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Why Seinfeld Worked

I have a confession: I love to watch DVD extras and audio commentaries, if they are talk about how a movie or episode (loser alert). Recently, I watched up some extras from Seinfeld DVD’s on YouTube about how Jerry Seinfeld developed his series for NBC and was blown away by his vision and work ethic. While it probably makes me a loser, I just find it fascinating how an individual idea can blossom from a two-sentence monologue to a full film or TV episode, or series. I learned a lot from how to turn conversations into the manuscript I’m now writing.

Here are some points I took from those DVD.

Strong self-image without being pushy: Seinfeld honed his crafted as a comedian for more than ten years before filming the Seinfeld pilot, and always thought of himself as a comedian, not an actor. He knew which network notes to take (adding Elaine) and which network notes to say no to (generic sitcom notes, specifically about “The Chinese Restaurant” episode), and didn’t try to go against NBC just for the sake of doing so. Jerry the character was a guy that “things worked out for”, against conventional sitcom wisdom.

Humility and lack of ego: didn’t take the best storylines his staff writers gave him and let them be used by the more eccentric characters on the show. As Jason Alexander noted, George and Elaine often had more interesting things to do than Jerry did. Jerry was the straight guy who often commented on the funnier antics of his friends.

And at one of the reunion roundtable, Seinfeld was concerned about if his co-stars felt like they were doing the right thing by walking away from the show when it was on top, after they had to return to the wasteland of reading tons of bad scripts.

Could take any story and make it funny: multiples times, one of Seinfeld’s writers would be telling Seinfeld and Larry David a story about something that actually happened to them, and it would end up as one of the stories.

Incredibly high standards: Recently, I happened to catch an episode of a typical 90’s sitcom which featured a single storyline throughout the episode. It was painful to watch the story stretch for twenty-two minutes. While other sitcoms where doing one or two stories, Seinfeld and David demanded four. They wouldn’t use ideas that writers said they’d always used before, and every idea had to be original. And the second the show was showing some signs of age, he knew it was time to walk away.

The Office’s Man Behind the Curtain

One of the most shocking, out-of-no-where moments for me on The Office (US) broken into one of its most sentimental. When Michael Scott was at the airport and telling the documentary crew “I guess this is it”, I thought “Wow, that’s right. If you had this documentary crew in your office for as long as Michael did, you feel very sad to see them go.”

But when Michael added “Hey, will you guys let me know if this ever airs?”, the show acknowledged something it almost never did: that the documentary crew was compiling a lot of footage for some reason. I wondered why, after six full seasons, the producers of the show would bring something that had only been acknowledged in passing, to the center of the discussion. But it was there and gone, until this past summer.

That was when Greg Daniels said we’d get to met the documentary crew, and again I wondered about this. Granted, at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t as invented in the because of how bad season 8 was (James Spader, really?) When I heard it, I thought “Why?” If the show didn’t improve creatively, no one would care.

But the show has improved creatively, in no small part because Daniels is back running it. Surprisingly, Ed Helm’s absence hasn’t hurt the show either; if anything, his absence kept show from making bigger mistakes. Daniel wrote big, multi-episode arcs for his characters, the thing that made the show successful back in the day. Even the Jim-Pam marriage strain is believable, and good.

So that brings up the question of whether or not revealing who is behind the documentary is relevant to the story. The fact that Daniel’s is going to reveal it all speaks to how television has changed since Lost. Ten years ago, people would have cared who was filming the documentary because, in the eight seasons the show has aired, the crew has barely impacted the story of the characters. When The Office first came on the air, I heard of people who watched the show for three or four years and didn’t know there was an unseen documentary crew filming the characters. In fact, it was a while until I realized that the crew was asking an unseen question to Michael, Pam, and Dwight during the talking head-cut scenes.

The American Office has sought to be less of a documentary than its British counterpart. While it ignited the ire of TV critics, Daniels went for a brighter look and a more buffoonish boss, which gave the show a longer life and more appeal. On the original British Office, the characters were people who you believed actually worked in an office called Wernham Hogg Paper Company. The characters on the American Office are like the people you believe work at Dunder Mifflin.

