With the recent release of the final season of How I Met Your Mother on DVD, I was once again confronted with an important question: How should a television writer end a show? Should they write for the fans? Should they write for themselves? As someone who is interested in writing for media in the future these are some very serious questions.
According to a Deadline.com interview, the show’s creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas originally had an eight season plan for the show, but through many of the show’s early seasons, the show was run on a season by season basis. Bays and Thomas had other ideas, should the show have a shorter run than eight seasons, but with the eight season plan in mind the two filmed scenes with Ted’s children back in 2006. They did this so that the kids would still be young, should the show go as long as they had planned. For more info visit: Deadline.com.
The show actually went nine seasons instead of eight. So therein lies another challenge: what happens if you have to write more seasons than you had originally planned?
The final season meandered through a wedding weekend, taking 23 episodes to cover events that take place in just 48 hours. The final episode covered future events, over the following 17 years.
The finale has been hotly debated. Just take a look at the show’s Facebook page. Users are still commenting on the finale. The response was so negative, that they released an alternate ending on the DVD. Here are YouTube links for both the original and alternate ending.
Original ending: http://youtu.be/nW82fRNJc84
Alternate ending: http://youtu.be/RoHUs8J7x94
The night the finale aired, Craig Thomas went on Twitter with this to say: “Thank you all. I mean it: Every possible reaction to the last 44 minutes … thank you all … The fact that we have been a TV sitcom that has received this much passion from fans, for 9 years (not just tonight) — thank you. We wrote a comedy with dramatic elements till the very end. Thanks for taking that ride with us. We did a finale about life’s twists and turns and that is not always what happens … but THANKS! Seriously – no matter what you thought of tonight, THANK YOU … you were with us. We love you. Thanks for this ride.”
I was an audience member who was shocked at the ending, and my suggestion for writers would be: write for the fans! The fans sat there through nine seasons, many expecting a very different outcome. However, as an Electronic Media major and as a creative person, I feel that writers have to write for themselves. And you can’t go back later and re-write history. The writers of HIMYM wrote the ending they wanted, and although the fans were upset, the fans aren’t the ones who created it. You have to stick with your vision.
For me personally, I was more upset with their execution of the final season than I was with the way the show eventually ended. Spending so much time on one wedding event that lasted into the final episode seemed like a waste. They could have spent anywhere from 3-10 episodes on the wedding and used the rest of the season to wrap things up. Seeing Ted and Tracy’s relationship develop more before she passes would have helped tie up more loose ends. It has been six years for the children, but for the viewers it was just a few seconds and the mother is suddenly dead. In the finale there was too much ground to cover, not enough time, and too many abrupt endings. Many of my feelings are summed up in this article from tv.com.
What do you think: Do writers have an obligation to their fans when ending a show? Or is the obligation solely for their own artistic needs? What shows in the past have disappointed you, which ones haven’t, and why?
– Chris Breja