On Endings

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The final episode of The Sopranos managed to either enrage or delight every fan and critic who has been following Tony Soprano and his brood for nearly eight years. In fiction — and in life — bidding farewell is never easy, particularly if the challenge is to do it in an authentic, entertaining, and emotionally gratifying way. And even though all good things come to an end, it’s a remarkable achievement when anything — good or bad — ends spectacularly.

As Open Source approaches its final, live broadcast — in this incarnation — we thought it would be fun to spend our last hour on the air talking about great endings. From the last scene of the Mary Tyler Moore show, to the final moment inThe Grapes of Wrath, a good ending can not only redeem previous stretches of mediocrity — it can keep the narrative and characters alive long after we have moved beyond the screen or the page.

During this hour we’ll be talking about the wonderful windings down in film, literature, and television. What are your criteria for a great ending? Do you like closure? Or is ambivalence more to your liking? Do post-modern ends turn you off or are they an antidote to grand Hollywood finales? What are your most beloved endings?

If you were to write Open Source’s final episode how would you like things to end? Would Mary buy steroids online and play right wing for the Bruins? Would Chris and Camille Paglia be the next dynamic duo on Dancing With the Stars? Or would Bob Newhart awake to the great relief that this two-year radio endeavor was nothing but a dream?

Steve Almond

Author, The Evil BB Chow and Other Stories,

My Life in Heavy Metal,Candyfreak, and the forthcoming (Not That You Asked): Rants, Exploits and Obsessions.

Robert Thompson

Trustee Professor of Television and Popular Culture, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications

Founding Director, Center for the Study of Popular Television, Syracuse University

Garen Daly

Host and creator, Frugal Yankee radio show. Veteran film critic, major player in the Boston film industry for 35 years.

Extra Credit Reading

Last Newhart

Some Like it Hot

Ryan Singel, Hacker Posts Possible Harry Potter Spoiler, Illustrating Corporate Vulnerabilities, Threat Level, June 21, 2007: “The hacker, posting under the handle Gabriel, claims to have gotten a copy of the seventh and final installment of the blockbuster Harry Potter series that chronicles the adventures of a child magician by hacking into Bloomsbury, the series’ London-based publisher.”

J.S. Peyton, “The Best of Endings, and The Worst of Endings”, BiblioAddict, June 16, 2007: “I wonder, is the ending really so important? Or, more to the point, is it more important than any other part of the book?”

The Top 50 Movie Endings of All Time, FilmCritic.com, “35. Back to the Future (1985) – The most brazen call for a sequel imaginable. What if the movie had flopped? Not a chance.”

Related Content


  • Wow, this requires a confession. I loved “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. I watched all 7 seasons on DVD and am saving it for my daughter to watch when she is a teen.

    Though, it had it’s flaws, in my opinion, I thought the ending was brilliant and powerful. One theme in the entire show is about leadership. Particularly, female leadership. The finale epitomized a model of feminine leadership: give up the loneliness by giving everyone the power. It was breathtaking. And, perhaps, apropos to the ROS concept.

  • A few common traits of the cliched television finales:

    – All the characters are back, one last time. All of them. The soup nazi, Emerson, former blogger’s in chief. Everyone.

    – Major characters get married, pregnant or die. Your choice.

    – The final scenes establish that once we leave the characters, everything will be different but everything will be the same.

    From film, we get the following ending:

    – A huge explosion.

    – The guy getting the girl.

    – The bad guy dying after a brief fist-fight since everybody manages to drop their gun before the climax.

    In our context, however, there is the flawed but interesting movie about another brief radio show- Good Morning Vietnam- where at the end, Robin Williams is sent back home wondering if it was all just a meaningless jaunt. Just one goofball having a good time. He runs in to a large group of soldiers on his was to his flight leaving Vietnam and discovers that his radio show, in fact, did mean something. A glimmer of hope, laughter and sticking-it-to-the-man in an increasingly depressing Vietnam.

  • Also- please do not give up the Sopranos finale on the show (or the blog) because I haven’t seen it yet! I’ve managed to live without knowing about it so far!

  • Rendfest

    Endings are not always fun but its hard for me to think of a better one than the bittersweet ending of an anime series called Cowboy Bebop. Though I think a close second would be the ending for the TV show turned movie Firefly. I think they both illustrate how a good ending is not always happy and normally leaves you wanting more. I think back to endings like with the Star Trek TV show where essentially the show was run into the ground and no one wanted to watch any more. Maybe its a good thing from time to time when something good ends before we’re all ready for it. I think thats the case with Open Source. Just the fact that we will be left wanting will generate more content and eventually a new version of the show. I look forward to that day. Who’s going to start the letter writing campaign to save Open Source and where do we send the e-mails to ourselves? Were do we find someone with enough vision to see whats going on here? Bill Gates? Steve Jobs? Or is it us ourselves that must act to save a program that we all love?

    Ren

  • The question you pose in this blogpost reminds me of when I was a child, and my parents were having a rocky time of it. At some point my mother came to me and gave me a choice of living with her or my father. I refused to make such a choice, and in fact pretty much went ballistic. So, no, I’m not going to answer this wuestion either.

    I wish I understood how to more effectively support efforts such as ROS. In a sense, big corporate pockets – the most secure route – is antithetical to the spirit, and the alternative – hamster-wheeling for funding – is spirit killing for both sides. I am perplexed.

    What I am clear about is the importance of the dialogs that your team helps stimulate. Our society is awash in ignorance at a time when it is more dangerous than ever to be so.

    A sincere thank you for what you’ve tried to do, and my hopes that ROS will rise from the current ashes and cast light on truth again.

    By the way, my parents stayed together, in part, I think, because I would not answer the question.

    stu

  • Potter

    I wish I understood how to more effectively support efforts such as ROS. In a sense, big corporate pockets – the most secure route – is antithetical to the spirit, and the alternative – hamster-wheeling for funding – is spirit killing for both sides. I am perplexed.

    Me too.

    So much garbage remains and you guys have a tough time getting support from the commercial world. I wish I knew why your back backer out. But it’s true and right I think what others are urging. Don’t end. Segue. Make the best damn podcast on the internet you can. Word will get around and folks will listen.

  • Potter

    Oh alright- I’ll play. I thought immediately of Jimmy Durante and the way he used to close each show back in (gosh) the 1950’s.

