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Should ''Felicity'' be saved or canceled?

Ken Tucker applauds the show’s intimate storytelling but wonders if its creators can keep it interesting once graduation comes

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Felicity: Richard Cartwright /The WB

Should ”Felicity” be saved or canceled?

Wednesday night, ”Felicity” has its ”winter finale” — WB-speak for going on hiatus so the network can launch ”Glory Days,” the latest attempt by Kevin Williamson to snag a TV success beyond ”Dawson’s Creek.” ”Felicity” will return to finish out its season in April, but as the title-girl herself says in the final line of this week’s episode, ”This is, like, the end” — that is, the show feels as if it’s coming to a conclusion, wrapping up loose ends, and preparing for a more permanent departure.

If ”Felicity” isn’t renewed for next fall, I don’t know how I’ll feel. I’ve liked this show immensely, but now that its core college characters are graduating, and we’ve seen the writers go through every possible permutation of the devilish romantic triangle in which Keri Russell’s Felicity is attracted to sweet, smart Noel (Scott Foley) or brooding, not-as-smart Ben (Scott Speedman), I sometimes wonder if it’s time for all of us to move on.

As Wednesday night’s show suggests, the writers and producers seem capable of spinning out endless variations on this. Ben makes a decision about Felicity (who’d been unfaithful to him with Noel) that tips the season in a different direction — though it’s not a direction it hasn’t gone before.

There are adroitly funny subplots, the best of which is a budding business partnership between Noel and Sean (Greg Grunberg, who maintains a marvelous balance between blustering ambition and wounded insecurity). John Ritter and Dee Wallace Stone are back as Ben’s parents; Ritter, in particular, has been subtle and sure as a reforming alcoholic with serious medical problems, trying to repair a lifetime of mistrust and bad behavior with his wife and son.

Yet this season’s plots have been occasionally been misbegotten and wayward: What was up with that fire in Felicity’s art studio last week? What’s with her art teacher, who’s alternately aloof or warm? And why was it necessary to separate Ian Gomez’s Javier from the mate he’d so recently married?

Still, ”Felicity” has remained a compelling series, one often conducted in conversations that are murmured or whispered, with the lights turned down low. It has achieved an intimacy with its audience — which, granted, is not a huge one — that few shows manage. I’d be sorry to see it leave the prime-time schedule, but I also wouldn’t want it to become a show in which characters are put into awkwardly artificial situations to keep them together once their school-life frame of reference dissolves. If it’s, as Felicity says, ”like, the end,” I’ll always have warm memories of the show, but I’m also not convinced that this exemplary cast and their smart creators couldn’t keep the pleasure coming for a while longer.

Do you think ”Felicity” should bow out gracefully, or hang in there?