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Six Feet Under (2005)
The final sequence in Alan Ball’s show about death delivered a sobering emotional wallop, flashing forward to depict how all of the key characters finally met their maker. Set to Sia’s haunting “Breathe Me,” it brought the term “closure” to a whole new level.
Running 2 1/2 hours, the last “MASH” is perhaps as celebrated for what it accomplished commercially as what unfolded on screen. But as usual, the finish — despite its bloated length — mixed drama (Hawkeye’s breakdown, and the tragic reason why) with comedy and warmth.
The Fugitive (1967)
Another hugely watched event, the show achieved what programs built around a quest often don’t get the chance to do: Allowed the hero, Richard Kimble, to catch the one-armed man and vindicate himself. And if you’ve never seen it, David Janssen really is one of the underappreciated stars of his time.
The Wire (2008)
The final season wasn’t the strongest in the show’s five-season run, but the finale perfectly captured the tone of hopelessness, the vicious cycles, inherent throughout David Simon’s for-my-money-best-ever series.
Friday Night Lights (2011)
A near-perfect ending to an astonishingly good show, filled with warmth and humor and the notion of a fresh start. In this case, full hearts really couldn’t lose.
Easily one of the most clever series finales ever – like “St. Elsewhere,” essentially erasing the entire show you just spent several years watching, but doing so through the use of a brilliant call back to Bob Newhart’s earlier show.
Mary Tyler Moore
Not perfect — that group hug went on a little too long — but memorable and touching, most for the moment where Ed Asner’s Lou Grant tearfully tells his longtime colleagues, “I treasure you people.”
The Shield (2008)
Ending with a whimper, instead of a bang, proved an ideal choice to wrap up this groundbreaking cop drama. Where’s hell for Vic Mackey? Behind a desk, naturally.
The West Wing
Not a great finish, necessarily — the show had lost a bit of its fastball by the end — but an unbelievably prescient one, inasmuch as it predicted a presidential election that came down to a moderate, older Republican senator from the west against a young minority Democrat, with the latter winning.
Battlestar Galactica (2009)
A lot of people loved this finale, whose orbit brought the show back to an appropriate – if, in my view, too predictable – landing pad.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2003)
To be fair, I have never considered myself a true “Buffy” acolyte, but an apocalyptic, casualty-ridden battle with the fate of the world hanging in the balance? At least nobody had to tell the producers to “raise the stakes.” Pun intended.