    I found this:

    “Good night Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are” – The classic closing comment of comedian Jimmy Durante who starred on the comedy variety program THE JIMMY DURANTE SHOW/NBC/CBS/1954-57. At the end of each weekly performance, Jimmy paused to say “Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are” and then slowly exit offstage following a pathway made from overhead spot lights. Comedian Ernie Kovacs once did a parody of this classic ending. Walking like Jimmy Durante, Ernie moved away from the cameras and proceeded to walk through pools of lights. As he stepped into the last pool of light, he fell out of sight through a trap door……

    Okay Chris……

    Also I found this which is apt:

    “Glad we could get together” – Nightly signoff of newscaster, John Cameron Swayze for NBC network in the 1950s.

  • What about the classic ending where the main storyline seems resolved, but then there is some little teaser that lets you know there will be a sequel. The Alien films did that. Did they clear the planet free of the menace, or did one make it’s way onto the escape pod? Tune in next time….

    Yes, a cliffhanger. I think we need a cliffhanger here.

  • Hey, can we start a new thread on:

    a) a dynamic Internet Age way to move forward;

    and

    b) the fundraising game?

    I have ideas, but don’t think this is place…..

  • rahbuhbuh

    good audio endings:

    the last track of industrial punk band pitchshifter’s “www.pitchsifter.com” album : a stream of sounds they use to create their loops, ripe for the pilfering and remixing for their fans. snare hits, white noise, bleeps, and distorted bloops. very open source.

    the first secret track i ever encountered, i can’t remember the album. but after the last song faded whilst i wasn’t paying attention, deep into something at my desk accustomed to the speaker silence, then dumbstruck by this sudden screechy trebly little voice over a scratchy guitar track. some busted porch blues song. it was the scariest thing to come out of my stereo, ever.

    WOXY went off the air briefly, before being bought by LaLa. the DJs just played whatever they wanted, no more requests. This was for them, whether they agonized over the exact pop equivalent of a sad goodbye, a rocking goodbye, or just songs which made them happy.

    good video endings:

    one i’ve never seen, but i fondly remember my dad’s retelling: Twilight zone episode where an old woman, alone in a cabin, is attacked by miniature creatures in space suits without rhyme nor reason. they invade her kitchen and zap her, leaving welts. when she finally beats them off, the camera zooms in to show “U.S.A.F.” on their astronaut uniforms. the perception and scale shift warped my father’s mind.

    12 Angry Men: Juror #8 introduces himself to one of the others (#1?), saying he’s an architect. After all the grief and emotional bloodletting endured in that hot deliberation room, suddenly they’re people with real lives.

    O Brother, Where Art Thou: As the blind gravediggers sing the three escaped hero convicts to the noose, whoosh, a flood. Cheap deus ex machina, but with brilliant delivery. 4 part harmony, sun bleached yellow to cool blue.

  • rahbuhbuh

    allison: “buffy: the vampire slayer” kept going. joss whedon just turned it into a comic book:

    http://www.darkhorse.com/profile/profile.php?sku=14-111

    no idea whether it’s any good, but i can assume. he even called it “season 8”

    i concur, definitely a cliffhanger.

  • I also like the ending of “Unfaithful”. In the final scene they are sitting at an intersection discussing whether he should turn himself in or they should flee together. It’s left unresolved.

    I feel like there must be a good Hitchcock ending that is fitting…..,

  • BJ

    You mentioned Bob Newhart, so in that vein:

    An eerie theramin refrain.

    Chris: Mary, I had the strangest dream last night, I can’t shake it.

    Mary: I don’t have time now. We’ve got a meeting with Jane Cristo right after the show.

    Chris: I suppose she wants me to lead one of those potato vodka-tasting “Citizen of the World ” junkets to Albania. Come to think of it my dream had a something like that but it was in Seattle…a bunch of people talking about bogs and open sores. And whenever I got halfway into a show some guy called BogBoy kept breaking in! What do you think all this bog stuff signifies?

    Mary: I’m thinking we’ve got Cristo over a barrel and she’s ready to capitulate. Here’s my latest ultimatum. Want to read it?

    Chris: After the show. I’ve gotta greet the guests.

    Fade in Cantaloop

    Chris: She gave kitsch a new name in the 1966 classic, Against Interpretation, which catapulted her into the intellectual firmament. And they gave it a new sound in the opera, Notes on Camp 2000, which is breaking tradition and records at the Met. Today we’re talking –and singing–camp–and we don’t mean the one you’re sending the kids to–with Susan Sontag, Peter Sellars, Philip Glass, and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Gather ‘round our Campfire and join the conversation. I’m Christopher Lydon and this is the Connection.

    Bring up Cantaloop and segue into the last chords of Pipeline.

    Whatever your next dream, Chris and Mary, we’re eager to share in it!

  • Sutter

    Well, I’m a complete sucker for Casablanca, which of course has a great ending, and one that I hope is a propos here. I remain optimistic that even after its Ilsas have all flown away, the show might find a beautiful friendship that will keep it going…

  • Abby

    BJ, that’s awesome. If this blog had been that clever all along, I might have spent more time reading it.

  • Potter

    Dear Abby- if you had spent more time reading it ( not me necessarily) you might have found out how clever ( among other things) it was i(n places)all along.

  • rahbuhbuh

    honest endings are best. not just happy ones with poetry and feasts. if this is an awkward staring unsure kind of fade out, then don’t hide it. if there’s bitterness towards “brand-name media company” or public radio distribution systems, let some of that show, just not for the ranting duration.

  • Bobby

    One of my favorite endings is from the movie The Color Purple Gets me every time.

    Or what about a positive balance at the end of a bank statement? That’s a pretty cool ending  (But tune in next month, folks)

  • hobie75

    Favorite Endings:

    Movies: Manhattan

    Books: Thus Spoke Zarathustra, “and he [Zarathustra] left his cave, glowing and strong as a morning sun that comes out of dark mountains.”

    TV: Six Feet Under (tied w Newhart)

    Music: Desolation Row (from Highway 61 Revisited tied with Her Majesty from Abbey Road)

  • Even before I scrolled down far enough to see Sutter’s post I was thinking it would be hard to beat Casablanca.

  • or Thelma & Louise

  • OliverCranglesParrot
  • Bobby

    Here’s a suggestion on how to “end” ROC:

    Have Pamela Ewing walk into the bathroom, then pull back the shower curtain to reveal the ROC staff diligently working on the next show 🙂

  • An ending that I loved, but definitely don’t want to see ROS emulate: “Antonia’s Line”

  • DonCarleton

    Despite the skepticism about public broadcasting I’ve seen expressed here, as someone who remembers all the way back to the 10 O’Clock News, I think that Chris’s voice is an essential one to keep on NPR/PBS. Chris and Terry Gross in my opinion are two of the very best voices on the public airwaves and I think it will be a great loss when ROS goes off the air. If anyone is paying attention over at WBUR in the post-Jane Christo regime, they ought to be working overtime to find a way to ease out Tom Ashbrook to make space for Chris Lydon.

