Series finales are by far the hardest episodes to make. Like any type of ending, few finales ever truly scratch the itch of all its fans. In a way, no one can ever be totally satisfied because there will always be unanswered questions and there will always be unpopular conclusions. Above all else, a show that we’ve loved or, at the very least invested a lot of time into, is saying goodbye; it’s abandoning its loyal fans. No one likes saying goodbye. That being said, some shows have done it very well. Some finales have managed to tie up knots and leave on a note that is symbolic of the show as a whole. We reflect on where we started from and we feel like we’ve accomplished something. It’s a cathartic process. Be warned, the finales on this list are not the good ones.
Most of the shows on this list were massively popular. If they weren’t, no one would care that their finale episodes were lame. Many of the finales herein were victims of inflated expectations. Since the shows were so well-liked, the finales needed to be extra special. It’s the curse of the being awesome. While all of the shows were liked overall, there are two distinct groups on this list. Some were strong all the way up until their series finale and then they fell flat on their face, while others had lost much of their mojo prior to the finale. The final goodbye was just a continuation of the garbage fans had become accustomed to. Many will argue that the series finale is the most important episode in a show’s run, since it brings together (or doesn’t) everything that had happened up to that point. It should wrap up all the themes and important storylines in a neat little bow. We won’t go that far, but we will admit that it’s the final taste of the meal. If it’s rotten, it runs the risk of leaving a horrible taste in the viewer’s mouth, erasing all the memories of the delicious food that came before it. These are the rotten ones. Here are the 15 Most Disappointing Series Finales in Television History.
The entire final season of the once-great Roseanne is instantly identifiable when compared to the other eight seasons. It looked and felt different than everything that came before it. Even the most casual of fans noticed the jarring shift, but the question was, why did it happen at all? We all felt that maybe the show-runners were just trying to switch things up and make it new again. It didn’t work. Rating steadily declined, so then something crazy happened. The series finale came and revealed that Dan (John Goodman) had died in the previous season and that this entire last season was all in Roseanne’s (Roseanne Barr) imagination. Hilarious! We didn’t laugh though. We were sad and depressed and angry for having all that time wasted. Whenever shows reveal that “it was all a dream” or some variation of that, it’s like being told that all the money in your bank account, all that hard-earned cash, is only play money. You feel ripped off and cheated. This finale cheapened the entire show.
Long before the series finale of Weeds aired, the once-amazing show died. After the third season, Weeds took such a dumb turn that it lost all sense of itself and everything that made it charming in the first place. By the end, the show was just a ghost of its former self. The characters had changed so dramatically that it would be impossible to ever know if they grew at all by the end. Even if they did grow, there were so many different versions of each character, we wouldn’t even know which version experienced the growth anyways. Still, the final episode, outside of one decent moment on the front porch, flash-forwarded into the future, a sure sign that the writers had no idea how to end the show. The worst part was, in the future, we still didn’t get any answers or resolutions. We got promises that these things will come, promises like from now on things are going to be different, instead of actually showing us how things are going to be different.
The ending to the Dinosaurs television show was dark and incredibly sad. The final episode was all about environmentalism. Earl, the father dinosaur, was put in charge of trying to get a handle on an out-of-control vine problem on Earth. With each decision, a new problem arose until the world was sent into a new ice age. The saddest part of all this is that Earl has to admit that he ruined the world and even explain it to his family and the baby. Sorry I killed you all. The episode ends with them saying goodbye to the audience, the camera pans out and we see snow build up around the house, leaving the family to die, cold and trapped inside. Now, you might be thinking that this sounds pretty deep, not the worst ending that could have happened. But let us remind you. This was a frickin’ family comedy. There were millions of children watching this finale, millions of children who were forever scarred when they went in expecting a few deep-bellied laughs. It’s like watching Marley & Me and thinking you’re ever going to laugh again.
12. The Sopranos
Over the years, many of the critics of series finale of The Sopranos have come around to see another side of the ending. Some are singing a completely different tune after having some time for reflection. But still, there is a huge swath of people who were left dissatisfied with the way the show ended, literally with a fade to black in the middle of the action or inaction, depending on how you look at it. Tony (James Gandolfini) and his family are eating in an all-American diner. It should be safe, but Tony doesn’t feel safe. He notices a mysterious man looking all suspicious-like. Eventually this man goes to the bathroom, evoking memories of The Godfather. Will he come out and shoot Tony? Is he just a random guy? Will Meadow ever park the damn car? Most of these things we’ll never know because it faded to black before we found out. Some say it was great because it highlights the insecurity and paranoia the mafia life brings about. Others say it was too ambiguous for a finale that needs to deal in certainties.
