|Posted by richb on June 19, 2012 at 9:20 PM|
So let's talk about series finales of sitcoms. In the old days, the final episodes of series were nothing to remarkable. That started tochange in the 70's as shows began using the final episode of series as an opportunityto thank the fans for watching the show all the years it was on. By the 90's,these episodes became events which included two hours episodes usually startingwith a clip show, and tons of media hype. The bigger the show, the more thehype. Over the years some sitcoms have done this well, and others not so much.Today I thought I would look at some of the more famous series finale's anddiscuss why there were so good, others not as good, or in some cases the one'swhich are just a flat out disappointment.
Series finales do have to follow a few rules. One, somethingneeds to happen in the episode which significantly alters some aspect of theshow as a sign that the show as we know it is over. That is harder to do forfamily shows which are why a lot have the family selling the house or something.Two, there needs to be a surprise. Something unexpected has to happen. Three,there has to be a tearful goodbye among the cast which includes a laugh somewherealong the way. Finally, the final scene has to show the main member of the castlooking wistfully at the setting of the show before the credits role. Now ofcourse these rules are not set in stone and a series may do some but not all. The perfect example of these rules has to be MaryTyler Moore. This show may have been the first to popularize the idea of aseries final episode actually being a series finale. In the episode, the entirecast is fired (there’s your change), except Ted (there’s your surprise). Thefinal scene is the cast huddled in a big hug saying goodbye (tear moment), they realize theyneed tissues and go get some never losing the huddle (laugh). The final momentis Mary taking one last look at the newsroom before turning and leaving, happyto have had the experience of working there at all, and the camera fades on theempty set. The best part, the episode wasn’t a bloated overhyped affair it wasjust a half hour like any other. Quite simply, a perfect final episode and agold standard for others to follow.
Let’s talk about some others. I have already talked aboutmany of these, so rather than bore you with plot synopses I will just give youmy feelings about them. As always, this is just opinion.
The Good. These showsdid it right, and set a standard that many have tried to follow.
MASH-I decided to start with this one simply because this isthe prime example. This 2 1/2 hour movie set ratings records that stood forthirty years, and some may argue still stand. I think I was the only one in theworld who didn't watch this episode. I had never actually watched MASH but thehype so was so tremendous even I was excited about the episode when it finallycame on. Then my father made us go to bed. I still remember the next day inschool as the rest of the class talked about the episode I missed! Anyway,while the show is a little drawn out, if you can watch the last 20 minuteswithout a tear in your eye then you are a better person than me.
Friends-I really liked their final episode. It was just theright send off, as we see the friends moving on with their lives. The bestmoment, of course, were Ross and Rachel finally getting together. I said beforethis was the one TV romance I was into, and this episode did not disappoint.Yes it was hyped a bit too much, but at least this one delivered.
Newhart-This may be the most infamous series finale ever.Everyone knows how it went, at the end of the episode the inn has become a golfcourse. Dick is suddenly hit with a golf ball, and what happens next is TVhistory. He wakes up in bed next to Suzanne Pleshette and the whole Newhartseries was a dream Bob Harley from The Bob Newhart Show dreamed up. Brilliant.
The Cosby Show-What a bittersweet way to end a series. Thepilot episode was all about Theo struggling in high school, so what better wayto end the series but bring it full circle and show Theo graduating fromcollege. This was a very nice show, simple and not overstated. There wasn’tmuch of a cast goodbye, but the final moment was great. Cliff insists he’sfixed the doorbell, and when Claire tries it a jazz tune plays. Cliff andClaire proceed to dance, right off the stage and into history.
Cheers-Think MASH was overhyped? I live in Boston, andbelieve me when I say that this episode was all the local TV station would talkabout. Was the episode good? Yes as a matter of a fact. Bringing Diane Chambersback was a great way to bookend the series, and the cast just sitting and talkingat the end was a nice touch. The final moment was Sam saying “we’re closed”,before walking down a dark hallway….the same hallway we saw him walking out ofin the first moment of the pilot. And did you catch the nod to NicholasColasanto? Just gold.
