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Episode 10 — Why So Many Good TV Shows Have Bad Endings


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#1 July Diaz

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 03:40 AM

In part one of a two-part discussion, Jack O'Brien welcomes in Cracked staffers Breandan Carter, Adam Ganser, and Dan O'Brien to offer alternate endings to 'Dexter', '101 Dalmatians', and the ABC live-action puppet sitcom 'Dinosaurs' that would've made more sense than their original conclusions.

#2 Shariq Torres

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 07:19 AM

I think the Dinosaurs TV show as trying to be like The Simpsons. There was definitely a heavy-handed social commentary said through this crazy apparatus ( a cartoon in the Simpsons , a puppet in Dinosaurs). I used to watch that show, and the one that stands out the most to me was the sexual harassment episode, because at the time the whole Anita Hill case was still in the news. So maybe it was more of a South Park-type of show.

#3 Hot - Slunch

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 08:54 AM

I've not listened to the podcast before, and only listened to the segment on Dinosaurs... But I have to say that you guys were a little off base.

The show was very ahead of it's time. It was developed by Jim Henson, roughly the same time as Roseanne, pre-Simpsons, pre-Family Matters. It was based on classic stuff like The Honeymooners... But no channel was interested until the Simpsons hit so big and they were scrambling for the next big thing. So many people claim Dinosaurs was a Simpsons ripoff, and it wasn't. The writers even poked fun at the idea by having the baby say 'Don't have a cow, man' in one episode.

They were meta from the sitcom standpoint and very culturally aware. A big thru-line for the entire series was the idea that corporations were screwing people for profit, and that if we don't think about the decisions we make and how we interact with the world, shit will go bad. There were episodes about extinction, tv making people stupid, sexual harassment, racism, steroids, women independence, deforestation, war, the end of the world, ritual (coming of age/religion), the afterlife, vegetarianism, etc. all done under the guise of "look at the colorful animatronic puppets". They even brilliantly set up clipshows by making a faux documentary of a paleontologist educating the audience about what life must've been like for the dinosaurs.

The end, while somber as fuck, had been set up the entire time and fit with the tone/consequences that we've seen the entire time.

The show is pretty great, definitely underrated, and the animatronics are amazing.

#4 Shariq Torres

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 09:08 AM

View PostHot - Slunch, on 11 November 2013 - 08:54 AM, said:

There were episodes about extinction, tv making people stupid, sexual harassment, racism, steroids, women independence, deforestation, war, the end of the world, ritual (coming of age/religion), the afterlife, vegetarianism, etc. all done under the guise of "look at the colorful animatronic puppets". They even brilliantly set up clipshows by making a faux documentary of a paleontologist educating the audience about what life must've been like for the dinosaurs.


Both the Simpsons and Dinosaurs got off on making real big social commentary through mediums that were usually reserved for children's entertainment. Before the Simpsons, you didn't have adult cartoons and before Dinosaurs, you didn't have adult puppetry. And I looked at an ep on Youtube, and it the social commentary is so heavy-handed. It was South Park before South Park. The problem with Dinosaurs is that it wasn't nearly as funny as the Simpsons or South Park for that matter.

#5 OcterDoctopus

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 09:14 AM

I enjoyed this episode and would really enjoying hearing a show about shows that started out as one thing but then turn into secret soap operas. Or, shows that have always been soap operas but rely on CGI or gimmicks to make it seem less obvious.

Basically, just call bullshit on shows like Walking Dead or Lost (the list goes on and on) that just have episodes where characters circle talk about past action, consequences and feelings. And the way they feel about past actions and consequences. There's 2 minutes of action at the start of the episode and 2 minutes of action at the end.

#6 Hot - Slunch

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 10:05 AM

View PostShariq Torres, on 11 November 2013 - 09:08 AM, said:

And I looked at an ep on Youtube, and it the social commentary is so heavy-handed. It was South Park before South Park. The problem with Dinosaurs is that it wasn't nearly as funny as the Simpsons or South Park for that matter.


