The other day, in my review of the House finale, I mentioned that one of my basic rules in life is that a series finale will always be disappointing - think of the furore after The Sopranos cut to black. It seems that, no matter what a series finale tries to do, it will inevitably disappoint a large percentage of the audience who were expecting something else.
In fact, I'm so convinced of this tenet of TV watching that one of the first things I ever had published was a panicky piece in a major magazine, titled "Why Do Audiences Hate TV Finales?", which ran ahead of the Lost finale back in 2010.
There are plenty of examples: one of the most famous is St Elsewhere, whose fans will tell you that the final few moments, in which the entire show was revealed to be playing out in the mind of a young boy, left them feeling cheated. Roseanne went the "it was all a dream" route, too. And ALF fans will tell you that their favourite comedy should never have ended with the titular alien life-form being apprehended by the government.
Recently ended The Killing might eventually qualify, with its two seasons culminating in a silly finale that revealed the truth behind Rosie Larsen's murder to be much more contrived than necessary. I think the finale was an unavoidable result of bad storytelling throughout. Since the show hasn't been renewed yet it might never get a chance to redeem itself.
I've watched my fair share of bad finales - and I'd love you to share yours in the comments section, below. But in the meantime, here are my six most hated series finales ever. I shouldn't need to say this, but SPOILERS FOLLOW ...
Seinfeld (1998): Despite the fact that 76.3 million viewers made it the third most viewed finale ever, behind M*A*S*H and Cheers, most people were annoyed by an episode which put the characters in a stupid situation (arrested and on trial, charged with doing nothing, an inside joke about the nature of the show). It was a just a frustrating hour of telly, light on laughs but heavy on pointless cameos by minor characters from past episodes.
The X Files (2002): I started watching the antics of Mulder and Scully in the mid-90s with the first season. In fact, I would say that The X Files kickstarted my love of television. I even wrote about my love of the first four seasons, here. But those last few seasons, starting around the turn of the millennium, got so bad that the finale seemed more a mercy killing than a glorious conclusion.
Friends (2004): It's hard for a sitcom to wrap things up for good - most don't have extended storylines to draw to a close and producers are stuck giving us a half hour farewell. Except that the producers on Friends also threw in even more of Ross & Rachel and their supremely annoying on-off relationship - the very thing that had turned off most fans, including me, by the time the 10th season came to a close.
Life on Mars US (2009): The British version was named after a David Bowie song and followed Sam Tyler, a cop who time-travels back to the 1970s after a car accident in 2006 - the genius of the show being that it was unclear whether Tyler had actually gone back in time, was stuck in a coma, or was just losing his mind. The US version made me forever sceptical of American remakes of foreign shows by dispensing with that mystery, revealing that Tyler was imagining everything in the past while stuck in some kind of cryostasis chamber on a manned mission to the planet Mars. Get it? Life on Mars! Ha HA!
Battlestar Galactica (2009): BSG is arguably the greatest sci-fi show ever made, but that finale ... I mean, having the survivors and the cylons makes peace with each other is one thing. But then revealing that the events had happened in the distant past and that the remaining survivors were the seed of civilisation? Repeat after me: the journey is more important than the destination, the journey is more important than the destination.
Lost (2010): As soon as the sixth season started with the writers introducing new characters and giving us more questions than answers, I knew that I was in for a disappointing conclusion. The on-island story, with the remaining survivors/candidates going to war against Smokey-Locke, was fine, but that flash-sideways stuff was a huge misstep from the start. Were the castaways all dead? Were the sideways scenes supposed to be some kind of non-denominational heaven? I don't really know. I don't really care. Lost is probably still my favourite show ever, though.
What is your most hated TV series finale of all time? Do you agree that finales usually disappoint?
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