So that leads to the question of the barely-referenced documentary crew, and whether or not it should be revealed. While the British Office didn’t reveal its documentary crew, it did show the fame David Brent gained from the broadcast of the documentary in the Christmas special. While I have reservations, I think it could be done, and done in a way that’s interesting and that makes sense. Whatever way it’s done, less is more because it’s back story, and, as Stephen King wrote On Writing, the key word with back story is “back”. We don’t need ten episodes devoted to who the documentary crew is, but it could be interesting, as long as it’s not sold as this huge “reason for the series” (ALA Lost).

I do think that there could be a mockumentary that is the opposite of what The Office is: a show that brings the documentary crew into the foreground of the show, and lead cameraman is a series regular. The Office choose to be a different kind of show, and for its sake, let’s hope it knows how to break the fourth wall.

Why Last Resort Doesn’t Work and Revolution Does: Not Rocket Science

(Warning: The folowing posts contains spoilers from the shows Revolution and Last Resort. Proceed at your own risk.)

Last fall, The Walking Dead took a lot of flack for its slow, farm-centric episodes which screamed “We’re a show on a tight budget!” While I wasn’t in love with them myself, I felt that the episodes built up the tension and created greater moments late in the season. As Robert Kirkman noted, the viewer becomes numb to the zombies if they are front and center in every episode.

I wish Shawn Ryan would understand that.

Back in September, I compared the pilots of Last Resort and Revolution, the two new serial dramas this fall. At the time, I found Last Resort to be a more compelling hour of TV than Revolution. While it wasn’t a horrible thing that Revolution started slow (laying the groundwork, if you will), Last Resort seemed so full of potential stories and interesting characters (seriously, Robert Patrick was the fifth or sixth story option), I thought it would have a better chance. Unfortunately, Ryan and ABC didn’t realize how much potential they had and felt they had to manufacture more.

While some of the episodes have been pretty good (the second and the third had good plot devices), Last Resort just doesn’t know when to take a breath. Instead of focusing on Grace, the third episode spent a lot of time exploring Dichen Lachman’s character, who, while interesting, didn’t need to be looked at with any kind of urgency. When a show mis-vaules its cast like that, it makes characters like Christine and Kylie even more annoying then they already were. (Both seem a little perfect and too one-note for this show.) Every episode seems intent on inventing crisis and not exploring simple things like how are the soldiers finding food and water. The pilot was good enough they could devote time to those things and set up bigger events down the line.  The most recent episode, the one with the chemical attacked, opened with a scene that looked like it was adapted from bad Lost script.

Not that Revolution is perfect by comparison, but it has an objective and knows what it is. When I speculated about Elizabeth Mitchell’s place on the show, I worried that they would reveal she was alive in episode 9 and play it as if it were this huge surprise. Instead, they did so at the end of the second episode and didn’t pretend it was a shock, and have given her a little more to do each week. It takes its time, but each week, finds a new and interesting part of the work to explore. I’m still not high on Charlie, but she isn’t screwing up the show. I wasn’t in love with (Spoiler Alert) the decision to kill of Maggie, but it worked within the context of that world. It’s corny at times, but the big reveals are good.

And the one thing that Revolution has going for it is the thing that is sinking Last Resort: it has simple, overarching plots of the search to get Danny back and of Monroe trying to turn the power back on. Last Resort had that when it got the suspicious fire order, but since the pilot, there has been almost no pursuit of who set the Colorado up. Nobody is calling friends in Washington questioning the order, nothing. Even failed serial dramas, like Vanished and Flash Forward ended their pilot with a sense of where their shows were going. Last Resort‘s pilot ended with a vague proclamation of “Maybe this is home now.” And it only will be home for a couple more weeks, a shame given what was invested creatively and talent-wise in the show.

Know where you’re going?

Last Resort Vs. Revolution: The Viewer Can’t Be Fooled

Does this look like a big deal?

(Update: Why Last Resort failed and Revolution succeeded.)

