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Series finale

A series finale is the very last installment of a television series, usually a sitcom or drama. The term is typically used to refer to a planned ending, as opposed to an unplanned one when a series is suddenly cancelled by its network. Something labeled as a "series finale" is usually a high-profile event for a show's creators, fans, and sponsors. The phrase "series finale" is mainly used in North America; in the UK, final episode is more commonly used, because in the United Kingdom, "series" can be synonymous with the United States "season."

Typical formats

Usually, a series finale is a dramatic conclusion to the basic premise of the series. Final episodes frequently feature fundamental changes in the central plot line, such as the union of a couple, the resolution of a central mystery or problem, the separation of the major characters, or the sale of a home or business that serves as the series' primary setting. Indeed, in a final episode it is also possible to do things that would be considered jumping the shark at any other point in the series' run. The series finale does not always have to be an episode, though. On occasion, the series finale can actually be a television or theatrical film.

Another trend involves acknowledging the fundamental unreality of the series, as St. Elsewhere and Newhart did.

Final episodes often include looks into the future or detailed looks into the series' past, or sometimes both (as in Star Trek: The Next Generation's finale). Characters who have left the show often return. Characters may finally accomplish things they have never done, running gags are brought to an end, and unseen characters are revealed. There may also be allusions to other shows that have gone on into television history, and sometimes a character or two may be set up for a sequel series (e.g., Cheers begetting Frasier) in which characters from the series being concluded might show up from time to time. Shows that feature a character who confronts villains on a regular basis often build their finales around a final, no-holds-barred confrontation between the hero and the most notorious villain he or she has faced.

Series finales for shows that are cancelled suddenly are sometimes seen as making relatively haphazard or rushed conclusions, or sometimes merely having a reflective feeling rather than tying up loose ends.

An anticipated series finale will often wrap up loose plot threads that have lingered throughout a show's run, or at least its final seasons. It is very common for actors that have long since left a series to return for one last appearance, as did Shelley Long of Cheers, Dylan McDermott in The Practice, Kristy McNichol in Empty Nest, Tisha Campbell in Martin, David Duchovny in The X-Files, Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher in That '70s Show, Jessica Biel in the "intended finale" of 7th Heaven, Linda Gray and Steve Kanaly in Dallas, Rob Lowe in The West Wing, Denise Crosby in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Michael Shanks in Stargate SG-1's "intended finale" (the show was renewed for a seventh season following production), Joan Van Ark, Donna Mills in Knots Landing, David Boreanaz in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series finale, Scott Weinger in Full House, and Nicole Sullivan in The King of Queens finale.

Occasionally, a show is cancelled without warning, but its last two or three episodes are simply combined to comprise something billed as a "series finale" -- as has happened to one-time hits such as Married with Children and Full House, both of which became too expensive to produce and thus ended on an anti-climatic note.

Origins

Finales started becoming popular in the 1970s, after The Fugitive's closing episode in August 1967 became one of the most highly rated episodes of all time. Prior to that, most series consisted of stand-alone episodes without continuing story arcs, so there was little reason to provide closure. Other series had included special ending episodes much earlier, however, including Howdy Doody in September 1960 and Leave it to Beaver in June 1963.

Notable series finales

The following is a group of the most noteworthy or interesting series finales:Howdy Doody

