Saturday, 22 January 2011

The best and worst TV show endings

I've recently finished off Ugly Betty and got to thinking about other TV shows I've seen (or read about when I couldn't bare or didn't have time to watch them) where the endings were good, bad and just downright confusing. So here's my list of the best and the worst endings to TV shows. Needless to say there are major spoilers ahead so please do not read if you do not want to know. I won't be held responsible for any disappointments or unwanted revelations - you have been warned!


1. Sex and the City

Maybe an odd choice but it was the first that sprang to mind and is still massively satisfying. After six or so years of on again and off again Carrie finally get Mr. Big, and everyone else finds happiness in their own unexpected ways. This was a great example of characters growing and changing to a satisfying conclusion. And then they made the films and ruined it. Sigh...

2. M.A.S.H.

This is one of the most satisfying, and emotional conclusions to an incredibly long series, and the pressure to get it right must have been immense. Thank the writers then for doing such an amazing job and thank the cast for giving us those last few moments with our much loved characters. That "Goodbye" spelled out on the ground as Hawkeye's chopper flies away - sniff... Still makes me well up. Sheer brilliance.

3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Yeah, I know. It could have been better in some ways but looking back I see this in a more forgiving light than I did at the time. There were so many stories to pull together and it certainly ticks the "epic ending" box. I mean come on - they sank Sunnydale! Buffy lost its way a little towards the end but for me was still massively enjoyable and the conclusion settled the score - though still paved the way nicely for the comic.

4. Angel

Seeing a theme? Yeah I'm a big fan of Joss Whedon, and while it took me a while to get into Angel I loved it eventually and the ending was, despite coming sooner than the makers anticipated, a very emotional and surprising ending. I wept like a child when Wesley died, and think it was one of the best episodes in the series - which surely the finale should be for any show.

5. Six Feet Under

A show about death was always going to have an unusual ending and Six Feet Under did not disappoint. Watching Nate's conversations with everyone, even though he's dead, seeing the deaths of all the major characters, and the development of these characters from that first episode is unforgettable stuff. A show whose tag line was "Everything. Everyone. Everywhere. Ends" was always going to be challenging and it was wonderful they kept that up even in the last episode.


1. Sopranos

Controversial perhaps but I still think the ending to Sopranos was incredibly disappointing. For a show that had so much going for it I was waiting for some kind of resolution. Instead I got a fade to black in the middle of a conversation. Yeah, yeah, I know it represents their lives carrying on, leaves you something to think about, yadda yadda yadda... but it didn't feel like an ending to me, more like a cheap "to be continued - if we get a movie deal".

2. Dallas

Now I must admit, I didn't watch Dallas. Much. I saw some of it as a kid but wasn't that interested. But I have seen the conclusion (who hasn't) and it's no wonder it's the subject of so many jokes - I'm looking at you Family Guy. It's the ultimate betrayal of fans in my opinion to take something they've loved and then turn around and say, "none of it was real". Cheap and lazy storytelling.

3. Lost

Again must admit I gave up on Lost during Season 2. It reeked of exploitative storyline, where they just stretch a story that can be done in 20 episodes into a five or six season show. I hate that. If you don't have a story to tell don't stretch it just to make money. I was proved right with the ending. If it can be called that - cop out might be better. And you're not foolin' me Lost writers - no matter how confusing you try to make it, you just copied Dallas.

4. Firefly

It actually physically hurts to put this into the worst group but I gotta. Not Joss' fault, but it sucked nonetheless. All the characters just give up on each other and go their separate ways. Serenity made up for it a little (for me at least) but it will never take away the disappointment of the show's end. I miss you Mal...

5. Only Fools and Horses

Just to expand on this - when they first ended the series it was excellent, a real example of resolving a story with a genuinely heart warming ending without being schmaltzy. Then they had to make a few more. And it all went horribly wrong. Another thing that should be banned from show endings along with the whole "it never happened" storyline, is the "lets put the characters right back where they started and milk some more episodes out of it" storyline. Poor, poor conclusion to a show that deserved better.

These are only a small selection of my own, with some notable exceptions. Blackadder as one of the best and Quantum Leap as one of the worst come to mind, but I couldn't fit them in. So what do you think? Which shows for you had the best and worst endings and why?


  1. Well, you asked for comments, so ...


    - One Foot In The Grave
    In contrast to Only Fools ... (and I agree with you on the dreadful milking of the characters - ruins the whole series for me) here was a comedy show that went out on an unflinching low. Kill off your main character and be done. Excellent.

    - Angel
    I loved this from midway through the 2nd season, and it's darker tone to Buffy was always going to yield such an ending. It's one of the few TV episodes that never fails to make me blub like a big girl ... "do you want me to lie to you now?" *sniff*

    - Blakes 7
    (see One Foot in the Grave) End a series by ending everyone. Nuff said.

    - Farscape
    Torn by this one. The ending of the last season was as it should be - downbeat and in keeping with the mocking oblique manner of the show. Possibly the best Sci-Fi show ever, just undecided about the upbeat film prologue. But everyone should see this. Lose an astronaut then actually get him home, and weave a story around him having to leave again that makes sense. Sticks a finger up to all those shows that never ended.


    - Lost
    How to ruin something. Had lots of promising ideas, but saw a cop-out coming. See Alias for similar JJ crimes.

    - Babylon 5
    Because it really ended (kind of lamely) in the 4th season, yet was resurrected after it had been finished. As much the fault of those wacky US planners as anyone else.

    *And those that died before their time*

    - Joan of Arcadia
    I loved this. It was brave and bold, with no sign of Batman anywhere. Sadly curtailed after 2 seasons.

    - Now and Again
    A great ending to season one, then never seen again. An amazing cast made this a re-vamped 6 Million Dollar Man with heart and humour. Touching and personal. Small.

    And a posthumous mention to the West Wing. And of course, Frasier. Closing a show with a Tennyson poem was a suitable end to this wonderful show.

    (am I spoiling your nice site with a comment? deletion will not offend)

  2. Hi MainyMike,

    Thanks for your comment. Totally forgot about One Foot in the Grave - was a great conclusion to a consistently funny but meaningful show.

    I purposely left out Farscape because I genuinely had no idea where to put it! I absolutely love the show and recently got the whole set, which includes the peacekeeper wars. I like that they tidied it all up at the end but the gap between the last episode and the peacekeeper wars was really obvious - not least because of the bad makeup!