In life and in TV, sometimes it’s just a matter of timing. I always thought the shows Jericho and Day Break was really good and had the bad fortune of coming on to the air when the networks were glutted with serial dramas. Both shows were good, although Jericho was slow in places and some choppy dialogue. Bottom line, they weren’t great and viewers weren’t fooled by the serials that were actually great. This year, there are two serial dramas coming on to the networks, and the quality of one may directly affect the success of another.

Take Revolution, the show I watched while I was packing at our lake house to go back to Nebraska. It’s a good show, and an unique one, taking place in an America fifteen years after all forms of electricity have disappeared. Going into the show, I didn’t expect it to be great, mainly because I wasn’t high on the character Charlie in the show’s first trailer. (Her speech to her uncle Miles pleading for him to come with them is nails on a chalkboard.) The pilot didn’t feel as gritty as it should have and was more like a bunch of fan boys showing off an expensive toy. This is a world were women who wander a days journey from home get raped; please drop the glee. Elizabeth Mitchel’s Rachel Matheson had better be alive in the present, because there’s no lead character on the show. Of course, I won’t be surprised if JJ Abrams doesn’t get that. Judging by the pilot, he still doesn’t understand why killing off Jack in Lost‘s pilot would have been a mistake.

After watching Revolution, I thought, okay, it’s a nice show, and it has potential. If it moves at a break-neck pace like it did in the last four or five minute, and if by episode six, there’s more of a mission than “let’s go find Danny” and if Elizabeth Mitchell does show up alive, it could be pretty good. But then I watched the pilot for Last Resort.

Last Resort was a pilot I wanted to see last winter, before it was cast or I saw any images from it, or even the trailer. Crew of a nuclear sub goes on the lamb and sets up camp on a deserted island? Lost according Tom Clancy, I presume. Going into the show, I was worried the pilot would be bloated and not do the story line justice, but I was blown away.

There isn’t a lost or rushed moment in Last Resort‘s pilot. It introduces every character and situation, and sets up conflict inside and outside the group of submariners. Granted, there wouldn’t be an event as big as what’s in the pilot and things could get lazy on the island, but this show lays out the big story right away and puts in enough characters to follow so you don’t have to worry what it’s going to look like around episode ten. I left the show wondering what’s just going to happen in episode two.

Truth be told, Revolution may not succeed because it’s just not very good, but Last Resort may not help. You can eat generic cereal for thirty mornings in a row, but if you eat name-brand cereal two mornings in a row, you’ll be remiss to go back to the generic. Judge for yourself.

(Follow up: I was wrong. Go find Danny was sufficient enough to carry a show.)

NBC: Don’t Repeat Friends on The Office

Life after Steve Carrell

(Part 1 on The Office‘s downfall)

NBC may have sunk sitcoms ten years ago by sticking bad multi-camera, hammed laugh-track show it could find behind Friends, but they never really broke out of their slump. Instead, they showed audiences looking appalled at the terrible jokes on the bad sitcoms and called that show The Office.
Now, NBC seems to be making the same mistake with The Office: leaving the show on the air after it has ceased to be funny. The only difference is with The Office that show is since it’s fearless leader, Steve Carrell, left a year, the creative hole in the show is obvious. Mindy Kailing and Rainn Wilson are bolting for their own shows (along with show runner Paul Liebestein, whose going to run Rainn Wilson’s Dwight-centric spinoff), evidence to the fact that cast knows the show isn’t good anymore.

And yet, NBC renewed the show for a full season, with no announced plans that this will be the last year for the show. Even earlier on this  year, the Peacock thought that they could just introduce some new characters, and the show would be fine.Perhaps they’re forgetting what got them into last place: keeping on good shows long past their peak. ABC, on the other hand, figured it out with Lost and Desperate Housewives: better to retire a year early than a year late. Viewers aren’t stupid, and if you have a young show that’s so-so and could go either way, they are more likely to give it a chance if your good shows are good. NBC only sees the prosperity in front of them.

What Happened to The Office, and Could it Come Back?

