The year 2022 has seen the end of two long-running TV shows: The Walking Dead and Grey’s Anatomy. Technically, Grey’s Anatomy is still going but with the departure of the titular character how much longer can it really play? You can’t have The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air without Will Smith.
I never watched Grey’s Anatomy growing up, but I did watch the first three seasons of The Walking Dead. Long enough to first become fully invested in the protagonists and then completely over the use of essentially the same, recycled storylines. I honestly forgot either show was still playing until the major announcements came this year.
Anyway, these shows got me thinking about an old blog post of mine that asked the question: have we forgotten how (or when) to say goodbye? Is that why we allow these television shows to run on and on years after they last commanded national attention, like a bad party guest lingering well into the post-party cleanup?
Maybe it has something to do with the advent of texting, because there’s never really a ‘goodbye’ in a text conversation. Eventually, one person sends a text that is clearly meant to be the end of the conversation, and the receiver is supposed to understand that. There’s no Alright Fred, have a Merry Christmas and I’ll see you next week. Bye now!
It seems a great disservice to fans of popular media, to the characters, and even to the actors and actresses that portray these beloved characters to simply allow them to wither away in relative irrelevance. Where’s the closure? You can’t bid a proper farewell to a friend if you’re simultaneously begging them to leave.
Seinfeld had the right idea. The final season was the #1 ranked show and could have gone on for years longer, but Jerry Seinfeld turned down an extension deal. Much as the fictional version of himself advised George Costanza, he felt it was best to end the show on a high note.
That’s where I find myself when it comes to writing books. I probably could have given Zach and Abby several more zombie adventures, but I stopped with three books. Hell, I didn’t even intend to write more than one book for them at first. Throughout the entire series, I felt like I owed it to the characters to tell their story faithfully, and then to let them leave when the time was right. It pained me to do it, but I said goodbye to my first two protagonists. I felt that both were able to go out with their heads held high.
In my new Ethan Chase series, it would be even easier to carry on ad infinitum, given the more open-ended nature of the genre. But I’m not going to turn it into a cash cow. When the time is right, the series will end, and we’ll have to give Ethan a proper goodbye. It will end on a high note.
This post has become a bit rambling and is getting long, so I’ll take my own advice and end it before I get too sanctimonious. The point of it all is to say that authors, filmmakers, TV producers, should all figure out how they want their story to end and then stick to it within reason. People who fall in love with artistic creations deserve the very best from beginning to end, and that includes a proper goodbye.