  • "Clarabell's Big Surprise": Clarabell, who'd never spoken during the show, attempted to pass a message to the cast throughout the entire show. In the closing moments, the message was finally read by Buffalo Bob. "Why, I can't believe it!" Bob exclaimed. "Clarabell can talk! Is this true?" Clarabell nodded. "Well", Bob continued, gently shaking the clown's shoulders, "Go ahead. Say something!". A drumroll began as Clarabell faced the camera as it came in for an extreme closeup. His lips quivered as the drumroll continued. When it stopped, Clarabell simply said softly "Goodbye, kids", and the picture faded to black. Lew Anderson's (Clarabell's) genuine tears upon delivering the only line Clarabell ever spoke in 13 years made this one of the most poignant moments in television history. The recently discovered and restored color videotape of the final broadcast is now available commercially.Leave it to Beaver
  • "Family Scrapbook"- The classic sitcom Leave it to Beaver used the clip show format as its final show: June is cleaning and stumbles upon the old family scrapbook, and calls Ward, Wally, and Beaver, to come and look through it with her. As they thumb through the book and reminisce about the past six years of their lives, many of the pictures in the album transition to a clip from a previous episode for which the still photograph represents. The episodes recalled include "Beaver Gets 'Spelled", "New Neighbors", "My Brother's Girl", "The Shave", "Beaver Runs Away", "Larry Hides Out", "Teacher Comes to Dinner", and "Wally's Election". At the end of the episode, June and Ward sit on the couch and discuss how their sons are nearly adults, then the scene fades to Wally and Beaver in their room playing with a toy clown. This episode goes down in television history as the first traditional TV sitcom "series finale" (as it is defined by today's terms) by ending with this "clip show." No other series prior to this had a special ending episode produced (with the exception of Howdy Doody in 1960--but it didn't use flashbacks and was not a sitcom); they all just simply ended with a general story line that could have come at any point in the series.The Fugitive
  • "The Judgement"- After years running from those convinced of his guilt and involvement in the murder of his wife, Doctor Richard Kimble is finally tracked down and captured by Lt. Gerard. Eager to prove his innocence once and for all, he arranges a risky attempt to capture the One-Armed Man. Discovering a key witness to the murder is being blackmailed by the killer, Kimble and Gerard confront their quarry at last. In the ensuing battle with Kimble, the One-Armed Man is shot dead by Gerard, and Kimble's name is cleared upon testimony by the now freed eyewitness. This finale received the highest viewing figures in American history prior to being surpassed by the Dallas episode that resolved the "who shot J.R.?" storyline and the final episode of M*A*S*H.The Prisoner
  • "Fall Out": One of the most perplexing, cryptic series finales in television history, in which Number Six makes his final attempt to escape The Village, and finally meets Number One, by descending into the basement, past the imprisoned Number Two and 48 (the former laughing hysterically, the latter still singing), and goes up a circular metal staircase. At the top, he enters a control room full of globes and sees a masked, hooded figure wearing the "Number One" badge, who is watching surveillance footage of Number Six (actually scenes from earlier episodes). He pulls Number One's mask off to reveal the face of a chimpanzee. Underneath this second mask, he sees his own face. The show concludes with Number Six returning home; after Number Six gets into his car and drives away, The Butler walks up to the door which opens by itself (just like the doors in The Village, including the same sound effect). When it closes, the Number One is visible on the door. Number Two is then shown in a suit walking to the Peers' entrance to the Palace of Westminster. Finally, after a clap of thunder, we see Number Six driving in his car exactly as we see him during the first few seconds of the every episode's opening title sequence, leaving open several questions and possibilities.The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • "The Last Show": The entire cast, save Ted Baxter, is fired from WJM-TV. In the memorable closing moments, Mary tries to keep a brave face, but Lou chastises her, "What do you have, ice water in your veins?" The gang says goodbye to each other in the form of a long, hard cry. However, when Lou says he wants a Kleenex, rather than break the hug to get it, they all shuffle en masse to the desk to get it, remaining in the hug. Mary thanks them all for being her surrogate family, but Lou finally sentimentally says, "I cherish you people." They bravely march out the office doors singing, "It's a Long Way to Tipperary". At the last moment, Mary leans back through the WJM-TV doors and turns out the light. (The group hug has been referenced in many series finales, such as St. Elsewhere, Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Just Shoot Me!)Blake's 7
  • "Blake:" The finale was deliberately made as violent and bloody as possible by the writers and producers, who were upset with the cancellation of the show. The crew are forced to destroy their base after being traced by the Federation, but gamble everything on tracking down their former leader, Roj Blake, who is apparently hiding out on the planet Gauda Prime. The planets blockade leaves their ship completely destroyed, and Tarrant is captured by the now-scarred Blake, whom he has never met, and psychologically tortured. Avon and the others fend off rogue mercenaries and make their way to Blake's base - by chance they arrive just as Tarrant escapes, and once Tarrant denounces Blake as a traitor. Avon shoots his old friend, before falling into a semi-catatonic state. The rest of the crew is shot down by Federation officers, with the dazed Avon the only one left standing, surrounded by gunmen. The final shot of the series is Avon slowly raising his gun, and gunfire plays over most of the credits. The episode was watched by 14 million people in the UK. Soap
  • "Episode 93": The final episode deliberately let the series hang with multiple cliffhangers, culminating with Chester discovering Danny in bed with Annie and pointing a gun at them both, Burt receiving a tip about a major drug transaction and walking into an ambush, and Jessica facing a South American firing squad. None of these plot-lines were resolved, though Jessica appeared as a ghost in the spin-off Benson, implying she'd been killed, but eventually claiming that she was alive and in a coma.M*A*S*H
  • "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen": Hawkeye Pierce slowly recuperates from a traumatic experience in a military sanitarium, whilst the 4077th find themselves pinned down by heavier casualties and tremendous firepower as the final days of the war approach, with both sides struggling for final claim of territory. Hawkeye returns, slightly more erratic than usual, and drives a parked enemy tank out of the camp. The 4077th commence a temporary bug-out and retreat elsewhere until the peace talks finally end. Upon the war's conclusion, everyone departs through a different form of transport, until Hawkeye and B.J. are the only two left in the deserted camp. B.J. takes Hawkeye to his own helicopter transport on his bike. As Pierce leaves the 4077th forever, he notices B.J., who had avoided saying the words "goodbye" for much of the story despite Pierce's insistence, had arranged on the hill over the camp, a set of rocks forming the words "GOODBYE". It achieved the highest ratings in US television history.Benson
  • "And the Winner Is...": At the end of the episode, it was election night. With the race still too close to call, Benson and Gatling, who had strained relations due to the race, made their peace with one another and sat down together to watch election returns on television. As the broadcaster began to announce that a winner in the election was at last being projected, the episode ended with an unresolved cliffhanger to the series, just like its predecessor Soap.Cheers
  • "One for the Road": The long final episode featured many departures and loose ends being tied: Diane appeared for the first time in six years, with she and Sam unsuccessfully trying to rekindle their romance, Woody began his tenure as city councilman with Norm as one of his employees, Frasier (who would later return to his hometown of Seattle) became re-engaged with ex-wife Lilith, and Rebecca finally married her plumber beau Don (Tom Berenger). At the end, the group sat around a table discussing life late at night. After most of the cast had dispersed, Norm told Sam he would get over Diane because he would always come back to "her", and though Norm doesn't specify who "she" is, he seems to imply "she" is the bar itself. Finally alone, Sam exclaimed aloud to no one in particular with a sudden, amazed epiphany, "Boy, I'll tell ya... I'm the luckiest son-of-a-bitch on Earth." At that point, Sam heard a rap on the locked bar door. With the camera shooting from the outside looking in, Sam waved away the customer (literary agent Bob Broder in a cameo) and to the television audience, "I'm sorry, we're closed!" In a bookend to the first episode, in which Sam came from the back room and opened the bar, Sam turned out the lights and strolled back into the back room.Newhart
  • "The Last Newhart": The show's final scenes feature the townsfolk selling the entire town to a Japanese developer to turn it into a golf course. They return five years later - richer and odder than before - to pay the Loudons a visit, to Dick's dismay. Michael and Stephanie's daughter has grown up to be a tiny clone of her mother. George has opened a new theme park dedicated to handymen. Larry, Darryl and Darryl have all married gabby, talkative women (one of whom is played by a then-unknown Lisa Kudrow). When they decide to stay, and change the inn as they see fit, Dick becomes enraged as they constantly ignore his protestations. As Dick storms out of the inn, he is struck by a golf ball, passes out, and awakens in bed as Bob Hartley from The Bob Newhart Show, in bed with wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette). Bob starts describing the weird dream he had as a Vermont innkeeper and the bizarre characters that surrounded him. Emily quips, "That's the last time you have Japanese food before you go to bed!" and is unconcerned until Bob mentions being married to a beautiful blonde. Bob dismisses her concern but, before he turns out the light, suggests that she start wearing more sweaters.St. Elsewhere
  • "The Last One": The final episode of St. Elsewhere is best known for revealing the entire series was a fantasy of Donald Westphall's autistic son Tommy. Westphall arrives home from a day of work, and it is clear that he works in construction from the uniform he wears and from a conversation in this scene. "Daniel Auschlander" is revealed to be Donald's father, and thus Tommy's grandfather. Donald laments to his father, "I don't understand this autism. I talk to my boy, but...I'm not even sure if he ever hears me... Tommy's locked inside his own world. Staring at that toy all day long. What does he think about?" The toy is revealed to be a snow globe with a replica of St. Eligius inside. Tommy shakes the snow globe, and is told by his father to come and wash his hands, after having left the snow globe on the family's television set.

