Some twenty-eight years ago, I missed the final episode of Benson. I had been devoted to the series up to that point, and was excited to see who would win the governor’s race between Lieutentant Governor Benson DuBois, Governor Eugene Gatling, and Senator Tyler. For reasons I cannot recall, I was unable to catch the episode, and thus never knew who won the race. This was well prior to the advent of easily retrievable episode guides, and not a lot of folks in the age 12 demographic watched Benson regularly. Re-runs were a crapshoot.
My state of existential ambiguity lasted for fully fourteen years, until an incoming graduate student (and erstwhile Memphis resident) at the University of Washington informed me that the finale had ended on a freeze frame of DuBois and Gatling watching election returns. It was not my policy, of course, to ask everyone I met “How did Benson end?” but somehow the topic came up in conversation. For some reason, I found this deeply satisfying; my frustration with my own failure was no longer special. Indeed, I had lived the past fourteen years believing that there was an end, which put me in a more emotionally tenable state than those who knew that there wasn’t an end.
And then this morning I read this:
It wasn’t supposed to be this way; ABC cancelled the show without allowing the writers to prepare a proper series finale. The show’s writers had planned for the cliffhanger to lead into a new season, though they didn’t know what that season would depict. Indeed, the show filmed three potential resolutions for an eighth season, said Gary Brown, who directed the finale, along with 20 other episodes of “Benson”; the writers would choose one over the summer and have their first scene already in the can.
“There was a three-way race in whatever state it was. The governor was running, Benson as lieutenant governor was running and another character, Senator Tyler [played by showrunner Bob Fraser], kind of a heavy, was running. It was a three way race. Benson and the governor were neck and neck. There were the two of them in the kitchen, that’s the end of the show — it’s a cliff hanger, a freeze-frame. We shot three endings. In one, the governor won. In one, Benson won. And in one, and they were really playing with using this one, it was a tie.”
I’m still digesting.