Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, or The Tough Task of Ending a Popular TV Show

On the eve of TV Tuesday, I'd like to go on record and say that I enjoyed the final episode of Six Feet Under. I'm sure people will bag on it, because -- well, people like to bag on things, final episodes of popular TV shows especially. And because after an almost universally dark five seasons -- one of my friends stopped watching the show in the middle of Season Three because he said it was getting to be too much like Party of Five, i.e. a show in which nothing good ever happened to anyone -- the final episode offered some rare glimpses of optimism. David and Keith moving into the Fisher house and fixing it up, Ruth cheering up, Brenda coming to terms with her new baby, everyone coming to terms with Nate's death, Claire striking out for New York City.

Maybe people will think the show sold out -- they're not allowed to be happy, goddamnit! Good things don't happen in Six Feet Under Land! We want carnage! But given the task of wrapping up a five-season show that's been almost always good, sometimes spectacular, with lots of characters and lots of plot lines swerving every which way ... well, I think Alan Ball did a damn fine job.

And those last ten minutes or so made me do a Joey Lawrence-style "Whoa!" Although I have to admit that the whole time Claire was on the highway out of town, I sorta expected a heat-seeking missile to suddenly come swerving down the road and into her car.

So, a discussion question: What shows have ended particularly gracefully? Which final episodes do you never care to watch again? I have fond memories of the final Cheers, but mostly because of what happened after the actual episode was over, where the actors and writers and producers (if I'm remembering this correctly) hung out and drank beers and talked shop. I was not such a fan of the final Seinfeld, probably because a) it was basically a clip show, and b) it tried to impose a linear narrative structure on a show that was never structured that way. Whenever that one comes on in reruns, I groan and change the channel.

Fellow Barrelhousers, what say you?


TMC said...

The final episode of "Married with Children," only because they were never able to send the show off with a big finale. Fox was bungling and mishandling the show that (along with the Simpsons) built their network, and they just unceremoniously cancelled it over the summer. The show had been slipping anyway-- just like all shows that add a new kid near the end of their run-- but it deserved a better sending off than that.

Oh, and anything related to the final season of "Roseanne," I show I used to find pretty funny and a bit more realistic than most sitcoms, until the real Roseanne went nuts and decided the Connors needed to win the lottery. I didn't even watch that final episode, but I"m sure it sucked.

And no matter how The Simpsons ends (whenever that happens), I don't see any way that they could end in a graceful way. For me, it'll be almost like watching a family member die, considering all the time I still spend with it. It's going to be clumsy and sad and definitely disappointing.

dave said...

The English version of The Office is a pretty easy answer, if only because the show was only on for twelve episodes, but seemed to do everything perfectly for the period it was on. The last show was actually a special, which turned out to be surprisingly sweet, with a last minute storybook ending for office drones Tim and Dawn. Plus, the nice touch of having Manager David Brent fired, but still hanging around the office all the time, which captured the funny/sad thing that made The Office so freaking great (and so much better than the American version).

How did The A Team end? I can't remember, but I'm pretty sure it was absolutely perfect.

Oh, and Man Versus Beast, which ended with 50 little people in an airplane tug-of-war against an elephant. That was the best ending ever. Ever! Even if I did lose five bucks on those little people.

Lesley said...

I liked the ending of MASH, possibly because I was young enough when it first aired not to notice flaws and was not nearly as cynical as I am now.

The final of Roseanne did suck. It went the "Bobby in the shower" route in the last 5 minutes. Turns out the entire season of them winning the lottery was a dream and Dan had actually died at Darlene's wedding.

TMC said...

Dave, the ending of Man vs. Beast 2 was actually better, believe it or not. They midgets competed in a relay race against a camel. No, the camel did not have to pass a baton to other camels; it simply ran, while the 4 midgets pumped their little legs to try to catch up.
What made this race especially heartwarming is that one of the midgets was the son of Joe Gieb, the captain of the midget plane-pulling team, and young Frankie Gieb wanted nothing more than to avenge his father's loss by outrunning a camel. His teammates all ran like they were pushing wheelbarrows (aka like Jim Thome, or, even more simply: sloooooow), but he ran like the midget version of Michael Johnson and nearly caught the camel. Alas, the beast held on to win, dooming man to another century of wondering how to beat a camel in a relay race.

Best TV show ever.

Oh, and Lesley, thanks for confirming my fears about the suckitude of Roseanne's finale. That's even worse than I imagined.