Thom Holbrook noted on his extensively researched crossover site that this finale critically affected other shows:

The final episode of St. Elsewhere revealed the entire series to be the daydream of an autistic child (man did this show have balls!). Given this, an argument could be made that all the crossovers with St. Elsewhere are invalid. That all the crossovers were merely part of the kid's dream. Like he watched Cheers on TV and worked it into his little fantasy and thus the shows don't really exist as part of the same reality. I count the crossovers as valid however. When all these crossovers were aired it was with the idea they were real. No one [knew] the whole show was supposed to be a [kid's] dream. So, since they were intended as real, I say they're legit. I actually like the idea that the kid dreamed ALL the shows connected to St. Elsewhere. In that case if you check all the pertinent crossovers you'll discover that the show Newhart was the dream of Bob Newhart's character from the Bob Newhart show who was in turn only a character in an autistic kid's head. Don't think about that too long or your head will explode.
Babylon 5

  • "Sleeping in Light": Twenty years have passed since the end of the Shadow War and Sheridan's death at Z'ha'dum. After several nights of the same dream, wherein he sees Lorien explaining that he can only extend Sheridan's life for 20 years, but no longer, Sheridan realizes that his life is approaching its end. Hoping to enjoy the company of his old friends one last time, Sheridan dispatches Rangers with messages. As each Ranger arrives with his message, we get a glimpse into the lives these people have led since they left B5. Michael Garibaldi is the head of the Edgars-Garibaldi corporation, Dr. Stephen Franklin is the head of xenobiological research on Earth, Ivanova is now a General with Earthforce, and Vir Cotto is Emperor of the Centauri. As each receives his or her invitation to dinner, none needs to ask why. They all knew this day would come. Star Trek: The Next Generation and spinoffs
  • "All Good Things...": In a special two-part finale, Jean-Luc Picard finds himself jumping in time between three different eras: the past, during Picard's taking command of the Enterprise-D around the time of "Encounter at Farpoint", the present, and the future in which Picard is retired and suffering from a debilitating mental disease. As Picard tries to solve the mystery of his strange time-jumping, he explores his past and future relationships, including Tasha Yar. He discovers, with some help by Q, that he himself is responsible for the time jumping for an action he took while scanning an anomaly in space. All three versions of Picard order their respective Enterprises armed with a "static warp shell" into the anomaly to "heal" it. As each ship is destroyed by the stress, Q bids Picard farewell, "Goodbye Jean-Luc. I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end." After the last Enterprise is destroyed, Picard finds himself in a white limbo being congratulated by Q for saving humanity (again). The final scene takes place around the weekly poker game held by the Enterprise command crew. Picard unexpectedly appears to join them. When he says with a wistful sigh, "I should have done this a long time ago," Deanna tells him warmly, "You were always welcome." Picard smiles and deals the cards, saying, "Five card stud, nothing wild... and the sky's the limit."

The spin-offs each had memorable series finales as well:

*Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - "What You Leave Behind": The series wrapped up many loose ends among the characters, including Odo rejoining the Great Link (memorably dressed in a formal suit to romantically please Kira), Ben's sacrifice to entrap the Pah Wraiths forever, Kira taking over running the space station (Quark supplies the last spoken dialogue: "It's like I always say - the more things change, the more they stay the same!") and closing with the evocative shot of Ben's son Jake and Kira staring at the wormhole where Ben was destined to exist forever.
*Star Trek: Voyager - "Endgame": The future crew of Voyager help their past selves return early, with the "help" of the Borg Queen.
*Star Trek: Enterprise - "These Are the Voyages...": The finale focused on the birth of the United Federation of Planets, as seen from the perspective of William Riker and Deanna Troi, viewing it on a holodeck.The Kids in the Hall

