In today's world, a sitcom is no longer something television viewers plan their week around. Now, we can watch an entire series on Netflix within one extremely non-productive week. This, however, does not change the fact that the end of a television show marks the end of the viewer's life as they know it.
Last Monday, I sat with my roommate as we watched the most pivotal moment in "How I Met Your Mother" history. It wasn't the finale, yet it was eight seasons of endless questions answered. My roommate is more emotional than the average human, and as I watched her cry I realized this was not just because our favorite show was ending. It was because sitcoms like this represent much more than 30 minutes of laugh tracks and under-appreciated actors. They represent our fear of change.
Whether or not you are a "Friends" or "Boy Meets World" fan, chances are you've seen the finale of at least one of these sitcoms. Unlike dramas, sitcoms are made to take you to a place of pure bliss. "Boy Meets World" taught us that the world isn't easy, but every bad event comes with a life lesson to make everything good again. "Friends" did the same thing, only with older characters and less mush.
The question is, why are the finales of these shows so heartbreaking? "Boy Meets World" shows a teacher saying goodbye to the dream trio of friends. "Friends" shows the dream group of friends parting ways. The inevitable finale of "How I Met Your Mother" will finish the nine-year title story. All of these finales changed the course of the characters' lives. The writers of these sitcoms know what a person loves, what a person wants and what terrifies us as humans.
As we watch these shows, we start to feel as though the characters are real. If the writers are good enough, we feel as though we know these characters personally. This is because every person can relate to Cory Matthews or Ted Mosby in some way. Everyone has a Shawn Hunter or a Barney Stinson. If you're lucky, you have a Topanga Lawrence or a still unnamed "Mother." To see these characters live their scripted lives is to see yourself do the things you always wanted to do and say the things you were never witty enough to say.
To see a show end is to see the eventual end of certain chapters in our own life. As sad as this is, it is the truth. It is human nature to relate fiction to reality, which makes for personal sadness in show finales.
I am in no way a true fan of "Friends," yet I cry each time the camera zooms in on that silly purple frame hanging on the door. I don't mind that the show ended. It's an out-of-chronological-order rerun, anyway. What I do mind is the fact that, some day, I will shut the door on something that meant to me what that apartment meant to those characters.
When Ted finally meets the mother, it won't be because I can't live without a television show. It will be because, at some point, there will be no more question marks in my own life. The dynamic of this sitcom, specifically, is mystery. What is the end to the story? Ultimately, that is what we all wonder about our own stories. To know that someday we'll know the answer is exciting, yes, but it also means things are going to change drastically and eventually; there will be no more mystery.
Maybe I'm reading too much into the depth of sadness around sitcom finales. Maybe people are just too emotionally invested in a simple production, but I don't think so. I think people watch these shows and see them as some version of their own life, or at least how they want it to be.
So, when these comedic sitcoms end, it is this version of their life that is ending. It is the truth that change is unavoidably slapping you in the face.
Cortney Roark is a junior in journalism and electronic media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.