Momentum on television is a funny thing. When a pilot is shot and shown to the network execs, it likely either has momentum or it does not. And a TV show’s momentum is often dependent upon the right mix of script, showrunner, and cast, and, often, the staff writers that can be put together. And often times, when a show looses momentum, it can be for the most inexplicable reasons. Sure, some shows just get old and exhaust their premise, but even 24‘s sixth season is better than half the bad shows that get canceled before November sweeps.

That’s why The Office‘s creative swoon post-Steve Carrell is on the one hand, both mysterious and makes perfect sense.

I’m sure Greg Daniels and his fellow producers didn’t think loosing Carrell would make their job easier, but I doubt they thought their show would end up on top 10-worst-shows-of-the-year lists. I could see the signs-the disappointing finale with a parade of unnecessary high profile guest stars, only one who stood out was added to the cast. Unfortunately, Robert California didn’t stand out in a good way.

The first episode back, I knew that The Office had jumped the shark. I wanted to give the show the benefit of the doubt, but it naturally shifted it’s way out of my Thursday night viewing. I forgot about the show entirely, and there hasn’t been one episode this season that I watched more than once. Andy was the wrong choice to replace Michael Scott (Jim would have been the natural choice), the Andy-Erin relationship went absolutely nowhere after being perfectly set up for them to get together in the previous season’s finale, and when Jim admitted he was attracted to Pam’s replacement, I was disgusted by the testing-the-Jim-Pam marriage.

It seems obvious that the cast of The Office knows the show isn’t going anywhere. Mindy Kaling and Rainn Wilson now have their own shows on the horizons, and other cast members could leave the show at the end of this season as their contracts are up. James Spader is definitely not coming back, not that that’s all that bad.

Was it all because Carrell left? It’s impossible to underscore how great he was one the show; he was its voice. But the shows creators needed find a new one, and I fault them for not recognizing that Jim’s could have been the natural fit.

But tonight, I watched the show, and at its conclusion, I thought, you know what? I still like this show. I liked how Jim chased after Dwight, and how Pam egged him on to do so. I even enjoyed Catherine Tate’s craziness, and surprisingly her antics, along with those of Todd Packard, have given the show a boost in the last few episodes. Now that Andy’s going to Florida to get back Erin, I think The Office could have some of its old mojo back, or at least be on the road to getting it back.

Over the years, I never like it when The Office went out there to be more gross than it needed to be (Pam walking in on Michael in the season 4 premiere, a sitcom storyline that had been done to death), but I always let it go. When Jim and Dwight were wrestling each other in the hall, I kind of rolled my eyes. It was two grown men, fighting like little boys, and given that we’ve seen grow up together in the office, it was pathetic. But it felt like an amusing dumb thing your child does, which is a good sign.

(Follow-up: How The Office came back, and what about that mysterious documentary crew.)

Wake Me Up Tomorrow: Review of the Awake Pilot

When I first read online about NBC’s pilot Awake, I cringed when they used the word Inception-like to describe the show. Inception was such an original movie, I hated that any movie or show would compare itself. Stephen King wrote in his memoir On Writing that books that promoted themselves as “being in the tradition of Tom Clancy, James Patterson, etc.” lacked the originality to do anything real. So even though the show was being run by former 24 showrunner Howard Gordon and president Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) in it, I was skeptical.

But then I watched the trailer for the show and was intrigued by the split storyline, and ending on the question “Is he awake?” made me curious. Hey, I may not like that NBC is gravy-training the most original movie I’ve seen in the last seven years, but it’s a show that takes place in a questionable, Matrix-like reality. Am I not going to watch?

So I watched the pilot online, and  I was really impressed. The show did what I wished most shows would do, and that was, start at the most important moment. This is crucial: many times, complex shows over explain the premise of the show, with tedious opening scene. Awake began instead at the moment that will define the show: watching the car wreck then cutting to Detective Britten in his “red” therapist’s office, then transitioning to his “blue” therapists office. No setup of the world prior, very reminiscent of Lost, which started after the crash on the island and flashed back to the time on the plane.

