The 10 Most ‘WTF’ Television Series Finales

Published 5 years ago by , Updated March 3rd, 2014 at 6:44 am,

top 10 wtf series finales The 10 Most WTF Television Series Finales

Everybody loves television. If you don’t, you’re lying and if you’re not lying then why are you reading an an article about television? Either way, week after week, hundreds of millions of people tune into their favorite televisions shows.

Each year, a select few series must come to an end – either by their own choosing or because of cancellation. In a series finale, writers are forced to find a way bring together everything that viewers have seen in the past seasons and provide a conclusion that leaves fans feeling justified for investing so countless hours watching over the years.

Due to the recent Lost series finale outcry, we put together a list of the top television series finales – not the best ones, not the worst ones, but the ones that make you say, “WTF?”

While I’m sure that many finales could fit this bill, we’ve narrowed it down (using an extremely complicated and nerdy mathematical formula) to the top ten. Some finales that were considered, but not included are Roseanne, The X-Files, Felicity, Veronica Mars, Twin Peaks, M*A*S*H (yes, M*A*S*H) and the aforementioned Lost series finale.

Although, with over 1,700 comments (and counting) in our Lost finale explanation piece, it does appear that maybe I should amend this article and include it as an honorable mention.

Be warned, if there are now-canceled TV shows that you plan to watch on DVD or Blu-ray, this article contains MASSIVE spoilers about what many would consider the most critical episode in a television series entire run.

You have been warned…

In any case, sit back, relax… and get ready to say, “WTF?”

10. Life On Mars (US): “Life Is a Rock”

wtf television series finales life on mars us The 10 Most WTF Television Series Finales

WTF? It’s literally about life on (the way to) Mars.

What better way to start off a WTF list then with an Americanized version of a popular British television show. While the U.K. version of Life on Mars was a brilliant series, the U.S. version paled in comparison. This was never more obvious than in the terrible series finale.

The story of Sam Tyler, a modern-day police detective, who gets hit by a car in 2008 (2006 in the U.K. series) and wakes up in 1973 was a brilliant premise. The mystery of the series was whether or not Sam Tyler actually traveled back in time, is dead or simply in a coma.

After 17 episodes (that’s 1 more episode than the U.K. series had), it was revealed that Sam Tyler had not actually traveled back in time, nor was he was dead or in a coma.

As it turns out, Sam Tyler was actually an astronaut on the first manned mission to Mars, sleeping in a hibernation chamber. The chamber was equipped with computer software that helped the astronauts dream about whatever they wanted. Unfortunately, Sam Tyler’s computer screwed up and thus created the world of 1973.

Suffice to say, this is nowhere near the brilliant ending of the original version. While I won’t spoil it for you, I will tell you that the U.K. version of Life on Mars was voted the #1 greatest TV ending of all time.

You can check out both the terrible U.S. ending as well as the far superior U.K. ending, but if you were at all interested in this series on ABC, I implore you to seek out the original version – you won’t be disappointed.

U.S. Ending

U.K. Ending

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TAGS: 24, Lost
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  1. WTF:

    When I watched this, back in the day, I thought that it was the most amazing sequence ever. The ending shot is recursive. It is a comment on the fractal nature of the Universe. Everything is the same everywhere, some days are bad and somedays are bad, but it is alll just what you make of it.

    • It would be somewhat helpful to know which series you’re talking about.

  2. I can’t believe there was no mention of Roseanne. That mess was whack!

  3. “St. Elsewhere” is often cited as the best surprise ending of any US TV series (“Newhart” is the other strong contender). “The Sopranos” isn’t too hard to figure out: Tony got whacked in the diner. “The Prisoner” finale makes perfect sense if you catch Leo McKern’s inflection in the opening voiceover: he’s not telling Patrick McGoohan “you are Number Six”, he’s answering his question “who is Number One?”: “*you are*, Number Six”. He was never actually in The Village, the whole series is what is playing out in his mind might happen to him as he drives to tender his resignation.

    • bollocks

      • I’ll ditto that bollocks. Sopranos ending is not obvious – as it is the last ep, the viewer will NEVER really know if Tony gets whacked, which may be realistic (a gangster’s life can always go either way)but makes for an unsatisfying finale. If Tony was whacked FOR SURE, they would have been idiots not to show it – why shy away from the graphic for the ending of one of the most graphic shows ever televised? Newhart was great but the St. Elsewhere ending was beyond idiotic – it was akin to the Dallas season that got written off as “Bobby’s Dream” – it’s not clever, it’s a cliche way for writers to get out of the corner they’ve written themselves into. Dinosaurs ending still upsets me and I wasn’t even a child then – that should have been at Number 1 for the show staff’s incredible arrogance – thinking their political point of view (one I would ordinarily agree with) re: global warming should be shoved down people’s (esp. children’s) throats on a comedy show, even ones with previous, more subtle messages. Never saw the Prisoner so no call on that one.

        • The Sopranos ending was not obvious, but once the camera sequence was realized the ending is clear. Throughout the series, there were three perspectives, the audience, any given character, and Tony’s view. Go back and look at the final sequence again.

          In the final sequence, the camera bounced from audience perspective, to a character perspective, and to Tony’s perspective. We saw Meadow’s struggle with parking or Tony’s family at the table, to Tony from his son’s or wife’s perspective, and then to Tony’s perspective who was looking towards the door and that bell for meadow’s arrival. It was a sequence that played over and over. The last shot we see is Tony looking up at the bell (his son’s perspective). The next shot would have been Tony’s perspective towards the door, but there was nothing. Fade to black.