  • mynocturama

    Well, at the risk of sounding pretentious, the ending of Joyce’s Ulysses, with all those affirmative yes’s streaming forth, immediately comes to mind. There’s actually a lot of pure, sensuous, even erotic pleasure in that book. It’s too bad many seem to be scared away, as though only those esconced in the academy could access it. But that’s another discussion entirely…

    As far as film goes, I guess the star child at the close of 2001 is a bit grandiose, but it still gives me chills. I love the end of Richard Linklater’s Waking Life, with Wiley Wiggins floating up into the sky. Come to think of it, the end of his Before Sunset is terrific too.

    The 10 stories comprising Kieslowski’s Decalogue each end beautifully, at once tightly and ambiguously.

    The end of Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now is pretty dang creepy, with that decrepit midget in the alleyways of Venice. Creepy.

    OK, something more relevant to this ROS moment. Planet of the Apes? No. Actually, maybe. Seem to be plenty of darn, dirty apes to go around right now.

    So, a story bringing a phase to something of a close, yet still open for more. Well, then, again, Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Maybe my favorite romance films. And so the difficult romance continues, between idealism and practicality, the idea and the act, and so on.

    Endings, finally, it seems to me, are steps along the way. There are no final endings; it’s all ongoingness.

  • nother

    At the end of Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” Raskolnikov is sentenced to seven years in prison, and he accepts the consequences of his actions. In the midst of this cleansing through suffering, he sheds the confines of theory and embraces the limitlessness of love – in the form of the soulful Sonia.

    “They were both pale and thin: but those sick pale faces were bright with the dawn of a new future, of a full resurrection into a new life. They were renewed by love: the heart of each held infinite sources of life for the heart of the other.”

    “They resolved to wait and be patient.”

    The book ends with the following:

    “He did not know that the new life would not be given him for nothing, that he would have to pay dearly for it, that it would cost him great striving, great suffering.

    But that is the beginning of a new story – the story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life. That might be the subject of a new story, but our present story is ended.”

  • nother

    But maybe I liked the ending to “Gilligan’s Island” the best, because it ended just like the rest, with the castaways still stuck on the island.

  • Agavar

    From the last verse of T.S. Eliot’s poem East Coker:

    Love is most nearly itself

    When here and now cease to matter.

    Old men ought to be explorers

    Here or there does not matter

    We must be still and still moving

    Into another intensity

    For a further union, a deeper communion

    Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,

    The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters

    Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

    I want to see a new beginning emerge from this regretful, but hopefully temporary ending.

  • herbert browne

    As one who has avoided endings (& finishing things, generally- homework, school, my chores, 10,000 projects- U-name-it), this will be a challenge… but one that I will accept, because of the debt that I owe this endeavor- for the exhilarating contact with the minds & emotions that have been expressed here (embraceable You-all!). Of the endings that have stayed with me, the most memorable has to do with the procedure for encouraging the departing soul to find its way to the True Light of its next (ad)venture that is found in “The Tibetan Book of the Dead”.

    Alongside the unbreathing corpse (within which the soul still resides, albeit briefly), the Instructor gives focus and instruction to that being that will, if followed, lead to a better life. In my auditory “vision”, the Radio Reader (who always began and ended with the same words- “This is Dick Estell”-) will calmly, and soothingly, sing the following song:

    “When you wish upon a star

    (Makes no difference who you are)

    Everything your heart desires

    Will come to you.

    If your heart is in your dream

    No request is too extreme

    When you wish upon a star

    As dreamers do.

    Fate is kind…

    She brings to those who love

    The sweet fulfillment of

    Their secret longing.

    Like a bolt out of the Blue

    Fate steps in and sees you through

    When you wish upon a star

    Your dreams come true.”

    ^..^

  • As far as an ending that might be fitting for ROS how about the last line from Huckleberry Finn:

    “But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest.”

  • Bobby

    What can I say. It’s 2 AM, my Adderall continues to mock me, so I watch Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, when a thought come to me: “I shall take the St. Crispen’s Day Speech…and make it better! Without further adieu, I give you…..plan B:

    This day is not call’d the end of Radio Open Source,

    but her metamorphosis, her sweet growing pain.

    And faithful listeners who outlive this day, and come safe home,

    Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,

    And rouse them in the name of Radio Open Source.

    They that shall live this day, and see old age,

    Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

    And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Radio Open Source’s Day

    Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,

    And say ‘These wounds I had on The Day of Radio Open Source.

    Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,

    But he’ll remember, with advantages,

    What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,

    Familiar in his mouth as household words-

    Chris The Word Whisperer, Host of Hosts

    Mary and David, Katherine, Chelsea and Sam,

    Producers in title, though your skills declare you Creators

    Sweet Greta, Princess of Ping-Pong, Keeper of the Commentary

    And Garrett, Colin and Nick.

    The Three Apprentices. Our children’s children they shall enlighten.

    Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.

    This story shall the good man teach his son;

    And St. Open Source’s Day shall ne’er go by,

    From this day to the ending of the world,

    But we in it shall be remembered-

    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

    Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

    This day shall gentle his condition;

    And producers, hosts, bloggers and interns of other radio shows

    Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,

    And hold their titles cheap whiles any speaks

    That fought with us upon Saint Radio Open Source’s day.

  • hurley

    One of my favorite endings turned out not to be an ending after all, and one maybe apropos here in more ways than one. One rainy Saturday long ago, looking to get stuck in something until the weather passed, I picked up a long, forbidding looking book, William Gaddis’ JR. First word, “Money.” Three lines in I was laughing, and I was hooked. As I’ve said many times here, it really is the Great American Novel, its subject the quintessential American subject, money. I spent the next two days, laughing, shaking my head in wonder at the art, the enterprise, the design, the bathos, the despairing insight into American culture, my good fortune at having come across this book in the first place, given the back of beyond I was living in at the time…”Finally,” nearly 700 hundred dense, virtuoso pages later, I came to the final line:

    “Broadcast this…”

    Would I ever! I was absolutely struck not just by the book, but by this weird, cryptic ending. First chance, I went to the tiny local library and managed to find somewhere, somehow, something about the notoriously reclusive author — and a photo — printed in reverse tones! Not only that, but the library actually had a copy of JR. I picked it up, leafed through it fondly, turned to the brilliant finale, and discovered that the “end” was not the end — there were another 70 pages to go, and a similarly brilliant if all together different ending.

