Forgetable Finales

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

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?

11 thoughts on “Forgetable Finales”

  1. When it comes to CSI I would like to see the final episode go back to the beginning and bring the entire narrative to a proper conclusion. To do that, though, I believe the series needs to get back to the original narrative focus: Grisam (sp?). Remember how he was the older guy guiding the young turks in forensics? Remember how he qualified and devined things with bugs and maggots? Whatever came of that storyline? And then there was hints and references to his upbringing, that seemed to involved S & M. Clarify and present all that, and call it good. When the time comes.

  2. Hmmm. The urge to write the last LAW & ORDER episode, set in 2037, when the Manhattan DAs office is finally shut down due to the lack of crime after the psychopharmaceutical breakthrough of the late 2020s.
    “You mean they fought crime?”

  3. I actually liked the way EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND was tied up last night, and SEX AND THE CITY ended exactly the way I wanted it to … with Big and Carrie getting together. I stopped watching M*A*S*H a few seasons before it finally died a merciful death. I usually don’t like big, splashy, tear-jerker endings.

  4. You didn’t mention the cluster-fuck of awful that was the Roseanne finale. I had the misfortune of seeing that recently, essentially ended with one of those “it was all a dream” kind of things. UGH. I think most people (myself included) had stopped watching the show by the time the finale hit, but when I finally did see it I was truly bummed out by its badness. I honestly prefer it when the show ends without any fanfare, just a normal episode that leaves you wondering what might happen to those folks.

  5. You do realize that at least half of the shows in your list of no final series were canceled too late to do a final episode. I LOVE LUCY was supposed to continue with the LUCY-DESI COMEDY hours, even.
    A final episode is hard to get right. That’s what makes the ones that do so memorable.
    Of course, I do kinda like the idea of all characters continuing to live their lives like they do now.
    (Didn’t GROUNDED FOR LIFE end a couple months ago?)

  6. As far as I’m concerned, they can skip the final episodes, which are basically just a device utilized by the network to make a few more dollars!

  7. ST. ELSEWHERE had *two* finales. The writers were convinced the show as over and wrote a finale in which the hospital was torn down. But to their surprise, the show came back and they wrote a second finale, in which the entire series turned out to be a dream. At least it was audacious!
    MAGNUM PI also had two finales. MAGNUM was killed in the original finale…but when the show unexpectedly returned for another season, they quickly brought him back to life and in the final finale, married him off to the love interest they’d also killed off the previous season.

  8. I remember the Magnum episodes, and even though I came to love the series, they shouldn’t have gone back to the well that last season. It had gotten it right the first time, that the events of that episode overshadowed the subsequent season.

  9. ST. ELSEWHERE had *two* finales.
    They did that with a season of Dallas didn’t they? Not a finale, just decided that Pam dreamed the entire year.
    Thirty Something. (sobs for joy). A show I actually related to. I owned those clothes. And I fit in them.

  10. I’d just like to add that the season finale of Jack and Bobby was the one of the strongest there’s ever been since The Fugitive. There were enough explanations to satisfy, but not too many, in case the series was renewed for another year. (It wasn’t. There is no justice.) “Beating Our Tiny Fists on the Big Hairy Chest of the Corporate Literary World”


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