Josh Friedman talks "Terminator" Season Finale

Thu, April 9th, 2009 at 10:40am PDT

TV/Film
Jami Philbrick, Staff Writer

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"Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" season finale this Friday on FOX

After experiencing both high ratings and critical success with its first few episodes, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” is about to live through its own Judgment Day. The first season was shortened as a consequence of the Writers Guild of America strike in 2007, and since then, “Sarah Connor” has not regained its initial ratings strength. The show was even canceled after thirteen episodes, only to be brought back to finish its second season on Friday nights, commonly known as the night where networks put their shows out to pasture.

While still falling short of the early numbers, “Sarah Connor Chronicles” has seen signs of improvements in ratings in the last few weeks. However, it is yet unclear if FOX plans to bring the show back for a third season, making it very possible that when the second season finale airs this Friday, it could indeed be the whole series’ finale as well.

Last month at WonderCon in San Francisco, CBR News had the opportunity to sit down and speak candidly with the man behind “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” show creator, writer and executive producer Josh Friedman. We asked Friedman about the possible end of the series, the frustrations of not knowing, cliffhangers in the finale, and the writers’ favorite and least favorite episodes.

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CBR: To start with, without giving anything away can you tell us what fans can expect from the finale?

Freidman: I feel like we’re at a point in the show where people need to be reassured that a lot of the things that they care about are going to be dealt with. So there’s a lot of stuff in the finale that I think will comfort slash excite people and a few things that I think will shock/excite people, hopefully.

Was crafting the season finale difficult without knowing if you will be renewed for next season?

It requires a very, very skillful hand. I wrote it. I think we did it, I think we have one. It’s a finale. It feels like a finale.

"Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" creator Josh Friedman at WonderCon 2009

Is it a season finale or a series finale?

Ish….

Is there a cliffhanger or does it tie all the loose ends of the series up?

Yes there is a cliffhanger. Either way, I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t write something. I’m an optimistic guy and all I can do is try to write for success. If our show doesn’t come back, people are going to be upset regardless of what that episode looks like. All I can say is that the episode answers a lot of the questions that people have been asking for the last 30 episodes. It asks some new ones but I think a lot of the stuff people have been wondering about we will solve.

Is there an urge to write a cliffhanger so tantalizing that fans beg the network to bring it back?

No, I think all you try to do is make the best episode you can and hope that people are excited about it. My feeling is that I try to do that every week. Every week, I try to get the fans excited, despite what some people think and to despite some of the episodes. I think that the goal is to try to make the best episode of television every week with the parameters that you set up for yourself. I think the last six episodes of this season are fantastic. I think that they are among the best episodes we’ve done in the two years.

We did a weird thing in the office the last day when all of the writers were there. We had all our episodes up on the white-board, one-liners for all twenty-two episodes. We said we would pass around an eraser and erase our worst episodes until we arrive at the last one and that would be our best. So first I erased “Dessert Cantos” and then we went from there. We went around and around and eventually had three or four Writers Room favorite episodes. We stopped and looked and we realized that they were almost all our final season two episodes. The final two episodes were the writers’ favorite episodes of the year. I think the last three episodes of the season were in the final three or four.

You say that the last three episodes of the season are the best you’ve done, do you think that had you known ahead of time, it would of helped the ratings to have led with these episodes right away when you made the move to Fridays?

"Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" star Shirley Manson at WonderCon 2009

I don’t know? I don’t have an easy answer. We had written episode fourteen, “The Good Wound,” right near the end of the first thirteen but we thought we had been canceled. We thought we weren’t going to get a back-nine. We were told that there was a very good chance that we were not going to get a back-nine. But the writers had already been contracted to write episode fourteen so they wrote it. They were paid to write it and we thought we’d never get to shoot it. It was a really beautiful script and everyone was disappointed that we weren’t going to get to shoot it. It was so good and it had the Kyle thing and we thought that was it. We shut the Writers Room down. We were done. We had that script sitting in limbo and nothing else and then they said on a Friday night at ten o’clock, “Oh, you’re coming back. All the writers should be in the room Monday morning at ten and you owe us a script.” They weren’t going to shut down production because it cost money. We took like three days off from production so we had to get the next script ready in a week.

So at the time, for me, I was just trying to resolve an arc. Again, I know some people were disappointed with episode fifteen, “Desert Cantos,” and frankly it’s not my favorite episode that we’ve done. But I dramatically believe in consequences and I feel like what I don’t like about shows is when horrible things happen and people just kind of go on. I felt like we had to deal we this. Frankly, I was really in love with the idea of a whole town that had a communal tragedy. I don’t think that we executed it as well as we could have. In retrospect, it was unfortunate maybe that the highlight of the move came on episodes that were sort of dark, contemplative and slower than ones that came after it. Yeah, I wish they had been in a different place.

But you know, we’ve had the same ratings for two years. I mean we really have been bumped along in a flat way for two years. In the move from Monday to Friday, the amount that we’ve gone down is the amount that, statistically, you go down when you make that kind of a move. It’s not like we dropped down in some dramatic way beyond what one does when one moves. So I don’t even know what to take away from it. I feel like the same people watch our show now as before, minus the ones that are TiVoing it. I haven’t seen the DVR numbers yet.

"Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" star Summer Glau at WonderCon 2009

We’ve done very exciting action-oriented episodes, we’ve done episodes that were all about Cameron, it doesn’t change the amount of people that come and see the show. The people that come and see the show are the people that come and see the show. If someone could tell me how to make more people watch the show, I would do it. But we’ve done every type of episode of Terminator possible and it just bumps along at the same speed and the same numbers.

Finally, can you talk about how the movie franchise is different from the TV show and do you think that the publicity and awareness of the new film, “Terminator: Salvation,” will help you draw more people to the finale and drum up a desire for a third season of “The Sarah Connor Chronicles?”

I hope so. I don’t know. They’re two completely different animals. They spend more on a day of re-shoots than we do on a whole episode of our show. They did some re-shoots on our lot and we had our set where we had built a nuclear submarine. I was pretty proud of it until one of our writers called me out and showed me a huge Terminator-type stealth bomber that they had for the film. It was just some pick-up shots that they were doing for the movie. There was a big helicopter crash in the parking lot and that was just like one day of [“Salvation” director] McG doing what he does. It’s like when you were a kid and you go over to your friend’s house and they have better snacks. Unless you’re going to take a box of Oreos home with you, you’re just screwed. You’re just left wishing that your parents were that cool.

The season finale of “Terminator: The Sara Connor Chronicles” airs this Friday on FOX.

TAGS:  terminator, terminator: the sarah connor chronicles, josh friedman, wc2009

 
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