Bad TV Show Finales

I’ve never gotten “Will and Grace”. It’s not the whole gay thing either, it’s just never been funny to me. But tonight, since nothing else was on, I watched the finale. And you know what? I still think it stinks.

But I started thinking of some of the finales of other shows that went out with either a bang or a whimper. Some had already jumped the shark, some went out just right while others went out uncharacteristically bad. So here’s my list, from the top of my head.

Best finale: MASH. Who can forget the final shot of Hawkeye rising in the chopper and seeing the stones spelling out “Goodbye” from BJ. And the shot that always makes me tear up, when Honeycut and Hawkeye gave Col. Potter a salute. This show left the air my senior year of high school and my graduating class had just performed the original stageplay of MASH. It was very fitting then for us to see “Farewell, Goodbye and Amen”. No show will beat this finale in terms of quality and emotion. I also remember watching PM Magazine’s coverage which showed all of the actors crying as they said goodbye to their fellow actors and a job they had for years.

Runnersup:
Cheers. When Sam turns out the lights on the bar. Also a good episode was when Diane left the show and as you see her feet and legs climb the stairs Sam says “Have a nice life”. Wow, some of the best tv writing in history.

The Wonder Years. The family is watching a 4th of July parade as Kevin’s adult voice explains what happens in the coming years to his family. Winnie gets married to someone else. His brother takes over the family business (and I’ll always remember this line “when dad died”. This one didn’t last as long as I would have liked, but the kids had grown up and the show’s creators didn’t have much choice.

Newhart: Bob wakes up in bed to find it was all just a dream. Classic tv moment as Suzanne Pleshette instead of Mary Frann. I don’t know that anyone saw this ending coming. The show could have gone out with one of those “what happens when these people get old” but kudos to the writers for making this the funniest finale.

Everybody Loves Raymond: Ray has an operation and there’s a complication coming out of the anesthesia. Not bad, but not terribly good either.

Cosby Show: Theo graduates. I’ll bet it was pretty good but I don’t remember it at all.

Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show: Oh boy, what a tearjerker. Bette Midler’s performance of “One More for the Road” brought a tear to Johnny’s eyes and mine too. Wish I still had this one on tape.

Bad: Tonight’s Will and Grace was lame. I hate it when characters in a movie or a show look at each other and suddenly break into a song. Not very intelligent or clever.
Seinfeld: Could have been a lot better. But the writers really had a tough job here. They tried to make it better by bringing back some of the characters from previous shows, but sadly this one will taint the Seinfeld run.

The big finale is a fairly recent development in sitcoms. Anybody want to take a stab at the final episode of The Brady Bunch? It was the one where Bobby died Greg’s hair green after a crazy mixup with a science experiment. Just a regular episode, nothing special.
Happy Days? Fonzie and Chachi join Howard’s Leopard Lodge. Nothing special about that one.

Back in those days, the networks figured the shows would live longer in syndication and reruns if there wasn’t an episode that drew it all to a close. These days, the networks see big ratings for a big finale.

Am I forgetting some good ones? Some bad ones?

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3 Comments

Filed under Misc.

3 responses to “Bad TV Show Finales

  1. Shari

    The finale to “St. Elsewhere” made me want to put my foot through my television screen. That’s the one where we’re led to believe that everything we’d seen the last however many years took place only in the mind of an autistic boy. HATED that one.

  2. Eric Lipford

    Jamey… the Johnny Carson ep where Bette Midler is available on DVD.

    It’s part of the Ultimate Johnny Carson Collection – Volumes 1-3.

    It has the Midler show as well as the farewell show that followed on the next night.

  3. mike

    I understand why so many hate the St. Elsewhere finale, but I watched it and thought it was genius, in a bizarre way. Yeah, it did trivialise everything in the show, but (IIRC) seeing Howie Mandel and David Morse (or was it Ed Begley, Jr?) commenting on snow in July, then the camera pulls back until we just see snow, then the snowglobe, then the autistic kid, then we’re in the alternate universe where it’s a working class apartment, was jaw-dropping.

    My favorite show finale was the Mary Tyler Moore show, when she looks back fondly into the empty office and then turns out the lights. Perfect summation.

    My favorite season finale that became a series finale was Freaks&Geeks. The lead character was a high-school girl who is sent into a life-questioning tailspin by the death of a beloved relative. She goes from “mathlete” and straight-A student to hanging out with the stoners and bad kids. (The “freaks” of the title.) She starts to like them and identify with their problems. The last scene of the show, she’s standing alongside a VW bus full of Deadheads, torn between going to summer camp as her family wants or hitting the road with the hippies to follow the Grateful Dead on tour all summer. She goes with the Deadheads. I’ve always wondered what happened to her. Great show killed too soon.

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