Awake works, mainly because the world is firmly established, and the show has the right lead in Jason Isaacs. Given Isaacs’ chops, it is likely he’s been offered a lot of pilot scripts, but unlike Jason O’Mara, he doesn’t say yes to everything. The show also nails the two most important roles, the therapists, with Cherry Jones and B.D. Wong. And like all good serials, this shows looks like there are a lot of good secondary characters to develop: the wife and son, the tennis coach and obvious love interest, and the other detectives.

The expected weak link in the show are the weekly cases. While the case details piece themselves together between realities, they are ripped from procedural drama playbook, and those parts move slower than the rest of the show. Still, the case in the pilot does give the show solidarity, and it’s a more interesting show with a detective who has a case to solve than a show with about an architect.

Overall, I’m excited for Awake, more so than any other show that’s come onto the air this year, other than maybe The Firm (and we all know how that went). At the very least, Awake probably will give us at least a good season or two, and at least it’s on NBC, where the standards for renewal are much lower than on other networks. And Awake does do something really right: like the trailer, the pilot did end with a line that, one, makes a major progression of a storyline in the pilot, and more importantly, makes me want to watch the next episode.

Chuck’s Final Moments (Spoiler Alert): Poingnant or Arrogant?

Now that I’m a little further away from the Chuck finale, I wanted to delve a little deeper into the issues raised by show’s partially open ending. To recap: I was not completely put off by it, although I don’t think that the show had to do it. Judging by fan reaction on twitter and other blog comments, I would say that most fans don’t feel cheated, although hard-core Chuck fans are easy to please. I have seem some comments disowning the ending in the show and comparing it to Lost, but they are the minority. So the ending is generally acceptable.

In this post, I want to address two points: one, the growing number of open-endings in popular television and film, and whether or not an open-ending was appropriate for Chuck.

The Sopranos sparked high controversy with their cut-to-black, and Lost left many of their devoted fans with on the hook with their final scene, compounded by many aspects of their series finale. Inception, the best original movie I had seen in ten years, had to end with attention-grabbing moment. It is as if these writers and show creators have to sit off the side and say, “What ending is going to rile up the most people?”

Now, I don’t think that it necessarily wrong for some shows to end with unresolved issues. I never watched The Sopranos, but I have seen their ending scene several times. Judging the scene on its own, I think it’s great scene of drama, and if the point of the episode was to say, Tony Soprano will always be facing some challenge, the show accomplished that. 24 didn’t have to leave Jack Bauer in a place where he was safe with his family; he could go on the lamb because that was what he’d done throughout the series. And Lost…let’s just say if you were watching that show for answers, you were watching the wrong show. But I don’t know if that is the ending every show should go for. Most comedies and family shows probably give more closure to their emotional relationship, as Friends did with Ross and Rachel (although their reunion should have happened well before the series finale).

That is problem of the series finale: how do you leave fans wanting more, while completing the full story you set out to tell. In the era of twitter and long TV afterlives on cable and the internet, showrunners seem to gun harder than ever for the open-ending. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse even ended their hit show long before they had to because they wanted to control that moment so desperately. But do audiences need to left wanting that much more?

My conclusion: an open ending can be a great way to leave fans, for the right show. But misused, an open ending can really leave a show with yoke on its face.

So take Chuck for example. Should Chuck have an open ending, and should the open ending concern the show’s central relationship? Here’s the dilemma: Chuck is both an action show and a comedy and has as much in common with One Tree Hill as it does Prison Break. Of the fifty-four episodes in the first three seasons, half of them ended on some kind of significant action or emotional cliffhanger. So there isn’t any precedent in the show to say which way it should go. Although if I had to make a judgment, it might have been better to have an ended the show on an action cliffhanger (Chuck and Sarah on the run, sacrificing their freedom to protect their loved ones) then to have an emotional cliffhanger.

