“We’ll stop beating this dead horse when it stops spitting out money.” -Repeat Stuff, Bo Burnham.
Crossposted with HerCampus.
Recently, one of my favorite tv shows, The Good Place, ended. At first, I was really sad about this. The Good Place is one of my favorite comedy shows ever; it shot me between laughing and crying so much I got wiplash. It made me happy when I felt awful. (I really could’ve used some more episodes airing this last month.)
But then I started thinking about some of my favorite shows that ended too soon, and realized: I tend to remember them so positively because they ended right when they should have. I wish Crazy Ex-Girlfriend had gone on for ten years, but the ending is so good that I’m not really sad. Now I just get to rewatch all the musical numbers on YouTube whenever I need a jolt of serotonin. I am devastated by Fleabag only having two seasons, but I doubt any one of us wouldn’t say it ended on the perfect note.
Firefly is a show that is famous for getting cancelled far too soon, after only thirteen episodes of pure gold. To this day, it remains one of my favorite television shows. But I’ve seen (and read about) enough of Joss Whedon’s current works to know that he isn’t always excellent at dealing with female characters, and that he tends to kill off characters when he’s bored and doesn’t know where to go with his pet project. He has also dropped his plan for the next few seasons, and oh boy, he wanted to get grim. In moments of despair, I find myself wondering: is it good that all the Firefly we will ever have is thirteen episodes of a fun space comedy? Is it good that I can pretend Serenity, the movie, never existed, and pretend that none of these characters ever died?
And then there’s the other side. You know the ones. The many shows that went on too long.
Here’s the lightest possible example: Last year, season 2 of Big Little Lies aired. I absolutely adored the first season. And the second season is fine, don’t get me wrong, but it just isn’t quite as good. I read Big Little Lies, the book, and season one covers the first 400 pages, meaning season two is essentially covering the last 50 pages of a 450 page book. (Yes, spoilers here, if you hadn’t already noticed.) I kind of loved the first season’s ending because it’s a little bit ambiguous; it leaves the audience pondering the impact of their choices and the future, and leaves the audience guessing. It ends on an image of five women uniting, just for one brief second, against the violence they’ve faced in the past, and uniting in their own lives. And then it has a second season that just… didn’t have as much to say. Wouldn’t it have been better to end it on the first note, or add a few of the more interesting stories of two to one?
I mean, think about the recent backlash against the departure of Alex Karev on season sixteen of Grey’s Anatomy. Who, exactly, asked for a beloved character, there since season one, to leave his wife for kids he’d apparently had with a departed recurring character? Especially kids born through some ethically iffy circumstances? How many marriages have broken up, how many characters have died, because someone wanted to leave? How many recurring characters from season does Grey’s Anatomy even have left?
Eventually, shouldn’t all good things come to an end, before circumstances twist them into a corrupt version of what they were? Listen, I love Criminal Minds, but why was it that it only had two of its original leads left by the time it ended? Fifteen seasons is way more than enough. What happened to Glee? Don’t we all wish Glee had ended after season three and lived on in our hearts as something fun and ridiculous, rather than genuinely awful? Why did they air a season of Once Upon a Time that didn’t even contain the lead character? Don’t even get me started on Supernatural. (It hasn’t been genuinely good since around season five. That’s ten years. Let it die.)
All in all, maybe I’m a little sad that my favorite comedy won’t be airing anymore. But maybe I’m just glad I can rewatch this gem of a tv show in peace, without thinking about how bad things got later on in a show I used to love. So, The Good Place is ending after season four. Which is good. Because at least it ended while it was still amazing.