Births, deaths, and cliff-hangers galore: Prepare for the end of the TV season with our inside look at all the twists and turns headed your way
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How I Met Your Mother

Season Finale: May 14, 8 PM (CBS)

Except for a season 3 visit by Ms. Britney Spears, CBS’ hit How I Met Your Mother has never had a diva on its set. Until today. On this late-March afternoon, the last day of shooting for the show’s seventh-season finale, a certain actor is really stirring things up: The tiny infant playing the newborn to first-time parents Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and Marshall (Jason Segel) is causing everyone within a 50-foot radius to dissolve into mush. The biggest victim of the babe’s charm is the maternal Hannigan (who is pregnant with her second child). ”I’ll give it right back!” the actress coos as she removes the baby’s pacifier before filming her final scene of the year, nestled sweetly in bed with Segel.

That’s right: Baby Eriksen will debut in HIMYM‘s hour-long season finale. But, as you might suspect, the birth’s not going to be quite that easy. The big issue? Marshall and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) have to make it from Atlantic City to NYC in time for the baby’s arrival, despite a variety of obstacles — not the least of which is their blood alcohol level. ”Marshall and Barney are in their own little road-trip movie,” says co-creator Craig Thomas, ”with a big chase scene.”

Aside from bringing home baby, the finale will deal with Ted (Josh Radnor) and his revolving door of a romantic life. ”Someone from Ted’s life comes back and produces a pretty serious dilemma for him,” Thomas says. ”The beginning of season 8 will pick up with Ted in a suspenseful situation based on a last-minute choice he makes in this finale.” The other gasp-worthy moment of the finale happens when the show flashes forward yet again to Barney’s wedding, which we glimpsed — sans the bride — in last season’s finale. ”We’re going to find out who the bride is,” Thomas promises. That big reveal — will Barney be marrying stripper girlfriend Quinn (Becki Newton), longtime love Robin (Cobie Smulders), or someone new? — sets the tone for season 8. ”We’re going to show you some huge reveals about Barney’s future wedding day, and then the beginning of season 8 will be, How did we get there?” Finally, it sounds like we’re going to get (some of) the answers we’ve been waiting for. —Tanner Stransky

{C} Parks and Recreation

Season Finale: May 10, 9:30 PM (NBC)

Consider it your civic duty to tune in to the Election Day season finale, as Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) nervously waits to find out whether the people of Pawnee want her to serve on the city council. And this just in: There’s a twist! ”A bit of a bomb is dropped for Leslie and Ben’s [Adam Scott] future, so she’s also dealing with that,” explains exec producer Michael Schur. ”I’ll say this: It’s not what you think. It’s not a classic TV relationship problem.” (Schur also stresses that the finale is ”not just about Leslie’s election — every character has an emotional situation.”) Any hints about the outcome of the vote? ”We struggled all year with how it should end, and we shot both endings, with her losing and with her winning,” says Schur. ”The trick was to figure out a way that no matter which way we went, people would feel like it was a satisfying ending. And I think we have.” —Dan Snierson

Modern Family

Season Finale: May 23, 9 PM (ABC)

Over the next few weeks, the Dunphy-Pritchett clan will head to Disneyland and journey into the world of art. But the real adventures arrive in the season 3 finale. We’ll find out if Haley (Sarah Hyland) gets into college, though with the May 9 return of ex-boyfriend Dylan (Reid Ewing), her story takes a ”big turn,” hints exec producer Christopher Lloyd. Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) may finally get a son — if they can hurry to a town on the Mexican border: ”Cameron has been trying to teach himself Spanish by watching a Spanish soap opera but he hasn’t become expert enough, so they bring Gloria [Sofia Vergara] along.” Lloyd is mum on how it all ends, but notes, ”We set ourselves up for a really interesting start to season 4 in a way that we haven’t before.” —Dan Snierson

{C} House

Series Finale: May 21, 9 PM (FOX)

Fans might have been expecting the medical drama to end with a mystery involving Thirteen (Olivia Wilde, returning for the final two episodes) and her Huntington’s disease, or House (Hugh Laurie) himself. But as we recently learned, it’s Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) — the Watson to House’s Holmes — who has cancer. And a sick or dead Wilson promises to pack even more of an emotional punch for House. ”I’ve always thought it really was Wilson’s story,” says Laurie. ”Holmes is only who he is by the grace of Dr. Watson.” As a nod to House’s personal axiom ”Everybody lies,” the finale — which will also feature former costar Jennifer Morrison — is called ”Everybody Dies.” Says creator David Shore, ”It will be a different kind of episode, but at its core I think it’s still a House episode. It’s an ending.” But why end a still-successful series now? ”I needed to make sure we were still doing interesting stories at the end,” explains Shore. ”As Hugh says, House is the guy who leaves the party before people want him to.” —Annie Barrett

