Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cliffhangers and their aftermath

The second column looks at the season premieres of "House," "My Name Is Earl" and (very briefly) "The Unit" and how each one tries to deal with a status quo-altering cliffhanger...
Season-ending TV cliffhangers are a bit like getting blitzed at the office Christmas party. It seems like a lot of fun at the time, but the next day you have to deal with what you said to your boss and figure out whose underwear you woke up in.

It was hard to find a major network series that didn't end last season on a status quo-altering cliffhanger. Inevitably, that leads to a lot of excited fan speculation for a few days, followed by the writers assembling for production of the new season and asking, "Okay, how quickly can we turn things back to normal?"

To pick just three of this week's returning shows for example purposes, "House" closed with House's three sidekicks either getting fired or quitting; "The Unit" ended with the entire team either imprisoned or becoming fugitives from justice as part of a conspiracy to destroy The Unit, and "My Name Is Earl" sent its hero to jail, having confessed to a crime he didn't commit to spare his ex-wife from going down for her third strike.
To read the full thing, click here.


Susan said...

Thanks for including "Earl," Alan. It's one of those shows I never thought I'd like, but I got into it last year and always found myself laughing out loud, often at the surprisingly clever humor. I was really curious how they were going to handle the prison situation, and I had assumed they'd just get Earl out in the season opener with an easy excuse. Glad to hear that they're going with a more creative route.

Anonymous said...

Well, it looks like it won't generate any comment, but I actually thought My Name Is Earl filled the hour better than The Office. The funny thing about Earl is that, week to week, it's certainly the least of NBC's Thursday night comedies, but they pretty regularly pull off something more outrageous or heartfelt than the other shows could approach. I thought they hit off one of each last night: Earl trying to join the White Supremicists for some gags the rest of the lineup (well, maybe 30 Rock) wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole ("Anyone else think the Civil War's not over, just in halftime?"); and Foster's fumbled, self-loathing attempts at returning to society, beautifully if a bit obviously scored to "Sympathy for the Devil".

And for continuity nerds, Earl makes even How I Met Your Mother look like it's swimming in the shallow end of the pool.

Anonymous said...

I agree "Earl" had a strong opening and I continue to be more and more impressed with the writing on this show.

That said, I was really disappointed with what they did with Randy this episode. I've always felt they've walked the fine line of Randy being not so much stupid as simple. But now they've treaded into Homer Simpson territory of making him a complete moron for no reason other than to generate punchlines. Sure, Randy's never been the sharpest knife, but he's certainly known not to walk into oncoming traffic. I hope his reunion with Earl in jail (if that is indeed the writers' intent) brings his IQ back up a few points.