Five Television Finales That Nearly Ruined the Series
5. “Life on Mars”: The first thing you learn in college writing classes is to never end a story with a dream or a suicide — they’re cheap, lazy solutions to being backed into a corner narratively. “Life on Mars” managed to pull both feats. I’m still pissed off about this finale. In the end, we learn that the entire show was a coma dream of Sam’s prolonged by a brain tumor. Not only was that the lazy solution, but it was the obvious one. Many of us watched the entire series hoping that a coma dream wasn’t actually what was happening when in fact it was exactly what was happening. Then, as if to compound the disappointment, after Sam wakes up in 2006, he realizes he prefers it better back in the 1970s, so he jumps off a building and kills himself so that he can return to that time.
4. Roseanne: The series finale of “Roseanne” negated the entire last season of the show, and everything after Dan’s heart attack. Granted, the show was terrible after Dan left, but to reveal that it was all a product of her diary? The Connors didn’t win the lottery, Becky married David instead of Mark, Darlene married Mark instead of David, and Jackie was gay, all revealed in the final minutes of the show to expose everything that had happened that season as a huge fucking sham. It was almost worse than a dream: It was a trick.
3. “Felicity”: A few people have suggested that the way J.J. Abrams dealt with “Alias” should have been adequate forewarning for the way he’d deal with “Lost.” But before there was “Alias,” there was Abrams’ first show, “Felicity.” I adored this show. It managed to effectively drag that Ben/Noel love triangle out for an entire four seasons. And then it shattered it in the final four episodes. See: The 13th episode of that season was supposed to be the series finale that year, but at the last minutes, the WB ordered up an additional four episodes. So, Abrams and Co. had to scramble to put something together. And what did they do? For a show that depicted the reality of a college student? A witch’s spell that sent Felicity back six months, of course. The spell — which was completely out of character for a show based in reality — allowed her to relive that part of her life. And how did it end? In the same way it ended the first time.
2. “Quantum Leap”: Perhaps it’s unfair to suggest that the finale could ruin “Quantum Leap,” which was an otherwise flat-out phenomenal series. Until the finale. Most of “QL” was episodic. The point was for Sam to help someone right a wrong, week after week, to the enjoyment of those watching at home. The mythology of the show wasn’t developed that much, but we all wanted to know who was leaping Sam around and when he’d go home. The final episode intimated that it had something to do with a higher power, who may or may not have been a bartender, but it made very little sense. It was almost as though David Lynch had come in off the street to film the finale is such a way as to confuse the shit out of the audience. Does he control his own destiny or is his destiny being controlled by a higher power? And if he created the project himself, did he make it so that he’d never be able to return home? I mean: The point of the premise is that one day he’d return home, right? And yet … and yet … and yet …
1. “The X-Files”: If you thought the “Lost” finale was disappointing because it left so many questions unanswered, “The X-Files” series finale was doubly disappointing in that not only did it leave questions unanswered, it presented new questions, and gave us a largely unsatisfactory end even for the characters. Of course, the series finale was designed to launch a series of movies, but it took years for the first movie to arrive, and even that movie didn’t even bother to answer any of the questions that remained open. People cut the “X-Files” finale some slack, though, because by the time we figured out that many of our questions would never be answered, we’d completely lost interest. Maybe “Lost” should have taken the cue: Instead of ending that series, just intimate a future big-screen movie, tease it for a couple of years, and then never follow through (or follow through by making a movie so bad no one bothers to see it).