    So, I wish you 70 extra pages and more. In other words, broadcast this…

  • hurley

    Sorry, “pathos.” Another instance of the hammer taking aim at the thumb.

  • The best ending is to give a final peck on the forehead, roll over, and go to sleep.

  • How about the non-endings of Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. The Reader and The Other Reader face the challenge of reading books that never get beyond the first chapter and we readers frustratingly go along for the ride.

    The chapter titles for the 10 unending stories point to a mysterious non-ending, to life.

    If on a winters night a traveler

    Outside the town of Malbork

    Leaning from the steep slope

    Without fear of wind or vertigo

    Looks down in the gathering shadow

    In a network of lines that enlace

    In a network of lines that intersect

    On the carpet of leaves illuminated by the moon

    Around an empty grave

    What story down there awaits its end?

    Our ROS conversation never end and just usually grow fields of further questions and serve up more scrumptious food for thought.

    Rather than an ending, after Calvino, how about a story of titles from past shows, features and in house reports taken from the archives.

    The title: (of course) Fun With Convergences

    Ten years after the revolution,

    Four years after September 11,

    The day after prison,

    Stuck in the poverty barn

    Collecting photos of numbers,

    It was a train that took me away from here,

    “Like a rolling stone” 40 years on,

    Leaving New Orleans,

    From Russia with love?

    After Pensions,

    After Ariel Sharon,

    Beyond Roe and Wade,

    Marching towards obsolescence,

    Towards universal health care

    To Iran, like Nixon to China?

    Not exactly weekend fare but

    You could have a worse day.

    Torture!

    We will not be selling bracelets.

    Is aid enough?

    The end of free will?

    When tolerance is just tolerance,

    REALITY BYTES

    A letter from China…

    Show me the money!!

    So it turns out we’re famous,

    The ecstasy of influence.

    Sometimes a storyline is a Goliath,

    The beginning of the end of the bubble,

    When good constitutions go bad.

    The price of fantasy

    The neo-cons; what were they thinking?

    Torture revisited

    War with Iran?

    The good death

    Mea Culpa

  • rahbuhbuh

    a memorable mishap of an ending: i have no issue with walking out of a movie, this time it backfired. i have a fascination with Faustian stories and was thoroughly enjoying (with an immense grain of salt) “Devil’s Advocate” starring Pacino as the devil, Keanu Reeves as a Faust-like lawyer. As soon as the climax flitted away to a Newhart “it was just a dream” cop out, I got up and left. for once, i thought a movie would have the guts to end with a triumphant literal devil. A friend told me i should have stayed two minutes longer… Reeves makes a questionable decision, and a reporter changes into a smirking Pacino: “vanity always was my favorite sin” (so it begins again) cue “Paint It Black” and roll the credits.

  • rahbuhbuh

    and, thank you for bringing Steve Almond back.

  • bobby, that is beautiful! and creative and insightful!

  • Potter

    Ah- here it is. The schnozzola….those pools of light……..

    Good Night Jimmy Durante l955

  • huff

    Best ending of all time…..

    The opera Wozzeck by Alban Berg..Act 5….where the lead character’s (Marie) son just keeps hopping around by himself while all the other kids run off to see Marie’s body as it’s been announced she is dead….”hop….hop…..hop…..”

    Best ending for a movie is also the saddest…Of Mice and Men. Only time I’ve ever cried at a movie….

  • I’ll still listen, still subscribe to the podcast, still post. I have to say, though, I’m confused and upset again, as I was when Chris and Mary parted ways with WBUR. I never understood what happened there and I don’t understand what happened here. Was there ever a real business plan for the show? Nonprofit development is my line of work and I offered to help early and often, but never got taken up on my offers.

    I love you guys, I really do, but I don’t think moving to a Web only presence is a sign of the explosive growth to come. It’s a damn shame.

  • enhabit

    some famous last words off the net:

    Friends applaud, the comedy is finished.

    ~~ Ludwig van Beethoven

    Damn it . . . Don’t you dare ask God to help me.

    (To her housekeeper, who had begun to pray aloud.)

    ~~ Joan Crawford

    Come my little one, and give me your hand.

    (Spoken to his daughter, Ottilie.)

    ~~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something.

    ~~ Pancho Villa

    I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.

    ~~ Leonardo da Vinci

    Go away. I’m all right.

    ~~ H. G. Wells, novelist, d. 1946

    Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.

    ~~ Oscar Wilde

    i will truly miss all of this messiness

    ~~enhabit

  • rahbuhbuh

    follow the course of dvd extras: offer us alternate endings. each producer offers us their own take on a fitting end. “Clue” the movie was a favorite for just this reason.

  • I like rahbuhbuh’s solution- let’s have multiple endings.

    Also, I think the opposite of the the Newhart “it’s all a dream” ending is the “Brazil” ending. Both are versions of “it’s all a dream”, but Brazil says that the dream world was Utopian and maybe it’s better that we never wake up from it.

  • greenbrier

    Enhabit–my favorite last words ever may be Stonewall Jackson’s–“Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”

    Favorite TV ending ever–the finale of “Six Feet Under” which ended with a spectacular flash-forward montage that wrapped up the show’s themes and characters in a deeply satisfying way. It was the happy antithesis of the Sopranos finale, though I have to admit, I was deeply hooked on SFU and not nearly as attached to The Sopranos. By the final episode, I was so benumbed and bored by weeks of meaningless mayhem that I couldn’t have cared less whether there was a gunman in the bathroom or arsenic in the onion rings.

    Loveliest recent ending to a film–“Once.” I won’t give it away, but let’s just say it’s what I might wish for ROS. Not exactly what you might have wanted or expected, but lovely and hopeful all the same.

  • I had no idea this show was in danger of going away. As an American émigré in England, ROS represents the very best of my old country’s media.

    So many times over the past year you’ve sent me scurrying off to investigate some new book – and you’ve helped me make some sense of this crazy world of ours.

    You’ll be missed over the summer – I sincerely hope you’re back on the air again soon.

  • jazzman

    So Long and Thanks for All the Fish. (There were some whoppers.)

    Peace to ALL,

    Jazzman

  • IXJRRisko

    Last words of Hamlet:

    “…rest is silence.”

    Or: “The rest is silence.”

  • OliverCranglesParrot

    Lost in La Mancha Great third act to a failed project…

  • mulp

    Although it was originally planned to end after 17 episode, after Danger Man (renamed Secret Agent in the US), I expected The Prisoner to be just a regular TV series. And then for some reason I couldn’t watch the last episode, and it took about two decades after it ended in 1968 before I finally caught it, and that was on the second or third time it was played in late night TV opposite Carson.

    For me, that was the first time that I was confronted with a TV series that actually had an ending.

