The 7 Most Soul-Crushing Series Finales in TV History
There are two ways to wrap up a canceled or ending TV show. There's the oft employed looking back at an empty room and closing the door option. Then there's the "WTF! Let's stab their eyeballs with crazy!" approach.
Guess which ones these guys chose?
Note: With the end of True Blood looming in the distance (like a big scary vampire castle), the ending of The Boondocks well behind us (just like racism) and the inevitable violent death of Game of Thrones (just like ... well, every character), it's easy to start feeling pretty pessimistic about the state of modern TV. But with this Cracked Classic, we're prepared to remind you that things could be much, much worse. Just so much worse. Be thankful for everything you have because the alternative is too terrible to imagine. -Cracked
ALF is Sent Off to be Tortured and Dissected
In 1986, a friendly, wise-cracking alien crashed into the Tanner's garage, claiming to be the only survivor of his destroyed planet of Melmac. Despite being able to fluently speak English and explaining that his name is Gordon Shumway, the Tanners dubbed him ALF (for Alien Life Form) and only refer to him as such from then on. Kind of a dick move now that we think about it.
Initially, the Tanners weren't very happy to house a short smartass who wanted to eat their cat, but they soon realized the gravity of the situation after a man from the Alien Task Force showed up at their door. Curious, Kate Tanner asked the man just what would happen to ALF if they did catch him.
Actual quote from the first episode:
"We'll see how it responds to intense heat, freezing cold, high voltage, toxic substances, pain, sleep deprivation, inoculation , and, of course, dissection."
"Why don't you just pull its toenails out?"
"You didn't let me finish."
Forget trying to learn about advanced science from this obviously technically superior species, our government would rather see what he looks like on fire.
Naturally, the Tanners decide that annoying or not, they absolutely have to keep ALF safe from the Alien Task Force so he won't be tortured to death. Over the next four years, the Tanners learned to love ALF and accept him as part of the family, until the Alien Task Force finally caught him!
The final shot of the entire series.
It starts when ALF receives a message from two surviving Melmacians, letting him know that they are going to colonize a new planet and want him to join them. ALF is torn between the continued survival of his species and his new family. Finally, he decides to join his own kind. The Tanners throw him a farewell party, have a very emotional goodbye and drive him to the outskirts of town to meet his friends' ship.
Then, just as the spaceship is preparing to pick him up, the Alien Task Force shows up, surrounding ALF. Frightened and low on fuel, his Melmacian buddies fly off, the agents close in on ALF and the credits roll, leaving viewers to assume the adorable, wise-cracking ALF is hauled off to be burned, frozen, poisoned, stabbed and finally gutted off-camera.
"That's odd. There's just a hand in here."
What were the producers thinking? Well, it would be awesome if this ending had been their plan all along and the previous 100 episodes were purely setup, an elaborate prank played by some people who really, really hated children. But the reality is the episode wasn't supposed to be the finale, it was to be a cliffhanger and the show just got cancelled before they could resolve it. Not that all of the eight-year-olds who subsequently cried themselves to sleep knew that.
Eventually, six years later, ABC aired Project ALF, a TV movie that explained ALF hadn't been executed yet, but was scheduled to be. Though he does escape the lab, he never meets back up with his Melmacian friends or reunites with the Tanners. Actually, he doesn't even seem to remember them (for some unexplained reason, they've moved to Iceland). In fact, one Amazon.com reviewer claims Project ALF made his children cry! So instead of a graphic, Muppet death, ALF is sent off into an existential collapse. Enjoy your adolescence, kids!
Dinosaurs: Absolutely Everyone Dies
Who could forget Dinosaurs, the lovable product of the Jim Henson Creature workshop? Earl "Not the Momma" Sinclair and his family dealt with typical sitcom family issues, occasionally taking on more controversial issues under a thinly veiled prehistoric euphemism (i.e.: masturbating = doing the mating dance by yourself).
But the real star of the show was the adorable and mischievous Baby Sinclair. With such a cute and cuddly tone, naturally, the show had to end with everyone dying. And we mean everyone. This is the only sitcom in history that actually ended with the on-camera extinction of the entire species that starred in it.
Unless mullets count as a species.
