Movies and TV

Small (Screen) Deaths

Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer, dead and wrapped in plastic, in “Twin Peaks” (1990-91), courtesy of Lynch/Frost Productions

I watched the last episode of the “Ugly Betty” TV series last night, and all day I’ve been haunted by an eerie feeling of loss. It’s the same sensation that one normally gets after having an irreparable rift with a friend or learning a loved one just died, and – as absolutely ridiculous and melodramatic as it sounds – I’ve found myself needing to mourn the fact that Betty Suarez has left my life and will no longer share her misadventures with me during sleepless nights. Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I don’t think I’m the only person who’s felt genuine loss when a TV show has gone off the air, but the big question is: what is it that gives television this power?

This is certainly not the first time I’ve felt a sense of loss at the end of a TV series – after all, I cried along with the rest of our sit-com-watching nation at the ends of “Seinfeld” and “Friends,” and I wrote protest letters to the networks when “My So-Called Life” was canceled. I’ll even find myself coming up with alternate endings and epilogues for certain shows, such as “Alias,” “Prison Break” and “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” as well as scavenging the internet for fan fiction of “Twin Peaks” and “LOST.” I realize sometimes this mournful separation anxiety comes from the fact that shows end abruptly or fizzle out after their second seasons, but other times it’s just a result of never wanting a show to end. Whether we’re mourning unforgettable crime dramas or fluffy dramedeys, our sense of loss is always indicative of one thing: a cast of unique, vivid characters has just left our lives, and, although we’ve shared many TV dinners and DVR scares, we must now say goodbye. The show I’ve had the most difficult time parting ways with remains “The Shield” (2002-2008), FX’s action-packed series about a dirty cop, played by the TV genius that is Michael Chiklis. And, although I’ve never considered this my favorite TV show of all time, pondering the attachment I still have to the characters of “The Shield” makes me look at the series with a whole new perspective.

Psst: Has the aftermath of a show ever given you a new perspective on it in a similar way?  Or, what TV shows have you had the hardest time saying goodbye to? Was it a favorite show or a sleeper TV series that took you by surprise? I would love to hear all about it.

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