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Happy Endings: The 6 Best TV Finales

by Rachel Cericola, TV editor

E! Online and pretty much everyone else is talking about this week's series finale of "Six Feet Under." It made me laugh, made me cry, and made me think about all of the show's that have gone to that big production studio in the sky.

What makes a perfect ending? For some, it's bringing back the faces you've grown to love and hate and for others, it's a mind-blowing, jaw-dropping climax. Most just like things wrapped up in a nice, neat package. In honor of this great show's passing, here's my list of the six best TV endings of all time.

Six Feet Under Episode Aired: August 21, 2005

Six Feet Under That's right -- it just aired and I am giving credit where credit is due. Each week, the writing was completely original and the performances were nothing less than stellar. Sure, the Fishers and company seemed to never really be happy, which is what makes this epilogue all that more exciting.

WARNING: Here comes a semi-spoiler...

Yes, the show was depressing. In fact, it often brought tears to my eyes -- a lot of them. And even though the show ended with a semi-cheesy, but sort of cool look at how each of the main characters bites it, it was a great way to put a satisfying spin on that moment that we all fear the most.

Newhart Episode Aired: May 21, 1990

Newhart Everyone hates the "gotcha -- it was just a dream" way to explain everything that happened. It might just be a justifiable reason to start a riot, and with good reason. After all, you just wasted how many weeks (including summer reruns) of your life?

But I'm going to have to give it to "Newhart." After Dick gets beaned by a golf ball, he wakes up next to former TV wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette from "The Bob Newhart Show") and realizes his life as an innkeeper in Vermont was all a dream/nightmare. It was a great way to give the finger to "Dallas," who recently tried to pull that fast one unsuccessfully, and was twice as funny while doing it. Oh -- and we also got to hear the brothers Daryl speak for the first and last time.

M*A*S*H Episode Aired: February 28, 1983

M*A*S*H There's a reason why it was one of the most-viewed episodes of any TV show -- it was fairly realistic. The show lasted for 11 seasons, and even though I think the good days were behind the second Frank Burns (Larry Linville) got his walking papers, it was an institution.

Sure, the ending was a bit hokey. Even the title "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" was just a condensed way of saying "get out the tissues unless you are a heartless bastard." Let's face it though: if you were away at war and the whole thing was declared over, like you wouldn't cry like a baby?

Unfortunately, this episode also spoiled just about every other corny way to end a show, which seems to be the only way people know how to end them. It's also the reason you won't find "Cheers" on this list.

The Wonder Years Episode Aired: May 12, 1993

The Wonder Years After growing up through Kevin Arnold's (Fred Savage) eyes for six seasons, it was hard to say goodbye. It was equally as hard to see that the relationship you had been rooting for all this time -- between awkwardly cute Kevin and sweet girl-next-door Winnie Cooper -- just wasn't going to happen.

The show ends with that Daniel Stern voice-over that helped make the show what is was, informing us that the Dad died not too much later, Mom goes on to become a big-wig in business, brother Wayne went into the family business, sister Karen has a baby, and Kevin keeps up with Winnie even after all of her years studying in France. In fact, he was there to meet her upon her return, with his wife and new son.

The Larry Sanders Show Episode Aired: May 31, 1998

The Larry Sanders Show Great show, great ending. Larry was never the type of guy to get sentimental, and he wasn't about to start now.

Larry is preparing to bid farewell, because he's being replaced by a much younger, cooler Jon Stewart. Hey now! The hitch is that he wants to go out like Carson, with a star-studded sendoff. Highlights include another extremely funny appearance by David Duchovny. And, of course, how one minute Jim Carrey sings a sappy musical message to Larry, only to ream him out during the commercial break. The whole thing is a parade of cameos, but because the writing is so great, it doesn't take away from this classic comedy's swansong.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show Episode Aired: March 19, 1977

The Mary Tyler Moore Show Low ratings and new ownership puts the entire cast at the back of the unemployment line. Oh -- with the exception of anchorgod Ted Baxter (Ted Knight). That alone ranks it high on this writer's list.

As the group amasses for the big touching group hug, a need for Kleenex creates one of the funniest moments in TV finale history. The words "all for one" never had such greater meaning, as the group sings "It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary" on their way out. Made me laugh, cry, and more importantly -- made me remember why this show is such a classic.

Posted by Rachel Cericola on August 22, 2005 9:00 PM
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Got something to say? Post a comment:

Awesome list! Is it wrong that the "M*A*S*H" finale was a defining moment in my then-young life (seriously, I was 8, and I distinctly remember being overwhelmed by that finale).

An honorable mention has to go to "Buffy." I absolutely loved the finale. Buffy flips the slayer middle finger at prophecy and tradition one last time and DAMN was it a doozy. A fitting end to a brilliant show.

-- Posted by: mac at August 22, 2005 9:51 PM

I would agree with your list for the most part. It's a favorite subject of mine and I've started a site devoted to it:

I enjoyed MASH but have to admit that I felt like it was a bit out of character from the rest of the series -- the main character having a nervous breakdown. It was fair considering the subject matter but it doesn't totally fit with the rest of the series.

I liked the Buffy ending as well as the Angel ending.

The worst is SOAP's which wasn't really a planned ending -- several characters were left in peril and we never really found out what happened.

-- Posted by: Trevor at May 9, 2006 9:15 PM

i like sorted sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much coz i realy like tomas manchester who plays ryan, radge's son, if ny1 nows owt bou im tell me pleeeeeeeeeeeeese

-- Posted by: lozza at September 5, 2006 5:21 AM

How about as one of the worst last episodes, "Married with Children"? Mainly because ther was no real "last episode". They just told the cast at the last taping, "Don't come back nexy year!" I loved that show ,would have loved to have seen a final episode.

-- Posted by: roger at March 10, 2008 3:35 PM

The last episode of the last series of Blackadder was outstanding, probably the best finale (certainly the most memorable) of any tv shows I've seen. The funniest episode of a terrifically funny series, yet the ending itself was uncharacteristically - yet realistically - dark

-- Posted by: 0nedayatatim3 at May 19, 2009 8:30 PM

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