themes for characters and plot situations. (One of my favorites is the mournful version of Ben’s theme, which is first heard during the Purge and recurs at various Ben-moments during the series.) I was thrilled to see that Alex Ross had a profile of Giacchino and his Lost scoring techniques in a recent New Yorker. Unfortunately, the full article isn’t online, but if you’re a fan of the music, you should find it and read it.

People like Lost for different reasons. They might like it because they want answers to the mysteries, or because they love the metaphysical issues it brings up, or because they love the characters, or because they like the cool way the narrative plays around with time, or because they like sci-fi or fantasy or adventure shows. This is a show with millions of fans, and clearly not everyone is going to like it for the same reasons.

For me, it has never been just about the mysteries. Although that has been a huge part of the fun, a show has to have more going for it than just a mystery. There’s a reason Lost succeeded while similar shows haven’t. For me, that reason is the characters. I’ve never been a big fan of Star Trek or Stargate-type shows because they’re usually less about character and more about techy sci-fi stuff. But I really enjoyed Battlestar Galactica, because it was about great characters and a greater mythology as much as it was a space opera. Lots of people were dissatisfied with how that show ended, because they didn’t like how the mythology came together, but I enjoyed it, because the character arcs mostly ended in satisfying ways.

What I learned from shows like The X-Files and Alias is that mystery serials will almost never be resolved satisfactorily. As Lost meandered through its third season and the mysteries only expanded, it seemed like the writers didn’t know where they were going. It was only after season three, when they gave themselves an end date, that things began to tighten up and the show got better again. (Shorter seasons also helped.)

But based on my previous experience with these types of shows, I’ve tried not to get my hopes too high for satisfying answers to all of Lost‘s mysteries. What I really care about are the characters. Jack has evolved from an arrogant skeptic into an almost mystical believer. Sawyer has changed from a reprobate into a more caring, loving person. Ben has been transformed from a scary, powerful man into a sad, sympathetic guy who has lost everything he had.

I’d really like to see a satisfying ending to everything on Sunday night. But if the mysteries don’t get fully resolved, I’ll be okay. As long as the characters all get satisfying endings, I’ll be happy.

God, I can’t wait.


Today I stumbled upon the opening credits of a sitcom I’d never seen before: the short-lived Angie, from 1979-1980, on ABC. It was a romantic sitcom starring Donna Pescow, an actress I’d previously associated with 1970s reruns of The Match Game (but who’s apparently better known for Saturday Night Fever), and Robert Hays, later of Airplane and the Starman TV series. It started out as a ratings hit, but it apparently crashed and burned after the lead characters got married in the second-season premiere.

Still, I love this theme song — it’s so 1970s and cheesy and tuneful! It’s by Maureen McGovern and apparently became a brief pop hit and now I can’t get it out of my head. And how about that whole come-into-the-circle-and-pose-and-smile thing? That’s so Love Boat! Awesome. (I’ve always wondered how the actors know where to stand so that they’re inside the circle. How does that work?)

Even better, here’s the full song: