Mark Evanier links to two TV critics and their lists of the Top Five Series finales of all time. For me, the best would include MARY TYLER MOORE, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, NEWHART, THE FUGITIVE, LARRY SANDERS, M*A*S*H, THE PAPER CHASE and CHEERS.
My list of the worst finales would include SEINFELD, MAGNUM PI, MIAMI VICE, FRIENDS, ST. ELSEWHERE, QUANTUM LEAP, NYPD BLUE and the two that MAGNUM PI had (the original, which ended with Magnum getting killed… and the second, after they talked Selleck into doing one more season, which ended with Magnum getting married).
I’m a big TV geek, and a sucker for finales, but I’m not sure they are a good idea. Sure, you get a ratings pop, and they give audiences a chance to say goodbye to characters they love. But I think one reason the majority of "final episodes" are mediocre at best is because most TV series, by their very nature, are intentionally conceived to be open-ended and run forever. How do you conclude something that was never designed to be concluded?
It’s one thing for Dr. Richard Kimble to finally be proved innocent, or for the castaways on LOST to finally discover what-the-hell-is-going-on. THE FUGITIVE and LOST are series built on ongoing quests for absolution and answers. But do we really need to tie things up for private eyes, doctors, and homicide cops who we watch because we enjoy seeing them do their jobs?
In many ways, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND had the best finale of all — just another great episode.