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.

After all these years, coming up with a series finale episode for Law & Order must have seemed like an impossible task. The producer and writers probably guessed the end was coming as the show’s ratings had been slipping for the past year. Instead of trying to go out with something grand, they wrote an episode that epitomized the show.

It was tense, gripping, featured excellent but sometimes pedestrian police work, and then ended up with one of those lovely character moments that the show could pull off so well, mostly because it underplayed the emotions so much. I especially loved that the finale episode showed cops saving lives.

It was completely satisfying and it was probably the best episode of the last year or so.

The Good Wife, however, ended in a frustrating tease.

All season, Alicia’s struggled to decide where she stands. She has to choose between trying to rebuild her marriage with Peter, her supposedly changed husband, or forge a new path with Will, a man she’s been fascinated by since college. The best episode of the season has to be the one where she finally released her passion for Will and then, because she hesitated, the moment was lost. Instead, she let loose all that frustration by seducing Peter.

The final episode sets up Alicia’s choice in a dramatic manner. Peter is running for political office again. He wants her to be at the press conference in support. Alicia agrees, especially since she’s taken a big favor from Peter’s aide, a political consultant. (Played wonderfully by Alan Cummings.) Will calls as Alicia is about to step forward at the press conference, saying he wants to make their relationship work.

And then, fade to black.

I hated it.

Why? Because it was a false way to keep viewers hanging.

If Alicia had made a choice, the anticipation of what will happen next would still be there. I’d be wondering how pissed off Peter and his aide might be or how Alicia can go back to work after having clearly turned away her boss, Will.

But, most importantly, the choice would have completed Alicia’s character arc for the season. By leaving it until next season, it feels manipulative. I don’t like being jerked around by writers. I’m far more likely to trust them if they give me resolution and then set up the next mind-blowing plot development.

I can’t help but compare it to the season three ending of Mad Men, which I blogged about earlier. That episode provided plenty of resolution to the plot and character developments from the season. It also had a huge “omigod, what happens next?!” factor.

That ending made me more excited than ever about Season Four.

The ending of Law & Order made me sad to see it go.

The ending of season one of the Good Wife pissed me off.

The third reaction is not the one writers or creators should be looking for in their audience.  It makes me more leery of where the show is going. If they keep dragging out this triangle next season, I just might bail after a few episodes.

Well, okay. I might stick around for Kalinda. Because, damn, Kalinda rules.

Note to self: put a Kalinda–meaning a magnetic character you have to watch–in all my stories. Though that would likely be easier if I had an actress as good as Archie Panjabi.