Special Report By Monica Sullivan
The season finales of television series are meant to entice us into waiting patiently through three months of reruns for what we hope will be the best of all possible opening installments in the fall. Think three words that generated phenomenal buzz: Who Shot J.R.? Every series producer dreams of hyperbole on such a grand scale, although you might not know it from some of the season finales that aired in May of 1999. The "Frasier" writing staff has been stoking the fires of Niles Crane's unrequited passion for fetching Daphne Moon since 1994, but what did they give loyal viewers (at least one of whom maintains a Niles & Daphne website?) All the Frasier men sever their romantic ties and wind up consoling themselves by singing "Goldfinger" in a bar. (And Daphne is still engaged to the ambulance chasing jerk played by Saul Rubineck, yeccch!) As if anyone cares after 22 episodes, "Felicity" is still torn between Ben and Noel. On "Dawson's Creek," Dawson and Joey broke up for the umpteenth time, Jen went back to live with Grandma again, Pacey punched his father and Joey's drug dealing Dad went back to jail again, zzz...The Halliwell witches of San Francisco are still perfecting their craft, without the help of Prudence's boyfriend Andy, who died, or the hindrance of the terrific villain played by David Carradine, who also died. (But maybe he has an evil twin!)
The best of all the season finales was preempted on May 25th, as was a previous episode on April 27th. "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," the finest written series in many a moon, was offered up as the sacrificial lamb for media watchdogs who blame the surreal violence in movies and on television for the evolution of high school gunmen. Don't most of us know the difference between right and wrong & fantasy & reality by the 2nd grade? And if we're still unclear on these concepts, why are strangers who make up imaginary Hollywood screenplays and teleplays more responsible for our ethics and morality than the families we live with 24 hours a day? In any event, "Buffy" consistently deals with ethical and moral quandaries, far more say, than "Dallas," which ignited the "Who Shot JR.?" frenzy.
At the last minute, the heavily promoted "Buffy" finale was yanked from the domestic broadcast schedule. Series interruptus? Not quite: Canada, which has its own problems with high school violence, had already aired the show, which is how it wound up on the Internet. That's where I saw it gratis on Monday, May 31st. Admittedly, the 2" by 2" image was hard to watch, the action sequences were a blur, the subtle nuances conveyed by gestures and inflections had to be gleaned from the overall context, rather than savored first-hand (but even though it was like straining to envision the beauty of the original from a photo copy, it was still the most satisfying of all the season finales that aired in May of 1999 and as conducive to teen violence as 1958's "The Blob." Buffy die-hards can only hope that their much-loved heroine doesn't return in the fall with an agenda as lame as Felicity Porter's and stakes as low as Dawson Leery's.
© 1999 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 6/2/99
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