WARNING: Not all your favorite shows are expected to survive. But producers are still crafting finales that might have you forever wondering What Happened Next.
Take ABC’s V. The alien-invasion drama wrapped its second season with borderline ratings and a dramatic final hour that left fans wanting more. ”I didn’t feel like it was possible to wrap the show’s story in [the remaining episodes],” says exec producer Scott Rosenbaum. ”So I’m going to keep my fingers crossed and leave it organically where I think the show should end after 10 episodes.”
To cliff-hang or not to cliff-hang? The question has long haunted writers of serialized dramas with uncertain futures. If you don’t provide resolution, you risk an unsatisfying ending when the series gets axed (which happened with shows like Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Deadwood, and Dirty Sexy Money). But wrapping up key plotlines means possibly losing momentum if the show does return. If only networks could give producers enough notice, narrative contentment would reign across the land. That’s often impossible, though, since broadcast shows wrap production before networks decide their fall schedules in May.
Among the other dramas whose fates are unclear: NBC’s The Event has assured fans the show’s burning questions will be answered by season’s end. But that doesn’t mean producers, hoping for a renewal, won’t throw in a twist. ”Our plan is to end with a huge turning point in the mythology,” says exec producer Evan Katz. ABC’s Off the Map has several relationship threads in limbo, and ABC’s No Ordinary Family will have a major cliffhanger (even as stars Michael Chiklis and Julie Benz have been cast in CBS pilots for fall consideration). Meanwhile, Fox’s Fringe and NBC’s Chuck haven’t yet decided how to close their seasons. If you’re finding all this uncertainty too nerve-racking, you can always switch from serialized shows to procedurals. Spoiler: The unlikely murderer confesses!