In the finale, the family is disappointed when the beautiful and colorful bunch-beetle migration display fails to appear. Turns out the beetles never showed because a plastic fruit factory has destroyed their breeding grounds and effectively wiped out their entire population. The beetles were keeping a breed of creeper vine in check, which quickly spreads out of control. Earl is put in charge of the problem, and in trying to wipe out the vines, sprays massive amounts of defoliant that ends up wiping out all plant life on the planet.
Now desperate to make rain to revive the plants, they cause all the major volcanoes to erupt, confusing rain clouds with smoke clouds. In the end, the clouds end up causing global cooling which the TV says will last tens of thousands of years.
Earl apologizes to family for killing everyone as they rally together to wait for death as the snow piles up. The End.
On one hand, we get that they were trying to do some kind of hamfisted message about the environment. On the other, the message was, "No matter how hard you try to fix the environment, it will fucking kill you in the end." Thanks for watching, kids!
3rd Rock from the Sun's Dick is... Well... a Dick
Harry, Tommy, Sally and Dick Solomon were your typical American sitcom family... except for the fact that their "family" was just the cover for their extraterrestrial research expedition.
The show revolved around their attempts to understand and emulate human behavior with wacky results, and they often found themselves confused by the emotions that came along with their human bodies. Also, a macho male security officer alien was forced into a female body which was so hilari-gay.
Dick immediately falls in love with his coworker, Mary Albright (played by the sexy, sexy Jane Curtin).
I bet you thought we were kidding.
She is initially repulsed by Dick and his childish behavior. Throughout the series, she comes to find his naivety endearing. Eventually, the two get engaged, and their relationship becomes the heart of the show.
So, when the Solomons are called back to their home planet, Dick has little choice but to knock Mary out and leave her forever.
During the sixth year of their mission, Dick encounters another alien named Liam, who is bent on turning all of humanity into monkeys. Dick saves the day by using his weapon against Liam, turning him into a monkey. Unfortunately, this causes their boss, The Big Giant Head, to end their mission and have them return to home.
After revealing himself as an alien to Mary, she initially wants to join them, but realizes she can't leave Earth. So, Dick decides to erase all of her memories of the two of them, via a blow to the neck that renders her unconscious, and leaves her on the ground.
Let's just hope none of her friends, coworkers or family members ever bring up the man she was with for the last half-decade, or Dick's misguided attempt at sparing her feelings will make her life a confusing, nightmare of hole-filled memories with no explanation, her lonely future full of psychiatric medications and straightjackets.
Dallas Scores a Victory for Satan
Back before soap operas were solely for people on disability and the elderly, there was Dallas, an hour-long soap that aired in primetime on CBS for over a decade.
Dallas followed the trials, tribulations and general dickery of oil tycoon J.R. Ewing and his family. The Ewings were your typical soap opera characters, in that they constantly squabbled, undermined each other and sired illegitimate children. Through it all, one managed to trump everyone else in the Giant Douche Bag Sweepstakes: J.R. You've probably heard of the "Who Shot J.R?" mystery. Do you know why it was so hard to figure out who shot him? Because he was such an asshole, everyone wanted to shoot him! Also, everyone in Texas has at minimum three guns.
In the end, eleven years later, J.R. got shot again, but this time at his own hand, after being convinced to do so by one of Satan's minions.
In the last episode, J.R. encounters an angel who takes him on a very It's a Wonderful Life-esque trip to show him what life would be like without him. Though, in a twist that would have made It's a Wonderful Life the most badass movie ever, afterwards, the "angel" not only encourages J.R. to kill himself, but reveals himself to be a demon working for Satan.
After a brief inner struggle, J.R. puts the gun to his head and a gunshot is heard. His brother, Bobby, runs in and gasps, "Oh my God!" and the series ends. A nation of housewives who tuned in every week for sexy backstabbing and plot twists, watched the show end with a demon-induced brain splattering.
Now, as with ALF, they did slap together a TV movie five years later. In classic Dallas style, they negated the most interesting thing that happened in the name of churning out more Dallas. Apparently, J.R. quickly turned the gun away and shot a mirror (you know, the kind that doesn't make a shattering sound when you shoot it). And the horrified, my-brother-just-shot-himself look on Bobby's face was simply because that was his favorite mirror.
"That was a Pier One exclusive!"
Related: The Cracked Guide To Satanic Rituals
David the Gnome Hits Mandatory Death Age
If you grew up watching Nickelodeon around the early 90s, you probably have some vague memories of a cartoon from overseas centered around gnomes in colorful, pointy hats mingling with forest creatures.