But there is a reason to think that the emotional issue was resolved enough. Doug Liman said in his commentary on Mr. and Mrs. Smith that, for him, the moment he realizes that the Smiths will stay together forever is when the couple is hiding beneath a sewer vent from their pursuers and discussing their options for leaving, about ten minutes from the actual end of the movie. All that is really done in those ten minutes is John and Jane learning how to work together. Take that and look at Chuck’s ending: Chuck comes to the beach and tells Sarah he will put her ahead of himself. And Sarah does the hard things for her, which is to accept Chuck’s help. When I see that ending, that to me is the moment that I believe that Chuck and Sarah are never going to split up, and whatever challenges, amnesia, bullets, super-enemies, they will stay together and have each other’s back.

But would it really have been that hard for Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak to shot another five seconds, where Chuck and Sarah pull away from their kiss and she says, “I remember”? How can withholding that information help the viewer? They’d spent a whole hour being sentimental, why not five more seconds? While sometimes brevity is a gift, but in this spot, aren’t Schwartz and Fedak being a bit condescending.

Looking back on the fourth season finale, I would have been happier if the show had ended there. Outside of outrage from the diehard Chucksters who would have demanded closure, really there was no reason for the show to come back. The major arcs that had been set-up in the shows beginning had come to fruition: Chuck and Sarah had married, Chuck and Ellie found out about why their family had fallen apart and made peace with both of their parents. Chuck had gotten his opportunity and was now starting his own private spy business with the people he cared about. Other than Morgan getting the intersect (which turned out to be a flat arc in and of itself), there was nothing new for the show to address. That would have been a fun final moment with less controversy than the final moment we did get, all the more reason that showrunners shouldn’t be allowed to say when their shows end.

But this ranting is futile, and there is no solid conclusion about whether or not Chuck and Sarah’s kiss was the right ending for the show. Ultimately, my writing is giving Schwartz and Fedak what they want: debate about their show.

Here’s how I will choose to remember the final moment of Chuck: in the pilot, there was a chaotic case of boy meets girl. The arc of Chuck and Sarah in the pilot were two people who were thrust together who had to figure out a way to work together, in life and death situations. At the end of the show, Chuck and Sarah needed that bond they had forged more than ever, to keep their relationship together. At least what we saw was them moving toward that future, and that is enough for me to say that the show stayed true enough to its tone. When I watched the kiss again, I looked at very closely to see if Sarah initiated any contact with Chuck, and toward the end, I think she did reciprocate a little bit. That in and of it itself is hopeful. And as I said in my previous post (where you can find the video of the show’s ending), when the screen cut to black with the show logo, I didn’t want it to end. Like that.

The Chuck Finale (Spoiler Alert): Rivers, Roads, and Learning to Trust Again

I still watch a lot of Chuck clips on YouTube, and more than anything else, I find myself focusing on the clips that are about the relationship between Chuck and Sarah, who have chemistry on so many levels. Sarah protects Chuck; Chuck offers Sarah family she hasn’t known before. Sarah teaches Chuck how to protect himself and stand up for himself; Chuck teaches about how to led a normal life outside of the spy world.

What makes the final scene of Chuck fulfilling was that it didn’t end at the moment that Sarah got all her memories back; it ended at the moment where she trusted Chuck again to help her.

As I write this, it has been roughly less than an hour since those final poignant moments aired, and I’m still trying to judge Chuck‘s final episode. On the one hand, I was very pleased with the way the two hours started-Amnesiac Sarah, now turned by Quinn, had been sent into her house with Chuck, in order to acquire the intersect glasses with their data. The situation recreated the same kind of great tension you had in the first and second season, where characters knew secrets the others different and trusted each other at different levels, and you really didn’t know what Sarah was going to do.

What was disappointing about blank slate-Sarah that there were only two hours to play with all that tension. Someone else had written this on another blog-part of the problem with Chuck over the past year and a half was that there were story-lines that had the potential to go two or three episodes or even longer, and got resolved in an episode. Episode nine of season four, for example, where Sarah goes on a mission to rescue Chuck, and finds him by the end of the hour, when it could have thrown in another obstacle or two. It is especially disappointing here, where Chuck and Sarah spend half the season wondering whether or not they want to be spies, that this story could have carried them much longer.

