All Good things come to an end
Every show ends eventually. As two major hits that have defined culture for the past decade are making their way to the exit, new sorts of shows are emerging to change the way we look at television and the world. We have only a matter of weeks to follow the storylines of Game of Thrones and watch our favorite characters from The Big Bang Theory, but viewers should appreciate these shows for the entertainment they brought and be encouraged at what's to come.
GAME OF THRONES (HBO)
Winter has come to Westeros, as promised, and the armies of the dead are marching upon the Seven Kingdoms. A battle is set to ravage Winterfell, leaving all of our favorite characters devastated and some worse than that. Game of Thrones has always thrived on its element of surprise and its bloodthirst for its main characters. Since the death of Ned Stark (Sean Bean) in the first season, no one has been safe. The show's brazenness made it a must-watch shocker, one of the few fantasy series to ever work on television, and the ending - with the final three, super-sized episodes of season eight airing this month - promises to be killer.
Questions remain as the ending approaches, and it stands to reason that showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff will likely answer most of the questions. Game of Thrones should not end with a sudden fade-to-black, like The Sopranos did. A well-told tale, which the show has always been, should have a satisfying end.
Among the questions to be answered: Who will take the Iron Throne? Will Jon (Kit Harington) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) end their affair now that they know they're related? Which of the Starks - if any - will survive? Will Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) defeat their sister Cersei (Lena Headey)? Will they destroy the Night King or die trying?
It promises to be epic and unpredictable, though in this world the good guys rarely come away unscathed.
THE BIG BANG THEORY (CBS)
For twelve years, the geeky Pasadena scientists of the giant hit sitcom have remained consistently entertaining, friendly and worth watching. And the characters have grown and changed. Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) started as neighbors, then became lovers and married. The bizarre, anti-social, picky and weird Sheldon (Emmy winner Jim Parsons) even grew past his many, many quirks to gain and accept the love of his girlfriend and partner Amy (Mayim Bialik) in the show's best story arc. And Howard (Simon Helberg) and Raj (Kunal Nayyar) have grown and found love, as well.
Set to end May 16, the finale should be funny and romantic, likely culminating in the season-long arc of Sheldon and Amy's pursuit of a Nobel Prize in Physics. Expect happy endings all around on this show, maybe even some surprise pregnancies, for show creator Chuck Lorre has filled the show with a lot of heart and very little cynicism, unlike his previous hit Two and a Half Men, which fizzled out. This one, as the title suggests, should end with a bang.
Looking at new shows, viewers are likely to embrace shows about sorts of characters they've never seen before. With the recent Hulu sitcom Shrill and the eight-episode Netflix gem Special, streaming services are giving the spotlight to types of people usually left in the dark.
While Shrill centered on Saturday Night Live star Aidy Bryant as a plus-sized beauty demanding that the world give her all she's worth, Special does something even more remarkable, putting a gay man with cerebral palsy at its center. Ryan O'Connell developed the show from his own memoir and stars in the series.
As the show opens, Ryan, who walks with a limp because of his condition, is hit by a car. A misunderstanding at his new job lead his co-workers to believe that the car accident caused his limp, and he goes along with the ruse. People act differently toward a situation they understand - a car accident - than they do toward a lifelong disability from birth, so Ryan's life becomes better and more open as he navigates what it might be like not to be dismissed outright for his disability.
The more people see themselves on television and in stories, the more they feel seen. There is something profound and beautiful about Special, and it is bracingly honest about sexuality and damn funny. It is one of the year's best.