Writers' Strike Could Leave Viewers Hanging As the writers' strike wages on in Hollywood, it appears that the endings of some of America's beloved shows could remain unresolved this season. Will viewers have to come up with their own season finales? Three writers imagine alternative endings to some of this season's favorite shows.
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Writers' Strike Could Leave Viewers Hanging

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LYNN NEARY, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington.

Right now, there's talk this week of a possible end to the writers' strike in Hollywood. Even so, it may be too late for producers to pull off the big season finales. And that's where you come in. We want to know how you would write the season finale for your favorite show. Be creative. Give us a call, 800-989-8255, or drop us an e-mail, that's at talk@npr.org.

To get us started, New York magazine asked a handful of writers to come up with endings for the shows they watch. We'll talk with three of them.

Starting with Danny Chun, he's a writer for "The Simpsons" and he helped write an alternate ending for "The Office." He's in the studio at NPR West. Good to have you with us, Danny.

Mr. DANNY CHUN (Writer, "The Simpsons"): Hi. Thanks for having me.

NEARY: And before we get to your finale, we're going to listen to a clip of the last episode of "The Office" that aired. And in this scene Michael, played by Steve Carell, and Jan, played by Melora Hardin, are driving to New York to testify against the company that Michael works for, Dunder Mifflin.

(Soundbite of show "The Office")

Mr. STEVE CARELL (Actor): (As Michael Scott) Tell him how much you're gonna get if you win.

Ms. MELORA HARDIN (Actress): (As Jan Levinson) Oh, come on, Michael, that's tacky.

Mr. CARELL: (As Michael Scott) A million dollars.

Ms. HARKIN: (As Jan Levinson) Four, I guess…

Mr. CARELL: (As Michael Scott) Four million dollars. Man, that is a lot of guacamole. A lot of the green. A lot of green. That is why I have memorized Jan's answers…

Ms. HARKIN: (As Jan Levinson) Oh.

Mr. CARELL: (As Michael Scott) …and I've also thrown in some errs and ahs…

Ms. HARKIN: (As Jan Levinson) Well, Michael…

Mr. CARELL: (As Michael Scott) …just to make it seem like it's not memorized.

Ms. HARKIN: (As Jan Levinson) Oh, come on.

Mr. CARELL: (As Michael Scott) Perfect crime.

Ms. HARKIN: (As Jan Levinson) I'm seeing ridiculous things. He's just gonna tell the truth and truth is very, you know, complicated, so we went over it carefully and - so that we wouldn't leave anything up to chance or Michael's judgment.

Mr. CARELL: (As Michael Scott) Can we please pull over and pull down the top. I do not feel good. I'm going to be sick.

Ms. HARKIN: (As Jan Levinson) Michael, I told you, I'm not putting the top down.

Mr. CARELL: (As Michael Scott) Uhm. I'm gonna puke.

Ms. HARKIN: All right, fine. Just a second. Hold on.

Mr. CARELL: (As Michael Scott) (Unintelligible).

NEARY: Okay. Danny, so tell us what's the back story here for those who don't follow the show that closely.

Mr. CHUN: So, I guess, sort of the arc for Steve Carell's character this season is that his life is kind of deteriorating. He's running out of money. He's in a kind of abusive relationship with a kind of a train wreck of a woman. And so they - so she is suing the company that he - that they both work for. She is the no longer working there and so he is sort of forced to choose between, you know, the company that he loves and his girlfriend.

NEARY: All right. Now, I take it that that deposition didn't go very well. We can assume that?

Mr. CHUN: Yeah. That was an amazing episode, that's the last one we saw. The deposition went horribly and it ended up basically with Michael being sort of humiliated in front of his bosses. And, you know, and also alienating his girlfriend here who didn't really back up the way that he said he wouldn't at that scene we heard.

NEARY: All right. So where do you take the characters from there?

Mr. CHUN: So we figured that the natural progression would be to then sort of transplant them into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. So that sort of - that's the way that our piece turns out. We have one of the characters, Phyllis, she gets a flu and we sort of had a couple of - but we thought we're pretty observational - office jokes about the way that "The Office" would react if somebody came to work with the flu.

And then from there, the flu worsens and she vomits black blood and dies. And then they are all quarantined. And then they realized that the world around them has kind of deteriorated. And now, the entire country is plunged into anarchy. And then eventually, a new sort of hippie cult government forms around brother peace, the group hope of the neon nation.

NEARY: I can see why you write for "The Simpsons," actually.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHUN: These are things that we all try - we're trying to write - we're basically have sort of nerd obsessions and we - this is more than one situation where we could sort of sneak them in without having to get them by the boss.

NEARY: Why is such an apocalyptic end for our little cast of characters in "The Office" there?

