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Why do some television series finales succeed while others seem to fail?

The furor over the series finale of Game of Thrones is only the latest iteration of the phenomenon of long-running television series that unsettle, disappoint, or even enrage a show’s devotees. What did such programming as M*A*S*H or Downton Abbey do right that other popular shows like The Sopranos or Game of Thrones fail to accomplish in order to satisfy their audiences?

  • I cannot say I watched Game of Thrones but I did follow Downtown Abbey and I can tell you that a lot of empathetic people watch great series and are invested in the characters and even more so than identifying with or relating to the characters, we choose to spend our time watching. This is our life; we expect a payoff, satisfaction, a well-written ending. It is obvious when writers have put a lot of time and energy into the finale. It is equally obvious when the writing is poor and they can not pull it together. An example I will use is Orphan Black. I am not a sci fi fan but I enjoyed the concept of the show because it was not that far fetched. I decided to watch it and noticed the writing waning with each successive season. Unfortunately it was due to the demands of the actress. Hollywood in the last fifteen to twenty years has copped to the demands of the actors rather than the actors collaborating with the writers or actually just shutting up and letting the writers do their jobs, hence sometimes it is no fault of the writers but the executives who limit the writers by giving in to demands of actors who are often narcissistic and want to make their characters more like themselves which ruins the character arc and the show. In the end, what fans expect is something momentous because of the time invested. People watched Game of Thrones for several seasons; that is a lot of time in one's life spent.:) – youngmollflanders 2 years ago
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  • This is a really interesting question, I think there are several things to note here, first of all unlike the other series mentioned Game of Thrones was a book series before it was a TV series and with this becomes a harder situation, when you read a book you have already decided an ending before you have got to it, you have decided how the characters would look and act even noticed things that would never be captured on screen and so that when a TV series is created, it is tough to compete with the books and it will almost never satisfy everyone. There are other issues such as budgeting and also when the show was cancelled and also issues of cutting down series for the final series. I think many people did not enjoy the finally as it was a twist that people were not expecting and with so many people invested with both the main characters it was always going to be hard on them for a twisted finally. I also feel them cutting down the episodes meant they did not have enough episodes to cover it whilst in comparison Shadowhunters which was a success got an extra two hours to cover everything. I also think it will always be hard to please everyone particularly a show with such a huge following. Also, the fact that the books are not finished but the series is also making it hard. – ezara 2 years ago
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  • Moll, like you, I loved Orphan Black but elected not to finish the series because the narrative arc seemed to have lost its forward momentum. Your response almost begs for an additional topic -- why do series fail before they even have a chance to reach a finale! – MarkTodd 2 years ago
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  • Moll, like you, I loved Orphan Black but elected not to finish the series because the narrative arc seemed to have lost its forward momentum. Your response almost begs for an additional topic -- why do series fail before they even have a chance to reach a finale! Ezara, I also really like the nuances you add to this topic. The pressures of production, budget, and creative direction are very real factors in the success and failure of a hopefully long-running show. And, of course, the book-before-the-movie/series could really be a separate topic -- even though it's clearly a factor for this one. – MarkTodd 2 years ago
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  • From my understanding of Game of Thrones' finale, it was cramming too much into too few episodes, rushing everything without development. You could explore other series finales that make this mistake. – OkaNaimo0819 2 years ago
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