Two of TV’s most popular programs recently came to an end within days of each other. You may not have been a fan of Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory, or even watched one episode, but they were very successful shows nonetheless.
In the golden age of television, series didn’t wrap up. They just ended. When The Andy Griffith Show and Leave it to Beaver ended their runs, there was no long, drawn out hype for the final show. Most didn’t know it was their last show until the off-season when they found out they were canceled. There was no final emotional scene and the storylines didn’t get wrapped up in a bright bow leaving everyone feeling fulfilled.
After four seasons, the castaways weren’t rescued from Gilligan’s Island. The Munsters and The Addams Family lasted just two seasons and 70 episodes before disappearing from TV.
Series finales became a thing when The Mary Tyler Moore Show ended its run in 1977. The final episode revealed the entire cast had been fired (except for Ted Baxter), and they huddled together singing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” as they tearfully left the office for the last time. M*A*S*H finished its run after 256 episodes and 11 seasons in 1983 with “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” which was the most watched program in TV history. Suddenly, network executives began to understand the fan’s need for closure.
Instead of just disappearing into the night, long-running shows needed to promote their endings and provide the fans an opportunity to see their favorite characters one more time. Although most series wind up in syndication, this was the last chance to tie up all the loose ends.
The Big Bang Theory was the number one show on television, but I grew to enjoy it in syndication. Most long-running TV shows didn’t get to syndication until after they finished their prime-time network airings. Seinfeld wasn’t available seven days a week while still in production and making new episodes, but The Big Bang Theory was. Once I became a fan, I followed it in the last few years to the end.
The series didn’t end because they ran out of stories to tell, it ended because it was time. TV actors age and move on in their lives, unless you have cartoon characters, like The Simpsons. Modern Family will come to an end next year because the characters, well, aged out. The kids are now adults. Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel of I Love Lucy just weren’t the same once they moved out of New York City. When they killed off Edith, there was no more All In The Family. Raise a hand if you’ve watched even one episode of Archie’s Place.
Unless you subscribe to HBO, you’ve never even seen Game of Thrones. Yet, after eight seasons spread out over 10 years, the series finale was one of the most watched programs in cable television history. I was a fan from day one and enjoyed the way they wrapped things up.
Television is make-believe. It’s escapism. We watch these shows because we enjoy them and relate to the characters. In a way, we never want them to end. But these characters are portrayed by actors that, after a while, just want to do something else. Like us, they age and move on. As with most things in life, all good things eventually come to an end.
Television is no different than our favorite comic strips or books. I miss Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side, and I never wanted the Harry Potter books to end. When reading a Stephen King novel, I slow down when getting close to the end.
Let’s remember to enjoy the things that make us happy at the moment and savor them when they are gone.
Kind of like life, you know.
Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award winning columnist and an Anton contributor.