Finale: "The Office"
What Happened, Basically: Jim's attempted proposal to Pam was derailed by Andy's impromptu proposal to Angela; Ryan's coke-fueled business fraud led to his arrest; and Michael actually managed to flirt successfully with new HR rep Amy Ryan before getting blindsided by the return of a pregnant (but not by Michael-seed...sorry for that phrase, really) Jan. Also, Amy Ryan was under the mistaken impression that Kevin was retarded - an impression Kevin did nothing to dissuade.
How Good Was It?: Pretty damn good. The show manages to keep the Jim-Pam dynamic fresh by just letting them be a fun, pleasant couple who make sense together (without being cloying) while successfully shifting the "Will they/Won't they" thing to, of all people, Dwight and Angela. And Michael's unhappy return to Jan because he's going to be "kind of a daddy" underscored the season's overarching plot of abusing Michael's life at every turn just to see if he eventually notices how bad shit has gotten (they whipped Jim and Pam around for three seasons, so it's only fair to aim the misery in a new direction).
Did the Strike Hurt the Season?: Yeah, a little. Even though it more or less added up to a full run thanks to the front end's double-episodes, they clearly had to rush some plot points, like the Ryan-as-morally-bankrupt-yuppy thing and the resulting Ryan-Jim animosity (which really could've used a few more episodes to breathe). Still...minor issues they can certainly handle more fully next year - here, and on the upcoming top-secret spin-off. (Also, according to Jenna Fischer's blog, they were as bummed about what got left out as anyone. So.)
What I Hope Happens Next Year: 1) They don't try screwing with the Jim-Pam relationship (note to TV producers still twitchy about romantic chemistry because of fucking "Moonlighting" 20 years ago: Sometimes two people get together and it's NICE and it WORKS); 2) Amy Ryan comes back, and they don't ever bother explaining to her that Kevin's not retarded (this is a joke that could go on for years!); 3) The spin-off doesn't suck, and features Toby.
Finale: "How I Met Your Mother"
What Happened, Basically: Wow, fuck if I know. Turns out, if you miss the first ten minutes of this show, the rest of it makes no sense. None. All the running gags and themes are set up by the first commercial break, and if you don't tune in by then...damn!
How Good Was It?: To the extent that I understood it? Well, the Barney-Ted reconciliation was sweet, and Barney's realization of his burgeoning love for Robin is even sweeter.
Did the Strike Hurt the Season?: No, if anything it helped. I'm a big proponent of the cable model of 13-episode seasons, so the shortened run meant the focus of the season - Ted's foray into Barneydom, its consequences, and how he got back on track - was a lot tighter and more meaningful (particularly when you see that while The Maturation of Ted is the main point of the show, The Accidental Maturation of Barney has been a great through-line of the season).
What I Hope Happens Next Year: 1) The Mother is introduced (I'm not convinced it's Sarah Chalke's character just yet) and we can start some kind of end run (since this is a show with a built-in expiration date - how people in their twenties learn to become Real Adults - and if you want to see what happens once a show goes past the end of that theme, go ahead and watch "Scrubs" [see below]); 2) the Barney-Robin relationship is explored intelligently (read: not annoyingly - see previous "Moonlighting" nervousness).
Finale: "30 Rock"
What Happened, Basically: Pregnancy scare for Liz (really scary when you consider it was almost noogie-extolling Beeper King Dennis); Jack Donaghey suffered through a position in the Bush Administration while inspiring his new best friend, the Bush-nicknamed "Cooter Burger" ("No crying in the bathtub for me tonight!"); Tracy successfully completed the world's first porno video game.
How Good Was It?: For the second straight year, "30 Rock" has created a unique blend of absurdist political humor (even Proud Republican Jack is embarrassed by the current administration's lack of anything approaching logic - or pens), sincere character development (Liz's muddied attempts to get her life both successful and fulfilling, without any real idea how normal people do that), and just flat-out lunatic bits (the porno videogame). I love this show so much.
Did the Strike Hurt the Season?: Yeah. The short run meant the many secondary and tertiary characters were pretty much MIA (Toofer? Pete? Hello?), and the show's ability to meander into quirkily inconsequential sideplots went with them. (And recent interviews have shown Tina Fey is totally aware how beloved all the side characters are, and will make pains next year to include them.)
What I Hope Happens Next Year?: An honest-to-god plotline for Pete Hornberger. Also, seeing just a little bit of that porno video game might not hurt.
What Happened, Basically: The creators had an exhaustive group-wank over their love for The Princess Bride and did a fantasy-retelling of a medical case. It was about as funny as the last episode of "The Simpsons." And if you didn't bother to see the last episode of "The Simpsons,"...well, that should tell you a lot.
How Good Was It?: Seriously, we only watched it because we were waiting for "The Office." It's fucking terrible these days. Though it is evilly fun to watch Zach Braff's face age into grotesque fishiness (enjoy your character-actor bits as an old man, you pompous jackass!).
Did the Strike Hurt the Season?: Through mind-boggling logic, it actually helped this increasingly annoying series, as they somehow earned a "farewell" season on ABC next year, even though all its characters and plotlines were exhausted by the end of season 3, and now everyone on it is just annoying as all hell.
What I Hope Happens Next Year: An asteroid falls on the hospital two minutes into the first episode; only Dr. Cox survives, and in minute three he goes home to his wife and kids and shuts the door behind the viewing audience so we don't have to watch any more of this heartbreak that used to be an amusing series.
Late Next Week: "Lost"
Inbetween: Hey, remember how there were all those fall shows that got totally sideswiped by the writers strike? We're going to talk about them - or what's left of them. Also "24" and "Heroes" will be discussed. Because if we don't talk about them when they're not on, how do we know they exist?
(Oh yeah, DVDs. Well, still.)