Mr. CHUN: Well, we just thought that - I mean, the alternative was to sort of try to be accurate to the show, which we thought we would be bad at, especially because…

NEARY: Oh, I see.

Mr. CHUN: …I mean, we all want to be, like, we are fan boys of "The Office" but we didn't want to be fan boys because we also have our own dignity as writers, and we didn't want to embarrass ourselves by trying to do something that, you know, people we know and respect do it a lot better I'm sure.

So instead, we thought that it'd be pretty funny if you took this sort of mundane observational humor, a workplace humor that they do so well and transplant it into basically, like, "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy or "The Stand" by Stephen King or something.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: So you're kind of a little intimidated by talking on "The Office," it sounds like…

Mr. CHUN: It's hard. Yeah. I mean, we know those guys and we respect them a lot. And it's just, you know, it's a thing that - I mean, nobody does sort of observational humor better than them. So we, you know, and we had to sort of not even try.

NEARY: All right. Well, we're going to bring in another writer now. Sarah Kucserka, she is a writer for "Ugly Betty." Along with her writing partner, she wrote an ending for "Gossip Girl." She's also at NPR West.

Good to have you with us, Sarah.

Ms. SARAH KUCSERKA (Writer, "Ugly Betty"): Thank you. It's great to be here.

NEARY: Glad you guys have all this free time that you could join us.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: No, not really. But…

Ms. KUCSERKA: Well, a lot of time on the picket lines.

NEARY: Okay. So we do have s clip also from "Gossip Girl," where "Gossip Girl" left off. And in this scene, Serena, played by Blake Lively, stops Blair, Leighton Meester, from running away to Paris.

(Soundbite of show "Gossip Girl")

Ms. BLAKE LIVELY (Actress): (As Serena) Is there a reason you're here?

Ms. LEIGHTON MEESTER (Actress): (As Blair) To stay.

Ms. LIVELY: (As Serena) Don't want some stupid scheme will make you run away like you did me. Like it does everyone in (unintelligible).

Ms. MEESTER: (As Blair) Everything's horrible. My whole life is falling apart.

Ms. LIVELY: (As Serena) So we build it. You are a wild (unintelligible), remember? People don't tell you who you are. You tell them. Stay and fight

NEARY: All right, Sarah, I have to confess I have absolutely no idea what's going on. So you're going to have to fill us in a little bit on where things are before you tell us what you made up.

Ms. KUCSERKA: No problem. That scene was basically the tail end of the last episode that's aired so far. And that was Blair and Serena; they're best friends living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. And Blair has just been exposed to her entire school for sleeping with her boyfriend's best friend. Everybody knows she's kind of the prissy good girl up until this point, and so it's, you know, the tables have turned on her and suddenly she's kind of the slut, if you will.

And in school where she's kind of (unintelligible) to vilify so far. And she is going to go run away to Paris to live with her father. It's just a little bit of a dream world that they live in. And her best friend, Serena, is trying to convince her to stay and saying, you know, fight. Fight for who you are.

NEARY: So does she stay or…

Ms. KUCSERKA: She does stay.

NEARY: Okay. All right.

Ms. KUCSERKA: Yeah.

NEARY: And then what - now, tell me about the storylines that you came up with to, sort of, end this season for "Gossip Girl."

Ms. KUCSERKA: Well, we kind of took a little bit of convention of the show, which is they have a voiceover of "Gossip Girl," quote, unquote, which is the actress Kristin Bell's voiceover. And this kind of just, you know, heavy alliteration thing that it give you the gossip throughout the entire season, and so we kind of thread to do it in the voice of gossip girl for the three episodes.

And the first one that we did is the breakup of Serena with her boyfriend, Dan. They're kind of the perfect couple up until point. And we decided, you know, they're - he's from the wrong side of the track; she's the rich girl. Their world's kind of tear them apart.

Then the next thing we did was kind of - revolved around the character of Blair, and now that she's been taken down by all of these girls at her school. She turns her back on men, and her turns her life to Jesus. As you see…

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: That sounds possible. Based on why you said so far.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KUCSERKA: And, you know, we had fun with it. We kind of thought the character herself, the actress who played, sort of looks a little bit like the - one of the characters on "Friday Night Lights" who became a born-again Christian, so we were kind of poking fun at that little world and the actresses' similarities.

NEARY: Is it really different to think about another program other than your own? I mean, is it really different to try and put your mind into this other kind of - it's another genre, really, isn't it or is it?

Ms. KUCSERKA: It is. Yeah. I think - I mean, as a TV writer I know a lot of us love television that's why we're in it. And we watch it a lot. And when we watch it, we sit there and try and guess what's going to happen in the next scene.

