Rating the week’s TV finales
I’ve been a fan of Lost since its first season, but it wasn’t until this year that I feel for the show big time. While previous years have yielded some terrific hours of television, the series was always maddeningly inconsistent, particularly in the second and third seasons when the writers were uncertain how long they’d have to solve the island’s mysteries and thus kept spinning their wheels. That all changed as soon as ABC announced that Lost would end in 2010; with the finish line clearly in sight, the show swiftly got back on track in its fourth year and Wednesday’s fifth-season finale encapsulated everything that made this year Lost‘s best—and craziest—season yet. Aside from all the time-travel madness that has blown my mind on a regular basis, this action-packed episode also made room for the best Jack/Sawyer confrontation in the show’s history, a compelling glimpse at the mysterious Jacob that everyone has been talking about for two seasons now, a fine send-off for Rose, Bernard and Vincent (enjoy your well-earned retirement folks!) and the awesome (if expected) revelation that Locke isn’t actually Locke. Sure there were a few dead spots—Kate and Jack’s “romance” has never clicked the way the writers hoped it would so their scenes together were the perfect time for a snack break—but for the most part the two hours flew by. The worst part? Now we have to wait eight months until we find out what happened after the bomb went off and the world turned white.
Finale: A-/Season: A
Parks and Recreation
I’ve been in the minority of folks who have enjoyed the fledgling season of Amy Poehler’s new sitcom, even though I would agree that the series is still very much a work in progress. Fortunately, much like The Office did back in its freshman year, it ended its six-episode run with its strongest half-hour since the pilot, which bodes well for year two. As always, Parks’ best asset remains its ensemble, particularly scene-stealers Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari and Chris Pratt, who scored the biggest laughs of the night with his dead-on spoof of frog-throated rock groups. You couldn’t ask for a better leading lady than Poehler either; as loony as her character can be, the actress is careful never to turn her into an object of pity or scorn. I was also happy to see Rashida Jones get more to do last night, although it’s still unclear how she’ll fit into the show going forward—at some point she’s gotta join Pawnee’s Parks Department too, right? Here’s hoping the writers are able to iron out the show’s rough spots during the summer and return next fall as a lean, mean comedy machine.
Finale: B+/Season: B
So Jim and Pam are pregnant! Yay…I guess. Sorry, but I have to admit I’m over these two lovebirds, as charming as John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer are. In fact, I’m kind of over The Office in general. Once a reliable source of laughs, this season has been far too melodramatic for my taste, from Andy and Dwight’s battle for Angela to Pam’s disappointing (and much to convenient) decision to give up art school to Michael’s brief run as his own boss. That poorly conceived arc also suffered from hiring Idris Elba as the Scranton branch’s new boss and then never allowing him to be anything more than the Big Scary Black Man that intimidates Jim and the rest of the office. In the past, the writers have always been smart about allowing actors to play against type—just look at Amy Ryan’s winning turn as the dorky HR head that stole Michael’s heart. But Elba was straitjacketed from the first episode and the way he was exiled from Scranton left a bad taste in my mouth. I know The Office remains NBC’s most popular comedy, but I’m getting the feeling it’s for the network to follow ABC’s example and announce an end date. As of now, it feels like the show has only one quality season left…if that.
Finale: C+/Season: C
Funnily enough, 30 Rock also seemed to have an endgame on its mind. At one point in the finale, Alec Baldwin’s Jack turned to Tina Fey’s Liz and asked her how many years she things the fictional variety show TGS has left. “20?” she said, hopefully. “Two if that,” he responded. In other words, look for 30 Rock to close its doors in May 2011. And you know what? I’m okay with that. As sad as it will be to see the show leave the air, five years is a great run for a comedy series, particularly one like 30 Rock, which spent a lot of this season just barely skirting the edge of self-parody. The biggest problem this year was the revolving door of big-named guest stars that dropped by in an effort to boost ratings. While some of these apperances worked (particulary Jon Hamm as Liz’s too-perfect boyfriend), too often the visiting stars only served to take the spotlight off of the show’s terrific cast. Tracy Joran and Jenna were sidelined for the first half of the season, while Jennifer Aniston, Oprah and Salma Hayek kept Fey and Baldwin occupied. Fortunately, the writers took things back to basics in the home stretch, bringing the focus back to workplace hijinks. That said, the last episode did make some room for a ton of guest stars–including Sheryl Crowe and Mary J. Blige–but they were strictly backup for the bulk of the half-hour before ripping into the hilarious musical number that closed out the season in style.
Finale: B+ /Season: B+