But I digress. The first hour, it actually did tell a good story, in a good situation. But there were certain things that I didn’t buy-one, that after Casey gave her the disc with her video logs, that Sarah would just walk away from a Chuck that was trying to help her, and even more so, that Chuck didn’t fight for her at that moment. One of my personal complaints about Chuck since Chuck and Sarah have gotten together, the producers have almost been afraid to create real, authentic conflict in their relationship. Even the episode entitled “Chuck vs. the First Fight” really didn’t feel like a fight. Now, in the final episode, they created a really good conflict for Chuck and Sarah, and they completely blew it.

The second hour, while pretty good, did suffer a little bit from too much nostalgia. The Mexican restaurant, the Winnerlicious, the mocking of the huge sponsorship deal with Subway-it did get to be a bit much, but that is what a series finale is allowed to. Each of the characters got a sentimental sendoff-the Awesomes to better jobs, Jeff and Lester to a record deal, Morgan and Alex moving ahead with their future, Casey off to find Gertrude. As the hour wore on, I kept thinking to myself, there is more to this arc of Sarah getting her memory back. But maybe that was what I was supposed to think all along.

Now, to the last mission and the last moments. I was wrong on one count in my predictions for the ending of Chuck-the scene with the intersect glasses didn’t snap Chuck out of a freeze that had begun when he opened the intersect e-mail, revealing that all the event of the show had been a dream. But it was classic Chuck-having to make a choice for the country, or a choice for someone you loved. Ultimately, Chuck choose to save Beckman and the concert hall, rather than to try to get Sarah’s memories back, which was the right choice.

I thought that Chuck would take Sarah to the beach right after the car crash in the first hour (which I tweeted out, then someone tweeted back at me that they would go to the dream house. He was right.) But eventually, Chuck found Sarah on that beach, where some of the final moments of the pilot happened. It was the place where Chuck originally began to grow, and where he helped Sarah start to grow again.

So, now for the half of the ending I got right: Josh Schwartz and Chuck Fedak did have to have an open ending to their show, although it wasn’t quite the complete undoing. We leave them, Sarah not quite having consciously remember everything for herself, but heading there I think. We shouldn’t leave the ending of Chuck thinking to ourselves, “Did Sarah get her memories back?” We should leave it saying, “Even if Sarah doesn’t get her memories back, Chuck will be there for here.” After the show, I watched again the moment where Chuck and Sarah hook up for the first time, and it still holds true. I think it will.

It harkens back to the pilot-when the show began, Chuck was an underachieving guy who got thrust into an impossible situation and started to make something of it and believe he could do better than he was doing at the time. It ended with him helping the woman who’d been sent to help him. Full circle-for a guy who didn’t have a five-year plan in the beginning, it was a good five years.

Side notes: The revealing thing about the Chuck fans on twitter was that they did seem quite passive about the show. Granted the tweets were mostly all positive, but there were not a lot of tweets about specific things in the show. For example, when Ellie crashed the car with her and Sarah in it, no one really seemed to acknowledge. Even with an ending that was sure to cause at least some stir among fans, no one was tweeting “you have to give Sarah her memories back! #goodbyechuck”. Proof that the show is ready to retire, if it is not generating real passion.

Detail problem: When Sarah tells Chuck to kiss her, the line should have been “Shut up and kiss me” (the line at the end of the episode where Chuck and Sarah finally hooked up), not simply “kiss me”. Also, I felt like there wasn’t a lot of pop music in the two hours, disappointing given that Chuck used pop music as well as any show I’ve ever watched. Jeff and Lester did sing an awful song I can’t recall, and the final montage featuring “Rivers and Roads” by The Head and the Heart really did ring true. It was the perfect song to say good bye to Chuck on.

That leads me to one final point: as much as I complained that Chuck was over the hill this year, when the screen faded to black, I really did want more. That right there is the sign of greatness.

