Sunday, 27 June 2010
On TV endings
The rubbishness of the endings of so many contemporary TV serials: BSG, Lost, Life on Mars. The essence of the TV serial is a kind of non-evolving, un-narrative continuous present. Hence the eternal fixture of the ages of the Simpsons, say—Homer is always in his late 30s, Bart is always 10, and as the series goes on these fixed facts bend historical time around them (so that in1990 Homer remembers being young in 1970, and now he remembers being young in the late 1980s). Endings do a violence to this weird existential stasis by implying it can pass away. The success of Life on Mars depended upon a larger version of this—not only that the 1970s were ‘better’ than modern life, with better music and cooler clothes, a time when men could be like Gene Hunt, but more importantly that somehow 1970s had never ended. The ending broke that illusion simply by virtue of the fact that it was an ending. Deadwood avoided that problem by playing the ending precisely in terms of an implied build-up to a climax that was then elegantly knight’s-moved away from. It went with the grain of anticlimax, and so it defused it.