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? 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.
9. Little House on the Prairie: “The Last Farewell”
WTF? Walnut Groves explodes.
For over 10 years, the world watched as the Ingalls family tackled farm life in the late 1800s on Little House on the Prairie.
Ruined crops, Typhus and the Lake Kezia “monster” are just some of the dangers that faced Charles Ingalls and family during their 184 episodes on the air. Although, nothing would prepare the Ingalls for what awaited Walnut Grove in the final episode – when the residents decided to blow up the town.
In the series finale of Little House on the Prairie, the residents learn that a railroad tycoon, Nathan Lassiter, held the deed to their beloved township. When Lassiter brings Union soldiers to force the residents from their homes, the town decides to send him a message by setting off explosives in every building and declaring that while he may own the land, he cannot have the town.
As the episode ends, Rev. Alden says, “Did you hear that? Walnut Grove did not die in vain.”
You can watch Walnut Grove’s final moments below.
8. ALF: “Consider Me Gone”
WTF? ALF gets captured.
After the planet Melmac exploded, Gordon Shumway crashed landed his spaceship in the Tanner’s garage and the hearts and minds of viewers around the world in ALF.
Throughout the series, when ALF wasn’t hoarding lint or trying to eat cats, he was focused on repairing his spaceship and seeking out other surviving Melmacians. As the series came to an end, it seemed like that was going to happen. That is, until ALF is captured by the military on the way to his Melmacian reunion.
In the series finale, ALF is trying to contact Australia on the radio when he stumbles across Skip and Rhonda, two surviving Melmacians who are nearing Earth. They invite ALF to go with them. As it turns out, Skip and Rhonda have purchased a new planet and are on their way there to start a new Melmac.
ALF accepts the invitation and breaks the news to the Tanner family. After throwing him a going away party, ALF sets out for the long-awaited reunion. As the alien spaceship approaches ALF, the Alien Task Force jumps in and captures him. As the episode closes, the spaceship flies away and ALF is left in the hands of the dissection-friendly military.
7. Seinfeld: “The Finale”
WTF? They’re on trial.
The series finale of Seinfeld is one of the few WTF finales on the list that needs no explanation. After 9 seasons of hilarious predicaments from the puffy shirt, the double-dip and the Soup Nazi, 76 million viewers tuned into the final episode. As it turns out, the joke was on us; we had to sit through an hour-long train wreck as Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George were put on trial for breaking the Good Samaritan Law and being a bad influence.
The episode ended up a mash-up clip-show and unwanted reunion with every iconic character from the series past. Perhaps the episode would have been better received if NBC hadn’t already aired an hour-long clip show before the start of the finale.
Either way, the series finale of Seinfeld was not only a terrible episode, but a horrible way to say goodbye to four characters and an amazing TV series that brought us so many laughs.
Thankfully, the series was partly redeemed in the quasi-Seinfeld reunion during the most recent season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
You can take a look at some of the horrible Seinfeld finale below.
6. Quantum Leap: “Mirror Image”
WTF? “Dr. Sam Becket does not make it home.”
For five seasons, Dr. Sam Beckett would leap into the bodies of various people throughout time as the result of a failed time experiment.
With the help of his best friend, Al (in hologram form), Sam was focused on trying to find a way home. He hoped that after so many leaps that he would eventually return to his own time. Unfortunately, Sam never returned home.
In the series finale, Sam runs into a bartender that reveals that not only was Sam himself was the one behind project Quantum Leap, but that he has control over his leaps. With this knowledge, Sam leaps to let Al’s wife know that he is still alive – and with that, the episode fades to black.
After a couple notes about the future of Al and his wife, fans were left with these words: “Dr. Sam Becket never returned home.”
Not only were fans of the series left with only six words as a conclusion – but after countless episodes – the writers misspelled Beckett’s last name:
5. St. Elsewhere: “The Last One”
WTF? It’s all in the mind of an autistic child.
Before ER and Chicago Hope, there was St. Elsewhere. Set in an urban teaching hospital in Boston’s South End, the residents of St. Eligius were tasked with taking care of patients that other hospitals didn’t want.
St. Elsewhere is not only credited for having one of the best episodes (“Time Heals”) in television history, but for also jump-starting the careers of Helen Hunt, Ed Begley Jr., Howie Mandel, Mark Harmon, and Denzel Washington. With such prestige, you wouldn’t expect the series finale to reveal that the entire series was nothing but the imaginings of an autistic child.
At the end of the series finale, the camera pulls to a wide-shot of the hospital to reveal that the building is actually inside a snow globe that’s being held by an autistic child. And who is this super-imaginative kid? As it turns out, the autistic child is the son of Dr. Westpall, the Director of Medicine for St. Eligius.
To make sure fans knew that the past 6 years were a waste of time, they included this line as the child stared into the snow globe: “I don’t understand this autism thing, Pop. Here’s my son. I talk to him. I don’t even know if he can hear me, because he sits there, all day long, in his own world, staring at that toy. What’s he thinking about?”