Update 1/28/12: Chuck‘s final moments, courtesy of youtube

Chuck Reminder: A Final Thought

Hey, to all of you who read and enjoyed my Chuck post, just a reminder to check back in after the finale for my thoughts on this blog. If you enjoy the running commentary, follow me on twitter (@DerekJohnson05, link on the side bar), and I’ll be putting out my thoughts as it airs, as well as monitoring the chatter.

In case you haven’t seen it, tvline.com has a series of three articles, which you will find under that link. Most intriguing news Lost‘s Mark Pellegrino, who played an anonymous Fulcrum agent in season two, will be guest starring. Guess Christ Fedak landed a huge break when Damon Lindelof cast him on his show. Frankly, I’m more inclined to believe my theory that the show will end with a what-the-blank moment. But in just under four hours, we’ll all know. Happy watching!

Chuck Series Finale: Will Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak try to be Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse?

I have been a fan of NBC’s Chuck since it began a little  over four years ago. Granted, it has declined in quality, but that was because the show choose to take big risks . The season 2 cliffhanger was probably one of the best two or three TV cliffhangers in the last couple of years, even though it essentially eliminated the series’ best dynamic: a normal guy who was being chased by assassins and relied on shaky alliances with his two handlers, all the while keeping his spy activities secret from his family. Yes, the show has had good episodes the past two seasons and I look forward to seeing its ending, but I’m not among the fans who were clamoring for a back nine this season. Let’s let Chuck retire in peace, remembering that the show almost didn’t get picked up after the season two cliffhanger.

But after watching the promo for the series finale, I wondered to myself: will Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak get greedy and go for a St. ElsewhereNewhartLost style ending that leaves fans going, huh? Example: Chuck and Sarah holding the intersect glasses that say “Activating” in the promo for series finale. Say Chuck puts those glasses and wakes up in a room, where we find out that the entire series was a dream sequence that started when Chuck opened Bryce’s e-mail in the pilot.

My best evidence for this? Watch the series finale promo, where NBC talks about viewers having theories and seeing how the series ends. In the fourth season finale, evil agent Clyde Decker told Chuck (in grandiose Lost-like speak) that all of this stuff had happened to him for a reason,

While everyone who’s seen it has a strong opinion on Lost‘s  ending,  I would say that this isn’t the right way for Chuck to end. Chuck has never been a show where the mythology, while an asset, has never been as much of the center of the show, the way Lost‘s mythology was its center, or the way 24 was centered on its season-to-season terrorist crisis. Chuck was, and is, a show that start with an underachieving guy who was thrust into dramatic situations and had to figure out how to use the talents he had to protect his country and the people around him. I do think that the snow globe St. Elsewhere ending has its place and can work, but Chuck isn’t that show.  Chuck needs an ending that leaves Chuck and Sarah on a beach somewhere.

What do I think will happen? Well, if I have to guess now, my theory is, in the last minutes of the show, there will be some kind of twists that is driven by mythology, although it may not be as radical as I have suggested. Schwartz and Fedak are geek fan-boys, and like most TV writers are jealous of Lost, a show where comic geeks basically got a blank check for six seasons. I don’t think I will disown the show for such an ending, although I did think that Lost would end up being my favorite TV show of all time and I disowned that show at the end of its penultimate season. Most likely, if there is a dramatic twist, I’ll see it the way I saw the ending of Inception: it was one of the greatest, most original big budget movies I had seen in ten years, but Christopher Nolan turned into an attention whore in the last twenty seconds of it.

Whatever the case, at 9 P.M. Central Time, I will look forward to monitoring the twitter chatter once the series final moments have aired. Expect a twitter report here.

Another loose end from the Chuck rumor mill: there are people speculating that a major, with-the-show-since-the-pilot character will die in the two hour series finale, and I have to guess, I would say it’s Casey (based in part on the shot of him in the plane in the promo). I don’t think Chuck would have to kill off one of the regulars: they haven’t killed a series regular in nearly five years, and the only major death in the show has been Chuck’s father. But, like a major bomb of an ending, I would be willing to give it the benefit of the doubt to see how it’s done.

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