TV Series Finales Like MASH, Newhart, Johnny Carson and Sopranos
TV Series Finales Bring Closure to Fans
Some of the best moments on television are TV series finales. Viewers become attached to the characters as they watch them develop each week over a period of sometimes several years. They appreciate the chance to see the final outcome of story lines which have often lingered over the life of the series. Most finales give the viewers the closure they are seeking. However, some fall short and leave the fans disgruntled. Here are just a few of the more memorable and popular television series finales.
M*A*S*H Series Finale, the Most Watched TV Show of All Time
In 1983, the hit program M*A*S*H went off the air after an amazing 11 year run. The writers closed the immensely popular series with a 2 1/2 hour program aptly named "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen". It saw the Korean War finally come to an end and the characters going back to their normal lives. An ironic twist was the character Klinger who spent the entire 11 years of the series trying to get out of the Army and back to Toledo. Shockingly, he stayed behind and married a Korean woman.
The plot of this finale explored the difficulty in saying "goodbye" for people that had become as close as family during the trials and tribulations of war. The two main characters, Hawkeye and BJ, had exceptional tear jerker scenes. BJ refused to say goodbye, even though he was ecstatic to be returning to his wife and the daughter he had never seen. In the very last scene of the series, Hawkeye was leaving the camp in a helicopter when he looked out to see the word "Goodbye" in big letters made out of rocks on the ground. This was BJ's way of saying farewell to Hawkeye but also the show's message to all of its faithful fans. What a brilliant writing job that gave us this memorable scene.
Last Show of the Newhart Series
In the program Newhart, actor Bob Newhart played a Vermont innkeeper. He had previously starred in The Bob Newhart Show where he was a psychiatrist married to Suzanne Pleshette. Both shows were comedies with lots of zany story lines. After 8 years, Newhart went off the air with a very funny and unexpected turn of events. After being knocked unconscious by a golf ball hit to the head, Innkeeper Bob wakes up and he is Dr. Bob Hartley, his character from the former show. He explains to Pleshette that he had experienced the wildest dream of being a Vermont innkeeper surrounded by a bunch of weirdos. It appears the entire Newhart series had been just a dream! This was a take off on many shows of that time period, including Dallas that played the "it was just a dream" plot.
End of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a comedy surrounding a TV news room and the efforts to make a bumbling newscaster, Ted Baxter, come across as a professional announcer. After 7 seasons, the program ended when the TV station was sold and amazingly everyone was fired except Baxter. After the last news broadcast and a tearful group hug, Mary is the last one to leave the news room. She turns to the camera, flips off the lights and closes the door. This simple and meaningful gesture was the end to a popular show that left the fans wanting more.
Could Anyone Ever Replace Johnny Carson?
The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was a late night TV program that millions watched each night while in bed just before going to sleep. In fact, it was a common joke of the time to say you slept with Johnny Carson! It was a tremendously popular show mainly because of Johnny's sense of timing and delivery. Plus having a sidekick like Ed McMahon and brilliant writers was a sure prescription for success.
Dedicated fans of Johnny and the show tuned in on May 22, 1992 to watch the final episode and to cry. They believed an era was ending and no one would ever be able to take his place as the king of late night TV.
In the last moments, sitting on a stool alone on the stage, he shared his final thoughts about his career. Unfortunately, not many can claim these words when describing their lives:
I am one of the lucky people in the world; I found something I always wanted to do and I have enjoyed every single minute of it. - Johnny Carson
The Sopranos' Final Scene
The Sopranos, Controversial and Surprising Right Down to the Last Show
The Sopranos was a HBO drama series about an Italian-American mobster, Tony Soprano, his family and his mob family. The show was often criticized for its foul language and violence. However, the program was defended by others who claimed it was reality because that is how mobsters really talk and getting "whacked" (killed) happens. You either loved the show or hated it. There were enough fans who loved it for the series to win 21 Emmy awards during its 6 seasons and for it to be described as "groundbreaking television".
The finale on June 10, 2007 is still being talked about. It ended with Tony, his wife and son sitting in a diner. While they are waiting for their daughter to arrive, people are entering the diner and several seem to be paying an unusual amount of attention to Tony. You can tell he is uncomfortable about certain individuals and is watching their every move. Maybe this is just normal behavior for a mob boss who has spent years having to watch his back. The camera focuses on these people and Tony trying to act nonchalant but he is like a caged animal waiting for an attack.
While watching the scene unfold, you can actually feel the tension in the air. The bell on the diner door rings as it opens. Tony looks up at the door and all of a sudden...the screen goes black! Millions of viewers think their cable TV has gone out but then the credits come on the screen. The series is over! No one knows the fate of Tony and his family. Will the show return as a reunion episode or did Tony get whacked?
Video of the Final Scenes of "The Sopranos"
Sequels and Reunions of Popular TV Shows
Most times, fans are sad to see their favorite programs come to an end. They hope for a show reincarnation or reunion at a later date. That usually doesn't happen, but when it does occur, usually the follow up show is not as good as the original series.
One example was the popular western TV show of the 1960's, Bonanza. The producers of the reunion show were unable to recruit the original stars to participate, either due to the actors' death or the unwillingness of the still living performers to take part. The writers created a story line that involved the children of the original Bonanza generation with the result resembling a new program instead of a remake of the old one.
They also took liberties with the older characters' personalities and reputations to justify some of the situations in the remake. Most of these changes were unbelievable to the dedicated fans of the original actors. Such was the case in the plot of the Bonanza sequel which made the beloved character Hoss the father of an illegitimate son. Regular viewers of the original series found that so out of character, the remake was never accepted by fans.
With the death of actor James Gandolfino in 2013, a reunion show for The Sopranos will probably not happen. Fans will always wonder about the ending of that last episode and whether or not crime boss Tony survived.
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© 2012 Thelma Raker Coffone
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