To be fair, how many shows are as funny as prime South Park and prime Simpsons? If that's your bar, that's a lot to live up to.

I'm a little biased of course because I genuinely love the show, but I find it consistently strong and laugh out loud funny. It's not MASH or Seinfeld witty dialogue wise, it's broader and more situation based. They followed the traditional problem resolution family dynamic. I don't know what episode you saw, but there are lighter ones. Heavy-handed isn't the term I'd use, that seems like they're forcing the issue even though it's built into the fabric of the show. I feel like some good values were reinforced in me from watching as a youth, and it's a show my parents enjoyed as well.

Plus I respect the hell out of them doing something so different. The amount of work for just acting was mind boggling. Each action involved the people in the suits or puppeteers, tech people with the animatronics, and the voice actors.

#7 Hot - Slunch

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 10:07 AM

View PostOcterDoctopus, on 11 November 2013 - 09:14 AM, said:

Basically, just call bullshit on shows like Walking Dead or Lost (the list goes on and on) that just have episodes where characters circle talk about past action, consequences and feelings. And they way they feel about past actions and consequences. There's 2 minutes of action at the start of the episode and 2 minutes of action at the end.


Ugh, that's the worst. I was really into Lost for the first two years, then I noticed that pattern starting up and that they would never accomplish or resolve anything until the finale so I stopped watching. Walking Dead has so many issues writing wise, act structure, motivation, stupid characters, plus the soap opera stuff...

#8 Shariq Torres

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 10:35 AM

View PostHot - Slunch, on 11 November 2013 - 10:05 AM, said:


To be fair, how many shows are as funny as prime South Park and prime Simpsons? If that's your bar, that's a lot to live up to.


Man, it wasn't as funny as the contemporary Simpsons eps it was going up against. And its heavy handed like South Park is heavy handed (more and more this is looking like a early 90s version of South Park) in that the eps have this social commentary plot and the writers/creators practically beat you over the head with what they think is correct.

I mean, it is what it is. If it was any better it would have still been on today. Its not like the network gives a damn either way as long as money is coming in.

#9 Kevin Irmiter

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 12:10 AM

View PostShariq Torres, on 11 November 2013 - 10:35 AM, said:


Man, it wasn't as funny as the contemporary Simpsons eps it was going up against. And its heavy handed like South Park is heavy handed (more and more this is looking like a early 90s version of South Park) in that the eps have this social commentary plot and the writers/creators practically beat you over the head with what they think is correct.


Simpsons at the time was some of the best TV, ever. Very few shows will live up to it.

Dinosaurs was an okay show. I definitely wouldn't call it great, and i don't know if I'd even call it "good." I think the Simpsons is a good comparison in many ways. Both of them were based on the well-established blue collar 3 camera sitcom format, like the aforementioned Roseanne, and going through many shows like The Flintstones, The Honeymooners, etc. In The Simpsons you can see this in the first season especially. But very quickly they started taking it in new and novel directions--expanding the universe, adding more relatable characters, and doing stories that took the show to izarre places while still being dense with jokes and cultural references. The established blue-collar tropes acted as sort of a foundation to ground the show, making the characters likeable and relatable so the stories could be ridiculous and surreal but still carry emotional resonance.

Dinosaurs laid down that foundation, and I would say they did have likeable characters for the most part. And the series showed hints that they wanted to take things in interesting directions. But they never really did. Whether it was because there was too much network interference, or because the writers just couldn't come up with creative enough ideas, I don't know. But with the possible exception of the final episode--which is quite jarring in the context of what the show had been up to that point--it never really did anything that novel or interesting.

#10 Shariq Torres

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Posted 13 November 2013 - 07:31 AM

View PostKevin Irmiter, on 12 November 2013 - 12:10 AM, said:


Simpsons at the time was some of the best TV, ever. Very few shows will live up to it.