"No! Not The Littl' Bits! They were pixies! Come on!"
For nearly eight years, The World of David the Gnome ran (and reran and reran) on Nickelodeon's then-new "Nick Jr." lineup. David, his wife, Lisa, and his best friend, Swift the fox, spent their days in the forest helping animals and other gnomes in need and avoiding the trouble-making trolls.
They were creepy douchebags.
In most episodes, there was a lesson for the youngsters about different types of animals or about treating the environment with respect. And, on the last episode, the young children got to learn that every living thing dies!
Apparently, gnomes can only live to be 400 years-old, and David and his wife were both 399 throughout the series. So, when they hit the big 4-0-0, it was time for them to trek all the way to the Mountains of Beyond with their fellow quad-centenarian, Casper, to die.
Faithful as usual, Swift comes with them, but once they reach the mountains, he is not allowed to climb up with them. They bid him a tearful farewell and Swift watches as they all die and turn into trees.
Swift, now alone, and horribly sad, walks back down the mountain. But just to make sure the proceedings don't end entirely on a down note, Swift immediately meets a female fox and it's made eminently clear Swift will be consoling himself by tapping that.
Little House on the Prairie Goes Out with a Bang
Nothing can bring back memories of hanging out at your grandma's house more than stealing Nana's estrogen supplements and selling them to your friends (claiming the "E" stands for "Ecstasy") and Little House on the Prairie. The show centered on the Ingalls family and other residents of the small Minnesota town of Walnut Grove in the 1870s and 80s.
Every episode was absolutely bursting with wholesome messages about faith, community, family and love (in other words porn for Grandmas). The show aired for nine years and was pretty successful throughout most of its original run and remains popular in syndication.
When the show finally ended in 1984, the writers decided to make an unforgettable ending, by obliterating the entire town in a series of massive explosions.
The show ended with an hour-long special in which Nathan Lassiter, a scheming railroad tycoon, comes to town and, through a legal loophole, buys all the land in Walnut Grove out from under the residents, ordering their immediate evacuation. When they protest, Mr. Lassiter brings in a unit from the Union Army to force them out.
This causes one of the residents to get so upset she smashes out the windows to her house. This fit of violence inspires everybody else to follow her example and blow up the entire town. Because if there's one thing small-town folk are known for, it's their demolitions expertise.
Everyone gathers to take turns detonating their own buildings and saying, "Fuck you, Mr. Lassiter!" (metaphorically, of course).
In the end, only one little house remains. Did you guess it? Yup, the one on the prairie, and now that it's been abandoned; it's taken over by the rabbits they raised in the barn.
"The world's most adorable squatters."
St. Elsewhere Kills a Kitten
Before was there was Grey's Anatomy or House, or any of the dozen medical shows currently on the air, St. Elsewhere was the medical drama. "St. Elsewhere" was a derogatory name given to St. Eligius Hospital, a rundown teaching hospital in Boston where the show took place.
Part of what made the show unique was frequent appearances by characters from other shows like Cheers, Mary Tyler Moore, and Chicago Hope as well as Elsewhere's characters showing up on other shows, even a decade after it's cancellation.
But part of what made St. Elsewhere so memorable was the last episode. The camera pans out from the hospital, showing snow beginning to fall. Then the scene switches to an autistic child playing with a toy in an apartment. One of doctors arrives wearing a construction worker's outfit, and talks to his father about how he wishes he knew what was going on in his son Tommy's head, "... he sits there all day long, in his own world, staring at that toy. What's he thinking about?"
That toy is actually a snow globe with a tiny St. Eligius inside, implying that the entire show (and all the shows referenced within) exist only in the imagination of child.
Wait, that's not very soul-crushing...Oh, and they also killed a kitten.
Beginning in 1968, Mimsie the cat was the logo for MTM Enterprises. In the standard version, he looks up and gives an adorable mew. Throughout the years, different shows had made their own variations of the original.
But, in 1988, when St. Elsewhere ended, they decided to take the cat down with them. As the final credits roll, Mimsie wasn't in his usual surgical mask and cap. Instead, an unconscious Mimsie is seen hooked up to a beeping heart monitor. And, at the very end of credits, he flat-lines, dying onscreen.
Now there's a lasting image for you. Also, are we the only ones who spent the entire 80s thinking that symbol up there was an ash tray?
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