  • The Last Show: In their final episode, several long-running sketches were finally resolved, including a "Rock and Roll Angel" (portrayed by Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson) who showed the garage band "Rod Torfulson's Armada featuring Herman Menderchuk" their wretched future ("You suck!") to disbelieving band members ("Yeah, but do we make it?"), Buddy Cole set fire to his bar "Buddy's" after hearing the gay man he sold it to was going to turn it into a straight bar with strippers and was carried off by a hunky fireman, and the secretaries of "AT & Love" discover their company was sold to The Americans, and mull life after their tenure ("temp slut" Tanya photocopies her bare breasts to go back into stripping), and is asked by the drunk company CEO to hand in their wigs - which the cast literally did! - and walked off the set. During the end credits, the cast was buried alive under a large tombstone which read The Kids in the Hall TV Show 1989-1995. Paul Bellini, one of the show's writers, strolled onto the freshly dug grave wearing his trademark towel, and danced on their grave, gloating, "Thank God that's finally over!" (Before this, his towel-wrapped character had never spoken.)Quantum Leap
  • "Mirror Image": Sam Beckett leaps into himself, in a strange bar with a bartender who may or may not be God. Sam witnesses another leaper saving a group of stranded miners, and realizes that his true mission all along was as a guardian angel, to help all the people he loves. His last act is to let Beth, Al's wife, know that Al had survived Vietnam, and he would return to her. They remain married, having four children, all daughters. The final placard states ominously "Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home", leaving open the question of Sam's fate.Mystery Science Theater 3000
  • (Comedy Central): "Episode 706: Laserblast": Dr. Clayton Forrester informs the members of the Satellite of Love that Deep 13 lost its funding and unceremoniously unplugs the Umbilicus that tethered the S.O.L. to Earth, causing it to drift aimlessly into outer space. During the host segments, the crew deals with Nomad, change a Star Child's diaper, Mike impersonates Kathryn Janeway to save the crew from being sucked into a black hole (before launching into a high energy rendition of "Proud Mary"), and finally reach the edge of the universe and turn into points of "pure energy". In another 2001 reference, an elderly Forrester dies in bed with a giant "monolith" (a giant VHS tape cassette labelled "The Worst Movie Ever Made") at the foot of it, and resurrects into a "Star Child", whom Pearl cuddles, cooing, "Another chance to do it right. Isn't it wonderful, baby?" The Star Child Forrester mumbles, "Oh, poopie!"
  • (Sci Fi Channel): "Episode 1013: Danger: Diabolik": As the Satellite of Love is plummeting into a violent collision course with Earth (thanks to a mishap by Pearl Forrester) Mike, Crow and Tom beg The Mads to save them, who are shuffling in a group hug and singing "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" (parodying The Mary Tyler Moore Show finale). Pearl approaches the monitor and tells Mike, "Look, Nelson, move on. I am", and unceremoniously disconnects the Umbilicus, severing the connection between Castle Forrester and the S.O.L. forever. As the Satellite crashes into Earth, a simple piano rendition of "Who Will I Kill?" plays (an ode to departed characters Dr. Clayton Forrester and TV's Frank). When the dust clears however, Mike and the robots are revealed to be safe and happy, albeit in a low-rent basement apartment, discussing Gypsy's success running a Fortune 500 company "ConGypsCo", which they opted out of buying stock from. They huddle around a rabbit-eared television set to watch The Crawling Eye, and begin to riff on it (Tom: "The Crawling Eye - the Marty Feldman story!") Crow notes quizzically, "This movie looks kind of familiar, doesn't it?" (The Crawling Eye was the first film MST3K riffed in the first season. Interestingly, the cast was completely different in that show.)The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
  • "I, Done": Hilary and Ashley move to New York, while Carlton transfers to Princeton University. Geoffrey resigns and returns to England to be near his son. Uncle Phil, Aunt Viv and Nicky move to the East Coast after selling the mansion, first offering it to Philip Drummond and Arnold Jackson (from Diff'rent Strokes), and finally selling it to George and Louise Jefferson from (The Jeffersons).Seinfeld
  • "The Finale": In the two-part episode Jerry, Kramer, George and Elaine travel to Paris to celebrate the picking up of Jerry's 1993 failed self-titled pilot Jerry. On the flight, Kramer jumps up and down trying to get water out from his ears that causes the plane to nearly crash, and while on layover, the four make fun of and videotape an obese man who is being robbed at gunpoint. One pedestrian reports this to the police, and they are charged with violating a Good Samaritan law for not helping him. A lengthy trial ensues with several character witnesses being arch-rivals that the four have either hurt, humiliated, or ruined in the past by their "selfish misdeeds," such as The Soup Nazi, The Bubble Boy, etc. Their lawyer tries to point out that all the witnesses are exaggerating, and George's mother attempts to help by (unsuccessfully) seducing the judge. In the end, they are found guilty and sentenced to one year in prison. The final scene of the show reveals George and Jerry talking about a button, which was strangely the same conversation they had in the first episode. Elaine still cannot believe they are in prison, but Jerry assures her they can get released on parole for good behavior, and they can try to get Jerry picked up again. During the credits, Jerry is shown doing stand-up comedy for the other inmates and says "I'll see you in the cafeteria, you've all been great!" Friends
