On The Bubble

May 18th, 2012 • Kate

There’s a phrase that’s common in the tv world, describing that nether-world between when a series has been cancelled or renewed: On the bubble. I thought of it last night watching the season finale of Community, which I love (six seasons and a movie!), but which I couldn’t help but notice was framed well for cancellation. Just in case.

Now, there is a happy ending — Community is coming back next year, at least for 13 episodes. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a season finale that neatly tied up so many plot lines, taking our favorite characters somewhere we wanted to see them go, even if there wasn’t a “happily ever after” moment.

And because it’s what I do, I couldn’t help but think about books. Specifically, about book series.

In advising writers how to frame their queries, we agents always tell you to pitch one book, not a series. But we KNOW you very often do see sequels and more when you’re framing out a story. So the thing to be aware of, if you want to do that, is that you do have to give your readers (or viewers) a sense of closure. You have to give them some sort of conclusion in book one that feels satisfying, even if you’re not tying everything up in a neat little bow.

So maybe that’s getting your two romantic leads happily together, while still leaving the big bad out there menacing places unknown, or giving the kid who never had any friends before a bunch of them to work with to destroy the evil corporation, and hope maybe love comes in book two. Your call.

What you DON’T want to do, though, is leave a giant cliffhanger ending dangling. Take a show like Alcatraz, with giant mysteries like time travel and weird blood and stuff. They asked so many questions in the first season, and answered so few, that they left even their interested fans (who dwindled in number each week) completely unsatisfied. Don’t do that.

(The only time you can sometimes get away with a cliffhanger is in an established series that you know has been picked up, or where the creator has one more big season planned before the ultimate finale. I’m thinking of shows like Lost, or in books like Catching Fire. But even then, haters will hate.)

Does that makes sense? And what are some of your favorite season finales?


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4 Responses to “On The Bubble”

  1. Yvonne Says:

    For me the finale of Supernatural’s season 5 “swan song” was just perfect. Chuck’s speech about the Impala and the boys would’ve been a great ending whether for a series or a single season. It So beautifully summed up the essence of the show. Although Sam went to hell and Dean was left alone without his brother it would have been ok to end the show there, although I’m very glad it didn’t.

  2. Kristin Rae Says:

    hahahahaha Glad to see I'm not the only one fanning myself over Magician Jeff (did you notice that young kid was the pyro in Super 8?). I think The Vampire Diaries has a great track record of perfect season finales. They make summers feel longer. LOL.
    The finale that wasn't meant to be a series finale is a huge worry of mine, and one reason I hesitate to get into newer series. Equally bad are series finales that are rushed (still rolling my eyes at Life on Mars!), and I just don't know WHAT happened to Veronica Mars.

  3. Rachael Says:

    Veronica Mars series finale was terrible. It's been bothering me ever since I watched it. There was a show a long time ago that I loved, New Amsterdam, that was cancelled after its first season. The finale ended on a cliffhanger. The lack of any sort of resolution has been driving me crazy ever since.

    I've had a lot of season finales in the past couple of weeks. My favorite by far was Castle. The finales in that show are always great, but this one was even more so than usual. Once Upon a Time had a great finale too. It was just the right combination of threads being tied up and new questions being raised. NCIS was brutal. I'm already counting down the days until season ten.

  4. beccaweston Says:

    The series finale of the show Greek on ABC is just lovely, every time I watch it. It's this great balance of letting some bad things happen, letting a lot of good things happen, setting it up for you to imply that the characters you've come to love will be happy but not pulling a Harry Potter 7 Epilogue maneuver that TELLS you. I started watching that show for something fluffy and was rather taken aback by how well-developed and charming it was.