Tonight, Parks and Recreation says farewell after seven glorious seasons on the air. And like many long-running shows that are ending their runs this season — including Justified, Mad Men and Sons of Anarchy — the creators are under pressure to come up with a finale that sticks the landing, and validates all that came before it. As I wrote at The Daily Beast,
It’s a problem that TV creators are increasingly grappling with, as more networks are allowing them to end their shows on their own terms and their own timetable. But that freedom has intensified pressure for that final episode to stick the landing and in some ways justify all that came before it. Seinfeld’s everyone-goes-to-jail finale angered and alienated many fans back in 1998, but it didn’t taint our memories of the entire series the way that How I Met Your Mother or Dexter’s recent ludicrous conclusions did. These days, in order to cement their status in the TV pantheon, shows not only have to be great, they also have to end that way.
I spoke with Parks co-creator Mike Schur, Justified creator Graham Yost and Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan about the increased spotlight on series finales since The Sopranos, as well as the finales they’re hoping to emulate. (“Everything is about the endings now,” says Yost.) And FX chief John Landgraf also weighs in on the importance of allowing a show to end when the story dictates, not when the networks have squeezed every last drop of money from a show.
Plus, you’ll want to hear Graham Yost’s joke about what a Deadwood-themed Justified finale could be like.
Farewell, Parks and Rec!