In the last shot of Tuesday night's finale of "The Hills," the curtain — or, more correctly, the matte painting of the Hollywood Hills — was pulled back to reveal a soundstage: an interesting comment on the nature of reality shows that "The Hills" has done so much to influence.
Needless to say, it was a pretty noteworthy moment, certainly the first time in the history of reality TV that producers went to such great lengths to break the so-called "fourth wall." Sure, for years characters have hooked up with folks behind the scenes — on the Seattle season of "The Real World," this even became part of the story line — and spoken directly to the viewer via "confessional interviews," but the finale of "The Hills" was something else entirely. In a genre positively overflowing with shows, each a slight variation on the last, "Hills" producers managed to pull off the unthinkable: They did something completely new.
So that got us thinking: How does "The Hills" finale stack up against some of the greatest farewells in TV history? It might just be that we're still riding high on the post-finale buzz, but we'd be willing to put it up against the best of all time, if only for the sheer WTF-ness of that last scene. So while it's still early, here's the company the final "Hills" could be keeping.
"M*A*S*H," "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"
Until it was bested by the Saints/Colts tilt in Super Bowl XLIV, this was the most-watched TV show in history (it's still the highest-rated finale). An emotional ride from start to finish, it was capped by the tear-jerking last scene, in which Hawkeye Pierce — finally leaving Korea aboard a helicopter — looks down and sees the word "Goodbye" spelled out in rocks. It's since become one of the most memorable moments in television history.
"Newhart," "The Last Newhart"
The best example of the "it was all a dream" device, "Newhart" ended its eight-year run by making the entire thing a dream of a character the comedian played on his previous series, the beloved "Bob Newhart Show." It was a stroke of pure genius, and it secured this episode's place in the pantheon of the all-time greats.
"Cheers," "One for the Road"
The perfect example of a finale done right: funny, sad, nostalgic ..."One for the Road" had it all, and yet, unlike most finales, it also managed to be delightfully, beautifully subtle, too. Case in point, the last scene, which saw Sam Malone straighten that picture of Geronimo (which was hung on the set in memory of actor Nicholas Colasanto, who had kept it in his dressing room until he died midway through the show's third season) and proclaim to a patron, "We're closed."
"The Sopranos," "Made in America"
Depending on whom you ask, this was either the most frustrating finale in TV history, or the most brilliant, but everyone can at least agree on the power of the final scene, in which the (possible) final moments of Tony Soprano's life played out while Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' " blared on the jukebox. Did he die? Does it really matter?
"St. Elsewhere," "The Last One"
In another divisive finale, the highly rated medical drama ended with an autistic kid shaking a snow globe (in which a replica of the titular hospital could be seen). It was inferred that the entire series had taken place in his mind. You're darn right people were pissed.
While it wasn't as gripping as the "Who Shot J.R.?" cliffhanger, it turns out that the finale of the long-running show was actually about J.R. being shot ... by himself. Echoing "It's a Wonderful Life," the episode follows a supposed angel showing magnate J.R. Ewing contemplating what life would've been like without him. Turns out, it would've been pretty lousy, and J.R. decides that he wants to live. Only, that angel was really the devil, and J.R. decides to shoot himself. Viewers freaked out — this would've been a pretty dark ending, after all — though, five years later, in the "Dallas" reunion, it was revealed that J.R. actually shot a mirror. This seems like something Spencer Pratt might do, now that we think about it ...
What did you think of "The Hills" finale? Sound off in the comments below!