The 10 Best Series Finales

As promised, here are the episodes I've picked as the 10 best series finales.

10.) Newhart
In my last post, I criticized St. Elsewhere's ending as a stunt for the sake of being a stunt. Bob Newhart's second sitcom ended with a stunt, too, but it totally worked. Bob woke up on the set of his first show next to Suzanne Pleshette, his first TV wife, and started describing a crazy dream he had about running an inn in Vermont.

9.) The Office (UK Version)

In the two Christmas specials that wrapped up the British version of The Office, cameras revisited the Wernham Hogg crew three years after the original documentaries aired. Boorish boss David, laid off (or "made redundant," as they say across the pond), has parlayed his reality show fame into a career as a D-list celebrity. Dawn, miserable in Florida with Lee, visited the old office for Christmas, and finally ended up with Tim after he gave her the best Secret Santa present ever. Jim and Pam should be so lucky.

8.) The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson


Okay, so technically this isn't a series finale because The Tonight Show lives on, but the tributes paid to Johnny Carson after 30 years on the air, especially by Bette Midler, drove home that late-night shows would never be the same.

7.) Arrested Development

The writers had plenty of warning to come up with a way to end the series, since it was on the verge of cancellation practically since the pilot. Not only did everything come full circle, from Buster's final confrontation with the loose seal to the explosion of another yacht, but it was done in hilarious, imaginative, and unexpected ways.

6.) M*A*S*H
The most-watched event in television history is such an obvious choice that I almost didn't include it on this list. When I was reminded of the iconic image of "Goodbye" spelled out in rocks as the helicopter flew way, I knew I couldn't leave it out.

5.) Moonlighting
In Dave and Maddie's final episode, this show decided to go meta. Moonlighting would often break the fourth wall for a moment, but this whole episode took place completely outside all of the walls, as Dave and Maddie raced around the back lot talking to writers, executives, and their out-of-character fellow actors.

4.) Cheers
This is a sentimental favorite for me. This was the first show that I had been watching for most of its run by the time the finale rolled around. While it wasn't a surprise that Shelley Long came back, it was a shocker that Sam and Diane got together momentarily before coming to their senses. The final line: "We're closed," delivered by Sam to a customer coming down the stairs, set just the right tone to fade to black.

3.) Sex and the City
Sure, it was great that Carrie ended up with Big, and kind of exciting that we got to find out what his name is. For me, though, the greatest thing about this show was not Carrie going back to Big, but that she went back to the two things that, unlike Big, had been there for her throughout the series: her friends and New York. If there's any lesson we learned from this show it's that men come and go, but your friends are constant. I'm so glad the last shot was of the four ladies meeting in the coffee shop rather than of Carrie with Big.

2.) Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I had just moved when this finale aired and hadn't gotten my cable hooked up yet, so I watched it on the four-inch antenna TV in my new apartment, sitting cross-legged on the kitchen counter. The less-than-comfortable setting didn't make the last hurrah (literally for some -- RIP, Anya) of the Scooby Gang any less riveting. Buffy and friends went out in a final blaze of glory, and nothing could have been more fitting than Sunnydale being swallowed up by the Hellmouth. For most of the series, it seemed like Buffy would never be able to get some rest from her Slayer duties; turning all the potentials into full-blown Slayers solved that problem once and for all.

1.) Six Feet Under
Usually, rapidly aging the characters of a series is a little grating (see Stargate and Will & Grace). In this case, though, the moving montage of all the characters ultimate fates, set to beautiful music, was the perfect way to end a series that used death to tell us about life.

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Amy Kane spends as much quality time with her television as possible, when she's not busy at her day job as a cube dweller.