Person of Interest

Season Finale: May 17, 9 PM (CBS)

As the FBI gets closer to catching Reese (Jim Caviezel), the show’s racing toward a big reveal. When the machine spits out the number for Dr. Turing (Amy Acker), a psychologist with a high-powered client list, Reese and Finch (Michael Emerson) must protect her — and the secrets she’s keeping. ”This is somebody who helps explain some things about Finch,” Emerson says. ”You’ll see her again next season.” With the feds, corrupt cops, and the hired killer all closing in, Reese and Turing get trapped in the most highly surveilled part of the city, while the others try to save them. ”There’s a big cliff-hanger ending,” promises Emerson. ”All the powers have aligned against Reese and Finch. Surprising, terrible things happen.” —Melissa Maerz


Season Finale: May 23, 10 PM (ABC)

On seeing this shot of Emily (Emily VanCamp) and Nolan (Gabriel Mann) in a Mission: Impossible-type situation, you’re probably thinking, ”Holy hell, did those two finally get caught?!” Well, don’t cry for them quite yet. ”It’s either a predicament…or it’s Emily’s plan,” teases creator Mike Kelley. Following a May 9 flashback episode, the last two shows of the season chronicle Emily’s hunt for the elusive white-haired man (played by James Morrison) who killed her father in prison. That search, of course, vaults her into various sticky situations, like the one pictured here — and yet another when she finally does track the man down. ”The question is, Is Emily willing to kill? Is she willing to take that final step?” Kelley says. ”For this show, the punishment fits the crime, so she’ll be faced with that decision, and, oddly enough, Nolan will try to be the voice of reason.” Others are on the warpath too, says Kelley, explaining that a stunning revelation will send Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) on a revenge quest of her own. He adds with a laugh, ”And if that doesn’t help set up next season, we’re all in trouble.” —Tanner Stransky

New Girl

Season Finale: May 8, 9 PM (FOX)

New Girl may have started its season with the addition of adorkable roommate Jess (Zooey Deschanel), but it’s the looming loss of another that will be the focus of the finale. As Nick (Jake Johnson) prepares to move out, the gang interviews candidates (including Reno 911!‘s Thomas Lennon) to replace him. But they get only so far before Nick takes everyone on an impromptu trip to the desert. There they’ll each come to terms with his decision — while also making a few bold choices of their own. We take a look at where the four roomies started the season…and where they’re headed. —Nuzhat Naoreen

The Characters

Jess (Zooey Deschanel)

New girl no more. The former overalls-clad awkward first-dater has finally found her place both in and out of the apartment. Now she’ll have to deal with the possibility of losing Nick. ”I think the end of the season is about her learning that she can be okay on her own,” says exec producer Liz Meriwether. So Jess won’t be singing any sad songs, though she may treat us to some seriously awesome dance steps. ”Jess finds a mixtape that Nick made when he was, like, 11,” says Meriwether. ”So there’s a lot of fun ’90s music and some really fun dance moves.”

Nick (Jake Johnson)

At the beginning of the season Nick was wallowing in post- breakup blues, but by the finale he’ll be ready to move in with his ex Caroline (Mary Elizabeth Ellis)…sort of. ”Nick is struggling with a decision to move out or not, and that’s connected to Jess and his feelings about Caroline,” says Meriwether. As for whether there will be any romance between Nick and Jess, Meriwether will say only that viewers can expect some definite ”Nick/Jess developments” next season.

Winston (Lamorne Morris)

When we first met Winston, he had no job, no girlfriend, and absolutely no game. But now he’s employed and in a steady relationship. ”He managed to get out of this season pretty happy and in a great place,” says Meriwether. But there’s still one obstacle ahead. During the desert detour, Winston is forced to deal with one of his darkest secrets — literally. ”He’s afraid of the dark,” says Meriwether.