NEARY: Mm-hmm.

Ms. KUCSERKA: So this is just kind of a natural extension of that. You know what's going to happen in the next six episodes.

NEARY: All right. Now, I want to remind our listeners - they're being very shy about calling up and offering their own season finales for their favorite shows. So I want to remind you that we want you to give us a call if you have an idea about how you want your show to end or a good ending for your show that's sort of in a bands(ph) right now. Give us a call, the number is 800-989-8255.

We have gotten some e-mails. Obviously, some folks are writing about "Lost." Everybody wants to know how that's going to end, right? Forget the season.

For the season finale of "Lost," I would introduce 38 new characters and 922 new questions without answering any of the previous questions. And then, finish it on a cliffhanger. Oh, wait a minute, that's how they end every season of "Lost."

Mr. CHUN: Oh.

Ms. KUCSERKA: True.

NEARY: That's from Jim(ph) in Wichita, Kansas. But actually, "Lost" just started up again. So - and here's one for the "The Medium." She has a terrible dream that the show's cancelled. No matter what she does she can't prevent this from happening. Pan back, her husband is in the bed shaking her, he can't wake her up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: I don't know if any of you has ever watched "The Medium," but that's sort of fits in pretty well with what goes on in that program.

All right. So we're going to bring in a third writer now. And I hope that you're standing by, Lauren Gussis.

Ms. LAUREN GUSSIS (Story Editor, "Dexter"): I am. I'm right here.

NEARY: You're there. Great. A story editor for "Dexter." And I understand, you wrote an alternative ending for "Grey's Anatomy," is that right?

Ms. GUSSIS: I did. I did. It's coming.

NEARY: All right. We're going to hear a clip from the last episode of "Grey's Anatomy." Here it is.

(Soundbite of show "Grey's Anatomy")

Ms. ELLEN POMPEO (Actress): (As Meredith Grey) You don't want to build a life with me. You want someone. You want someone who wants the same things that you want.

Mr. PATRICK DEMPSEY (Actor): (As Derek Shepherd) Ah, I knew it. The minute I showed you these plans and you'd find some reason to walk away.

Ms. POMPEO: (As Meredith Grey) So what, you call my bluff?

Mr. DEMPSEY: (As Derek Shepherd) I did. Because I can't do this anymore. I can't do the fighting, back and forth. I can't. Are we together or are we not?

Ms. POMPEO: (As Meredith Grey) We were together. I was in love with you. You didn't tell me you were married.

Mr. DEMPSEY: (As Derek Shepherd) Look, so now, we're gonna have that fight again.

Ms. POMPEO: (As Meredith Grey) You didn't tell me about your nurse. You wanna know why I'm not ready to build a house with you. This is why. Because I cannot trust you.

Mr. DEMPSEY: (As Derek Shepherd) You can't trust anybody.

NEARY: Well, anyone who's ever watched "Grey's Anatomy" has seen that scene, a couple of times.

Ms. GUSSIS: Mm-hmm.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: And before we got to your finale. I want to remind our listeners that you are listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

So, Lauren, fill us in. What was going on there and where did it leave things with "Grey's Anatomy" and where did you take it from there?

Ms. GUSSIS: Well, that was Meredith and Derek who have had an on-again, off-again, on-again, on-again, off-again kind of thing for the past several seasons of "Grey's Anatomy." And things finally came to the head in the last aired episode where Derek actually shows her his house plans, because he plans on having both of them live in it. Because he's putting his cards on the table and he's ready to make a commitment. And he's also testing her and she fails the test because she panics and tells him that she can't move into the house with him.

NEARY: And so where did you take it from there?

Ms. GUSSIS: Well, you know, I - in the first episode I have Meredith deciding that she wants him back the minute that he breaks up with her - of course. Right?

NEARY: Of course.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GUSSIS: But it's too late. He mentions the nurse in that last clip, it's because he has kissed his new love interest. So I have him asking her to marry him, because he's such a commitment addict. Even if they've never actually had a real date. And then, Miranda - her husband serves her with - tries to serve her with divorce papers, but she's too busy to receive them because there's been a whole long-running gag in the season that she's too busy for him.

NEARY: Mm-hmm.

Ms. GUSSIS: And then in the next one, I have Alex and Lexie, which is Meredith's stepsister, half-sister, have a hot (unintelligible) with Rebecca, who's the Jane Doe who has come back yet again. And then, in the break room on this episode in time on the bottom bunk, George and Cristina sleep with each other because Cristina was jealous and ever competitive and wanted to make sure that she slept with George, too, because everyone else had. And then when Izzie found out, she stalked and unsuccessfully tried to kill Cristina.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: Isn't that better than the real ending, I think. I got to tell you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GUSSIS: Yeah. In the next one, Izzie is actually committed to the psych ward of Seattle Grace. And Cristina's pregnant with George's baby, and decided not to tell George. And then Derek goes on an epic search for Burke who has tried to be a professional mountain man/fly fisherman out into the wild. And Derek has to rescue him because he would soon to be his best man. And…

NEARY: All right. Is there more?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GUSSIS: Yeah, there's more.

