I think there are several reasons why these series had such broad appeal:
- Each episode was a self-contained mystery while the series had an over-arching storyline that unfolded over the course of the series or the lifetime of the show.
- Both boasted diverse casts and featured strong women rather than damsels-in-distress.
- These ensemble casts were able to transcend their supporting-character roles and become integral to the stories, lending complexity and believability to the shows that would have been lacking if the focus remained too heavily centered on the main characters.
- Each show had a romantic element that contributed to the richness of the story without overtaking it.
- While both tackled the serious topic of murder, both managed to add enough humor and levity to keep most episodes from getting too dark.
- Both stories were so rooted in their respective settings that the towns almost became characters in their own rights.
In short, we were able to enter the worlds of these characters for an hour each week and share their lives with them.
Endings are hard. (Sorry, Chuck, for the plagiarism there. Supernatural fans, you get it.)
I’ve watched plenty of shows over the years whose endings left a lot to be desired. Heck, whose endings made me wonder why I wasted so much time on the shows just to be disappointed at the end. (Yes, I do mean Seinfeld and Lost, among others. They could have learned something from Newhart.)
Working on those storylines taught me a lot about series work versus standalone stories.
- Questions posed at the beginning of the saga need to be answered by the end.
- It’s okay to leave room for spinoffs, but the main storylines must be completed.
- Don’t introduce new information that won’t have time to be fully developed.
- Stay true to your characters even as you force them to change and grow and follow their arc. It’s not fair to them or your readers if they act out-of-character just to wrap up a plot point.
- Don’t be afraid to forego happy endings for everyone. Life is messy; not everybody gets a happily-ever-after. (You probably want to give your main characters a ray of hope, though, even if everyone else suffers.)
I’m excited to watch the ends of Grimm and Bones, even while I’m sad to see them go. But now that I’ve completed (or am near completion of) a series, I have a new appreciation for how difficult they are to craft. I know you can’t please everyone, and certainly not all the time, but if someone is going to invest time, money, and effort in my work, I’m going to do the best I can to not only meet, but exceed, their expectations.
What do you think about endings of series? Did I forget anything? Let’s talk about it.