          Anyone who doesn’t see this simply doesn’t want to see it. The ending was brilliant but, like so many, I didn’t see it at first.

  4. I liked the end of the Sopranos. With Tony’s lifestyle, it shows that he cannot relax. He always has to be suspicious of anyone and everyone he does and doesn’t know. They focused on the guy that kept looking at him, and when he got up to go to the bathroom. They focused on Meadow trying to park her car, building up to the possibility of something happening to her. If you’re an avid viewer of the show it was actually very suspenseful. And that last moment when you hear the bell ring and Tony looks up. Was it Meadow coming in? Was it someone coming in to put an end to Tony? Or did life just go on for the family? I guess the viewer gets to draw his or her own conclusion…

  5. And the end of ANGEL ! Did you see the end of Angel ?! I couldn’t believe my eyes, such a great show and such a bad end ….

    • Bad?! It was brilliant! I actually think it was a ballsy, very Whedonesque move, to end a series on such an open cliffhanger. It’s an invitation to let the viewer’s imagination run wild, which is an exception in the TV world where we’re a little too used to the opposite: usually the writers feel the need to leash our imagination by explaining everything. Now if you really need to know what happened next, go read the Angel comics.

      • Why read the Angel comics if you can imagine the ending?, lets go further, why see the damn series if you can imagine all by yourself?

        • Bingo! You’ve hit the nail on the head. Have heard so many people declaring that a vague ending is more artistically true or philosophically true (as life goes on) or some other gobbledygook like that – bottom line: if the series has never been nebulous, the ending should not be. Otherwise you’re cheating the viewers who like the show for what it is.

  6. to me, the most wtf tv ending of all time was the traumatic last episode of MK: Konquest. i mean, come on! shao khan killing off both heroes and villains and making lord rayden kneel before him? what were they thinking, man? it was so traumatic when i was 15 that i promised myself to never watch another series passionately

    • Well, the show got abruptly cancelled. It’s not like the writers wanted to end it that way

  7. The ending of Sopranos was the best episode of the series. It was a perfect ending. =)

  8. Sopranos: Tony, the egomaniac that he is, wins. He survived it all, yet, death is all around him, and as the camera cuts all over, he is watching.. every last inch of the place, just incase… always having to look over is shoulder, never really safe, yet, such a huge ego, and so powerful, he sits there with his family. Careless and happy. His wife lives in riches, his son get’s a fancy job, all based on Tonys “business”… meanwhile, Tony, the target of many, is in plain site, worrying about Onion rings, while Meadow drivers her fancy car that she can’t even park… All is happy in Soprano land… or is it? He’ll never be able to let his guard down. The guys in the corner? The couple? That man at the bar? The person who just barged into the Diner?

  9. Well the finale of Quantum Leap makes more sense given Sam’s desires to set things right. I personally dislike lists like this because they skim over the episode. It was set up, but Bellisarius went heavy-handed at the end just to make sure there was no one that didn’t understand that the entire series was based on Sam’s sub-conscious and his understanding right from wrong.

    The people that slam the final season of Roseanne, they also miss the point, given the fact that the season starts out with Dan having a major heart attack. They could’ve played in straight, but they didn’t they went down a dythymic/borderline world with Roseanne and how would she cope with this very, very major blow.

  10. Hey what about the Twin Peaks finale? No one ever mention the WTF we all experienced when watching that. It made absolutely no sense and didn’t actually explain anything.

    • That’s the beauty of David Lynch’s genius. Actually, the entire series is one big WTF moment and I wouldn’t want it any other way… except that I’d love more David Bowie in there.

    • That last episode was not mean’t to be a series finale, just a cliffhanger season finale. TP was cancelled due to low ratings, once they resolved the murder of Laura Palmer people just weren’t interested any more. Plus the series was losing it’s edge because Lynch more or less stop participating in it. He came back to it later on, but it was too late.

  11. Clearly whoever made this list hasn’t seen Neon Genesis Evangelion.

  12. The ending of the sopranos is very easy:Is all about family…That’s why he pull the song “Dont stop believing” of journey…Because of everything he have in the all series the only thing that he still have is his family…Not a bad ending like everyone says…Of course if you understanding

  13. you forgot to add “The L Word” that was a major WTF for many.

    • True. After the series finale, they were supposed to make a movie that would be its direct sequel, but we’re still waiting for it to happen. Any news?

  14. Yes, but who is number one.

  15. I think that The Secret Life of an American Teenager should be on there

  16. The thinking mans doctor who um no NO see doctor who IS the thinking mans dr who.

  17. I disagree about the synopsis of the Quantum Leap ending and it’s inclusion on this list, although I respect the opinion. A lot of pertinent information was left out in it’s judgment. For one, Sam was given a choice of one last jump. Instead of jumping home he choose to jump to change the timeline in order for his best friend Al to have a better life, partly because of the guilt he felt after one leap where he was able to save his brother from being killed in the Vietnam War, but at the cost of causing Al, a prisoner of war at the time, to suffer more at the hands of the enemy. The bartender who gave him the choice was meant to represent “God” or some higher being that informed Sam that he was using him for a greater purpose. As he tells Sam, it was always his (Sam’s) own choice to return home and if he continues, the jumps will get harder. Sam WANTED to continue jumping because of his inherent goodness.

    • @AP

      Still doesn’t explain how they misspelled his name…

  18. I think I’m the only person on the planet who was upset with the Will & Grace finale…Or maybe I’m just the only person on the planet who watched the show. Either way, I remember crying.