I haven’t watched “Lost” regularly since they first discovered the hatch and the button that needed to be pushed at regular intervals or the island would blow up. Nothing personal; it was just that my TV dance card was full and Evangeline Lilly’s complaining about the burdens of fame after the first couple of seasons were, frankly, a turn-off. But I watched tonight, and even though I understood maybe a quarter of what went on, I have to say I was impressed. Despite my not knowing what the smoke monster was, I agree with my True/Slant colleague Caitlin Kelly that it had a lot to say about love and community, in addition to the series’ statements on good and evil and fate and the role of corporations. Now I may have to go back and watch the whole series. Dammit — one pop culture touchstone that I may have to atone for not having paid attention to.
But this, along with the “Grey’s Anatomy” season finale that I recapped the other night, got me thinking about farewells — both those that end the season and those that end a series and close a chapter entirely. And I came to the realization that beyond the truly legendary series finales, most of my favorites have been on cable. And now I have to ask myself if it’s just that what we’re getting on cable lately is just that great, or if my memory is that bad that I can’t go back too far.
The “M*A*S*H” series finale, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” is one of the first I remember really paying attention to, and now when you look back at the statistics — 106 million Americans tuning in — its impact is staggering. I don’t remember all that much about it, besides Hawkeye starting the episode in a psych ward and B.J. spelling “Goodbye” in rocks on the hillside as Hawkeye flew away in a chopper. But it was a great early lesson in the emotionality of TV.
“Newhart” — An absolutely fantastic take imaginable on the “it was all a dream” conceit.
“Seinfeld” — Since this show is on in syndication seemingly every hour of every day, it’s not hard to run into this one once in a while. I actually hate this one, but it does bring into rather stark relief how awful the characters of “Seinfeld” really are — and it gave me fresh justification for not liking Larry David.
“Friends” – I admit my viewing record wasn’t perfect in the last season or two, but regardless of how unrealistic the apartment or how unlikely it is that they’d all still be friends with a dope like Joey for so many years, it was a heart tugger, even if it didn’t set up the “Joey” spinoff at all.
“Sex and the City” — I’m sitting here re-watching the finale on demand, and am struck anew at how beautifully this series came to a close. Of course it left plenty of string to attach a movie to, but the two-part farewell seriously renders the “SATC” movie — or both of them — unnecessary. It also never lets you forget how immature, self-obsessed, and completely disinterested Carrie Bradshaw is about anything other than what’s directly in front of her (big, big hat tip) — she and Big deserve each other. I’m with my fellow True/Slanter Jeremy Helligar on this one. I realize the importance of going for the duckets while the going — and the duckets — are good, but come on.
After that, do you really need to watch these women flit around Abu Dhabi? Nope.
“The Sopranos” — I’ve had more than one argument about this one, but I cling steadfastly to my belief that this is pure genius. It’s singularly fantastic; a perfect television representation of a sentiment: “I’m David Chase, and you’re not.”
“Six Feet Under” — To those who argue that this is the best television finale to date, I heartily agree. After running off the rails a bit in seasons 3 and 4, it came back so utterly brilliantly in the final season that it could restore the faith of even the most cynical viewer. When the song accompanying the final scene randomly pops up on my iPod, I can’t help but tear up and remember that wistful hopefulness, and the genuinely comforting notion that not only that we’re reunited with our loved ones when we die, but even more importantly that they’re there to help us cross over. I met Alan Ball once, and completely embarrassed myself by going fan-girl over this show — and I’d do it again.
What’s missing from this list? What shows would you vote into your all-time top five (or ten) series finales?