Posts Tagged ‘TV’s All Time Best Finale’

Larry Carroll made an interesting ranking of what seems to be TV’s All Time Best Finale…

here is how they go:


Cheers“. After 11 breezy, brilliantly written seasons and 111 (!) Emmy nominations, everybody’s favorite neighborhood bar finally rang the bell for last call. Prodigal daughter Shelley Long returned one last time to play prissy Diane Chambers, who just might be the love of Sam Malone’s (Ted Danson) life after all. Still one of the highest-rated series finales of all time, “One for the Road” had Kirstie Alley’s Rebecca agreeing to pose as Sam’s wife, Woody (Woody Harrelson) ascending to the Boston City Council, Norm (George Wendt) getting a new job and Cliff (John Ratzenberger) earning a promotion; Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) … well … you already know what happened to him. Balancing the comedy and heartfelt emotion of the series one final time, Sam said goodbye to the regulars and then spied a shadowed man at the front door while trying to lock up. “Sorry, we’re closed,” Sam shouted out, then straightened a picture on the wall and headed into the back room forever. To paraphrase Hank Williams, it was enough to drop a tear in your beer.

Six Feet Under/HBO

Six Feet Under. If this one didn’t make you cry, then you were as dead as the multitude of characters offed at the end of the show. Keeping in line with the dark themes of the HBO series about a family of undertakers, “Everyone’s Waiting” concluded with a glimpse at the future deaths of all the main characters, set to a powerful musical sequence as Claire (Lauren Ambrose) drove away from them all. Much like life, it was meant to be as beautiful as it was tragic: The final episode also broke with the series tradition of starting each episode with a death, instead using a birth to invoke circle-of-life-like thoughts about the unavoidable beauty of it all.


M*A*S*H“. An astounding 77 percent of all TV viewers on Feb. 28, 1983, had the set tuned to “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” the final episode of one of TV’s most beloved shows. The two-and-a-half hour finale did more tying up than a cowboy at a calf-roping competition, beginning with Hawkeye’s (Alan Alda) trip to the mental hospital and going up through the bombing of the camp and Klinger’s decision to stay in Korea. The final moment, with B.J. (Mike Farrell) and Hawkeye’s final words and the “Goodbye” spelled out in stones, is still regarded as one of the most powerful moments in television drama. It was the greatest final impression one could make — until that flavor of friendship was quickly replaced by the bitter aftertaste of “After M*A*S*H.”

The Fugitive/ABC

The Fugitive. The series finale that invented the modern-day series finale, this 1967 wrap-up to the classic series set a ratings record that lasted decades, despite the objections of a studio head who thought a conclusion might kill syndication opportunities. After four years of running, Dr. Richard Kimble (David Janssen) finally caught up to the one-armed man, allowing audiences the rare opportunity to despise a handicapped person. Several generations later, Harrison Ford would renew America’s hatred of the crippled, while everything from “NYPD Blue” to “Sex and the City” would similarly continue their love affair with the concept of the “big goodbye” series finale

Arrested Development/FOX

Arrested Development“. The writers had three long seasons of imminent cancellation to ponder endings to the dozens of story lines that this critically acclaimed ratings dud juggled every week, and they didn’t disappoint. For sheer manic lunacy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more hilarious, head-spinning 120 minutes of entertainment than the goodbye of the Bluth family. Appropriately enough, the series finale was actually four episodes that Fox wanted to purge itself of, scheduled opposite the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, no less. Still, the tiny audience that tuned in saw George Sr. cleared of criminal charges, Gob and teenager Ann’s secret relationship, several different relatives trying to hook up with each other, the origin of the Frozen Banana stand and Buster’s final battle with the killer loose seal. After a family appearance on “Mock Trial with Judge Reinhold” featuring the house band “William Hung and His Hung Jury,” Michael (Jason Bateman) delivered a touching, tear-filled speech upon the realization that he was going to be stuck with his crazy family for a long, long time. If only we were all so lucky.