  • "The Last One" - In a two part episode, Phoebe and Joey pack Monica and Chandler's belongings as the couple accompany Erica, who went into labor at the end of the previous episode, to the hospital. Meanwhile, Rachel leaves Ross's bedroom after their apparent reunion in the previous episode. Erica gives birth to twins, to the surprise of Monica and Chandler, who were expecting only one child. Ross later confesses that he slept with Rachel, who emerges from the bedroom and tells Ross that the sex was "the perfect way to say goodbye". Phoebe convinces Ross to tell Rachel how he feels about her before she leaves for her new job in Paris, but Gunther (James Michael Tyler) steps in front of him and confesses his love for Rachel. Ross decides not to tell Rachel, for fear of rejection. However, after she leaves, Ross has a change of heart and races to the airport to tell Rachel. Phoebe's reckless driving gets Ross and her to the airport, but discover they went to the wrong airport. Phoebe phones Rachel, who has already boarded her flight, to stall her for time. When a passenger overhears Phoebe saying there is a problem with the plane, he gets off the plane, prompting everyone else to leave. Ross arrives at the airport as Rachel boards the plane again to tell her he loves her; she is unable to deal with his confession and gets on the plane anyway. Ross returns home, dejected, and finds a message from Rachel on the phone. She explains her actions and decided to get off the plane, but the message cuts off. Ross turns around to see Rachel standing in the doorway and they embrace. The following morning, the friends gather in Monica and Chandler's empty apartment. They decide to go for a cup of coffee before Monica and Chandler leave for the new house. Frasier
  • "Goodnight, Seattle": The two-part episode featured Frasier sitting in a plane, telling his seat-mate the circumstances of his final days hosting a radio show at KACL: he'd accepted a new job in San Francisco after potential love interest Charlotte had left for Chicago. His father Martin married his girlfriend Ronee (Niles and Frasier's former babysitter) and complications arose when Eddie swallowed the ring, Daphne gave birth to her first child, David (named after David Angell), and Roz becomes the KACL station manager. Frasier famously closed his final radio show with a farewell speech, first quoting the final lines of Alfred Lord Tennyson's Ulysses ("Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will / To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield"), then thanking his Seattle listeners (and faithful Frasier viewers): "For eleven years you have heard me say, 'I’m listening.' Well, you were listening too. And for that I am eternally grateful. Goodnight, Seattle.'" In the closing scene, Frasier's seat-mate wished him good luck after the plane had landed, and in a final twist, the pilot announcement told the passengers: "Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to Chicago..."The X-Files
  • "The Truth": The main characters from the X-Files help get Mulder out of prison. He and Scully decide to flee to Canada, but go to New Mexico to confront the Cigarette Smoking Man. Meanwhile, John Doggett and Monica Reyes find out that the Super Soldiers are planning to kill both Mulder and Scully and warn them. CSM tells Mulder and Scully that an alien colonization will begin in 2012. CSM is killed by the Super Soldiers with their helicopter missiles. Mulder and Scully both stay at a hotel and share their last words about hoping to survive.The Sopranos
  • "Made in America": Many fans predicted that Tony Soprano would end up being put in jail on RICO charges, flipping and cooperating with the FBI, or being murdered by Phil Leotardo's New York family. Instead, the episode ended with Tony dining with his family at a local restaurant. Tony arrives first and selects Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" from the table jukebox. Carmela then joins him, asking if he has recently spoken to their lawyer. He responds that he has, and that Carlo Gervasi is most likely going to testify against him in court. A.J. arrives next and joins his parents. A man sits at the counter drinking coffee, looking in Tony's direction multiple times. Outside the diner, Meadow arrives and has difficulty parking her Lexus. A.J. complains about the mundane tasks of his job, but after playfully being told to "buck up" by Tony, quotes his father, saying that they should "focus on the good times", to which Tony agrees. The man at the counter walks past Tony and into the restroom. Tony, Carmela, and A.J. each eat an onion ring and Meadow finally parks her car, running across the street and approaching the restaurant door. As Tony looks through the jukebox, he hears the bell on the door ring and looks up. The music stops (on the word 'stop'), the screen cuts to black, and after several seconds, the credits roll in silence.Six Feet Under
  • "Everyone's Waiting": The episode opens with Brenda giving birth to Willa, fathered by Nate, who died of AVM several episodes prior. In a dream, Nate tells Brenda he will always love his daughter. Claire's finds out her job offer in New York is gone, as the company has merged with another company in Chicago. Nate appears to Claire (a recurring theme in the series has been dead characters appearing to and talking with living ones) and convinces her to move to New York anyway. Before leaving home, she bids a very emotional goodbye to Ruth, David, Keith, Anthony and Durrel, and takes one last photograph of them as Nate's ghost says to her, "You can't take a picture of this, it's already gone." Claire begins to drive off to begin her new life, while listening to Sia Furler's song "Breathe Me". This song accompanies a montage of clips depicting future events concerning the Fisher and Diaz family; in circa 2010, David and Keith wed; in 2025, Ruth Fisher dies of natural causes, with her family as well as the ghosts of Nate and Nathanial Sr. surrounding her; four years later, Keith is gunned down and killed by robbers while unloading an armored truck; a few years later (circa 2030s), Claire marries Ted; in 2044, David passes away after seeing a vision of a young, healthy Keith; in 2049, Federico dies of an apparent heart attack while vacationing with Vanessa; in 2051, Brenda dies of natural causes while sitting at home with Billy; and finally in 2085, Claire dies in her apartment, blind of cataracts, at the age of 102. The haunting finale was met with much acclaim from both critics and audiences.

