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Retro YesBut - Famous Television Finales


Series finale mania isn't a new thing here at YesBut. We've been covering our favorite tv shows since we started, and we'll probably keep it up until our very last post. (Don't believe me...check back here in three years for our 100 day countdown to Lost: The Final Chapter)

Anyway, back in August of 2005, to coincide with the Six Feet Under finale (which was awesome) we posted a look at some of the most memorable series endings of all time. Seems like a good time to dust it off and post it again...enjoy.

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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 hawkeye lifts off in the final helicopter to leave, he sees BJ has written "GOODBYE" on the ground in white stones.

The Odd Couple: Felix Remarries
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
"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
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.


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When Newhart did it, it was genius. When St. Elsewhere did it, it was meh. After that, the deus ex machina finales just seemed more stupid and derivative each time, so I gave up expecting much from them years before I gave up on television completely.

said Miss Cellania on June 11, 2007 12:46 PM.

The best part of the Newhart ending was after she told him to go to sleep, he turned off his light, rolled over and told her she "should wear more sweaters."


said wsapnin on June 11, 2007 4:49 PM.

I loved the Newhart finale. I also liked the St.Elsewhere finale, but maybe because my bro's autistic? I don't expect a lot out of final shows anymore...

said demondoll on June 11, 2007 5:49 PM.

Felix reconciled with ex-wife Gloria. Edna was their daughter.

said fanatic on June 11, 2007 7:59 PM.

You missed the point,though in the MASH finale.
Klinger had spent the entire series trying to get OUT of Korea. At the end, he fell in love and chose to stay...

said Krissy on June 11, 2007 9:34 PM.

i actually liked the roseanne finale. it was a good explanation for the ridiculously unbelievable final season. and the seinfeld finale was also great because it ended with them sitting in a jail cell talking about nothing in particular when the show was really about nothing in particular.

six feet under is the best though.

said steph on June 11, 2007 10:14 PM.

What about TWIN PEAKS? One of the greatest mind-f**ck, wtf-just-happened? endings ever....

said madkins on June 13, 2007 2:37 PM.

I nominate the last episode of /Northern Exposure/. Everything smoothly winds down. Maggie finally gets together with Chris. It's dark and winter is starting. Iris Dement sings /Our Town/ ("...Good night. Good night...") while everyone goes into his or her own snug, warm house, looks around at the snow beginning to fall and closes the door.

Also-- the last episode of /Firefly/ is a brilliant thirty-million-dollar movie (/Serenity/, 2005) that for me and I understand many others was the first we heard of the show, that made us get the disks and watch all the episodes for the first time three years after /Firefly/ went off the air.

said Marco McClean on June 17, 2007 1:29 PM.
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