NEARY: Okay. Go on.

Ms. GUSSIS: And then in the end, Richard realizes that Meredith is as desperate as he is and he makes a pass at her. And then finally, Meredith finds out the big reveal that Richard is actually her father, which actually isn't, after making out with him.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: All right. Okay. I want to see that. I want to see those episodes. We have somebody on line who also, I think, has an idea for "Grey's Anatomy."

Ms. GUSSIS: Okay.

NEARY: Nancy(ph) from Louisville, Kentucky.

NANCY (Caller): Hello.

NEARY: Hi. Is this Nancy?

NANCY: Yes.

NEARY: Go ahead.

NANCY: Well, my thought was that since Fred Thompson ran for president, I think like the character should run for president. And, you know, you can have people from like "Grey's Anatomy" and "Ugly Betty" and some of the other people just run for president. It would sort of solve the writers' thing right now. And then, you know, I think it'll really kind of interesting to see how the characters would be.

NEARY: All right. So they're all going to become politicians.

NANCY: Yeah, but in real life. Sort of like a reality show, too. (Unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: I don't know if these writers are going to approve of more reality shows.

Mr. CHUN: My mind is just (unintelligible).

NANCY: They're really in character, so they'd have to be - there has to be writers.

NEARY: Okay.

NANCY: All right. Thanks.

NEARY: All right. Thanks for calling, Nancy.

NANCY: Bye.

NEARY: All right. We're going to try Brad(ph) from - he's calling from California, and I think he's calling us about "Lost." Hello, Brad.

BRAD (Caller): Hi.

NEARY: Hi. Go ahead.

BRAD: Yeah, I was calling about the way I wanted "Lost" to end.

NEARY: Yeah. How would like it to end?

BRAD: Actually, I just recently saw the movie "Cloverfield" and I think it'd be very cool if they connected that to it somehow.

NEARY: All right. What do you guys think about that end? I haven't seen "Cloverfield," so I don't know.

Mr. CHUN: I shouldn't be saying this, but actually that is the ending I know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHUN: I guess my (unintelligible), so you have to keep your mouth shut about that. That's what happens. It really is.

Ms. KUCSERKA: Prepare for monsters.

NEARY: All right. The truth is stranger than fiction. Okay. Thanks for your call, Brad.

And here are a couple of e-mails. Let's see what you guys think about this. I think the "The Love Boat" should pick up the people on "Lost" along with the "Gilligan's Island" crew and take them to some remote island and make a reality show making one of them a famous pop star like "American Idol."

Ms. KUCSERKA: Oh, only if Charo gets to be a judge.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: All right. We don't have much time left. I'm wondering if any one of you has thought about any of the programs your colleagues worked for and how they should end. Anybody got some thoughts about that?

Ms. GUSSIS: You know, Sarah, I actually was going to have Callie and Erika get together and then I found out that you guys were doing the lesbian kiss, so I just couldn't go there. So…

Ms. KUCSERKA: Oh, man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KUCSERKA: Yeah, I know. I mean, I love all of these shows. Hmm. What would I - I don't - I mean…

Mr. CHUN: I'm a huge "Wire" fan. I don't know if you guys watch "The Wire." Oh, you have to watch it.

Ms. KUCSERKA: I guess I don't.

Mr. CHUN: But - I mean, in my opinion, for people who watch "The Wire" there's an amazing scene where one of, like, the toughest guys on the show, Omar, you see him, like, with his gay boyfriend in, like, this sort of Caribbean hideaway. So I just kind of wish that the last, like, eight episodes would just be watching this, like, this gunman just kind of hang out on - in the tropics with his boyfriend…

NEARY: And have a good time.

Mr. CHUN: …like drinking margaritas and stuff.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: Okay.

Mr. CHUN: I'd be happy to do that.

Ms. GUSSIS: So there it goes.

NEARY: Well, thanks to all of you for joining us today.

Ms. GUSSIS: Thank you.

Ms. KUCSERKA: Thanks.

NEARY: Danny Chun is a writer for "The Simpsons." Sarah Kucserka writes for "Ugly Betty." And Lauren Gussis is a story editor for "Dexter." All three joined us from NPR West. Their alternative endings and several can be read in the latest issue of New York magazine.

This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary.

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