It’s over: The 2010-11 TV season as measured by Nielsen officially ended Wednesday night (May 25). It was a rough year for new series — only a handful of first-year shows made it to a second season — but a number of veteran shows had strong seasons, and a few in particular went out with a bang.
As for others, well, let’s just say that it’s probably a good thing they have the summer off to rejuvenate.
We’ve watched dozens of season and series finales over the past couple of months. Here are Zap2it‘s picks (in alphabetical order) for the best and worst of the bunch.
“Brothers & Sisters”: As a season finale, it was excellent. All the major stories of the season were wrapped up with just a few small teases for the next season, and we got a fun wedding with a hilarious musical number by the men. But once the decision came down that the series would not be returning, the episode took another meaning. Ojai Foods is a distant memory, and with Brody (guest star Beau Bridges) being Sarah’s (Rachel Griffiths) real father and the man Nora (Sally Field) really wanted to marry, the circle of William Walker’s lies could finally close. All is as it should be had William Walker’s sins never borne down on the family. And in that final voiceover from Nora quoting George Eliot, she said just that: “It’s never too late to live the life you might have had.”
“The Chicago Code”: Few things are worse for fans than series finales that were written with the intention of serving as a season finale. That’s exactly what happened with the Season 1 finale — and likely last ever episode — of “The Chicago Code.” Luckily, there were no huge cliffhangers or baited hooks in “Code’s” swan song — just a packed, satisfying conclusion to one of the best new series of the season.
“Cougar Town”: The Season 2 finale included everything we love about the show: The cul-de-sac crew pounding grape like it’s going out of style? Check. A surprisingly tender moment that tugged on the heartstrings with Bobby admitting he’s “kinda lonely”? Check. A new tune from Grayson? Check. A surprise cameo by “Community’s” Danny Pudi was just icing on the cake. We’re lowering our sunglasses and whistling at you ’80s movie-style, “Cougar Town.” You deserve it.
“Justified”: FX’s series made the jump from good to great in its second season, and the finale, “Bloody Harlan,” was simply a knockout. It wasn’t quite the action rush that last season’s “Bulletville” was, but it found emotional moments in unexpected places and left enough plot threads open to make for a very interesting third season. And those final scenes with Timothy Olyphant and Margo Martindale? Stunning. The Emmys haven’t been particularly kind to FX over the years, but both of their performances were unquestionably award-worthy.
“Modern Family”: From the “sexy phone” to Claire and Mitchell tying one on in their childhood playhouse (while dressed like children) to Cam being mistaken for a pedophile (you had to be there), this year’s season finale was pitch-perfect “Modern Family.” We also like that Phil finally saw Claire for the catch she clearly is and that Mitchell and Cam are contemplating baby No. 2.
— Liz Kelly Nelson
“Parks and Recreation”: Sure, it was sad that Li’l Sebastian died, but the episode set a ton of storylines in motion for next season that have us really excited. It also featured hilarious bits like Ron Swanson’s love of the tiny horse and Chris Traeger having to deal with literally getting old. There was also a glimpse of the other Tammy … dun dun dunnnn. We can’t wait for “Parks and Rec” to come back.
“Saturday Night Live”: After a generally hit-and-miss season, “Saturday Night Live” pulled out the big guns for its season finale, pairing tried-and-true funny guy Justin Timberlake with arguably today’s biggest name in pop music (and pop culture), Lady Gaga. We knew Timberlake would bring the laughs, mixing a few new bits with some old classics, but it was nice to see Gaga let her guard down and get goofy as well.
“Supernatural”: When you only have three regular characters on your show, it’s a bold move to eliminate one of them — and by turning Castiel into a god, that’s effectively what showrunner Sera Gamble did. We loved that last-minute shocker, and the trip inside Sam’s brain finally filled in the missing pieces from his tumultuous season. We’re more excited than ever for next season, especially given the “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” theme that’s been promised.
“American Idol”: At the end of a transitional season that saw me initially praising the new judging panel and eventually resenting their choices and every comment, I’ve decided to officially close the book on “American Idol.” Lee DeWyze‘s impotent smiles from the fifth row of the finale sealed it for me. It just no longer seems relevant.
“Gossip Girl”: When you essentially have the same finale as your lead-in, you know you’re creatively screwed. Especially when your lead-in is “90210.” Who’s pregnant — Blair or Serena? Here’s a better question: Does anyone even care? Bueller?
“Hellcats”: The season (and, ultimately, series) finale could not have felt more superficial. The big bad? A strep throat epidemic. The majority of the episode focused on the least interesting character — Alice — and her relationship with her father, which had already been resolved earlier in the season. Not to mention, when you’ve got a pregnant teenager, a long-lost sister, a coach’s job on the line, and a championship in the balance — you shouldn’t need to resort to an impromptu dance number to bring closure to your finale.
“House”: Fans of “House” have forgiven him a lot of misdeeds in the past, but it’s really hard to see how the character comes back from ramming his car into Cuddy’s house, walking away with a smirk and then high-tailing it to the tropics. And if the show is unable to persuade Lisa Edelstein to return for at least a guest appearance next season, then Cuddy departs on an undeservedly sour note.
“Jersey Shore”: It’s horrible, but we can’t stop watching. The season finale was really just the icing on an appalling season of fake tans, plugged-up toilets, dogs who do their business in the house and Ronnie/Sammi melodrama. We can’t wait for Season 4, when Snooki and the gang take their mess to Italy.
“Skins”: As a fan of the original series, MTV had me at the title. Sure, I expected some watering down of its bawdiness as per America’s more conservative palette, but the show was pretty much neutered of all that was great about the original. In the finale, the characters sorted out their various romantic entanglements over a season that saw them go from a tight-knit crew to a fractured one. Tony’s (James Newman) sister Eura (Eleanor Zichy) took center stage in this episode, as in the original. But instead of the violent, sexually charged kidnapping in the U.K. Series 1 finale, we got Eura faking her own abduction in order to get her brother and friends to reunite — an appropriately “Friends”-like ending that speaks for the failure of this American copy as a whole.
“Survivor: Redemption Island”: Love Boston Rob — he’s a legend of reality TV. But guess what? Watching him systematically control and take out a bunch of first-timers when he’s a four-time “Survivor” veteran is really boring and anticlimactic. They should’ve just broadcast 20 episodes of Jeff Probst and Rob’s Mutual Admiration Society. And then! Not only did Rob win the prize money, but he won America’s Choice money too. Can’t spread the love around, America? Boring, boring, boring. Either keep it all to first-timers or have another all-star season. But no more of this mixing “Survivor” pros with “Survivor” amateurs, please.
What were your favorite (and least favorite) finales this season? Share your opinion in the comments.