This is the month of TV finales and I read this post over at Lee Goldberg's blog about the best and the worst ones over the years.
Personally, I think it's good to wrap up the series with one big episode, it ends a long-running series on a memorable note and it should be the kind of episode that satisfies all the fans in the audience. It's what TV is all about.
I won't dull the readership with a list of the bad finales, many of which were "memorably" bad as opposed to being just plain awful. I will only say the "two" Magnum P.I. "finales" were definitely a fiasco, and the Seinfeld finale, too, was just plain unfunny. I also never was a FRIENDS fan to begin with.
My list of the great finales would include these five:
(1) The Fugitive. That two-part final episode event absolutely ranks as one of the all-time greats. I remember there was a period in the 1980s when they reran The Fugitive series, so a whole new generation got to see this series for the first time. A&E did a great thing around that time: they reran the final episode and made a big event out of it, so we got to see Richard Kimball face off against the one-armed man and have his name cleared, in living color. I'd say this series finale set the standard for all these series finales to come. It sort of mandated that every long-running show of any standing had to have some kind of momentous sign-off. When it originally aired, the audience for this show was massive. It was the highest-rated single episode of all time at that point, and to this day it's still one of the highest-rated shows in TV history. Ironically, interest in the show went right downhill after that, as the show bombed in syndication and wasn't shown widely again until the 1980s.
(2) M*A*S*H. Even the title for this episode was memorable: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen. Watching the Korean War come to an end was the TV event of the 1980s. I'll always remember the final shot of Hawkeye in the helicopter looking down at the word "Goodbye" spelled out on the ground.
Also classic: Corporal Klinger, who wanted out of the Army, deciding to stay in Korea.
(3) Mary Tyler Moore Show. Classic. The whole newsroom is fired except Ted Baxter.
(4) Cheers finale. The whole cast of characters was there for the end, even Diane. I remember at the time NBC called the Cheers finale night The Greatest Night on Television. And then the cast of Cheers went on the Jay Leno show and I remember that one of the critics said it turned into The Drunkenest Night on Television.
(5) Newhart. The whole series is a dream of Bob Hartley's. Who can top that ending. Brilliant.
There's a few others that stand out, like the loopy Night Court farewell which ended with the shot of Bull being beamed into outer space, or Tom Bosley toasting the audience on the final Happy Days, or Alex P. Keaton going off to Wall Street on Family Ties. The final Fresh Prince of Bel Air was memorable because the Banks sold their Bel Air mansion on the final episode to, of all people, the Jeffersons. This was kind of a fitting tribute because The Jeffersons never got to have a final goodbye show of their own. They were cancelled, without even a final show! At least we got to see George and Louise appear on a final episode of another great show, so at least that was some sort of tribute that was paid to them.
Another great series that didn't have a decent final show was All in the Family. There was the episode where Gloria and "Meathead" moved out, but then the show kept on going and going, and eventually petered out as "Archie Bunker's Place". That happens to a lot of shows, unfortunately, they either peter out well past their expiry date or are cancelled unexpectedly. Do you remember the last episode of Head Cases, or Love Monkey? How about the last episode of Coupling on NBC!? No, of course you don't remember and there's good reason for it. They were cancelled, they were flops!
The two series finales that seem to be the big deals this year are the endings to Will and Grace and That 70s Show. But I think it might be ultimately be topped by the finale to end all finales: the five-hour tribute show the WB is planning to show on its final night when the whole network signs off the air. It's not very often that a whole network signs off the air, or even has a tribute show devoted to itself. That should be something, but that won't happen until close to the fall.
I wonder if they'll show the classic cartoon One Froggy Evening on the last night. They ought to.