It's called the Epilogue.
And anyone who's ever watched a cop show on TV knows exactly what it's all about.
The Epilogue is the last minute or so of a cop show when all danger having finally passed, the lead actors sit around and drink coffee, reveal any heretofore unexplicated clues to the mystery in the prior hour's proceedings, and share a hearty laugh as to how the bad guys almost ripped 'em a new one in the action-packed good vs. evil concluding confrontation just before the last commercial.
The Epilogue provides a crucial moment for the audience to relax and kick back, serene at last in the knowledge our heroes are none the worse for wear and will be back battling the forces of darkness again next week .... same time, same station, same lack of anything else constructive for us to be doing.
As all Boomers know, the cop show format featuring an Epilogue was made famous in the 1960's and 1970's by a man name Quinn Martin. Every Quinn Martin Production like The Streets of San Francisco, Cannon, and Barnaby Jones was divided into a discernible Act I, Act II, Act III, Act IV, and Epilogue and always had a hokey title like "Death on Toast," "Fate Plays the Bongos," or "Paper Cut of Doom."
And, of course, the most famous of all Quinn Martin Productions featured a brooding actor named David Janssen who went through four years and 120 episodes seeking an elusive one-armed man without ever once cracking a smile in a program called:
A Quinn Martin Production
A Quinn Martin Production
Forty-four years after The Fugitive went off the air, I walked into my den and sat down with my son Brandon, who was at that moment watching a cop show.
"Dad, what are you doing?" said Brandon.
"I'm watching Psych, along with you," I answered.
"Dad, this is the Epilogue. Shawn and Gus are wrapping up tonight's case along with O'Hara, Lassiter, and Corbin Bernsen without the cheesy toupee he wears earlier in the show."
"Yes, I can see that, Brandon. And for the record, I think that's a pretty damn good toupee they give Bernsen in the show! I'd kill to actually have real hair like that!"
"Yes, but Dad, listen: Where were you when the show started 55 minutes ago and the two models were murdered by the deranged marionettes?"
"I was making myself a tuna fish sandwich ...."
"And where were you when Shawn and Gus went undercover at the Disgruntled Ventriloquists Annual Convention run by guest star Ted McGinley?"
"Well ... umm .... I was eating the sandwich ...."
"And where were you when Shawn and Gus were battling the master puppeteer who commits murder while throwing his voice and drinking water so his puppets are blamed, not him? My God, Dad, Gus was almost choked to death by a sock puppet!"
"I'm .... I'm so sorry, Brandon! But .... but ... so what?"
"Dad, you haven't earned the Epilogue!"
"You didn't go through any of the tension, drama, or conflict of the episode. You can't just swoop in and watch The Feel Good Part of the Program when you made no commitment whatsoever to rest of the show!"
"Oh. Uhhhh, what should I do?"
"Well, Shawn, Gus, and the others haven't all had their final good-natured laugh yet. Just leave the room now, and I'll call you when it's okay for you to come back in."
"When do you think that'll be?"
"When we get to the end credits, of course! And next week, Dad, watch the show! Then you'll deserve the Epilogue."
And so, all these years after Richard Kimble finally found his one-armed man and learned to smile once more, I've learned something new about the Epilogue.
You've got to earn it.
I guess in television, as in life, nothing ever comes easy.