May 26, 2011

season finale watch: gossip girl and modern family

This pairing may offend you, but bear with me. These two finales struck a chord with me because both played as if they could have been series finales. DON'T get me wrong, I hope Modern Family is around for many years to -- although I can't really say the same for GG anymore -- this is more about the writing style that both sets of writers used.

Gossip Girl
I'm not as passionate about GG's shortcomings or it's strengths as most viewers. I still find it entertaining, it often cracks me up, and I like the dresses. It's fun, escapist television for me, and I try not to over-analyze it (although the New York Magazine recaps often make my week).

So, season four was just fine with me. No big complaints, except for a few obvious ones 1) Rufus has become a full on house boy; 2) Vanessa needs to leave New York forever; 3) Jenny is unrecognizable and also needs to never come back; 4) Serena's ability to easily be forgiven (and forgive for that matter) boggles my mind.

Given the melodrama we've seen in GG finales past, I found this conclusion kind of refreshing. Sure, there were some twisty reveals -- Vanessa stealing Dan's manuscript and discovering that Charlie is a fake hired by Lily's sister. By the way, what the heck? Would Lily really not know what her niece looks like? What is her sister hiding? I'm picturing something along the lines of Jane Eyre's upstairs neighbor Bertha.

This final episode finally brought us a meaningful, dramatically romantic conclusion of Blair and Chuck. This is the first time I've ever seen them part ways for reasons that seemed to make mature sense. Claps for Chuck. I'm not silly enough to think we've seen the last of this couple. but if this was the series finale, I would have been totally satisfied. Blair gets her prince, and Chuck lets her go.

The episode was also series finale-esque for the rest of them: Serena leaves New York and falls into a promising career opportunity in her Serenian way; Chuck and Nate renew their friendship and go off to do what filthy  rich, young, single men should do; Lily pays for her sins with her house boy by her side; and Dan heads to the Hamptons to write and be a brother to Eric (who seems especially pouty lately, no?)

I'm sure there will be all kinds dramatics next season, but a small piece of me wouldn't mind if that had been the end of Gossip Girl.

Modern Family
After just two seasons, Modern Family is a much younger show than Gossip Girl. And the shows have absolutely nothing in common. But this finale had a very similar conclusive tone.

The sophomore season suffered a tiny bit when writers abused some of the show's strengths -- Cam as the overly dramatic diva, for example. For me, this made some of the episodes feel like a series of hi-jinx, making some of the sentimental moments seem unearned.

That said, I laughed out loud every week, and I still can't get enough of these characters. So, while I'm definitely glad that Modern Family will be back next year, the finale was structured in a way that it could have been a series finale. Via the kids' video birthday present for Jay, we saw a great mash-up of call backs to some of the season's funniest episodes. Other great scenes that wrapped up some ongoing themes: 1) Cam mentoring Manny was a great revitalization of the Cam we love -- the unlikely sporty gay dad with a heart of gold; 2) Cam and Mitchell building a family (and actually getting along!) the way they were when we first met them; 3) Phil's boyish crush on Gloria turned upside down by the reminder that his wife is the girl of his (and his nemesis') dreams; 4) Jay reluctantly admitting that the "new Jay" is the better one, and Manny proved that sitting in his little fishing boat.

Again, can't wait to have it back, but this finale wrapped up the Pritchett/Dunphy clan for me in a way that made it okay to say goodbye for summer.


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