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  • F.J.

    Speaking of the endings of novels, here’s a question:

    How should the Harry Potter series end?

    Thousands if not millions of people have emotional connections to the characters in this series and have waited literally years for the final book to come out at the end of July.

    Should good triumph over evil? Should Harry vanquish the evil Dark Lord, is the Dark Lord going to kill him, or are they both going to die? Should the ending be as dark as the later books in the series have been? Should all the main characters be killed off to prevent unauthorized sequels? Or should everything turn out okay in the end?

    Or was the whole thing just a long dream sequence?

  • goodjunk

    Hey, What about album endings?

    2 greats would both be Beatles: Sgt Pepper” A day in the life”

    AND Abbey Road: “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make” followed by the irreverent ditty “Her Majesty”

  • goodjunk

    What a big wink for your audience to cue one of these as the show ends…

  • katemcshane

    I wasn’t going to write on this thread, because I’m slow and it takes a long time for me to come up with the right idea. Endings are so hard — it takes me a really long time to write a poem, because endings require everything to come together perfectly into the exactly true insight. And, for me, it’s not a good poem unless you have the perfect last line. And I’m slow, so it takes such a long time. In my head only, I guess, because recently I was able to write 15-20 poems for a deadline and when I read them, I don’t hate them yet.

    Endings, at the heart, for me, are overwhelming, because, on some level, they’re about death. I hesitate to write this, because you’ll all think I’m crazy. I remember learning about death when I was seven years old and my grandfather told me about it and it was such a shock. A year later, my grandmother died. She had a heart attack while painting her house at 72. After being in the hospital for several days in an oxygen tent (this was the mid-50’s), she seemed to be getting better. Then, she died the next day. I remember hearing my mother say, “We should have known not to hope.” A terrible thing to learn as a kid. I still have to work at hope at 59. I still have to remind myself that loss doesn’t feel worse if you’ve been hopeful. It feels horrible, no matter what. I feel it every day when a great customer leaves the store after we’ve had a wonderful conversation. I feel it after the simplest good experience all through my day, like someone smiling at me on the street. That’s the point, I think, to feel as much as possible in the most intensely alive way, and then, to feel the loss, too. Otherwise, you’re closed. Dead, really.

    I never planned to become so attached to Open Source. I heard a show by accident in January 2006, when I turned on the radio while waiting for jazz with Eric Jackson. I had been homeless for a few months. I finally got a room in a subsidized rooming house near Symphony Hall (a neighborhood of musicians, so I’m in heaven). The first show I listened to — it could have been a race & class show (my FAVORITE series). I was very wary, because I’m not a fan of public radio, except for the jazz. I listened every night for months, still wary. Chris won me over, because he had such a passion for every subject, and he was really decent to everyone, and he said things like, “Forgive me” when he wanted to disagree with someone. And he talked about his daughters — and I began to think about how lucky they were, because he was such a nice man. And then, in July 2006, while having breakfast, I heard Chris announcing that they were doing a show with the poet, Franz Wright, that night. I didn’t have a computer. I hadn’t seen this site. I was so excited. When my boss was out, I went onto her computer, registered, and wrote a comment. Chris and Greta wrote back to me. That night, Chris quoted me to Franz. I almost died. I cannot tell you what it was like, after years of everything being wrong in my life, to hear Chris tell Franz that I compared Franz to John Coltrane, and to hear Franz say, “That is very flattering.”

    I’m listening to Steve Almond and the other guys on this show discuss endings, but I can’t get into it. This is a loss that CANNOT happen. The thing I have hung onto since finding out that the show is ending (for now) is that the site will still be open.

    Hurley — it was a huge thrill to read that you suggested that peggysue and I open a thread. Thank you so much.

    This show cannot end, because Chris and Greta and Chelsea and Robin have meant so much to me, and people on this site — Garrett, Potter, Allison, peggysue, hurley, bobo, sutter, jazzman, and so many people I cannot remember right now have given me something in my life that I have never experienced before. I have been able to feel hope for my life and for the world, and I’ve been able to feel some self-esteem, and this is so amazing when you haven’t had it before. I love you.

  • joel

    I’ve been waiting all this time to hear from Amber. I hope she chimes in next time.

    Cheers, all.

  • joel

    Next time, I’ll also be waiting to hear from all the above.

  • Potter

    I love you too kate… I also could not really get into tonight’s show- except when Chris (almost) cracked up at the end– for all the highbrow-low brow- he was in Emersonian Durante spotlight circles in my mind- moving further away. I hope they are celebrating together with bottles of wine. They should all celebrate the enormous accompiishment and then rest.

  • katemcshane

    I forgot to mention sidewalker and — greenbriar (nice to hear from you again). I’ll always forget to mention people I’ve loved.

    Potter — yes, I love you. I wrote to Garrett afterward and said that Chris seemed like he might be about to cry. I cannot believe how many wonderful people I’ve read and written to on this show, how intense my feelings have been (in a life where, before this show, I thought I was alone). Also, Potter, I LOVED Jimmy Durante’s ending — I remember how sad I used to feel when he stepped into each circle of light at the end. I was so aware of death at that age that I could hardly stand to watch Durante’s endings every week. (But I learned everything I know about storytelling and timing from the comedians in the 1950’s: Jack Benny, Gracie Allen, George Burns, Jackie Gleason. And Jimmy Durante was one of the great Masters in 1950’s television — imagine when quality was part of the media!!

  • livender

    The perfect ending is the one where Chris’ radio program is off the air and Stutter on the street again yelling at passers by.

  • Can someone point me to an explanation for ROS going off the air? Another commenter mentioned a backer backing out, but I really don’t get it…

  • plnelson

    Recently my wife installed a small, roll-out desk in our downstairs – we have just one big open-concept space so I can’t really say it’s in the “livingroom”, or “kitchen” or “family room”. But it’s catty-corner to our stereo cabinet. This afternoon she got the idea to attach a wire from her laptop on the desk to the stereo.

    Why didn’t we think of this before?? To listen to internet radio we used to have to turn up speakers in a room with a computer, or listen on tinny laptop speakers or make MP3’s. But now we are FREE!! No more broadcast radio! We’ve cut the umbilical chord, slashed our moorings, weighed anchor. We ate dinner listening to a folk music show from Ohio; now I’m listening to classical music from Sweden.

    The timing couldn’t have been better. The internet is the future – vaster and less bounded than any “terrestrial radio”. Like the future itself, it is unlimited and unfathomable. Just this morning I bought my latest domain – music4peter.com – it will be my newest blog (I have 3 now). When ROS re-emerges, as I’m sure it will, I’ll be there to greet you. Your listeners are already here and we’ll be waiting for you!