If that wasn’t bad enough, they also killed the MTM productions cat, Mimsie, during the credits.
You can watch the death of Mimsie below.
4. The Sopranos: “Made In America”
WTF? Did something happen to my TV?
Like Seinfeld, I really don’t think this needs much explanation. The series finale of The Sopranos resulted on the infamous “WTF heard around the world” as viewers were left in the dark – literally.
While some people (including Lost creator Damon Lindelof) praised the ending as groundbreaking, many were angry because the future of Tony, Carmela, Anthony Jr., and Meadow were left unknown. As for me, I still don’t understand the ending – even after reading multiple explanations.
What I do know is that I, along with the rest of the world, took to their cable boxes with anger thinking that something went horribly wrong and we were missing an important scene. That is, until the credits started rolling.
You can take a look at the infamous final scene of The Sopranos below.
3. David The Gnome: “The Mountains of Beyond”
WTF? David and Lisa are forced to die.
Anyone that grew up in the 80s probably remembers watching David the Gnome on Nickelodeon. The animated children’s series followed the life of a gnome couple, David and Lisa. David, as a doctor, would travel around the forest on the back of his fox friend, Swift, healing animals that had been hurt.
In the series finale of David the Gnome, David and Lisa must travel to The Mountains of Beyond because it is their time to die. The only problem is that neither David nor Lisa are really interested in dying, but are forced to because “that’s just what happens when gnomes reach a certain age.”
Before David and Lisa leave for their final resting place, an Arctic mouse shows up with a note from their old friend Casper. As it turns out, it’s time for Casper to die as well, but since he is unmarried, he wants to know if he can tag along with David and Lisa because he doesn’t want to die alone.
In the end, David and Lisa say goodbye, give each other one final kiss, hold hands and turn into apple trees.
The episode closes with the spirits of David, Lisa, and Casper waving goodbye.
You can watch the series finale of David the Gnome in its entirety below. If you have kids, have them watch it as well. In the final moments you, along with David, Lisa, and Casper can wave goodbye… goodbye to your children’s innocence.
2. Dinosaurs: “Changing Nature”
WTF? Earl kills everyone – slowly.
Not to be outdone by the death of two animated gnomes on cable television, ABC raised the bar by killing off every character in the hit television series Dinosaurs.
In the series finale, all hope of an episode of reminiscing about the humor that made the series a hit was stripped away – as viewers got to watch Earl Sinclair bring about the end of the Dinosaurs by poisoning the world’s plant life and subsequently blocking out the sun. The result of which was global temperatures dropping well below freezing and the imminent extinction of every living thing on the planet.
While every adult watching knew what was happening, their children may have been somewhat oblivious. Luckily, the writers made time in the finale’s last moments to bring everyone in the know as Earl has to explain to Baby Sinclair how there’s no place for them to go and that he’s sorry for killing them all.
This episode was so WTF that TV Guide had to include a special warning that the subject matter in this episode might “frighten or disturb younger viewers.” You know, because children aren’t really used to watching their favorite characters – who were marketed to kids in the form of music videos and stuffed animals – dying a slow death.
If anything, you’ve got to give the creators credit for proving Baby Sinclair’s famous phrase wrong – “I’m the baby, gotta love me” … Nope. Dead.
1. The Prisoner (1967): “Fall Out”
WTF? – The entire episode.
While I’m sure that many of the finales on our list could fill the number one slot, if you’ve watched the original British production of The Prisoner, you would know that there’s no competing with the craziness that is its final episode. It’s actually so WTF that while I watched The Prisoner from the beginning, I’ve never been able to wrap my head around its series finale.
The plot was simple – somewhat: An unnamed British agent resigns from his job. After being kidnapped, he finds himself held captive in a beautiful, yet mysterious village and is given the name Number 6. While free to roam about the village, he is unable to leave.
Throughout its 17 episodes, Number 6 continuously tries to escape the island while trying to figure about the illusive Number 1 – the person that runs the island.
In the series finale, Number 6 finds out who Number 1 is, but only after sitting through a trial with a hooded jury dancing as someone sings “Dem Bones.” Upon meeting Number 1, it’s revealed that he’s wearing a monkey mask. Underneath the monkey mask is a clone of Number 6. After a chase, Number 6 launches a rocket and everyone evacuates the village.
Sound confusing? It was. Series creator and star Patrick McGoohan actually had to go into hiding after the finale of The Prisoner aired because many fans of the series were so incredibly upset with the nonsensical conclusion.
You can take a look at some of the craziness from the series finale below.
So there you have it. While I’m sure there are quite a few series finales that you believe should be on the list, you can’t deny that all of these make you say, “WTF.”
What do you think of all the WTF series finales? Do you remember watching these episodes as they aired? Which finales do you think should be on the list?