At the time this show was on, someone could turn to many places to find way better stuff -- Martin (pre-mental breakdown), In Living Color (Damon Wayans, Jamie Foxx, et. al.), SNL (Dana Carvey, Mike Myers), Mr. Show(PFT, Scottobot), MTV's Liquid TV...there was a lot of good stuff that it had to compete with and it lost. I don't think its fair to take out some of its contemporaries just because they were "too good"; at the time, this show had to compete with them for eyeballs/attention and it didn't bring the goods.

#11 Johnny Unusual

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Posted 13 November 2013 - 04:23 PM

This makes me think of another topic I'd like to see: endings that the creators regret. I don't mean endings that the creator was forced to do, but an ending he thought was good at the time but changed his mind on it. For example, after he became a father, Spielberg said that he wouldn't have done the ending where the lead leaves his family to be with space men. Also, Harlan Ellison wrote a boy and his dog sequel with a dark and unpleasant ending that he later really regretted that came from a place of anger (Ellison? Angry? What has the world come to?)
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#12 Sly Sanders

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Posted 14 November 2013 - 11:12 PM

I'm so happy they started off by talking about "Rules", and how you can't establish things and then toss them away willy-nilly, as they apparently did in Twilight. Because every time I write anything and establish rules for the setting/universe, all I can think about is Max Landis talking to his dad - Simon Pegg - about how to kill vampires or something. Because of how the Death & Return of Superman broke comic book storytelling forever.

...

I know what I said! It makes sense. Just watch this: http://youtu.be/0PlwDbSYicM?t=15m13s. It's hilarious, has TONS of celebrities (Simon Pegg, Mandy Moore, Elijah Wood, Ron Howard, and more) & contains great info on storytelling - definitely stuff along the lines of this podcast :D

#13 Sly Sanders

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 01:19 AM

Also, now that you guys used the word, "Corporation" & "Conglomerate" so much when discussing the end to Dinosaurs (which, btw, I watched & loved as a kid), I wonder if the comment had something to do with ABC? And how they killed the show... I'm assuming it ended after two seasons because of the network executives, and not the creative leads.

I feel every show that gets killed because of an Executive Shakeup or some other dumb reason should do a "bummer ending" like that, as a big middle finger to the corporation that killed it.

#14 Johnny Unusual

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 07:50 PM

My favourite version of that is the cliffhanger ending where it's like "We can't continue? Then you will never know what THIS is about!" in a last ditch (though usually too late) effort to renew interest. Like in Duckman, where the lead character's wife suddenly appears and reveals she never died and that one of the main characters knew. And, of course, the famous Twin Peaks ending (which is amazing!)

Then there's a show that scorches the earth (literally and figuratively) and discovers they got another season: the cop comedy Sledge Hammer ends season one with the apocalypse, discovers they had a season two and declare the last episode happened "far in the future".
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#15 PlanBFromOuterSpace

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Posted 16 November 2013 - 01:02 PM

I don't know if anyone else here watches "Parenthood", which is a great show, but it always seems like they're on the bubble and never know if they're coming back until they've wrapped shooting the season, but they do a pretty excellent job of tying up current storylines while still leaving things open to continue of need be.

I thought the last season of "Dexter" was dog shit as well. On top of NOT going in the direction that it should have and the big bad being some dude that pops up in the last handful of episodes, this season really turned Dexter himself into an absolute fucking idiot. The facial recognition software thing MAY be the cheesiest mention of the series. It also seemed like many of the episodes that had cliffhanger-type endings ran about a minute too long to where we'd see the outcome or resolution of the current predicament, meaning no suspense at all.

If the plan was for Deb to die, I would have almost preferred that she'd killed herself in the season 7 finale instead of La GuertA, so that we could have had a completely unchecked, unhinged Dexter going into the endgame, which would have been way different but probably better.
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