  • Bobby

    One hour before the show is broadcasted here in Seattle. I feel like I’m going to throw-up 🙁 Kate, I’m happy you found ROS. You’ve clearly made some good friends; and regardless of what happens with ROS, I truly hope they endure. It reminds me of Parker Palmer who said (paraphrasing here) we all have problems we must work through, and though they may be difficult and personal, it’s not necessary that they be private. That’s why we have communities…like these 🙂

  • kate, I agree with you. Chris is a real gentleman and a very artful interviewer. chris, mary, and crew, kate, potter, sidewalker, nother, allison, RC12, et all & all ya’all. Love & as Roy Rogers always sang at the end his show, Happy Trails to You Til We Meet Again.

  • Sutter

    Listening to this now. I think Thompson misunderstands the end of Sex and the City. The point is not that they all wind up settling down and betraying their history. It’s that aside from Carrie, they all grew up and went against type: Charlotte spent most of the series searching for a blueblood WASP and wound up with a heavyset Jew who say naked on her couch. Miranda the hard-charging lawyer wound ip with bartender Steve and — gasp — moved to Brooklyn. And Samantha the sexaholic fell in love with a young model who started out as boytoy and wound up as her rock when she’s struck with cancer.

  • “On the Beach” comes to mind for me. Also something like the life of a brilliant young person being snuffed out by a drunken driver would serve. If this culture can’t find its way–in this rather desperate period–to fund such a show, I have to wonder about its DNA, about its desire for a humane and educated populace. Are we just descending headlong into a fascist state where only property and power are considered of value?

    If this is the end, which I find impossible to believe, I love you all and will never be able to forget all the intelligence beaming from your show and this page.

    There must be hundreds of progressive businessmen like Ray Anderson of Interface Inc. who would move mountains to make sure a show like this goes on.

  • shaw

    I am so sad to hear that this show is ending. I find few voices expressing sentiments with as soulful a sensibility as Christopher Lydon has. I am a painter and listen to this program most evenings and always feel like a friend is visiting. I love this show. There is not enough of the romantic, empathetic and smart tone that ROS has. It’s too rare, please come back on.

  • herbert browne

    Something that Steve Almond said about Gatsby reminded me of a connection that I had made while studying some brain scans. The similarity of the scans of those asked to dwell on sad moments were nearly identical to those of subjects who were asked to determine the meanings of words that they did not know. My extrapolation of this was that language may have begun as an elegy. The sounds associated with mourning for the loved and departed, if memorized and repeated, could perhaps call that moment- and that feeling- back again. It is probably the greatest claim of language that it is the means by which we may become immortal…

    (From “Vespers”)

    Radio host at the foot of the bed

    Droops to the folded hands tousled gray head

    Hush Hush whisper who dares?

    Christopher Lydon is saying his prayers.

    “God, bless Mary… I know that’s right

    Ah, wasn’t it fun on the show tonight-

    With the beer so cold & the guests so hot-

    And God, bless Robin… I ‘most forgot.

    If I open my eyes just a little bit more

    I see Emerson’s portrait above the door

    Transcendental- & wise- (but he had no show)

    God, send us more like him… & help them grow.

    I have a show, and I lie in bed

    And put the earphones on, over my head,

    And I close my eyes, and I stretch out tall

    And critique the podcast until sleep does fall.

    Oh, thank you, God, for a priceless crew!

    (And wasn’t there something I’ve yet to do?

    Now I said ‘Bless Mary’, so what can it be?)

    Ahh, Now I remember it- God, bless me!”

    Radio host at the foot of the bed

    Droops to the folded hands tousled gray head

    Hush Hush! Whisper, who dares?

    Christopher Lydon is saying his prayers.

    (sweet dreams, my friends…) ^..^

  • Bobby

    Herbert – that was very thoughtful of you. BTW: I see you live in Burton, WA. A Google search shows two Burtons in WA. If you live on Vashon Island’s Burton, we should meet up. I know there are at least four (only you & peggysue come to mind at the moment) who live in Washington. Perhaps this summer we should all get together and toast ROS for its excellent/informative shows, superhero staff, and for inviting us listeners to participate.

    Speaking of Vespers, do you ever listen to / or have you attended the Compline service at St. Mark’s Cathedral on Capital Hill?

  • Thank you for that wonderful offering Herbert. To express how I feel toward Chris, Mary, David, Chelsea, Katherine, Garrett, Sam, Greta, Nick, and Colin, I best turn to The Chairman of the Board for a little help:

    But thanks for the memory

    Of every touch a thrill

    I’ve been through the mill

    I’ve lived a lot and learned a lot

    You loved me not and still

    I miss you so much

    I know it’s a fallacy

    That grown men never cry

    Baby, that’s a lie

    We had our bed of roses

    But forgot that roses die

    And thank you so much

    jon in port townsend

  • hurley

    Ah such sadness. Thanks all.

  • Bobby

    You’re in Washington too, Jon! And I see Derek is as well! Let’s all meet down at the waterfront (has anyone walked through S.A.M.’s sculpture park yet?), grab a bite to eat at Ivars, jump the ferry, and head over to peggysue’s 🙂 Hear that, peggysue! Best get the distiller out now, cuz were gonna be thirsty 🙂

  • Potter

    Everytime we say goodbye,

    I die a little

    Everytime we say goodbye

    I wonder why a little

    Why the gods above me

    Who must be in the know

    Think so little of me

    They allow you to go

    When you’re near

    There’s such an air

    Of spring about it

    I can hear a lark somewhere

    Begin to sing about it

    There’s no love song finer

    But how strange the change

    From major to minor

    Everytime we say goodbye

    *Nobody does this better than Betty Carter ( Robbie Williams lyrics)

  • OK you guys can stop at the brew pub on your way up the hill to the Whale Museum where I’ll be working this summer.

  • I’m so glad Chris mentioned Tale of Two Cities ending… that is a favorite of mine.

    In fiction I do like a romantic ending involving heart breaking love & untimely death but I do not wish any such thing on the ROS fond (and I hope temporary) farewell.

    And yet… perhaps some wrenching pathos would make us all feel a little better…

    Dresden Dolls Karaoke Verité “Christopher Lydon” by Lauren G

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIh0FD8aO5E

  • huff

    word to Greenbrier…..SFU was one of the best endings I’ve ever seen!!!

  • I just finished listening to the mp3 … great show.

