Thursday, May 18, 2006

That '70s Show finale

I was born in 1960, which is the same year the kids on That '70s Show were supposedly born. I had a fondness for this show, when it first started back in 1998, because parts of it echoed my own teenage years. And so I tuned in tonight for the hour-long series finale.

It was just okay. It should have been poignant and moving, but it wasn't really, even though original star Topher Grace returned for the final few minutes.

In fact, as I sat waiting for the ending credits, I found myself thinking about another, earlier show I'd very much liked, The Wonder Years, about growing up in the 1960s, and that program's final episode, which still chokes me up whenever I think about it, even though that finalé first aired 13 years ago. Here's the closing narration from that episode:

Things never turn out exactly the way you planned. I know they didn't with me. Still, like my father used to say, "Traffic's traffic, you go where life takes you," and growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you're in diapers, the next you're gone, but the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul.

I remember a time, a place, a particular Fourth of July, the things that happened in that decade of war and change. I remember a house like a lot of houses, a yard like a lot of yards, on a street like a lot of other streets. I remember how hard it was growing up among people and places I loved.

Most of all, I remember how hard it was to leave. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back in wonder.

That's good writing.

And I still look back in wonder, too.


At May 18, 2006 10:28 PM , Blogger Scott said...

I've only seen that WONDER YEARS finale once, over ten years ago now, but I always remembered the father saying: "Traffic's traffic..." What a great finale that was, poignant and real and syrupy to the right degree. (And I always admired that fact that he and Winnie didn't end up together; that the writers didn't take the easy, sentimental way out.)

For me, the WONDER YEARS mirrored my own adolescence exactly, as I was the same age as Kevin Arnold when it aired -- same age, same family issues, same suburban problems, albeit twenty years removed from the late-sixties, early seventies setting.

I guess the danger of a tv show is that an extended run can leech the show of any vitality or originality; the advantage, as WONDER YEARS proved, is that it can also allow you a familiarity, warmth and depth with characters that can linger and resonate the more the years pass. And a show like that made me appreciate the fact that gee, maybe my own humdrum St.Catharines life actually DID have some pockets of marvel and wonder in it. (What mroe can you ask for from a thirty-minute show!)

Great post! I appreciate the width and breadth of your blog, spanning business, hard-sf and column-like pieces. (Not to mention the fact that you've made me suddenly get sentimental for my own lost youth!!!)

At May 18, 2006 10:32 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Many thanks for the kind words about my blog, Scott! And, yes, having Kevin and Winnie not get together in the end was the perfect choice. :)

Don't get me wrong -- I'm a sucker for happy endings. But, realistically, how many people do end up marrying their first crush, some girl that lived on the same street as they did? Although they didn't actually say that's what's going to happen, the finale of That '70s Show certainly implied it might ... and that just didn't ring true.

At May 19, 2006 1:07 AM , Anonymous Rick Pali said...

I really enjoyed That 70s Show as well but it jumped the shark at least two years ago. By coincidence I happened to catch the finale and thought that wile it would've been okay for an episode, it was disappointing for a series finale. I haven't seen an episode since the start of this season and I see I didn't miss much.

But The Wonder Years...yea, that was a good show. On a slightly different tack, I'll forever be greatful to that show for introducing me to Olivia d'Abo as well. Sigh.

At May 19, 2006 5:27 PM , Blogger GP said...

While I missed the big finale of That 70's Show, Will and Grace saw its end last night as well. It wasn't a particularly moving finale either. I think what was missing was a sense of closure. It's been ages since I've seen The Wonder Years, but it just sounds like he was done telling his story. Fraggle Rock, from the 80's, was another good one - "You cannot leave the magic." I can't remember a series finale in a long time that really felt like it was the end of the story. (Although Futurama came close - "Don't stop playing, Fry. I want to see how it ends.")

At May 20, 2006 1:06 AM , Blogger Scott said...

The final episode of NEWHART, with Bob waking up in the bedroom of his old show, DEFINITELY felt like the end of that particular story. A brilliant, hilarious twist. If it had been executed in a mainstream novel, SF novel, or network drama it would have been ludicrous, but given that the show was a ludicrous twist on GREEN ACRES to begin with, it fit perfectly.

(Acutally, I just remembered: didn't the last episode of ST.ELSEWHERE end with the revelation that the whole series was set in the mind of one autistic child? Kind of a strange way to end that one, me thinks...)

At May 20, 2006 3:07 AM , Blogger E.Jim Shannon said...

Don't forget Seinfeld, with the gang going to jail. Newhart was great. I especially liked the 3 brothers , Larry Darryl and Darryl.
Too funny.

At May 20, 2006 11:32 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Not too be too geeky, but I've got to say one of the all-time best series finales was "All Good Things" on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The one for M*A*S* -- "Goodbye, Farwell, and Amen" -- was good, too, but overlong.

At May 20, 2006 11:42 AM , Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

i am writing a blog post now naming my favorite Tv moments, and forgot all about this one. Thanks for the wonderment.


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