To be continued next fall

In the few minutes I’ve had between grading, studying and getting those all-important papers and theses written, I’ve allowed myself the opportunity to watch a couple of “season finales” on TV. I usually avoid the tube as if it had cooties, but I have too much morbid curiosity to stay away completely when some character or another, about which I know absolutely nothing from lack of viewing, is going to be shot, married or enter rehab.

I figure some of my friends see me now about as often, and under the same circumstances in their lives, so the least I can do is offer the same occasional solace to fictional people.

This television season appears to have a number of major gun battles in their last shows before the endless reruns. Of course, the cliffhanger of last season’s “West Wing,” in which any number of characters could have been killed in the spray of bullets that marked the closer of that show’s first year, was abated somewhat by the certain knowledge that all the actors had been signed on for the next season. They didn’t lose one, and the entire episode passed into oblivion by the middle of the following season.

By the time you read this, the new cliffhanger will be whether the nation will accept a specially-abled president who attempted to conceal his condition. This may not cause much tension, as we cynics will no doubt reason we’ve survived just about everything that can happen to the humans who have been our president.

This year it was the turn of “The Practice” to end in a hail of gun fire, and a secondary character died in a parking garage. There was a difference in this show, however, which appears to be perpetually under-lit; it ended not with a bang but with a hymn at the character’s funeral. Somehow there isn’t much tension about what the new season will bring, unless, of course, it also opens with yet another funeral.

Of course we have the requisite number of weddings and pregnancies. Some of the weddings will end in disaster and others will merely end in bad taste. So far I think the “wedding” ploy has about a 50 percent success rate, in which the bride and groom actually remember their future life partner’s correct name or even just show up. But surely we will not have to endure more of those 13-month pregnancies which start midway though one season and, we assume, progress through the rerun season and a few shows into the new year.

It’s tough enough to live through the standard nine months if you’re pregnant, but some of us have so much empathy for television characters we get swollen ankles and sudden mood swings through the summer as we wait for that pillow under the actress’s t-shirt to miraculously become an adorable little bundle of joy with a weird name.

It looks like the characters to enter rehab may be few and far between this year. I haven’t counted one fake doctor, lawyer or whatever who had to sign on at Betty Ford, and I suppose this particular plot line was overdone last year. It’s a bit disappointing, however, because somehow I find it reassuring when a person making $250,000 a show has to simulate projectile vomiting.

So what’s left? Major illnesses? Sudden marital and extra-marital breakups? It looks like a couple of characters will spend their summers apart, and in some cases it seems to be a good thing. Some of the couples are so ill-matched you wonder whether they are the same species, let alone in the same spiritual space.

In the meantime, we have no excuse for watching broadcast TV anymore, now that the cliffhangers have been hanged. Now you must excuse me. I have a sudden craving for sardine ice cream.