    I am still noodling on some ways to help keep the show going and reaching out to folks who might be able to help. More soon …

  • webcastboy

    Many public radio series had to be quite creative about how they financed themselves until they turned into such institutions that they became self-sufficient. World Cafe affiliated with a restaurant, Car Talk affiliated (and still does affiliate) with Cars.com, This American Life was brilliant at licensing their on-air AND off-air material.

    The key here is many successful shows have managed to take their on-air presence and translate it into off-air products that can be monetized. I haven’t seen that so much with Radio Open Source.

    It may be too late, but I think if ROS does come back in some form, that’s what we need to see…even if it gets a little crass. Restricting access to older shows so they can be sold more on CD’s or pay-for-podcasts. More “best of” compliations. Perhaps a book?

    Or here’s an idea…maybe not take calls, but do the show “live” before an audience! Not really a big audience…let’s say it’s just a 50 or 100 person theater…but set up a system where people can submit questions via texting (or whatever) so they’re screened as the show goes on, and when Chris “goes to the phones”, a producer hands the mic to the person in question and they get a chance to chat. Sell $20 tickets to the theater and I’ll bet you’d sell out EVERY night.

    Hmmm….ruminating on this, maybe that idea really COULD work. Even if the show is just a podcast, just do it before a live audience. Tweak the size of the theater and ticket costs as needed to cover your staff & related costs, and let Chris’s local celebrity status really work for you. I don’t know what theater rentals cost but I have to imagine you could find a good theater to do this in pretty easily. This IS Boston after all.

  • livender

    What a bunch of poor pathetic souls.

    Their despair at having lost their cult leader is palpable.

  • jboylan

    Well, one can’t leave that entry stand for too long at the bottom of this thread. As a very occasional poster but regular listener, I hope very much that the project comes back.

    For now, another classic ending that I don’t think is on this thread:

    “Good night and good luck.”

  • So long Radio Open Source (wherever you are), and thanks for all the fish.

  • Potter

    The appeal is the community and the sadness is not only about the loss of a great radio host, producer (their connections and sensibility) and wonderful bright energetic young staff. If you read the messages, we have come to know each other and there is a gathering here- a community of people who are having, or aiming to have, an open intelligent conversation in a civil way. Pick the topic. It could be anything. Driving around today I felt how much I have been enlarged by this whole virtual community experience in a way that the old Connection with it’s callers ( that I loved) did not do for me. The vital element in this iteration is the community. The sadness is to feel the end of that… perhaps.

    In the two years in two instances, that I recollect, commenters have been barred with reluctance because they would not, after much coaxing and forgiveness, conform to the informal, then formal guidelines. It’s interesting that we have a new name appearing here at this junction whose messages sound like someone who has been spurned.

    I have asked for these posts to be deleted but I would not be surprised if everyone at ROS is gone for the holiday. In the meantime I hope we will ignore.

  • plnelson

    the sadness is not only about the loss of a great radio host, producer (their connections and sensibility) and wonderful bright energetic young staff.

    Geez, Potter, you make it sound like they all died in a train crash or something.

    Thy’re all still around, and Chris is a survivor with lots of ideas and enthusiasm and skill in this game. I’m sure we haven’t seen and heard the last of him and his talented team.

    The great thing about the media biz is that you don’t have to die to be reincarnated.

    I’ve said in other ROS threads that I think the old public terrestrial radio broadcast and funding model is a relic just barely being held in place by years of accumulated rust. The future is distributed, digital and worldwide. I’m happy to report that the local Boston station that carries ROS – WGBH – recently had a a funding drive and I didn’t hear a WORD of it! I still send them money once a year, but mostly out of habit – I hardly ever listen to WGBH radio qua radio.

  • livender

    “The appeal is the community and the sadness is not only about the loss of a great radio host…”

    Bullshit, he is the worst radio host ever and you are a pathetic LOSER!

  • While I love podcasts, I also think that the terrestrial broadcast is important in order to expand the reach to folks who can’t – for some reason – get to the Internet to listen to these shows.

    Check out this Democracy Now! report about how a bunch of small radio stations might be able come on air soon: http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/06/22/1458229

    Perhaps ROS can save money and get the same reach even on terrestrial radio by cutting its ties to PRI/NPR and just pushing for distribution on these new stations and on all of the stations that Democracy Now! reaches.

    This might enable them to explore new business models as well.

    Does this make sense?

  • Potter

    pln- I was referring to the sadness of this “the end” thread, the end of the radio show- at the moment we have lost something- the fact that Chris said he let the staff go. We do not know if what or when something will air again, if it will be ROS again, and the possible loss of interest in this gathering if it is not held together by something.

    There are a lot of ideas being presented here including yours and Flow’s, webcastboy.

  • Potter

    …these threads are loaded with ideas…

  • Bobby that sounds good. Could you collect our emails so we can talk without disrupting this thread: JonEden@yahoo.com.

  • davispeter

    Here’s a great ending–Thomas Wolfe’s YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN:

    “Something has spoken to me in the night,

    Burning the tapers of the waning year;

    Something has spoken in the night

    And told me I must die.

    Saying:

    To lose the earth you know,

    for greater knowing;

    To lose the life you have

    for greater life;

    To leave the friends you loved,

    for greater loving;

    To find a land more kind than home,

    more large than earth –

    Whereon the pillars of this earth are founded,

    Toward which the conscience of the world is tending–

    A wind is rising and the rivers flow.

    Wow,

    pete

  • davispeter

    livender,

    You are certainly the life of the party, and a downright charming human being.

    best,

    pete

  • Potter

    davispeter- I read your profile- we are neighbors! I am just down the road apiece ( rte 140) in Boylston. Hola!

    I guess you are a fan of the late Stanley Kunitz. This area grows poets. Elizabeth Bishop ( my own few are tucked safely in a drawer).

  • Much like the Sopranos.. you guys faded to black in a most unexpected moment. I guess theres no good way to go.. so why not.

    I think the project should go on, budget or no budget… fight to do what you love to do. Thats how I live.

    I thank you for everything youve done.. you will always be an inspiration to my own work.

  • webcastboy

    Erik Herz, you wrote:

    Check out this Democracy Now! report about how a bunch of small radio stations might be able come on air soon:

    This report is rather misleading, and it’s a bone I’ve been picking with Prometheus Radio for a while now. Here’s the background in a nut shell:

    The FCC allocates a band of frequencies specifically for “non commercial” radio: 87.9MHz to 91.9MHz. They have not accepted applications for new stations in that band in almost 10 years. This October, for about a week, the FCC will accept applications for new stations. This is the “filing window” approach the FCC has adopted in recent years and it has it’s benefits but it’s also prone to encouraging a giant onslaught of applications all at once.