Schmidt (Max Greenfield)

How much has Schmidt evolved? Consider this: In the final episode, Schmidt doesn’t have to put any money in the douche-bag jar. Of course, he could just be too distracted by where his relationship with Cece (Hannah Simone) is going. Meriwether says the two will take a big step in the finale. (Another development on Schmidt’s mind? His cast is ready to come off — but not without complications.) Meanwhile, Cece will have to consider what it would be like if she and Schmidt actually started dating. ”I think it surprises her how much she cares for him,” teases Meriwether.


Gossip Girl

Season Finale: May 14, 8 PM (THE CW)

The last episodes will focus on the aftermath of the April 30 truth bomb: Chuck’s (Ed Westwick) dad, Bart (Robert John Burke), is still alive! ”You’ll find out why,” promises exec producer Joshua Safran. ”You’ll find out how it happened.” Viewers will see how the news affects everyone on the Upper East Side. ”Obviously it causes problems for Lily [Kelly Rutherford] and Rufus [Matthew Settle],” says Safran. ”There are some issues for Blair [Leighton Meester] and Dan [Penn Badgley] because Blair, upon hearing Bart is still alive, feels compelled to help Chuck through this. It affects Serena [Blake Lively] because everybody is off doing something else and not paying that much attention to her.” Unfortunately, Serena does get someone’s full attention: a vengeful Gossip Girl, who’s not so pleased that her blog was taken over by the socialite. Says Safran, ”The finale is very much about how she retaliates against the Upper East Side, and especially Serena.” We’re guessing this one won’t end with xoxo. —Tim Stack

The Vampire Diaries

Season Finale: May 10, 8 PM (THE CW)

”There’s definitely some murder and mayhem, and if all goes well, there will be some epic tears, too,” exec producer Julie Plec promises of the season 3 finale. Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Stefan (Paul Wesley) head out of town on ”bloodline-related business.” But when they get the news that Elena (Nina Dobrev) is in the hospital — and in danger, with both the Originals and vampire hunter Alaric (Matt Davis) after her — they must determine who returns to protect the woman they both love. As the hour comes to a close, Elena finally makes the choice fans will debate all summer: ”We’ll put Elena in a situation where there’s only one brother that she can see in a very important moment, and she needs to decide which one it is,” Plec says. ”We’ll know which brother she wants to be with at this point in her life.” —Mandi Bierly

The Office

Season Finale: May 10, 9 PM (NBC)

All the Office intrigue is behind the scenes this year, with showrunner Paul Lieberstein stepping down to focus on a spin-off for Rainn Wilson’s Dwight, James Spader departing, Mindy Kaling working on a pilot for Fox, and several players still negotiating their contracts (John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, B.J. Novak, and Ed Helms). How will the uncertainty affect the show? ”I expect everyone to be back,” Lieberstein says of those up for new contracts. As for the season 8 finale, Dunder Mifflin will face a corporate shake-up that results in CEO Robert California (Spader) exiting, while Andy (Helms) continues to struggle for power with new manager Nellie Bertram (Catherine Tate, who’s likely to return). ”There’s a fun arc about the company that suggests an interesting next season,” Lieberstein teases, adding that Spader will enjoy a ”classic Robert California” send-off. —James Hibberd

{C} Grey’s Anatomy

Season Finale: May 17, 9 PM (ABC)

Nostalgia is in the air during the penultimate episode of Grey’s Anatomy as Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and the rest of Seattle Grace’s residents officially announce the next step in their careers. But the surprisingly funny hour (look for Chandra Wilson’s Bailey to shine in that department) is no indication of what’s in store for the season finale, says exec producer Shonda Rhimes. The season 8 closer finds some characters in the throes of a ”dark” situation as the rest obliviously go about business as usual, she cryptically teases. And while the ”shocking” finale leaves a few loose ends — as in the case of Cristina (Sandra Oh) and Owen’s (Kevin McKidd) tumultuous marriage — by the close, a beloved character will be dead. ”I think it’s going to be hard to watch,” says Rhimes. ”But I did what I had to do.” —Sandra Gonzalez

The Big Bang Theory

Season Finale: May 10, 8 PM (CBS)

Exec producer Bill Prady calls season 5 ”my favorite so far,” and it’s not hard to see why. There were the back-to-back geek guest stars (Leonard Nimoy! Stephen Hawking!). New cast members Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) proved to be pitch-perfect additions to the ensemble. And then there’s been the season-long countdown to Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette’s nuptials before Howard blasts off to the International Space Station. ”Howard is in Kazakhstan getting ready to head up into space,” explains Prady of the finale, which is told in flashback. ”He will recall the events that got him there.” So don’t expect a big cliff-hanger like last season’s Did Penny and Raj just get horizontal?! finale, but Prady does promise ”three really amazing final moments — not technically cliff-hangers, but cliff-hanger adjacent.” If you insist on peeking over the edge anyway, Prady offers this season 6 hint: ”Not all the characters will be in California when it begins.” —Adam B. Vary


