There have been a lot of final episodes this season — NYPD BLUE, JAG, ENTERPRISE and EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND — and they have all shared several things in common: they were boring, bland, and truly anti-climactic. It was as if the writers were making a conscious effort not to tie things up in a meaningful and emotionally-resonant way. Or simply didn’t want to make the effort. None of these finales came even close to matching the impact of the last episodes of shows like THE FUGITIVE, LARRY SANDERS, MARY TYLER MOORE, MASH, CHEERS, NEWHART, STAR TREK: TNG, ST. ELSEWHERE, THE FUGITIVE, DALLAS, WHO’S THE BOSS, THIRTYSOMETHING, BUFFY, HOMICIDE, THE ODD COUPLE, or even FRIENDS.
Granted, there have been stinker finales before (MIAMI VICE, HILL STREET BLUES, MacGYVER, DESIGNING WOMEN, HAWAII FIVE -O, COSBY, MAGNUM PI, SEX AND THE CITY, SEINFELD, QUANTUM LEAP, MURPHY BROWN, NORTHERN EXPOSURE, etc), but at least they made an effort at leaving viewers with something special.
If the writer/producers aren’t going to bother doing something really terrific with their final episodes, then how about this: Don’t do one.
Maybe we should go back to the way things used to be, when most shows didn’t do final episodes, even if they knew the ax was about to fall.
GUNSMOKE never had one. Neither did BONANZA, STAR TREK, MURDER SHE
WROTE, MARRIED WITH CHILDREN, LOST IN SPACE, THE ROCKFORD FILES,
MAVERICK, THE BRADY BUNCH, MANNIX, I LOVE LUCY, to name a few.
In a way, not doing a wrap-up episode makes sense. Most series are designed to be open-ended, to go on forever. Isn’t that how we really want to remember our TV characters, living on as we remember them best?
Do we really need, when the time comes, "Final Episodes" of LAW AND ORDER, ER, ACCORDING TO JIM, CSI, GROUNDED FOR LIFE, CROSSING JORDAN and TWO AND A HALF MEN?