Loved the series finale for Friday Night Lights. Thinking about it, I think it’s the best series finale I’ve ever seen. Every character ended up where they should. It had emotional resonance and resolution. It’s pretty much exactly what you want in a series finale. They nailed it.

It’s really hard to get a series finale right. I realized that while compiling my list of favorite and least favorite series finales. Most are either straight out bad or forgettable. Even more I never catch because once I drop out of a series, I never bother getting back in. Anyway, here’s my list.

Favorite TV series finales

  • Friday Night Lights – Like I said, the storyline followed the logical consequences of who the characters were, so to the very end, it felt real and not forced. I also loved how the ending was a celebration of relationship, community, and work. There’s wisdom in that.
  • The Wonder Years – Honestly, only the first couple seasons were good, but the first session wasn’t just good, it was incredible – in my opinion, still the single best season of TV ever. The rest of the seasons were just whatever. But the last episode focused the poignancy of the series, and the last line of dialogue in the last episode is great, probably the best last line of a series ever. I’m going to quote it:

    Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you’re in diapers, the next day you’re gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place, a town, a house like a lot of other houses, a yard like a lot of other yards, on a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back, with wonder.

    Then you hear a kid calling, and the narrator says he’ll be right there. So perfect. That was exactly the series. Nostalgia for a universal experience. Looking back but moving forward. A fantastic ending.

  • The Wire – like the rest of the series, it was completely cynical and somewhat depressing, but it felt right. Everyone ended up where there should be, and there was poetry in that.

That’s my complete list of series enders I liked. Just 3.

Least Favorite Series Finales

  • Battlestar Galactica – I think the ending ruined the entire experience of the series for me. Fundamentally, this was a show that had the courage to ask questions about why. But in the end, they left almost every why question unresolved and just dealt with what, the plot issues. I didn’t think it was bad at the time, but looking back now, I find I care about the series very little, and it’s because of how the ending resolved things (or failed to). The whole series, you kind of assumed the meaning of everything would be revealed, and it wasn’t, so it sucked.
  • Veronica Mars – A total bummer of an ending for one of my all-time favorite series. It was unclear whether there was going to be another season, so it makes sense, but there are season endings that had more resolution that this had. It’s especially disappointing because Veronica Mars was one of those rare series where the details in every episode mattered in the end. It’s sad that it didn’t work out that way as a series.
  • Seinfeld – Cynical, slightly depressing, and worst of all, boring.
  • Alias – So bad. It “resolved”, but only by being completely ludicrous. The series was ludicrous to begin with, but the rule of sci-fi is that you can make whatever rules you want, but then you have to live within it to work. The Alias last seasons was ludicrous even within the rules it set out for itself, and rendered much of the behavior of the characters in previous seasons nonsensical. The ending made David Crowder angry, and with good reason. It was so, so bad.
  • Friends – Ross and Rachel got together. That took 10 years to resolve? Really? Plus the whole dialogue at the end, where Ross asks “Did she get off the plane? Did she get off the plane?” and she comes in and says “I got off the plane” just completely annoyed me. Just so predictable, trite, and lazy. I completely biased on this; I’ve seen very few Friends episodes and aren’t invested in the characters at all. For that reason, the few episodes and clips I’ve seen, I just get annoyed, because their actions don’t make sense as people; they only make pseudo-sense if you value them as characters. I don’t. So for someone like me, looking at the people with no investment, is how the series resolved, with 2 people taking 10 years to figure out they want to be together, and the process by which they figured it out, compelling at all? Nope. Boring.
  • Saved By The Bell: The College Years – This may sound absurd, but the whole time I watched Saved By The Bell, I didn’t realize what it was about. Until the finale. After the last episode, they brought out the characters to be cheered by the live studio audience, and the way they did it, saving Mark-Paul Gosselaar for last to the screams of adoring teenage girls, I realized the show is about Zack Morris. That sounds so obvious in retrospect, and it is, since he’s the main character, but it wasn’t why I watched the show (that reason would be Kelly Kapowski). Zack was a cipher for me, but the finale made me realize that for other people (mostly girls), he was the sole reason for watching. I’d been watching chick TV. The last show wasn’t particularly worse than any other episode, but I was traumatized.

There are other finales I remember, notably Cheers, The West Wing, Lost, and The Sopranos, but they left no lasting impression on me, just that it ended. 3 finales I liked, the rest I either disliked or was just meh. It’s hard to do well.

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