Season Finale: May 14, 10 PM (NBC)

Despite a second-season pickup and a promising uptick in the ratings, the freshman musical drama hasn’t lived up to its title — which could be why the show just hired Gossip Girl‘s Joshua Safran to replace Theresa Rebeck as the showrunner. Like the Marilyn musical, Bombshell — some of which we’ll see performed in Boston, not on Broadway, in the finale — the drama remains a work in progress. ”It’s continually growing and figuring out what it is,” admits Megan Hilty, who plays Broadway vet Ivy. ”But it has such a strong voice.” And some good catfights, too: The détente between Ivy and her Marilyn rival Karen (Katharine McPhee) will come to a screeching halt in the finale, as Karen finally starts to toughen up and play the game smarter. ”Something will happen between the two of them which is almost irreparable,” reveals Hilty. ”I’m so excited to see what happens next season because I have no idea how we can be friends again after that.” —Lynette Rice

9 Reasons We Can’t Stop Watching Smash

This season’s most ambitious new show hasn’t been the blockbuster hit NBC hoped for — but it does have people talking…about what a glorious mess it is. Although a lot of things don’t work on Smash, it is making some of the most interesting mistakes on TV. Here’s why we can’t bear to delete it from our DVR.

1. Ridonkulous fantasy sequences

Breaking Bad is a series about meth, and yet it doesn’t have half as many people wigging out. Are we going to find out in the season finale that everyone involved in Bombshell is suffering from a massive brain tumor? That said, these elaborate musical hallucinations — like the off-the-rails Bollywood sequence Karen dreamed up while dining in an Indian restaurant — create true Holy crap, did you SEE that? watercooler moments the next day.

2. It tries to be all things to all viewers

Smash is an appropriate title for a show that plays like a mishmash of different genres — workplace comedy, family drama, prime-time soap opera, Glee — decoupaged together by a team of theater nerds with a yen for chunky sweaters, pop culture references, and watching people walk and talk in Times Square.

3. Debra Messing’s crazy-ass wardrobe

Scarves. Sweater-coats. Bigger scarves. Pen necklaces. Oversize men’s pajama tops worn out of the house. It’s worth season-passing this show to see what overwrought ensemble Messing’s Julia is going to wear next.

4. The show-within-a-show

While the pop-music covers — Karen and Ivy drunkenly sing Rihanna in Times Square! — must be fast-forwarded to be survived, the songs from Bombshell are actually catchy, and they’re set to deliciously overblown production numbers. (See: the song featuring a troupe of towel-clad chorus boys singing in a steam room.)

5. The Broadway-heavy cast

Stage vets Christian Borle (Tom), Megan Hilty (Ivy), Brian d’Arcy James (Frank, right), and Will Chase (Michael) are good actors. But they don’t have the glossy sheen of your typical TV star. We’re confused and intrigued by how uncomfortable this makes us.

6. The cult of Marilyn Monroe

It was smart to make Smash‘s central musical about a movie star everyone in America knows. And it’s hilarious to watch everyone in the ensemble treat her like a bleached-blond Jesus, asking themselves at almost every turn, What would Marilyn do?

7. Characters with multiple personality disorder

Ivy hates Karen. Ivy likes Karen. No, Ivy is using Karen. Ivy and Karen hate Rebecca. Karen loves Rebecca. Derek’s a douche. Actually, Derek’s an okay guy. The writers clearly know they haven’t struck the right tone yet — and we appreciate that they’re letting us watch their revisions in action.

8. Over-the-top guest stars

Bernadette Peters as a withholding stage mom. Grace Gummer’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it turn as Anjelica Huston’s daughter. And now Uma Thurman (below), who — as an A-list movie star cast as the lead in Bombshell — is the only one on the show who seems to get that Smash is pure comedic camp.

9. Ellis

First of all, no one has that many sweater-vests. Second, we hate you.

Episode Recaps

Gossip Girl

Spotted: Serena, Dan, Blair, Chuck, Vanessa, and Nate — hooking up, breaking up, and freaking out. You know you love it! XOXO!

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