Moonlighting. Some great series finales come from a proper goodbye, and others arise out of last-minute necessity — as was the case with this late ’80s classic. Approximately two years after the writers stopped caring, audiences stopped watching and Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd stopped talking to each other, ABC abruptly cancelled the irreverent detective show. For one final time, the magic and creativity of the series returned: After a typical series setup offering a mystery to be solved, Maddie and David returned to the Blue Moon office to discover that all the furniture and props were being taken away. After a network executive informed them that the show had been cancelled, the disbelieving characters scampered frantically around the studio lot, confronting their no-longer-in-character co-stars and additional execs, who chastised them for losing the sexual chemistry that once made the show a success.


Roseanne. Any discussion of the gutsiest TV stars of all time has to include Roseanne Barr, a controversial and largely forgotten superstar who regularly gambled her enormous ratings on episodes about birth control, gay and lesbian relationships and other groundbreaking sitcom topics. Sure enough, Roseanne went out with a bang in 1997 for the two-parter “Into That Good Night,” which ended with a 15-minute monologue that had the star revealing that the last several seasons were actually a fictional story written by her character on the show. Explained away as the denial mechanism of the “real” Roseanne Conner, Barr told the audience that Dan had indeed died from his obesity-induced heart attack and that several other characters had also lived out very different “real” endings. Not exactly a hilarious conclusion to one of history’s greatest sitcoms, but you’ve gotta give a gal points for thinking outside the box.

Twin Peaks/Republic Pictures

Twin Peaks. It might be the only time David Lynch’s bizarre universe is compared with “Moonlighting,” but once again a show past its prime returned to brilliance under the duress of cancellation. Angry and jaded by Hollywood’s rejection of the drama it once embraced, Lynch returned to direct an insanely bleak second-half to the two episodes that were hurriedly combined for a finale “movie.” Fearlessly killing off a main character in practically every scene, Lynch seemed like a child determined to take his ball and go home if they wouldn’t play by his rules. Finally, the series creator took the character closest to audiences’ hearts (Kyle MacLachlan as Special Agent Cooper), cryptically split him into an evil doppelganger and then trapped him in hell (aka The Black Lodge) indefinitely. The last image Lynch gave his audience was a bloodied, babbling Cooper looking into a mirror, laughing maniacally while realizing his cruel final sentence. The episode was viewed by a tiny audience, yet remains one of the most fiercely noncommercial (and hard to find) TV episodes in the history of the medium


Newhart. America made a national game out of guessing the conclusion to comedy mastermind Bob Newhart’s top-rated sitcom — and still, nobody guessed it. After eight years of life with the wacky residents of the Stratford Inn, Dick and Joanna watched helplessly while Japanese investors turned the town’s residents into millionaires. After the rural area was transformed into a golf resort and Larry’s cousins Darryl and Darryl screamed the only line they’d ever deliver, aimed at their new wives (“Quiet!”), a furious Dick opened the door to the inn and was struck in the head with a golf ball. When things went dark, the audience feared the worst — but that fear was quickly replaced by a comedic masterstroke. When a light turned on in a vaguely familiar bedroom, Newhart awakened to tell his wife that he had just had the weirdest dream. The wife was revealed to be Suzanne Pleshette from “The Bob Newhart Show,” lying next to him in the tacky ’70s bedroom from that hit show. It was all just a dream, she insisted, telling the characteristically flustered Newhart to go back to sleep.

The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson/Retna

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. OK, it’s cheating a little bit, but it’s impossible to discuss TV’s greatest send-offs without including the final days of history’s greatest talk show. Technically, “The Tonight Show” is still on the air, but millions of Jay Leno refugees will tell you that the magic left with Johnny Carson after he spent his final days on-air getting serenaded, smooched and sainted by everyone from Bette Midler to Robin Williams. After the enormous hype surrounding his retirement, Carson revealed that he had considered putting on a re-run as one last joke for his final night but that NBC had squashed the idea. So instead, he sat in front of what he called his “shabby” little set one final time and had a very personal, very quiet evening with the world. “The greatest accolade I think I received: G.E. named me ‘Employee of the Month,'” Carson revealed with a trademark twinkle in his eye. “God knows, that was a dream come true.” Carson fully retreated from the public eye after that evening, making our memories all the more powerful. Johnny was one of a kind, but his finale should serve as the template for future goodbyes to our most beloved entertainers.

Read Full Post »