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Famous Television Finales

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So, I've got series finales on the brain, and since we were already talking about where Sunday's Six Feet Under ending ranks in that long list, I thought I'd take a look at some of the more famous last episodes from shows gone by.

(side note...two great lines from Sunday. David telling Claire "you couldn't be pay me enough to live in New York", and Olivier telling Claire she could be one of those "soulless advertising photographers". Awesome!)

Roseanne: Into That Good Night
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The first one on the list is famous for being universally hated. Roseanne reveals that her husband Dan had died from the heart attack at the end of the show's eighth season, and the ninth season was mostly her imagination. In fact, none of the people from the series were actually real, but rather characters in Roseanne's book meant to help her deal with the events of her life. Apparently, this really pissed people off.

Mad About You: The Final Frontier
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This one is actually the closest to the SFU ending. The last episode has Janeane Garofalo playing Mabel Buchman, Paul and Jamie's baby daughter, as a grown woman. She's a documentary film maker, just like pop, and her first real film is a biography, looking back at her family's twisted history. They say it was a real tearjerker.

Seinfeld: The Finale
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Can't have a list on series finales without mentioning the Seinfeld closer, although it was generally panned. The Seinfeld buddies are all arrested (violation of the Good Samaritan Law), and at the trial characters ranging from the Soup Nazi to Bubble Boy all appear to testify as to what lousy human beings they've been...and they end up in prison. I agree, it was a lame ending to a legendary show.

WKRP in Cincinnati: Up and Down The Dial
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Just as the station rockets to sixth place, Mr. Carlson's Mom decides to convert WKRP into an all-news station. But Johnny Fever discovers the station was a tax writeoff, designed to fail, and he convinces Mama Carlson to let the station try to succeed, rather that have her son find out...Johnny Fever rocks.

Cheers: Sorry, We're Closed
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These were Sam's final words to one last customer, as 93 million viewers watched. (the customer was Bob Broder, agent for the show's creators) The last episode rekindled the romance between Sam and Diane, and as they are getting on a plane headed for California, Sam realizes he is happier working at the bar and gets off. So much for true love.

Dallas: Conundrum
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Episode 357 (holy shit) had J.R. losing control of Ewing Oil to Bobby. Depressed and drunk, he contemplates suicide. A character played by Joel Grey shows J.R. what would have become of most of the show's characters had he never existed, and then at the end urges him on to the suicide (It's a Wonderful Life, in reverse...that's pretty funny). The last scene is Bobby walking in on J.R. and a gunshot sounding off-camera.

Beavis and Butthead: Beavis & Butthead Are Dead
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A report that Beavis and Butt-head have died causes massive celebration among, teachers, staff and fellow students at their school. Daria even briefly returns. However, when the story turns out to be false, and the boys show up, Principal McVicars drops dead of a heart attack...love a warm ending.

The Fugitive: The Day The Running Stopped
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Basically, Richard Kimble finally caught the one-armed man, and he was exonerated for the murder of his wife. Funny story...Later that night on an ABC talk show, Joey Bishop asked Janssen whether he had anything to say now that he was a free man. "Yes," Janssen said. "I killed her, Joey. She talked too much."

MASH: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen
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50 million households watched the crew of the 4077th go home. In the process, Hawkeye is committed to a mental hospital, and later released; Charles teaches a group of Chinese musicians to play Mozart, but they're killed going to a prisoner exchange; Father Mulcahey is deafened by a mortar explosion; and Klinger marries Soon-Lee. When B.J. lifts off in the final helicopter to leave, he sees "GOODBYE" written on the ground in white stones.

The Odd Couple: Felix Remarries
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One of my all-time favorite series. Total closure in the last episode, as Felix and his ex-wife, Edna, reconcile and announce plans to re-marry. Felix moves out and bids his longtime roommate, Oscar, farewell. Once Felix walks out the door, Oscar celebrates by messing up the tidy apartment. (Total side note...I've always wanted to have four dogs, and call them Murray, Vinny, Roy and Speed)

St. Elsewhere: The Last One
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"Come on, son, let's wash our hands", were the last words spoken on the finale episode. In the final surreal scene of the series, Dr. Westphall is shown to actually be a construction worker with an autistic son. Sitting in his home, the son stares into a small snowglobe, and as tiny snow flakes fall, we get a close-up of the building inside...a likeness of St. Eligius Hospital. The show's writers wanted viewers to believe that the entire world of St. Eligius was the product of an autistic child's imagination. Many people thought this was brilliant, and many people thought it sucked...you decide.

Newhart: The Last Newhart
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One of the best ever. The episode takes place five years in the future, as a huge reunion is held at the Stratford Inn after everyone has sold their land to Japanese investors. Dick eventually loses his temper, decides to leave, is struck by a golf ball and knocked unconscious. The screen goes black, a light turns on, and Dick wakes up in his bedroom. He tells his wife about the wierd dream he just had. The other light comes on, and it's Suzanne Pleshette. Turns out that the entire eight years were but a recurring nightmare for psychiatrist Bob Hartley (Newhart's character from his earlier series). An annoyed Emily, after listening to Bob describe the dream, tells him to go back to sleep.


BONUS: Shows without an ending, and their last episode:
Star Trek: The Original Series (1969) – A mind-swapping device causes Kirk and his former lover to switch bodies.
The Brady Bunch (1974) – A hair dye turns Greg's hair orange just hours before graduation.
All in the Family (1979) - Edith rents the house next door to a black couple, much to Archie's chagrin.


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7 Comments

nice job. but you missed a biggie:

"Its a Long Way to Tipperary" -- MTM

said bigfatcreative on August 23, 2005 7:36 AM.

I know. I had Mary Tyler Moore down, but decided against it. I'll always remember that show for the "Chuckles Bites The Dust" episode, not the finale. When someone (I think it was Ted) recited the line...A little song, a little dance, a little selzer down your pants"...priceless.

said Jellio on August 23, 2005 8:02 AM.

classic

said bigfatcreative on August 23, 2005 8:22 AM.

you gotta get the office Xmas special (finale) on there.

said SuperSternio on August 23, 2005 7:55 PM.

Maybe it's too british for this list, but the ending to "The Prisoner" was a glorious, spectacular, total mess, and I for one loved it.

said CynOpt on March 21, 2006 5:16 AM.

just a couple corrections to your list. on the mash finale it was hawkeye who lifted off in the helicopter. bj took off on his motorcycle. bj actually make the goodbye with the stones as his way of saying goodbye to everyone without verbally saying it. on all in the family, the last episode was with edith very sick, yet prepares food for archie's bar for st. patty's day. archie found out about her being sick and stayed home with her in bed as everyone celebrated at the bar. this episode led to the death of edith (character). became archie bunker's place the next season. overall pretty good list, mad about you was a tearjerker. married with children was another decent finale

said dangerustoysr4me on June 13, 2006 3:27 AM.

Regarding the Seinfeld Finale: you missed what is arguably the most important point of the Finale! The last joke of the entire series was a reference to the first joke of the entire series (the second button being in the worst possible place). Of course only fans who were there to see the pilot episode would catch this (I assume).

said bm on September 15, 2008 1:49 PM.
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