The five stages of grief of a television series

30 Rock - Season 7

“Thank you, America, that’s our show. Not a lot of people watched it, but the joke’s on you, ’cause we got paid anyway.” – Tracy Morgan, 30 Rock

I have lost many television shows in my day. I think back to the montage of flashbacks at the end of Lizzie McGuire right before Gordo kisses Lizzie. I asked two of my roommates for my privacy during the finales of Desperate Housewives30 Rock, and The Office. While I’m content with the TV shows in my life at the moment, I realize I’ll have to face the grief of watching another series finale episode and saying goodbye to the characters who have become part of my weekly life. Here are the well-calculated stages of grief of losing a TV show.

1. Denial. You hear the show is ending, and you scour the web to see if the rumors are true. Not my show! Not now! It could be canceled mid-season. There were signs, you think to yourself. It was eventually moved to a time slot where it was usually followed by infomercials or dated syndicated shows. Other times, you could tell the end was coming. The story line started dragging or becoming more absurd. In the most hopeful cases, the writers choose to end it on their own terms, giving them time to bring back your favorite characters and start to tie up loose ends in the story. But still, the end is inevitable.

2. Anger. How will I fill that one hour of my time?! Who will I turn to for life advice now that Liz Lemon is gone?! What will I base my relationships on without Jim and Pam?! I WAS A FAITHFUL AND LOYAL VIEWER. HOW IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME AGAIN?!!?

3. Bargaining. You try to take control. You join petitions to keep the show alive. Sometimes, the gusto of the fan bases are fruitful in resurrecting the shows like CommunityChuck,  Veronica Mars, and Arrested Development. We try to plead with the higher powers of television to prevent the inevitable from happening. You feel utterly helpless as each episode airs closer to the finale, and your favorite recurring characters sign off.

4. Depression. The finale episode can be brutal. While the episode airs, you feel how you feel when you feel it. The tears come. The laughter erupts. The emptiness seeps in as the final lines are said, and the credits start to roll. Was that it? What do I do now? Why is this next show so cheerful when I’m utterly distraught? Your mom calls to see how you’re doing, but you can tell her voice is cracking too, and you start to cry together about how great the show ended. My shows have been incredibly faithful to its viewers. They bring old characters back, tie up loose story ends, add inside jokes, and give us flashforwards into these characters lives to assure us they’re going to be okay. But then what? Did the ladies of Wisteria Lane stay in touch? Were Jim and Pam happy when they moved to Austin? How did Kenneth assume power of GE? Were Lizzie and Gordo the “it” couple of their high school? Did Will and Grace make up for lost time? So many questions are all left to our imagination.

5. Acceptance. This is step is easiest for our generation. We don’t have to wait for the show to come out on DVD. It’s readily available on Netflix, Hulu, or other streaming websites. You can relive your favorite moments at the click of a button. I watched all of the Valentine’s Day episodes of 30 Rock to assure myself that if Lemon was fine, I could be fine too. You get extremely excited when the cast makes cameos on each other’s shows. Sometimes, there are a spinoffs or the writers will go off and create new shows that have similar styles (which is why I’m thankful for The Mindy Project). At the end of it all, you’re thankful for the laughs and tears that you invested in this show and look back on the series with fondness. The pain is hard in the days and weeks after, but slowly, you’ll find a new series to occupy your time.

Rest in Syndication.

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