11. Sex and the City
To be fair, we didn’t really like any of the seasons of Sex and the City, or even any of the episodes for that matter. But even we saw the series finale as a huge deviation from what made the show so successful. It was a show about women having frequent sex and not being ashamed about it. We tend to villainize women who sleep around while applauding men who do the same, so Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) was a hero for those who were happy and content living single lives. Carrie always wanted marriage and commitment from Big or whoever, but, when she didn’t get it, life moved on. She found happiness elsewhere and in other things. Then the finale sells her back to Big. He comes in like a knight in shining armor, out of nowhere we might add, and completely defeats everything Carrie worked for. It was silly and unnecessary.
10. St. Elsewhere
Nowadays medical dramas are a dime a dozen. But back when St. Elsewhere was on the air, the show was constantly pushing into new territories daily. It also gave us a series ending that many fans hated and still use an example of what not to do. Because of St. Elsewhere, the legacy of the “all a dream” endings lives on. St. Elsewhere wasn’t the first to do this by any means, but it was one of the biggest. After six seasons, the finale ended with a shot outside the hospital. We’re then taken inside Donald Westphall’s home and Tommy is playing with a snow globe. Donald tells us that the autistic Tommy stares at the globe all day. He wonders what the child thinks about. Then we see the globe and inside is the hospital. What? So, everything over six seasons was all in Tommy Westphall’s head? Baloney.
9. The Good Wife
For several seasons, The Good Wife told fans it didn’t take itself as serious as many of the other dramas on television. In many ways, it mocked those shows openly. So, why then did the finale end so bleakly? Well, the easy answer would be that the writers had the ending already written. They knew it was going to end with “the slap” and the knowledge that Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) was entirely and utterly alone. Unfortunately, they were unable to make this all fit nicely. Rather than rewriting the final five minutes and adjusting accordingly, they just crammed it all together. The result was uneven and left fans with more questions than they began with. The Good Wife is a perfect example of how not to write endings. When the classic writing advice suggests that you “kill your darlings,” it doesn’t only mean characters. It means knowing when to kill long-held ideas and endings when they no longer fit as well.
8. Beverly Hills, 90210
Everyone knows that Beverly Hills, 90210 had overstayed its welcome long before it ever went off the air, but the finale felt like a sorry excuse for a show that in many ways revolutionized the modern teen drama. The finale and all its resolutions were completely forced. Not to mention the fact that Brenda (Shannen Doherty) never came back and Brandon (Jason Priestly) only appeared in a video message like he was accepting an Oscar but couldn’t be there. It made the whole show look like a network afterthought. You would think that they would reunite everyone at all costs, but apparently they were unable to get the two main stars from the early seasons. The Walsh’s were what made the show famous. Get some perspective.
7. Two and a Half Men
After all the mud-slinging that took place between the creator Chuck Lorre and Charlie Sheen leading up to the finale, was anyone really surprised when it came out the way it did? Amazingly, Lorre is on this list twice (Roseanne as well), which really makes you wonder if this guy should be writing endings at all anymore. Say what you will about Two and a Half Men, but any show with 12 seasons and over 260 episodes deserves a better fate than a long-winded spiteful joke at the expense of the show’s former star. Charlie Sheen is a nutcase, but wasting the entirety of the show’s final goodbye to insult him one last time made Lorre look worse than Sheen ever did. To explain what happened in the final episode would be a waste of time since nothing did take place. Basically, Lorre dropped a piano on Sheen’s head and said “winning.” It was childish and an insult to all the fans who spent countless hours watching the show.
Like others on this list, the series finale of Seinfeld was one that had its supporters and its detractors. The big issue was that Seinfeld was so popular that its finale needed to be something unlike anything ever seen before. There were positives, such as the great amount of cameos and calls to the show’s past, but many felt that the finale was more of a clip show than anything else, and everyone hates clip shows. The part of the finale that got most people upset is that the entire episode seemed content with shaming the protagonists (and, in turn, the millions of fans who related to them). Because the group laughed at a man begin robbed, something that many fans felt was out of character, they were put on trial. All their misdeeds then came back to haunt them. True fans will argue that the Seinfeld characters weren’t uncaring jerks, they were just consumed by their own lives and their own problems. Selfish, yes. We all are. But they’re not criminals and neither are we for laughing with them. Well, you might be, but we aren’t.