    My bone is this: the non-comm band has been packed (almost) completely full in the Top 20 markets for at least 20 years now. Even discounting for the fact that during this window, at least 50 other people would apply for the same chunk of spectrum you would try for…there is zero chance that Chris or Mary could get a signal that actually covers Boston itself.

    There is a small chance they could get a signal that’s out in the suburbs somewhere…probably near or beyond I-495. But that’s about as close at it would be, although admittedly – if you’re reaching the right suburb (i.e. a wealthy one) it could be perfectly sufficient.

    To add insult to injury, though…they would likely be one of many people applying for the same frequency, so it might take months or years before the station could be built. And running a non-comm radio station is not easy. It takes a lot of work to raise the funds to survive; especially at first – just ask any LPFM licensee. (there’s one up in Portsmouth, NH that can tell you many tales along these lines).

    Even so, the allure of having ultimate control over one’s destiny, and the possibility for reasonably steady income, might just be worth it. I must confess that while I’m not bullish on the idea, the relatively low cost of “trying for it” does seem worth the potential payoff…and I know of at least one person who has suggested the idea to them.

  • Thanks for some great shows. Dream it up again and do come back soon.

  • enhabit

    finally heard the podcast….

    did anyone mention the ending that i daresay is on every film student’s short list for the all time greatest?

    the seventh seal

  • enhabit

    a swedish existential take on that new orleans’ funeral..

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  • enhabit

    Legendary film-maker Ingmar Bergman, one of the key figures in modern cinema, dies at the age of 89.

  • enhabit

    Italian film director Michelangelo Antonioni, renowned for his 1966 release Blow-Up, has died aged 94.

    what are the odds..two masters dying so close in time.

  • Potter

    Yes, enhabit, thanks. I was wondering where to post this. It would make a wonderful discussion. Two masters.

    There was one film I keep searching for that Antonioni did for Rome television a number of years ago and I think I saw it on PBS. It was a documentary on China, Chung Kuo/Cina. The film was unforgettably gorgeous. Astonishing. Then it disappeared. Reason:the Chinese took exception to it. This was right after the “Cultural Revolution”. I understand that they recently showed it in Beijing to honor him.

  • Chris and Company:

    I wish you well. I have always admired the quality you have put on the airwaves, and I hope to hear you all again in the near future.

  • enhabit

    wow potter,

    that does sound interesting..looked it up myself, one website recommended “the sand pebbles” for those interested in Chung Kuo/Cina..good movie,although some might find the pigin’ english a little offensive..i hope they don’t lose sight of the point of the movie..filmed during the viet nam war…

    good ending..”what the hell happened?!!”

    i digress, i would really like to see Chung Kuo/Cina, sounds like my kind of film…i’ll try the paley center for media in new york (212) 621-6600

    http://www.mtr.org/

    maybe they can provide a lead.

  • Dear Paul (Newman),

    Thank you for all the entertainment.

    A vital light has dimmed and gone out. Its brilliance, however, is not lost. It will be forever reflected in the productions of a glorious career. It burns even now in the hearts of untold thousands, as the gentle, nourishing and uplifting flame of gratitude, as it has for several decades and will for many many more.

    Above all, Paul, thank you for your extraordinary example. In a world so often characterized by dread and indolence, how edifying and inspiring and needful is the great light of genuine authentic character that burns so bright and so true.

    It is with the deepest and most sincere gratitude that I wish you bon voyage and happy trails. Shine on, brother, shine on!

  • rwp

    The TV series Cheers had one of the best last episodes. And for good measure it was set in Boston:

    An intelligent series like Cheers deserved a great wind-up, and the writers certainly delivered here. Norm and Sam’s last talk were a great ending for any TV series (and one rarely equaled even in many great books), but it has to be appreciated in the context of the series’ entire 11-year run. Bittersweet, and it all goes by almost too quickly on casual viewing. Many viewers may not get the subtle meanings.

    The closing scenes are of the Cheers regulars in the bar, talking about life and what the bar and their mutual friendship has meant to them all, including each of the gang’s words of wisdom. Rebecca is notably absent, as befits her role as the most materialistic of the bunch, and also a late-comer to the group.
    Claven believes it all comes down to shoes (sandals and loose loafers being preferred), and gives examples (Aristotle, Einstein). Frazier talks of the affect all have had on one another, and is unable to speak aloud the love that he feels for this gang — all the more touching since he is the psychiatrist of the group. But they all know what he means, and sense that they are all different and better having known one another, and sad at this parting. Woody has his own simple but folksy ideas too. But as befits his Buddha-like, comfortable role throughout the series (despite long periods without visible means of support), Norm is the wisest of all. He knows that in life it all comes down to happiness, and especially your One True Love — which some people never find. As befits his normal un-self-analytic role, Sam can’t express his own philosophy, and he doesn’t get Norm’s words of wisdom at first. Norm leaves him to puzzle it out for himself, and the gang heads home, leaving Sam alone in the bar. A few minutes later, Sam comes to realize that this bar is his One True Love (he literally swooshes his hand along the countertop as it hits him). Then he knows he’s “the luckiest guy on earth,” even if lots of other things in his life haven’t gone his way. He must be remembering the agonies he endured when he didn’t own the place (including drunken binges, sunken boats and other self-destructive behaviour), as well as the friends and loves it has brought him over the years. Norm knew that the bar was the One True Love for both he and Sam, though for different reasons. For Norm, it was his watering hole and place to meet friends and even sponge a bit. For Sam it was much more: his successful business, his confrontation and defeat of alcoholism, his babe magnet, and his place to meet friends — without the bar Sam’s life is hollow. He needs his bar, not just any bar, though other bars might do for Norm and the rest of the gang.
    The whole scene is superbly done in an understated manner, and most of this has to be worked out by the viewer who knows these characters. A modern masterpiece, and a resolution that many literary works fail to achieve.
    Then the scene is topped off by a last unknown customer (maybe played by Joe Mantegna?) being waved away from the locked bar door by Sam who says, “We’re closed.” Several symbolic meanings come to mind:
    1. ‘Always keep them wanting more’ (which could also be the writers’ little joke about the Cheers series itself); and
    2. As long as Sam owns the bar, he will always be wanted, which his personality needs; and maybe even
    3. Sam saying ‘no’ to his various temptations when he really needs to.

    Finally, the writers give an affectionate nod to Coach when Sam adjusts Nick’s favourite photograph of Geronimo hanging on the wall behind the bar.
    A fitting, thoughtful finale, without hoopla, implausible plot twists or character breakdowns. Just valuable lessons of life that anyone should be glad and wise to learn. Truly great.