It’s Hard to Say Goodbye: TV Most Memorable Series Finales

Just like dating, watching a TV show is about keeping up a relationship. Over the years, you grow up with the characters and experience the same things they feel. The only difference? While they may let you down from time to time, they can never fight with you – making it a thousand times better than a real relationship. After so many years with 24, Lost, and Law & Order, it’s going to be hard to say goodbye. Let’s take a look at some other series finales that we still remember after all this time.

The Cosby Show – April 30, 1992
After so many years on top of the ratings, Bill Cosby’s seminal sitcom had to fall from its throne at some point. By 1992, it was clear that America was ready to say goodbye. In the last episode, Theo graduates from college and Cliff Huxtable reminisces on the past years – flashing back to scenes from the pilot. In the last scene, Cliff finally fixes the family’s doorbell (a recurring joke throughout the series), and break character by walking off to thank the audience for a long run.

M*A*S*H – February 28, 1983
Bringing this seminal series to a close was probably not easy, but the show’s producers managed to do it while attracting 121.6 million viewers to join in the 4077th’s closing party after the last cease-fire of the Korean War was signed. This episode held the record for most watched telecast of all time until it was broken earlier this year by Super Bowl XLIV.

The Sopranos – June 10, 2007
I don’t know where the time went, but three years have passed since The Sopranos signed off TV for good. For a series known for its graphic violence, often unexpected plot twists, and willingness to kill off characters both large and small, the finale was dramatic mostly for its simplicity. After playing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” (and inspiring countless imitations…ahem…Glee), the show cut to black – leaving the ending completely up to viewers’ interpretations.

St. Elsewhere – May 25, 1988
This is the finale that has stirred the most discussion over the years. Whether an cop-out or a fitting end, the series ends when a father puts his autistic son, Tommy Westphall’s, snow globe of St. Eligius on a TV set and call him to dinner. Imagine that! After six years, it all ended up being a figment of a kid’s imagination. There’s probably nothing scarier to a Lost fan than this scenario. Unfortunately, the dream/imagination ending is somewhat common – it was also used to wrap up Roseanne, Life on Mars, and Newhart.

The Wonder Years – May 12, 1993
This is one that I honestly can’t watch. I tear up every time it’s on. While most family drama finales have happier endings, Kevin & the Arnold family had a sadder one than many viewers were expecting (albeit – probably a more realistic one than most other shows). After experiencing the radically changing world of the 1960’s with the Arnolds, Kevin signs off. In his last narration we learn about the fate of the family we came to care about so much – and how they all grew up after their “wonder years.”

The Golden Girls – May 9, 1992
After seven seasons, how can any ending be a fitting thank you for being our friend for so many years? While Dorothy’s departure to begin her new married life in Atlanta splinters this fearsome foursome, it ends up not being the end for this sitcom – a short-lived sitcom entitled The Golden Palace tried to relive this show’s glory, but was quickly cancelled.

ER – April 2, 2009
After 331 episodes, it was finally time to say goodbye to the doctors of County General. May of the show’s former cast members came back to pay their respects and honor the longest running cast member, Noah Wyle (who played Dr. Carter). After they performed some last life-saving techniques and shared some final emotional moments together, the show ends just as it begun – showing doctors in their typical routines during another typical day of life at the ER – and revealing the hospital’s full exterior for the only time in the entire show’s run.

With nearly 35 years of television combined between them, Lost, Law & Order, and 24 have a lot to live up to.


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