Television Cliffhangers Across the Decades
by Kathy Wooton M.D.
June is busting out all over. It's time for graduations, weddings, and the post-season analysis of the series' finales. Over the years, there have been some memorable season finales, but Spring 2008 has left the viewing public with some shocking cliffhangers.
The 1980s, my coming of age decade, was the decade of the nighttime soap opera. Dallas, Dynasty, Falcon Crest are the big three soaps that come to mind. Big Hair and Bigger shoulder pads, these shows were wonders to behold. Who Shot JR was not just a cliffhanger, it was the question of the eighties. That a bevy of beauties, some of them women, wanted to see him pushing up the daisies made the 1980 season opener true “must see” television.
During the 1990s, sitcoms, especially female-centric sitcoms ruled the decade. Who can forget Murphy Brown and the cliffhanger that had a presidential campaign abuzz? Who's the Daddy was the burning question in the belly of the one republican's campaign. There were three candidates for the baby daddy, one in a Killer Whale suit. Dan Quayle got hot and bothered by a fictional child potentially and fictionally fathered by a beached whale. The show didn't jump the shark after that hackneyed season finale. Dan Quayle's campaign, heck, that jumped the great white shark tank at Sea World.
The new millennium - procedural crime shows Alphabet Soup is the television soup du joir. There were more cliffhangers in one season of crime dramas than in the past two decades. Can you spell CSI? And how about NCIS? And why are so many CBS CSI/NCIS characters taking the big dirt nap? Was the NRA involved? Was an actor's strike assumed? Will the fans be able to handle these cliffhangers without loss of sanity? Will this columnist slash avid procedural crime show viewer be able to hold out until the late September season premieres? Will this paragraph ever end?
Let's examine CSI. Fan favorite Warrick Brown is shot by an organized crime mole in the Sheriff's department. The big question's hanging in the air - will Warrick live? Will the mole be caught before it becomes a melanoma? Will Warrick finger his killer before he dies, dramatically and perfectly coiffed? Will Gil Grissom make it his life's mission to avenge Warrick's death? Does Sara come back to save the day and heal Grissom's lonesome heart? And America is dying to know - will the lonesome lab geek finally get a girlfriend?
And then there's CSI Miami. All of the viewing public knows his arch-enemy is evil incarnate, so why can't Horatio catch that bad guy? Is his baby mama in cahoots with Horatio's nemesis? Why do all of the red-maned Romeo's relationships require a hail of gunfire? Was Horatio really shot? Will Horatio live? Will his shades survive? Do his shades have an agent? Why have the shades had more screen time than Horatio?
CSI New York - what the heck is it with Mac Taylor and crazed gun toting psychopaths? Just how many times does that amazingly buff character have to be kidnapped by those psychopaths before he starts donning riot gear before leaving his home? Will Danny and Lindsay kiss and make up, or will Danny go emo and wear Lindsay's make up?
NCIS - the crime show in the top ten despite airing opposite American Idol. Will Leroy Jethro Gibbs' team get back together? Is Director Shepard really dead? Will the new Director, Director Vance, suffer a fatal toothpick-related workplace accident? Will Bert the farting hippo find true love?
September can't come soon enough. Sure, sending the teens off to high school has its perks, but I'll just die if Horatio's RayBans® don't survive the bullet mambo.
©2008 Kathleen M. Wooton, M.D.
About the Author:
Kathleen Wooton M.D. describes herself as a budding humorist when she's not fulfilling her other roles as a physician, wife, mother and pet owner. She says being a woman in today's complex world requires some re-evaluation of some time-honored traditions.