Thursday, May 6, 2004
By Steven Taylor

Unlike many I am quite ambivalent about the end of Friends–I have likely watched no more than two complete episodes, and a handful of snippets via channel-flipping over the years. One of the ones I did see was where Ross had to figure out where to send his pet monkey, and engaged in a search of zoos akin to a parent looking for the proper college for their child, and it was amusing–although clearly it didn’t hook me. (As James Joyner notes–you can spend all day reading about Friends, if you would like).

However, all of this has me thinking of the phenom of the “Last Episode” and was trying to think of last episodes from long-running shows and whether or not they lived up to expectations.

First, my vote for Best All Time Last Episode: Newhart–the idea of having Bob Newhart wake up in bed next to Suzanne Pleshette in the bedroom set from the Bob Newhart Show, and therefore having the entire run of Newhart having been a dream was one of the most inspired, perhaps the most inspired, end of a show ever.

Most Disappointing Last Episode of All Time: Seinfeld. Now, I have seen this final Seinfeld several times in re-runs and have enjoyed it more now than I did the night it ran. I enjoy the clips, having all the bit characters show up was cool, and in many ways Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer deserve what happened to them. However, it is still a downer and certainly not up to the level of the high quality of the show. I would have preferred that they did go to the West Coast and Jerry get his show.

One of My Personal Least Favorites: Mad About You–while I always like last episodes to say what happens next, the idea that Paul and Jamie would get divorced (even though they got back together) seem to fly in the face of a show that was called Mad About You and was about, well, how madly in love the couple was supposed to be.

Other shows:

Star Trek: The Next Generation: I enjoyed the last episode, even though the future that it projected bears no resemblance to what came later in the development of Trek.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: It was too confused and convoluted a plot and too faux-spiritual. I rate it as OK.

Star Trek: Voyager: I enjoyed that one, and it did what most last episode should do: it gave you some idea of what came next while taking care of key lingering questions from the show (in this case: the “do they make it home?” question).

Cheers: It was ok. As I recall, I was dissatisfied with the way they handled the return of Diane.

I remember watching the last episode of M*A*S*H when it first aired, but I remember practically nothing about it.

I am blanking on any other examples. Of course, there are only so many many shows that last long enough to go out on their own terms and have a Big Final Show.

Any one else have any suggestions?

UPDATE: A reader reminds me of what may well by my overall favorite: “Sleeping in Light,” the last episode of Babylon 5. Truly an excellent capstone to an excellent series.

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9 Responses to “The Last Episode”

  1. mark Says:

    How about the final episode of “Night Court?” Oh god, how awful? Richard Moll (Bull) being beamed up by space aliens? Granted, that show really declined in its final years, but the ending was about as bad as it got for a sitcom that was well-watched in its time.

  2. Kyle Haight Says:

    The final episode of “Babylon 5″. An earlier episode, “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars” had already settled the long-range ‘what happens next’ questions, so the final episode was really about what happened to the major characters and to the station itself. And these questions were addressed, IMHO, very well. I still occasionally pull out the tape and watch the final 15 minutes.

  3. Steven Says:

    An oversight on my part–that was an excellent episode!

  4. Zygote Says:

    The final episode of The Cosby Show was a good one, not so much for the plot, but for how it really ended with Claire and Cliff dancing alone in the living room, and then dancing right off the NBC sound stage that had been their home for all those years.
    Classy, as Cosby usually was.

  5. Chris Lawrence Says:

    Another vote for SiL.

    In a lot of ways, I liked the final episode of NewsRadio (“New Hampshire”), but it felt very bittersweet because of Phil Hartman’s death the year before.

    I don’t even remember LA Law’s final epsiode. And what I remember about the Cheers finale was the disastorous live Tonight Show with Jay Leno sendoff.

  6. lisa Says:

    Well I am actually setting at the computer with nothing to do. Thus, I must chime in here. The best final episode in my book is St. Elsewhere. Disappointing Moon Lighting, it was the most unfunny episode ever made.

  7. Cathy Says:

    I think Newhart was the best . It was the best kept secret and when Bob woke up from his dream and there lay Suzanne Pleshette, I could have died with laughter. I use to watch friends every Thursday but I got fed up with them all sleeping with each other. Then I discovered the obnoxious Bill O’Reilly. He usually takes my 8 PM time slot.

  8. Cathy Says:

    I think Newhart was the best finally. It was the best at keeping it’s ending secret and when Bob awoke from his dream and there lay Suzanne Pleshette, I could have died laughing. I use to watch friends but I got fed up with them sleeping with each other and everyone else. The bloviating Bill O’Rielly usually takes my 8 PM time slot these days.

  9. Cathy Says:

    sorry, Ithought I canceled the first post.

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