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What It Takes to End a TV Show the Right Way

Very Good TV Podcast: The end of "Girls" brings with it the question of what makes a proper farewell to a TV show.

Girls 610 Lena Dunham Allison Williams

Mark Schafer/HBO

To their credit, the executive producers of the often controversial series “Girls” knew exactly how and when they wanted to end the series. This not only aided fans in preparing for the end, but the creators, as well. The considerable cultural build-up to the finale was made possible because we all knew this was the final season for Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s HBO dramedy.

When considering “Girls” conceptually, it makes sense to assume that the clearest way to close this chapter for these leads is to show their growth away from the term girls: They grow up. They’re not “girls” anymore, but women — adults. Whether or not “Girls” succeeded in this kind of approach varies on how people view these characters and their own definitions of what adulthood is, but “Girls” still had a clear ending to target.

While “Girls” and fellow HBO series “The Leftovers” were aware of when the show’s ending would come, other shows like “New Girl” are stuck in a gray area. Liz Meriwether was told to wrap up this latest season so that it could be a series finale, but it’s still open-ended on whether or not there will be another season.

READ MORE: Review: ‘New Girl’ Just Ended, Whether Fox Knows It or Not

“New Girl” struggles with what the show is working toward. Its approach could skew the “Parks and Recreation” route, letting its ending be a heart-warming reflection on where these characters are headed, or the series could attempt to fulfill the “Friends” “will-they won’t-they” romantic close. Of late, it’s skewing toward the latter, but that finale is either forced by Fox or it feels forced because the primary couple is too confounding. Either way, the unknown finality of this season didn’t do anyone any favors.

While knowing when your show will be ending helps, there’s also the issue of choosing a final season. “The Leftovers” was pushed by co-creator David Lindelof to end after Season 3, to keep it from running too long. But when Armando Iannucci, the creator of “Veep,” left the show at the end of Season 4, everyone involved wanted to keep going. “Veep” continued to be successful into Season 5, allowing the story to progress naturally, and it’s still going — even though the end of Season 5 could have easily stood as a series finale.

Meanwhile, shows like “The Night Of” and “Big Little Lies” are facing the difficult position of having the potential for a second season, and having to make the choice of keeping it short and simple or over-extending it. HBO has given the creators of “The Night Of” leeway to take some time, and see if they can find a good enough idea for Season 2. The question comes up then, should “Big Little Lies” be given the same treatment?

Regardless of the route chosen, the final season is the end-note of a show. It is what leaves the lasting impression on the show, unless of course, it’s given the “Gilmore Girls” or “Full House” treatment. For all we know, “Girls” was left open enough that in a number of years down the road, there’d be a potential for a reunion.

Listen to IndieWire TV Editor Liz Shannon Miller and TV Critic Ben Travers discuss the issue in this week’s Very Good TV Podcast (above). Don’t forget to subscribe via Soundcloud or iTunes, and follow IndieWire on Twitter and Facebook for all your pertinent TV news. Check out Liz and Ben’s Twitter feeds for more, more, more. Plus, don’t forget to listen to IndieWire’s other podcastsScreen Talk with Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson, as well as Michael Schneider’s new podcast, Turn It On, which spotlights the most important TV of each week.

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