Usually, the season finales of television shows annoy me.

They’re supposed to set up something to keep viewers interested between now and the fall but more often, I’m aggravated by the emotional manipulation.

I wrote earlier about how I thought The Good Wife muffed it last season by carrying over an arc to the next season rather than finishing it off and creating a new one to draw viewers in.

Well, this year they did it right.

But they were still out done by two other shows.

The Mentalist ending was hard-core but it had to go exactly where it went to be true to the characters.

And Bones set-up an entirely new status quo for next season with a two-word sentence.

Be warned, spoilers after the jump.

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I thought since I blogged this spring about the finale of  these shows, I should update whether I’m still watching or not. 🙂

Law & Order with wigs!

I was unhappy in my previous post about the finale the The Good Wife. I thought the show had chance to move past the whole will she/won’t she get back together with her husband or go with her supposed true love, Will. This plotline had been spinning its wheels for the whole first season.

Half a season into the show this year and viewers still don’t have a a resolution on it.

And, yet, I’m watching anyway. Why? I’ll explain.

To recap, It took until last week for Alicia to discover that Will’s long, rambling declaration of love had been deleted from her cell phone by Eli, the conniving campaign manager that her husband, aka Mr. Big, hired. (Chris Noth is Peter Florrick in this show. But he’s very much like Mr. Big before he settled down. He’s charming but you’re never quite sure how much sleaze goes with that.)

But all that has basically taken second place to two other plotlines this season. One is at Alicia’s law firm, which has merged with a Washington D.C. law firm to stay afloat in these bad economic times. The second is the election for district attorney. Thankfully, we’ve moved past Peter’s appeal and now he’s scott free instead of being behind bars or cooped up in the Florrick apartment. Not only that, he wants his old job back.

It was seeing Alicia in court kicking ass that got her husband Peter so hot and bothered that, yes, CBS went there...

Around all this revolves subplots with the teenage Florrick children, who are refreshingly flawed and realistic and who are put in a lousy position by their father. They keep a lot to themselves, which continues to cause problems for both parents, especially about the election.

I find I’m enjoying the law firm plotline more because the claws are definitely out. Plus, more of Christine Baranski as Alicia’s mentor is always a good thing. As for Will…

I can’t quite decide myself who Alicia should be with–and I’m not entirely clear that she does either. Part of the charm of Alicia is that she’s very self-contained, so when she shows any emotion, it has impact. But on this one, it’s like she’s Ilsa in Casablanca, in love with both men and caught in complete indecision.

Peter made his play earlier this season, with possibly the hottest scene on TV that shows nothing but indicates cunnilingus. Will, Alicia’s boss, has been busy being an ass, trying to possibly screw over his partners, and involve sexually with an annoying woman who seems to value little. Not such much for Team Will on this end.

The only element that’s not working for me this season is Kalinda’s rival.

Kalinda is the go-to investigator who can seemingly uncover anything, half by charm, half by intelligence. Archie Punjabi rightly won an Emmy for her performance last year. But this year, she’s stuck with a rival brought in by the D.C. partner. This could be interesting except the rival is so smarmy and annoying and likely evil that I’m completely uninterested. I think Kalinda needed some competition or to fail now and then. But this subplot seems disjointed and needlessly complicated.

So at half-season, the firm might break up, Alicia’s still ambivalent about her husband and his political career, the teenagers are out of control, and Alicia is caught in the middle of it all. I look forward to her eventual breakdown or outburst.

A great bonus so far has also been Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls) as the white horse candidate for district attorney who’s smarter and more politically savvy that she first seemed.

Verdict: the show has improved over last season, now they just need to move one way or another with the Florrick marriage. If you’re interested, CBS has the full episodes at the official site linked above.

As for Law & Order

I had some hopes for Law & Order: Los Angeles. A fresh area, a fresh cast, the possibilities for star-studded crime seemed endless. But I have to say I’m a bit bored so far this season. The writers made good use of the L.A. setting a few times, particularly in the premiere where they used photos taken by paparazzi to nail the bad guys, but the writing seems a bit flat.

It just seems a bit dull.

Right now, the L&O that I’m enjoying the most is on BBC America. Law & Order UK.

I shouldn’t like it so much. The shows are using old original recipe L&O scripts as the basis for these shows so about twenty minutes in, I suddenly recognize the plot. But they’ve switched them up somewhat to reflect the London setting. Briscoe was all about phone records. The detectives in this one are all about the video footage that dots London.

But somehow it has the heart that the LA show lacks.

I think the difference is the actors.

The ones in L.A. are good but not great. I know. I’d expected Skeets Ulrich to be more interesting but he seems uncomfortable in his role.

And Alfred Molina is no match for Ben Daniels, his UK equivalent. Daniels played Nicholas Brocklehurst in The State Within–a British miniseries set in American that’s very, very good. I am crushing on Mr. Daniels a bit but he doesn’t play for my team, alas.

Backing up Daniels is Freema Agyeman, best known to Dr. Who fans as Martha Jones. Jamie Bamber, another SF veteran (Battlestar Galactica) plays the younger of the two cops–the Chris Noth role- and Bradley Walsh is the veteran and more cynical police detective.

There are only two problems with the UK version.

The big one is that there’s no Jerry Orbach.

Bradley Walsh is close but not quite, though if I’d never watched Orbach’s Briscoe, I’d probably enjoy his character more. And I think Bill Patterson is a poor substitute for Steven Hill’s head district attorney.

Also, he does not eat enough sandwiches. 🙂

Law & Order has been on so long that I can remember my twins loving the ka-CHUNG noise when they were babies. Sometimes L&O is good, sometimes excellent, and, every now and then, it’s truly awful.

I’m going to miss it like crazy. At least, I’ll miss it when I’m sick of the fifty zillion reruns. 🙂

The Good Wife is only a year old but quickly became one of my favorite shows. It’s the story of a woman trying to rebuild her life while her politician snake of a cheating husband is in jail, appealing his sentence for corruption. The fun of the show is watching Alicia, the title character, seethe until the point where her anger explodes.

Both shows have elements in common. First, there’s Chris Noth, perfectly cast as both the politician husband and the quick-tempered cop on L&O. Both shows are procedurals, meaning they focus on a courtroom drama/crime each episode.

But only one of them managed an great ending to the season and–in the case of L&O–to the entire series.

L&O did it by doing what it does best–focus on realistic cops out to save people, lawyers who find creative ways to bend the law to help the good guys, and a happy ending full of unexpected emotion.

The Good Wife promised something game-changing and then fumbled on the one-foot line.

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