Family Ties-I know this episode was a little sappy andemotional. But the series was sappy and emotional. This is the same series thathad every episode end with a heart to heart talk between two cast members? Ithought this episode was a fine way to end the series, as Alex finally gets hisdream job in New York and the family is no longer going to be all together.
Who’s The Boss?-This episode wasn’t that good, in fact the entirelast season wasn’t that good, but I loved the final scene. It was reminiscentof the first scene of the pilot, as we see Angela answer the door in a bathrobeto find Tony there. Ok, the series didn’t end with a wedding but in a strangeway that was appropriate. Nice show, and satisfying end.
Mad About You-I have talked before about the horrible lastyear on this show, it was just embarrassing. The exception was the seriesfinale. It was a really nice job. Done as a mock documentary, the show flashesforward (rather than looking back) and we see what happens to the charactersover the future beyond the final episode. It was a nice show, and while havingPaul and Jamie break up was lame, given the crap this series spewed that lastyear I was happy enough with this one.
Frasier-This was a really good episode, even if it didn’tleft things open more than closed. The show basically had Frasier take a job toSan Francisco, but in the last scene we see he is in Chicago probably to chasethe girl of his dreams. Nice episode but why end on a cliffhanger which willnever get resolved?
Saved By The Bell-This episode hit every mark just right,even for a show as silly as this was. It was about the gang graduating, and wassilly and emotional at the same time. No complaints her. But I do have somecomplaints about Saved By The Bell:The New Class.
Fresh Prince of Bel Air-This was a great final episode, asthe family sells the house and move to New York. Well, except Will anyway. Yougot the distinct feeling the show ended prematurely because Will Smith wantedto be a movie star (wonder how that worked out) but they still delivered a verysolid final episode which even included one last “Carlton dance”.
Scrubs-The last episode of the 8th season was theseries finale in my opinion. I don’t count that awful Scrubs:The New Class crapin the next year. That being said, that episode about J.D. leaving was just afantastic episode. I had kind of stopped watching the show by then, and turnedit and was very impressed. We get recurring characters, a montage of the future,and the reveal that Dr.Cox respects J.D and always has. The topper was learningthe janitor’s name, or did we? Great, great episode.
The Bad. These showswere not horrible, but somehow they missed the mark and were not as good asthey could have been.
Night Court-You’re going to hear me say this a lot, but thisshow was horrible by that last year. So much that it even affected the finalepisode. I do give the episode points for effort, it hit most of the rules Ilisted above. Truth is there was really no way this was going to be asatisfying conclusion, the show didn’t even feel the same at this point. Butthat last scene of Bull being beamed away to Jupiter? WTF???
Home Improvement-Amazing how a show can try so hard and thenultimately fail. This was a three part series finale, the first part was just aclip show. That was pretty dull. Then the whole “will they move or won’t they”story was boring. What really kills this episode for me was the final scene,which just didn’t satisfy me at all. Not the worst, but not the best.
Golden Girls-This episode feels more like Bea Arthur’s finalshow more than it does a series finale. There is a simple reason for that, that’swhat It was. The intention was to keep the show going with “The Golden Palace”,as a result the only real character wrap up we get is Dorothy. The idea of hergetting married was clever since was the one who never had a social life. Andwhile the final scene is emotional, it doesn’t offer the closure you wouldexpect from a final episode. And if you don’t know, yes they made Golden Palaceand it was awful.
Full House-Rumor has it that when the series final episodewas filmed they didn’t know it was the series final episode. It’s not aterrible episode, there are lots of callbacks which thankfully didn’t includeclips and the story was moving (corny, but this is Full House). I really likedthe episode the year before about them almost selling the house, that felt likemore of a series ender. The story about Michelle havinh amnesia wasn’t bad, itwas kind of nice to see the show from another point of view as we get jokesabout all the hugging the cast did. Even the show knew how corny and silly itwas!