Notable shows that had more than one series finale

In some rare instances, a show will feature more than one series finale due to being cancelled and/or being bought by another network. These shows include:

When The WB wanted to keep the show, but at a lower price from 20th Century Fox Television, UPN put in a higher offer and bought it for $150 million. WB advertised the last episode to be aired on their network as the "WB Series Finale".

Stargate SG-1 has actually had four episodes written as series finales. The finales of Season 6 (Full Circle), Season 7 (Lost City), and Season 8 (Moebius) were planned as season finales when it was unclear if the show would be renewed. The actual finale, Unending, was rushed into production when, despite the producers' beliefs that the show would be renewed, Sci-Fi cancelled SG-1 with only three episodes left to film in Season 10. Consequently, Unending does not actually resolve most of the major plotlines of the series, unlike the other three finales (at the time they aired). However, the direct to DVD film Stargate: The Ark of Truth resolves the major remaining plotlines.

Notable shows that had a premature series finale

In another rare instance, a show will have a series finale, but unexpectedly have an extension.Captain Kangaroo

  • "Good Evening, Captain": In what was to be the historic last episode, it featured special guests Barbara Mandrell, Ted Lange, LaWanda Page, Ja'Net DuBois, Todd Bridges, Kim Fields and "number one fan" Jean Stapleton. It instead was the last daily episode, as the series continued as a weekly for the next three years.Charmed
  • "Something Wicca This Way Goes", the seventh season finale, was supposed to be the last episode of the series. However, fans claiming for a eighth season did have it and the last episode, "Forever Charmed", was broadcasted in May 2006.Doctor Who
  • "Survival": At the end of its 26th series in 1989, the BBC announced it was ending production of the series (although it never officially cancelled it). Prior to broadcast of the final story arc, Survival, series producer John Nathan-Turner had the show's star, Sylvester McCoy, record a brief monologue that was added to the final episode for transmission, which was intended as a final message to end the series. Following a made-for-TV film in 1996, the series resumed production in 2005 and is considered a continuation of the original show. King of the Hill
  • "Lucky's Wedding Suit": The season 11 finale was originally intended to be the series finale, given the montage of many one-time characters attending Lucky and Luanne's wedding, although the show was renewed in January 2007 and will enter its thirteenth season.Magnum, P.I.
  • "Limbo": Tom Magnum is shot and put into a coma, and his spirit travels around rectifying loose ends and issues of the series. At the end, he is ready to die, but is called back into his life by Higgins. CBS had originally intended this to be the series finale, but the ratings compelled them to do one more season.Roseanne
  • The producers expected that the eighth season would be the last, and so the last episode of that season ended with Dan Conner having a heart attack at his daughter's wedding. Unexpectedly, the network purchased one more season, and so the first episode of the ninth season showed Dan recovering in hospital. Subsequent episodes throughout the ninth season featured a lottery win, followed by a battle with terrorists, encounters with celebrities, and other extravagant scenarios, culminating with the revelation that Roseanne had been writing a book about her life and family, in which she had escaped into fantasy: all of that season's events, including Dan's survival after the heart attack, had been pure wish-fulfillment on her part. She also revealed that the substitution of the book - how she wanted life to be - for the show's "reality" had begun even before the ninth season: among other differences, Becky had married David and Darlene had married Mark, instead of vice-versa, and Beverly was not a lesbian but Jackie was.Sledge Hammer!
  • "The Spa Who Loved Me": The producers expected the low ratings of Sledge Hammer to cause the series to be cancelled. Therefore, they ended the first season with Sledge botching the defusing of a nuclear bomb, destroying San Francisco as Trunk screamed in anger, "Haaaaaaaaammeeeeeeeerrrrrrr!" When the series was picked up for a second season, they were forced to set it five years before the explosion.

Notable shows that ended with a de facto finale

The following is a list of de facto series finales for shows that ended prematurely. As such, these final episodes do not display the unique characteristics of a formal, planned series finale, in which the entire plot of the series is resolved or concluded in some manner.

