Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Five best series finales of all time

5. Cheers – This is one of the few shows that managed to successfully replace a handful of characters and not doom itself creatively. Remember, this was before the CSIs and Law and Orders did it on a yearly basis. So, when Diane left and Rebecca came in (and to a lesser degree with Coach and Woody) there was actual doubt if the show would survive. Not only did the show survive, but it thrived (I bet Shelley Long wishes she’d hung around for the show’s entirety -- and those residual checks -- now). Long did return for the series finale – and a hilarious run-in with her ex-fiance Sam. It was the final words spoken by Sam, though, that really brought tears to the eyes of viewers everywhere. “Sorry, we’re closed.”

4. Angel – This show had a small, but devoted following. I was one of them. I followed the program from its inception and I – just like everyone else – was crushed to find out it was ending. Unlike its parent show (‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’) Angel left viewers wanting more. Between the crushing death of Wesley, the deserved death of Lindsay, the probable death of Gunn and the never say die attitude of the remaining “champions,” the finale of ‘Angel’ delivered on all levels. I’ve heard some fans grumble that the show went out on a cliffhanger – instead of sewing things up in a nice little bow like Buffy did. That was always the central theme of ‘Angel,’ though. It wasn’t about winning, it was about continuing the fight.

3. Newhart – This is the rare case of a dream or trick ending actually working – because most of them fall flat. In this case, the main character woke up after an eight season run next to Suzanne Pleshette – the actress who played Bob Newhart’s wife in his previous show ‘The Bob Newhart Show.’ Why do I think this worked and others didn’t? For starters, Newhart has a deadpan delivery that makes it almost impossible not to laugh. Second, ‘Newhart’ was strong but not beloved. Plus, you have to remember, this was the 1980s and people didn’t take their television quite as seriously as we do today.

2. M*A*S*H – The finale was the most watched show in history for decades (only being usurped by the Super Bowl), and it was a well-earned distinction. Hawkeye Pierce was a beloved character who often struggled with morality in a war-torn region. Watching him fall apart because he believed he made a woman smother her baby was hard to watch, though. It’s the waning moments of the show, when a departing Hawkeye looks down from the helicopter and sees that B.J. has written goodbye to him on the hillside in rocks that is the most emotionally poignant moment, though. The only show finale that’s ever made me cry harder is located right below.

1. Six Feet Under – It’s fitting that a show about death would end with, well, death. HBO’s gem ended with the death of all of their characters, though. It was already a gutsy move for the show to kill off their main character several episodes before the end. To have the lives of the remaining cast play out during the almost seven minute finale – as a distraught Claire drives away from her home was even gutsier. Not only do we find out that Claire outlives practically everyone she loves and dies alone, but that our beloved Keith doesn’t make it to old age with David. Instead he’s gunned down in an armed robbery. The final episode of ‘Six Feet Under’ proves you don’t have to have a happy ending to have a satisfying ending.

Honorable mentions go to 'Star Trek: The Next Generation,' ‘Murphy Brown,’ ‘Charmed,’ ‘Gilmore Girls,’ ‘Alias,’ ‘Twin Peaks,’ ‘Mary Tyler Moore,’ ‘Six Feet Under’ and ‘Oz.’

What do you think? What are the best series finales of all time?


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