Where have all the epic season finales gone? (TV commentary)

For as long as I can remember, TV has served up an epic season finale or two every May. In recent years, up until 2010, there were the season-enders of “24” and “Lost.” Before that, we had “Buffy” and “The X-Files,” just to scratch the surface.

But this year? The closest to an epic, water-cooler worthy season countdown is “Fringe” (8 p.m. Central Fridays on Fox), but there are two problems with that: First, “Fringe” isn’t widely popular; it barely got renewed for a fourth season. Second, “Fringe” is totally the type of show that plays better when watched in a DVD marathon sitting.

Sure, I marveled at the artistry of last week’s hour, where Peter and Walter entered Olivia’s William Bell-infected brain “Inception”-style, in one segment appearing as cartoons. “Fringe” is a good show, but it’s so creatively out there that I get caught up in the imaginative brilliance more than the characters.

Some quieter, character-centered shows have already wrapped their 2010-11 campaigns. “Parenthood,” I was happy to see, went into the summer on a mostly upbeat note. Even Adam is laughing with nervous joy when he gets fired and then finds out he’s going to be a father again. And could it be that Crosby might actually get Jasmine back? There’ll be plenty of reasons to tune in for Season 3.

“Being Erica” set the bar high for the title of Best Season Finale, as it daringly wrenches us out of Erica’s newfound happiness with Adam and posits that the events of the last three years were all a dream. They had me going for a while, and I was happy to find out that it wasn’t a dream, but rather a test served by the Doctors to see if Erica herself was cut out to be a Doctor. Next season, she will be, and I’m looking forward to it: The way “Being Erica” remains a lovely character study while progressively altering its sci-fi rules is quite remarkable.

Another reason for the decline in epic season finales, of course, is that many shows no longer follow the September-to-May format. And that’s a good thing, because even after the May finale hype passes, we’ll still have fresh episodes of “Friday Night Lights” (7 p.m. Central Fridays on NBC, for those who haven’t watched it on DirecTV or bought the DVD) and “The Killing” (9 p.m. Central Sundays on AMC), to name a couple.

I suppose “The Office” would qualify as this year’s must-see season finale (8 p.m. Central Thursday, April 28 on NBC) that we can all agree on. The recent arc featuring Will Ferrell as the wonderfully named Deangelo Vickers, who is taking over Michael’s job, has been quite good. I especially liked how Kelly pre-plans her “meet-cute” with the new boss and Andy has to resort to pratfalls to make him laugh. It is a clever illustration of how your comfortable role in one setting can be thrown into chaos when that setting is tweaked. The Dunder-Mifflin boss for next season hasn’t been announced yet; I’d be happy with more Ferrell or the return of Ricky Gervais’ David Brent from the British version, although neither of those is likely.

Some might vote for “Glee” (7 p.m. Central Tuesdays on Fox), but the only thing I remember from this season is Gwyneth Paltrow’s cover of “Forget You.” I do appreciate that they are setting the stage, finally, for a Will-Emma romance; that could be quite cute. But 95 percent of Season 2 — the music numbers and especially the storylines — has fallen flat. I’ve kept watching — barely — but I’m beginning to suspect that “Glee” is actually a bad show.

Is there an epic, water-cooler-worthy season finale that I’m overlooking? What season finales are you most looking forward to?