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Do we need cliffhanger endings?

It seems like television shows always end the seasons with cliffhangers. But why? It’s been a long time since JR was shot and it had people talking for months to try to figure out who was responsible. Do cliffhangers matters anymore? Shows like Misfits managed to have satisfying endings with minor cliffhangers and were able to come back the next season with new stories. What purpose do cliffhangers serve especially in our constantly fractured TV landscape in America it’s become common to break seasons in half just to have a winter finale and then a end of the show season finale. Wouldn’t no cliffhangers better serve shows like the recently cancelled The Whispers or The Event both of which ended in cliffhangers that will never be resolved. Contrast to show that didnt end in cliffhangers like the miniseries turned full TV show The 4400 which was originally a miniseries that had a satisfying ending. And when it turned into a full series to my recollection ended with a cliffhanger.

  • I think the cliff-hanger ending (of seasons leading up to the finale) merely try get a rise out of the fans. An example of this was the finale to the third season of House of Cards. But I would not want a cliff-hanger at the finale of the series itself. – luminousgloom 5 years ago
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  • Cliff-hanger endings have always served the same purpose: to get people talking, and to convince them to come back in droves for the next season to see what happened. Only in hindsight, if a show gets cancelled before a cliffhanger is resolved, does it seem like a pointless inclusion. But it wouldn't quite be the same if that cliffhanger had been resolved. Some shows can thankfully set things up to end on a good note if they get a memo early enough in advance that their show will be cancelled, which is what happened with "Brisco County Jr." But if it pops up inbetween seasons, then no one can do anything about it, like what happened to "My Name is Earl." – Jonathan Leiter 5 years ago
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  • I think it depends. I think you can still have a satisfying show without cliffhangers depending on your genre/show style. I don't think it's necessarily bad to use them though either. It generates intrigue and talk. It allows the viewers to involve themselves in the story even though it's not currently airing and they are waiting for the next season to start. I kind of like the excitement personally. And I like to think and scheme and wonder instead of be handfed the story passively. But again, I think some plots lend better to being consumed passively vs. actively, so I think it's really up to the writers.That said, obviously from a monetary standpoint, building hype and buzz usually generates revenue which is always the goal. – Tatijana 5 years ago
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  • "Only in hindsight, if a show gets cancelled before a cliffhanger is resolved, does it seem like a pointless inclusion." --- I think it's the other way around. It's always a pointless inclusion and only in hindsight if they don't get cancelled does it seem like brilliant forethought. I don't think that cliffhangers really get people talking like they used to when a television show was a unifying force. --- "And I like to think and scheme and wonder instead of be handfed the story passively." --- There's still room for ploting and scheming. There's just no reason to stretch it out over the season break when no one knows for certain if they'll be back. If you KNOW you're back there's room to argue for cliffhangers but take Scream Queens for instance and Harper's Island as well. Both of which had active communities trying to ID the killer while the show airs. It's not the end of show talk if you talk week to week. – wolfkin 5 years ago
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  • There really hasn't been a cliffhanger phenomenon quite like "Who Shot JR?." It was really the first, and best example of what the cliffhanger is for: to raise awareness and word-of-mouth regarding a show in order to draw more viewers. Since cliffhangers are used now with such frequency, they have lost their initial punch. However, every now and then, it still works. When Rick Grimes and his group of survivors were captured by cannibals at the end of Season 5 of "The Walking Dead," it did lead to a huge audience for the next season's premier. I think, at this point, what cliffhangers do best is to speak to our own addiction to anticipation. Waiting months to resolve hanging storylines feels almost like that post-Thanksgiving anticipation for Christmas morning. – TheHall 5 years ago
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