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All Good Things

May 14th, 2007

This week, it was confirmed–to no one’s real surprise–that the next season of Battlestar Galactica will be the last. (Updated: Not true! See below.) This revelation came hot on the heels of ABC’s announcement that Lost will end in 2010, after three shortened seasons of 16 episodes each.

I, for one, welcome both pieces of news.

In the case of Lost, the announced end date was a clear signal to its dwindling number of devoted viewers that we’re not simply being strung along indefinitely. Make no mistake, we’re still being strung along, but at least the string has a definite end point.

Now, I’ve given Lost a bunch of flak this season for devoting too many episodes to mysteries no one wanted solved, and for spending a half dozen episodes amongst “The Others” without telling us anything about their background or motivations. In fairness, the second half of the season has been much better in this regard, and even if the producers’ aren’t doling out the answers as satisfactorily as those behind Heroes, the sluggish metaplot has shown signs of movement. (However, it’s worth noting that this week’s episode, which started with Locke demanding the story of the Island from the beginning, ended with him learning virtually nothing concrete about it.)

I’ve found Battlestar much less frustrating in the revelations department, but even here I’m ready for it to end. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s one of the best sci-fi series ever–despite a weak run of episodes in the latter half of season three–but I want to get to the “end of the book.”

There are several kinds of serialized dramas. Nighttime soap operas, such as Ugly Betty or, to a lesser extent, Gilmore Girls, meander along without necessarily having a destination in mind. Storylines and characters come and go.

Next are serials with annual story arcs, such as Heroes and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Each season tells a more-or-less self-contained story. This is my preferred format; it’s long enough to tell a gripping epic, but generally keeps things moving as a reasonable pace.

Lost and Galactica belong to the third variety: serials with a single primary storyline. A definite ending is implied by the show’s premise. Lost ends when the castaways get off the Island; Galactica concludes with the fleet arriving at Earth. And since these storylines can’t conclude until their respective series end, they run the risk of stretching things out long past the point of viewer impatience.

That’s why I welcome the recent “cancellation” announcements. Now that I know we’re getting somewhere, I can sit back and enjoy the journey.

Updated: Hmm, imagine that. Edward James Olmos, who last week announced Battlestar‘s imminent cancellation, was full of crap. According to a follow-up from the Sci-Fi Channel, executive producer David Eick said, “For those of you who have been paying attention over the years, this is not the first time Eddie has made an announcement about the possibility of the show’s end.”

Why am I not entirely surprised? Some years back, when PBS was prepping its American Family series–touted as the first U.S. TV drama with a full Hispanic cast–Olmos barged unannounced into a public TV programmers meeting I was attending to exhort us all to carry it on our local stations. His intentions were certainly good, but he left me with the impression that he was a bit of a loose cannon.

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