  • Crossing Jordan (2007)
  • 8 Simple Rules (2005)
  • Popular (2001)
  • Girlfriends (2008)
  • Carnivale (2005)
  • The Addams Family (1966)
  • ALF (1990) - The fourth season ends with Alf being caught by the Alien Task Force, with the writers intending to resolve the issue the following season. However, the series was canceled, yet resolved in the 1996 TV movie Project ALF.
  • American Dreams (2005)
  • Beautiful People (2006) - The three Kerr women split up with their respective boyfriend
  • Bewitched (1972)
  • Bonanza (1973) — Little Joe is stalked by a war-deranged madman during a delivery run.
  • The Brady Bunch (1974) — Greg is duped into buying a hair tonic that turns his hair orange just hours before graduation.
  • Diff'rent Strokes (1986)
  • Family Matters
  • Farscape (2003) — The series was abruptly canceled in its fourth season after being promised a fifth by the network. Was later continued in the miniseries The Peacekeeper Wars.
  • Firefly (2002) - The series was canceled halfway through its first season with "Objects in Space", but was revived in the feature-film Serenity in (2005).
  • Gilligan's Island (1967) - The series later found closure in a series of movies.
  • Gilmore Girls (2007)
  • Gunsmoke (1975)
  • I Dream of Jeannie (1970)
  • I Love Lucy (1957)
  • The Jeffersons (1985)
  • Las Vegas (2008)
  • Laverne & Shirley (1983)
  • Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1997)- The fourth season concluded with Clark and Lois finding an infant wrapped in a Superman blanket with a note saying the child belonged to them. A fifth season was planned to explain where the child came from, but the series was cancelled due to falling ratings, leaving the mystery unsolved.
  • The Lone Gunmen (2001) - Although it originally lacked a series finale, it later received one in the form of the 2002 X-Files episode "Jump the Shark" and all the protagonists sacrificed their lives to save America.
  • Maude (1978) - Maude gets elected to Congress.
  • Mayberry R.F.D. (1971)
  • The Monkees (1968)
  • The Munsters (1966)
  • My Wife & Kids (2005) - After reading about a 67 year old woman giving birth, Jay tries to convince Michael to get a vasectomy. Not only did the episode end up being a series finale, but it ended with a dramatic story line that was never resolved: Jay was pregnant.
  • The Odd Couple (1975) - Felix remaries Gloria
  • ReBoot The fourth season was originally intended to have 13 episodes(With 12 being the series finale, and 13 being a musical special.) However, the Networks only allowed eight episodes. In order to persuade the networks to get more episodes, Mainframe Entertainment ended the series on a yet to be resolved cliffhanger, where Megabyte, the shows villain, takes over the principal office. Where the system of Mainframe is controlled. The series ended with Megabyte saying Prepare for the hunt!. The series was resolved with the comic book Reboot: Arrival
  • Sliders (2000)
  • Star Trek (1969) – The first six of the Star Trek films would continue the storylines of the crew, concluding with Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Star Trek Generations, the seventh film, concludes the story of Captain James T. Kirk.
  • Stargate SG-1, while the show had been written season-by-season since season six, the finale of the tenth season was not written to resolve every conflict in the series. And thus two direct-to-DVD films were commissioned to resolve the storylines.
  • That's So Raven (2007)
  • Twin Peaks A strong drop in ratings led to the unexpected cancellation of the show. In the final scene of the series Agent Dale Cooper appears to have been either possessed by Killer BOB or trapped in The Black Lodge. A number of other storylines were planned for the never made third series. The fates of the residents of Twin Peaks are yet to be revealed.
  • Welcome Back, Kotter (1979) - Although the second-to-last episode featured Arnold Horshack getting married, Welcome Back, Kotter ended without showing the long-awaited graduation of the Sweathogs. The last episode "The Breadwinners" deals with a fight between Freddy and Epstein, after Freddy gets an after-school job that Epstein felt was rightfully his.
  • Veronica Mars (2007)
  • Yes, Prime Minister (1988)
  • Joan of Arcadia (2005)
  • Tru Calling (2005)
  • Dark Angel
  • The 4400 (2007)
  • The Dead Zone (2007)

Animated Series Finales

It can be said Animated series finales go by the same rules as the live action series finales. However, most of the time, the way of the show end depends on which public the show is meant for. Animated series (especially shows for show kids network oriented adventures and comedy shows) for young kids don't have real finales because there isn't any ongoing story to finish and the series just stop when it isn't renewed for another seasons. Most animated series with finales are series that are made for older audiences (teens or adults) or who are playing outside their intended demographic audience (voluntarily or not). One recent notable exception is Avatar: The Last Airbender, a Nickelodeon show aimed at children which concluded its three-season run by wrapping up most of the major plotlines of the show, and firmly establishing character relationships which had before only been hinted at, making it more similar to live action finales.

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