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TV Signoffs: The Most Memorable Finales and the Most Shocking Cancellations

Updated on January 5, 2020
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Heather has a Bachelor's Degree in English from Moravian College and has been freelance writing for more than 13 years.

Can a Walker wedding erase the sting of a cancellation for ABC's "Brothers & Sisters"?
Can a Walker wedding erase the sting of a cancellation for ABC's "Brothers & Sisters"?
The Chicago Code
The Chicago Code
Off the Map
Off the Map
A wedding helping to outweigh the tragedy on "Grey's Anatomy."
A wedding helping to outweigh the tragedy on "Grey's Anatomy."
Walsh weighs her options on "Private Practice."
Walsh weighs her options on "Private Practice."
Who will pick up where Oprah's show left off?
Who will pick up where Oprah's show left off?
Daly fights for his marriage on "Private Practice."
Daly fights for his marriage on "Private Practice."
The cast of "Lone Star" posing for the camera in happier times.
The cast of "Lone Star" posing for the camera in happier times.

Ah, it's that time of year again. Memorial Day is fast approaching and there's nothing new on Television to watch, because all of the Spring finales have finished up. Some of them were memorable and some left on an unnerving cliffhanger that won't be wrapped up until the fall. Leaving viewers irritated and waiting impatiently within the same breath. The worst case scenario is that a season finale is the prescription to cure an ailing show or send it off into the gentle good night just in case the "Cancellation Grim Reaper" is looming.

Whatever the case may be, season finales are still appointment television for devoted fans and shaking viewers looking for something to restore their faith in a long running show. Here is a list of six shows (past and present) that had unforgettable finales and six who didn't survive theirs.

The Survivors

Fringe (2008-present)- When Fringe fans heard the news of the show's last minute renewal, they were relieved and shocked at the same time. How can the ratings starved Fox show come back after such a shocking and puzzling Season Three finale? Olivia (Anna Torv) died one instance and was alive the next. Her true love Peter (Joshua Jackson) might not even exist. It was clear that the writers were going for broke this year creatively in case they couldn't come back next season. Hopefully, this finale doesn't mean the beginning of the end for this smartly created and acted universe. Only time will tell.

Grey's Anatomy (2005-present)- Over the course of Grey's run, the show has made several creative missteps and allowed once valuable cast members go (Katherine Heigl and T.R. Knight). After last year's shooting finale, the show has been creative revived and the acting never better. This year's finale was the culmination of events leading to the inevitable climax of it all (relationships in peril and new ones formed). Who will survive once the truth comes out?

The Oprah Winfrey Show (1986-2011)- This finale was the most talked about one since the day Oprah announced that the 25th season of her talk show would be her last. For the whole season, she prepared the audience by giving them a season long extravaganza that included loads of celebrity guests, prizes and a trip to Austrailia. On May 25th, her final episode was a simple stripped down version where Winfrey talked about some of her favorite memories. Some fans loved it while others wished they were given a car instead. Let the viewers decide for themselves once they eventually watch it on DVR.

Private Practice (2007-present)- This Grey's spin-off hasn't been given its proper due because it sometimes played more like a sunner version of its flagship show than on its own merit. The medical work and relationship dysfunction with a case of SPF television didn't always work in the beginning. The early episodes had everyone getting along a little too easily. Season four allowed the cast to deal with some shocking trauma (Charlotte's rape and the Practice about to taken apart by the Medical Board). The most shocking moment was when the ultra healthy doc Tim Daly played had a heart attack and couldn't reach the phone to call 911. Who will save him or will be another TV casualty?

Seinfeld (1989-1998)- The show about nothing that had audiences cracking up ended on a more perplexing note than anything. Jerry and the gang were literally punished for doing just that when someone got mugged. Seemed like a riduculous way to end such a hilarious sitcom. You're not the only one.

Lost (2004-2010)- No audience has never loved or been so furious over a finale because they simply didn't understand it regardless. The characters never survived the crash. The whole series was them making their way to Heaven any way they could. It seemed disheartening to watch, but expected from a show that always knew to push boundaries and buttons at the same.

Gone Too Soon

Firefly (2002)- This cult favorite was never truly given a chance to shine on Fox before it was axed in the middle of Season 1. The makers of the show attempted to revive it through a movie franchise (Serenity) that simply failed to make it big at the box office. It's a shame because it could've been a big show that rivaled Star Trek in cool Sci-Fi instead of another show taken before its time.

Moonlight (2007-2008)- Before Edward on the big screen, there was Mick St. John (Alex O'Loughlin) a Vampire PI with a tortured soul and feelings for a human reporter. Can he find love with her without hurting her? Sadly, audiences were never able to find out because CBS pulled the plug after the first season. Fans will only be able to find a solution on fan fiction sites and fantasize about O'Loughlin shirtless on his show Hawaii Five-0.

Dollhouse (2009-2010)- An intriguing premise and an attractive cast could've save this Fox drama from the chopping block after an abbreviated first season. It also aired on Friday nights when most people weren't home to discover it. Eliza Dushku's second cancelled show before its time with the Fox network. (The other being Tru Calling.) Maybe, she could try comedy instead of her usual action roles or films instead.

Brothers & Sisters (2006-2011)- For five seasons, the Walker family has been apart of viewers' lives on Sunday nights. They've watched them fall in and out of love, overcome legal troubles and family tragedies. What they couldn't overcome was the show running its course. The fifth season finale ended with the family seeming going about their lives happily, which made sense for the network to give it the axe. Some stories were wrapped up too quickly (Sarah accepting her new father) while others were concluded with a nice bow (Nora finding love with her high school boyfriend). It's nice to know that the Walker family literally danced their way into the sunset happy.

The Chicago Code (2011)- Another Fox show taken off the air before it could truly garner an audience. The show would've been better served on F/X where the episodes could've truly been a no-holds barred look at cops and the criminals they were trying to catch. Like The Wire, but only grittier. Wouldn't be surprised if it was revived on another network like Southland. One could only hope, but it's doubtful.

Off the Map (2011)- A Grey's Anatomy imitation set in the jungle had the potential to something interesting to watch. ABC just had the unfortunate timing of airing it during the Winter when no one would be watching. It was DOA from start to finish. The cancellation was sad but ultimately expected.

In the end, some shows are just meant to survive for another season while others weren't built to last (Tru Calling and Lone Star are prime examples of the latter). The only shocking thing is when a show has creatively gone to pasture and a network won't cancel it (Fox's House and One Tree Hill). Luckily, Hill's run will end in 2012 after its ninth season to leave room for a show that hasn't outlived its viewing pleasure. Thankfully, a new crop of summer show will be coming to ease the pain of another TV Finale blitz, until September that is.


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