May 27 2018

Season cliffhangers – It’s time for TV series to do away with them

Once a staple of network television, the time has come for them to do away with season cliffhangers. We no longer need an enticement to come back the next season, we’ll be back, don’t leave us hanging.

Amongst the shows canceled this season, Fox put the axe to Lucifer. While certainly not high-brow entertainment, it was a fun take on the Neil Gaiman character with a charm factory disguised as a leading man. During the show’s three-season run, Lucifer (Tom Ellis) had try to convince Detective Decker (Lauren German) that he was indeed the devil. In the season finale she finally sees his ‘devil face’ as we fade out.

Before the episode even ended we knew it had been canceled, leading to series producer Joe Henderson to tweet the following:

TV Line defended the choice to go out on a cliffhanger saying, “because they ended the season in a way that begs for renewal — as many “bubble” shows wisely do — the finale now runs the risk of frustrating viewers.”

While I understand this, the fate of broadcast network shows has become more and more tenious. The idea of leaving loyal fans dangling without a conclusion as some sort of blackmail ploy, is, quite frankly, unforgivable in this day and age. And, mind you, I’m only talking season-ending cliffhangers. If you want to do it at the winter break, no problem, go ahead. But at the end of the season leave us with some form of conclusion, maybe tease a new threat is on the horizon, but don’t leave us dangling with core changes to how the main characters will interact.

Season cliffhangers are a relic of the past

Broadcast networks are in a state of flux from the types of shows they are trying to the number of commercials shown in an hour. The next change that has to come about is looking at each season as self-contained story arcs. Streaming outlets have been mastering this leaving you in a spot where you know it could go on if it wanted, but leaving you satisfied as well.

And don’t think TV hasn’t done this before. Just look to series such as Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Each season ended with the conclusion of the ‘Big Bad’ storyline, and maybe some little tease of what’s to come. (Buffy dying at the end of season 4 being the exception)

Yes, every show wants to be renewed, and they want to entice the networks to do that, but doing it at the cost of the loyal fans is not a satisfactory means. Go to the networks, tell them your plans. That shouldn’t be that difficult because if you thought out a cliffhanger, you also thought out the resolution. Just tell them where you want to go and that should work just as well.

In the case of Lucifer, clearly, the producers wanted fans angry at the network for canceling. A, ‘how could they not let us see how this plays out’ scenario. In my case, I’m angry at no one other than the show’s producers and writers. There is talk of the series being saved somehow, and I really have no interested in it now. If you were willing to hold your fans hostage, do you really care about the story you’re telling? Probably not.

This should serve as a lesson to all shows: If you feel the need to blackmail your network into a renewal with season cliffhangers, you have deeper issues.

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