5. Quantum Leap
There is no sorrier group than the fans who lived and watched live as Quantum Leap spit in their faces during the series finale. In fairness, the finale, “Mirror Image” was meant to be a season finale, so it’s not like it was intentional. Still, what took place was inexcusable. In an effort to make the episode into a series ender, the writers tried to cram everything they could into the shell of the initial episode. We got no answers about any of the mechanics or powers behind the scenes. The only thing we got answered was the main question of the show, when will Sam return home? The answer, however, was given in a footnote, “Dr. Sam Becket never returned home.” The most hilarious thing is that the footnote misspelled his name. There are two “Ts” in Beckett. How bad can it get?
4. True Blood
If you have several main characters in a show, the rules of the finale insist that you give time to each of them. Furthermore, if there’s a love triangle scattered throughout every season leading up to the finale, you should probably provide the viewers with some resolution. True Blood committed several of the deadly sins when it comes to series finales. Not only did Sookie (Anna Paquin) not end up with either Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) or Bill (Stephen Moyer), the show finished in a dreaded flash-forward, showing a pregnant Sookie with a random faceless partner. The mood was all happiness, sunshine and rainbows, a far cry from the progressive darkness that the show was built on. Then there was Lafayette’s erasure from the final episode, a star and fan-favorite relegated to one brief moment on screen. The lesson here is simple, stick to what got you there.
Some fans were happy, but most, at least the much more vocal faction, were furious with the ending of Lost. Many were mad because they were still confused. Yeah, so everyone who died met up in the flash-sideways? Who cares? We want answers about the Island! What about everything else that was left unanswered. Lost and its writers had one fatal flaw. They were all under the impression that people tuned in each week to see more about the characters. They believed that their fans were interested in the character’s feelings on the island. That was all wrong. The only reason anyone cared about the characters was to unravel more about the plot, about the mysteries that filled the island and the forums. It wasn’t hard to see that fans only cared about the plot, but the show was in denial. They had no answers to any of the mysteries, so they tried to dupe you into forgetting about them. They tried to trick you into thinking that the character’s feelings were more important than the plot. They weren’t and it wasn’t even close.
Showtime’s Dexter was one of the many shows that suffered from more than just a bad final episode, the whole final season was weak (maybe more depending on your perspective). Despite the fact that the show was about Dexter (Michael C. Hall), we had grown to know and be interested in many other characters. Not tying up many of those outlying storylines was just wrong. The focus of the final episode was on Dexter finally coming to terms with the monster he is. He could not escape his dark life, so he urged the people he loves to escape from him. Now we liked Hannah (Yvonne Strahovski), so we weren’t too upset when Dexter sent his son, Harrison, away with her, but we can appreciate that many saw this as strange, considering that this child will be raised by a psychopathic murderer. That also brings us to the question, how does Hannah just ignore her murderous urges? Then there’s Deb’s (Jennifer Carpenter) totally anticlimactic off-screen death, which was completely ridiculous. Finally, we come to Dexter sailing off to his sure death, somewhat of a fitting end for the man turned monster. But no. It doesn’t end there. Dexter’s alive and he’s become a lumberjack. Apparently, he doesn’t need to murder anymore? If he could just turn it off, why not do it earlier? If he can’t turn it off, why continue living and killing? Ugh.
1. How I Met Your Mother
Few shows have ever done or will ever do what How I Met Your Mother did. It was pretty obvious what happened. The premise was created. Then, over the years, it was stretched and grown, and it evolved into something more than what was planned. However, instead of changing the initial plan to fit all the spontaneous and organic growth that had occurred, the series finale just undid everything it had worked for, all in one swoop, and stuck to the initial plan. First, the final season was all about this grand wedding. Then, in the final episode: divorce. The entire series was about meeting the mother. Then, in the final episode: hi mom, die mom, get over mom. It was as if the writers were incapable of adjusting on the fly. They were so committed to the original plan that the circled back to make it work even if that meant throwing away everything that came before it. Horrible. Shameful. Embarrassing.