After you invest hours and hours of time in a long-running television show, you want to get some closure, right? Or at least a satisfying final episode that makes you sad to see the show go, but happy that you watched.
Who would have thought that a realistic drama about a high school football team in a fictional town would have become so popular? The NBC show, which was almost cancelled until a co-production deal with DirecTV after its second season saved it, was based on the book and its 2004 film adaptation. The series ran for 5 seasons, and followed coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his team in what has been called a realistic portrayal of Middle America and the challenges families face with everything from finances to morals and bigotry. At the end, every storyline was wrapped up with a nice little bow, and we were left feeling emotional, but satisfied. Friday Night Lights
Devoted fans followed this CBS show for 11 seasons through the ‘70s and ‘80s. Teetering on the line between comedy and drama, M*A*S*H M*A*S*H got viewers deeply involved with its ensemble cast, who played a group of personnel in the United States Army’s Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. With veteran stars like Alan Alda and Harry Morgan, the reboot of the acclaimed movie forged its own path to become one of the most beloved series ever. Sure, it got a pretty preachy towards the end, but the final episode brought the closure viewers so often seek, providing a glimpse into the effects the war had on key characters as it came to an end. To this day, the finale remains the most-watched series finale ever in the U.S., with 105.9 million people tuning in.
You can’t get any more morbid than a show about a family-run funeral home. Yet this HBO drama and its ensemble cast of seven, including Michael C. Hall (Dexter) and Ben Foster, examined the topic of death in regards to personal, religious, and philosophical points-of-view, drawing viewers into its unique approach. Delving essentially into the meaning of life is pretty heavy for a television show, so how do you wrap that all up? The writers managed to do so beautifully, with a series of flash forwards that showed how each main character continued to live following tremendous tragedy and, as would be expected, how they eventually die as well. Add some sappy Sia music, and it was a bona fide tearjerker. Six Feet Under
Anyone who's watched HBO’s The Wire The Wire knows it's an addicting series, and its finale has fittingly been universally lauded as one of the best of its era. The show, which ran from 2002 through to 2008, looks at law enforcement's interaction with several key institutions, from the illegal drug trade to the school system. It was often praised for the realistic portrayals of life in urban America, yet largely flew under the radar. But the finale made people take notice. In it, we see a young boy named Dukie (Jermaine Crawford), who was introduced in the fourth season, presumably about to shoot up, despite many efforts through the seasons to help him follow the right path. Viewers were forced to face some harsh realities of life. If they could have reached into their TV screens and pulled the needle from his hand, they would have. That’s powerful television.
For a short 3 seasons on HBO, we watched a dedicated television news team, led by anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), struggle to cover the news with integrity, like it was done in the good ‘ol days. But they faced pushback at every turn, forced to cover bubblegum topics, or pander to network needs. The finale didn’t give us a happy ending – rather, it was just the opposite with the death of news division director, Charlie (Sam Waterston). But it did provide closure through a series of flashback scenes that brought greater clarity as to how the news program came to be, and even with regards to its The Newsroom most popular scene from the first episode, when a student asks McAvoy what makes America the greatest country in the world.
The ‘80s and ‘90s CBS sitcom starring comedian Bob Newhart brought on the laughs as we followed the story of his character and his wife Joanna (Mary Frann) who ran a small inn in Vermont that housed a number of eccentric characters. So many called the finale one of the most memorable ever, mainly because it was unexpected. Newhart rolls over in bed to be, only to be greeted by Suzanne Pleshette, who played his wife on the actor’s previous sitcom, Newhart The Bob Newhart Show. You mean to say Darryl, his brother Darryl, and his other brother Darryl never really existed? Sure, the whole “it was all a dream” ending has been done many times. But it was a great way to end the show, and tie it back to Newhart’s earlier work. It was like an inside joke for those who had grown up watching him on both shows. If you were in on it, it was comedy gold.
FX brought us this crime drama starring Michael Chiklis in 2002, and we became immersed in the world of corrupt cops and scandals for seven whole seasons. Jaws dropped when the characters finally got some justice for their transgressions. That included Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins), who ended his own life following the death of his family, and Vic Mackey (Chiklis), who didn't quite get his comeuppance, but did end up working in a dreary office instead of “fighting” crime. Maureen Ryan of the The Shield Chicago Tribune called the finale “one of the most brilliant finales I’ve ever seen.”
As far as serial political dramas go, NBC’s The West Wing The West Wing is near the top of the list. Running for seven seasons from 1999 to 2006, the show offered a glimpse into the White House as imagined under morally grounded President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet (Martin Sheen), and perfected the art of witty conversations down a long hallway. West Wing enjoyed a particularly successful run during its first four years when Aaron Sorkin was at the helm. And while viewership tapered off, the show still garnered viewers right through to the end, including the pivotal final episode. In it, Bartlet’s term is finally over, and president Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) is sworn in to take over leadership of the country.
Often, television series finales spark outrage because of rushed or lackluster storylines, cliffhangers, or questions that remain unanswered. But every once in a while the creative team hits one out of the park, leaving viewers to bask in the glow of the brilliant conclusion to their long tale.
From yoga retreat revelations, to climactic death, and teary-eyed moments, here are 13 of the best television series finales ever. Obviously,
abound ahead. spoilers