Happy Days-In my father’s day article I talked about how thefinal scene of the episode had Howard giving a very nice toast, which was a reallygreat, send off to the series. Why is this not on my best list? Because themajority of the episode is not that good. The whole story of Fonzie adopting achild was only ok, and the wedding of Joanie and Chachi was straight fanservice. Ron Howard only has a cameo and there is no sign of Potsie or Ralph. Theepisode that aired a few episodes earlier which had Richie saying goodbye wasalmost a more fitting finale.
Everybody Loves Raymond-This show decided not to do anoverblown show, and did a regular episode. It was a good episode, involving ahealth scare for Ray, but as a series finale? This is the one show thatviolates one of my rules, the one about having a change or a surprise. EvenCosby Show had Denise calling in to say she was pregnant. This was just aregular episode, and while it was a strong episode it was not a strong seriesfinale. (and before someone asks, yes FullHouse also had a surprise, as Steve returned to take DJ to the prom which was akind of sweet moment).
Growing Pains-Clip show anyone? This episode hit all therules I outlined above, but the fact that it was mostly a clip show sucks. Itdid have a sweet ending which mercifully did not include Leonardo DiCaprio, soI will let it go.
Coach-The fact that the show moved to Florida two years made me stop watching. But to be fair, the final episode took the show back to Minnesotta State which was nice. It was a sentimental episode...a little to sentimental possibly. But it was a nice was to bow out after nine years, and even included a cameo from Larry, Daryl, and Daryl from Newhart.
The Ugly. These showsjust got it wrong, and these final episodes are remembered for the wrongreason.
Facts of Life-Nothing like spending your final episodesetting up a spin-off series which will never get produced. What a wastedopportunity.
Seinfeld-Not going to say much about this because we'll getto this one in my episode guide, I promise. Suffice to say, this was a disappointmentof epic proportions. It was a given that this show would violate every rule Ioutlined above, but what they gave us was just inexcusable. More on this in acouple months.
Roseanne-Do I really need to go over this one again? Therewere a couple problems here. First, the last season sucked. I mean, reallysucked. Second, the whole series was a story Roseanne wrote? I just wasn’t thrilledwith that. Why was the whole last season about the family being happy, only tohave the show go back to depressing in the last five minutes? Just a mess, wasit me or was this show stupid every time Roseanne had control of the scripts?
Murphy Brown-Yaawwwnnn!! Like Roseanne, the last season ofthis show was just painful. The arc of Murphy having breast cancer was forcedand lame and it seemed as though Candace Bergen forgot how to play thecharacter, at all. The problem wasn’t so much the episode as the fact the showwas almost unrecognizable that last year. What a shame, it was a great show inits day and deserved better. Ok, the final scene referencing the pilot and bringingEldin back wasn’t bad.
King of Queens-Same story, the last season was so bad thatthere was no way the final episode was going to be very good. And it wasn’t.There was this convoluted story about Doug and Carrie almost getting divorcedand the flying to China to adopt a baby (yes, really) while Arthur got marriedto Spence’s mom. Final scene we see Doug and Carrie have an adopted child and anatural one, nice but since the show was about them not having kids we don’tcare.
Will & Grace-Painful. Stupid. Boring, Dumb. I am tryingto find a way to express my feelings about this one, and nothing works. Thisepisode was so bad! Well, first of all the last season was pretty bad. Thisshow got real horrible those last couple of years. This episode, like Mad AboutYou, projected into the future as we see what becomes of our cast. It was justso boring, as we see Will & Grace stop being friends until their children meetin college. Then they are inseparable again. We get Karen and Jack singing “Unforgettable”to each other and a lame attempt to duplicate the pilot. Awful.
Alf-Yeah, this show was a horrible disappointment to thefans. Thank goodness I wasn’t one by then. Alf misses his ride home, and thealien task force finally closes in on him. What happened next? The credits!What a terrible ending.
If something isn't listed its probably because I never saw it (All in the Family) or saw it but didn't think it was worth mentioning (Empty Nest). The most infuriating final episode for me was Benson, which ended with Benson and the Governor waiting to hear the election results. Who won? We never found out!!! Grrr, damn you cliffhangers!
Even though this list was long, I still feel like I missed alot of them. If I did please feel free to let me know.
Categories: 80's and 90's central