7 TV Finales That Went Out Of Their Way To Anger Fans
When a beloved television show ends, it's not unlike the death of a close friend (the kind who tries to sell you bullshit you don't need every ten minutes or so). It's hard to say goodbye after spending years laughing along with the lovable Friends, or solving mysteries with Columbo, or letting the Cheers gang enable your crippling drinking problem.
Unfortunately, TV show finales have a grand tradition of sucking. If you thought the worst example was when The Sopranos simply cut to black or when Lost implied that the whole show was the dream of a character in a novel in a library that was inside a snow globe owned by Hitler, then you must have missed ...
The X-Files Brought Mulder Back ... Then Instantly Threw Him In Jail
The X-Files is one of the best shows of all time. It reliably churned out spooky paranormal mysteries on a weekly basis, while simultaneously educating Americans about how every state in the U.S. looks exactly like Vancouver. By the last season, David Duchovny had left the show and been replaced by an aging T-1000, but the final episode promised a return to greatness. Duchovny would be back! Everything would be explained! Mulder and Scully would have sweaty, on-camera sex!
And sure enough, the finale starts out excitingly: Mulder breaks into a government facility and electrocutes an alien disguised as a human soldier. Unfortunately for fans of Mulder and story momentum in general, he's immediately caught and put on trial for murder.
"Hey, you know what series finale everyone loved? Seinfeld."
In order to prove his innocence, Mulder and Skinner call witnesses who each flashback to different plots of old episodes, laying out the convoluted mess of the show's mythology and trying to make it sound like it's not meandering nonsense. It's the TV writer's equivalent of poring through your drunken texts trying to figure out what the hell you did the night before.
Also, for some reason, Mulder's trial happens in a shitty basement which is presumably used to store the FBI's Christmas decorations. It's pretty ridiculous that the big series finale of a show predicated on traveling the country is mostly confined to a dank basement.
And not even the kind with shackles and whips.
Mulder's eventually found guilty, because aliens, and has to escape. He reveals to Scully that the alien invasion is coming in December 2012 -- which we now know is bullshit, because the worst thing we got in the winter of 2012 was the first Hobbit movie. The show ends with Mulder and Scully shacked up in a cheap motel room, on the run from the feds, laying together while inexplicably not having sweaty, on-camera sex.
We take it back. They weren't ripping off Seinfeld's finale; they clearly modeled this after ALF's.
Of course, the story picked up years later with the second X-Files movie, which essentially ignored most of this. The FBI drops their goddamned murder charge so that Mulder can help them with a case -- and he does, despite the fact that the finale implied that the FBI higher-ups were aliens themselves. But through the magic of lazy writing and the charm of Xzibit, all of this crazy shit is shrugged off and forgotten.
Anyway, let's all get our hopes up for the new season from the same people who crapped this out!
Quantum Leap Doomed The Hero With A Hastily Thrown Together Title Card
Quantum Leap was a beloved time travel show in which Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) would "leap" into strangers' bodies throughout history. His mission was to put right what once went wrong, while also finding the time to sleep with a lot of women ... which come to think of it, is creepy as hell. Sure, it's great that you saved that kid from drowning, Dr. Beckett, but how is what you're doing not rape, exactly?
His impact on the world population is staggering.
In the last episode, Sam somehow leaps into his own body in some kind of odd purgatory-like dimension that looks like a bar -- which, as far as purgatory dimensions go, ain't half-bad. Also, a guy who is implied to be God is there, working as a bartender. If the fact that even God had to have a part-time job in the early '90s doesn't disprove Reaganomics, what will?
"I just love offering my body to people."
But despite all the existential themes and hanging out with God, the episode wasn't written as a series finale. When the word came down that the show wouldn't be coming back, the producers employed what's known in the business as the "Poochie died on his way back to his home planet" tactic: They slapped a title card on the end explaining that Sam never fucking made it home. "Thanks for watching, assholes" was implied, but not stated.
"God's a jerk, in other words."
This is crappy for a couple of reasons. Firstly, every opening of every episode had the narrator stating that Sam hoped the next leap would be the leap home, so this is kind of a blunt way of shitting all over his whole objective. Secondly, they were presumably so rushed that they didn't even have two seconds to spell-check and realize that they spelled their own main character's name wrong. But seriously, thanks for watching, assholes.
The Star Trek: Enterprise Finale Was Basically An Episode Of Another Show
OK, maybe Scott Bakula is cursed. How else can you explain how his next long-running sci-fi show stuck the landing about as well as Harrison Ford on a golf course? Enterprise was a Star Trek prequel series in which Bakula played the first guy to ever fart on Captain Kirk's chair. For the finale, the series bizarrely flash-forwarded to the Star Trek: The Next Generation era, where a continuity-ruiningly portly Commander Riker runs a holodeck simulation to help him through a crisis of conscience. A simulation of what? Why, the first Enterprise crew, of course. So we see a story concluding all the Enterprise plotlines, but with Riker awkwardly skulking around like an invisible third wheel.
"They still wiped with paper instead of lasers back then? Fascinating."
Other times, Riker actually interacts with the Enterprise gang, dressed as some random sex-crazed crew member everyone forgot about ...
"I'm here to fix the cable. Wait, wrong simulation."
... or even worse, as the ship's cook. And just because Riker's there weighing an intense moral dilemma doesn't mean that he's not up for creeping all over the more comely holographic historical figures.
From outside the holodeck, Riker's friends watch in puzzlement as he humps the air.
Not surprisingly, fans weren't thrilled with the finale, since it took screen time away from the characters they were there to see off to focus on a storyline that had already been wrapped up back in the '90s. It also caused some Trek fans to wonder if the whole damn show was the equivalent of a bored guy reading Wikipedia all night (but with holograms).
Things were awkward behind the scenes, too. Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander Riker, confided that the episode was an "unpleasant memory," and that it hurt Bakula's feelings. The writer even apologized for how much the finale pissed fans off. Maybe in J.J. Abrams' new time-travel-altered Star Trek continuity, Commander Riker's parents will never meet, so these events will be written out of existence and the universe will be spared a whole lot of subpar tromboning.
Charlie's Angels Ended With An Extended Hospital Visit
Back in the '70s, when it was seemingly OK to base a show around three beautiful women being completely subservient to a man whose greatest attribute is owning an intercom, came Charlie's Angels. The whole show was about three kickass characters kicking all of the asses. So naturally, for the finale, they decided to do the exact opposite. In the opening moments of " Let Our Angel Live," Kelly (Jaclyn Smith) gets herself shot in the goddamn head like a total amateur while Bosley watches in either horror, confusion, or disgust.
That, or he got distracted by two dogs fucking in the street.
The episode has no side plot or adventure. The other Angels do nothing but wait in a hospital to see if the bullet in their friend's head is going to kill her, which of course triggers abundant flashbacks to other episodes. It's depressing in every sense.
"And remember that time we had way better actresses in this show?"
Kelly doesn't die, and because this is the last episode, Charlie finally shows up in person ... while wearing a surgeon's mask. Then he fucks off to God knows where without even bothering to muster a brief hello to the woman who got shot in the head while doing his bidding.
"Yes, it's me, Charlie! Anyway, I have no idea what I did with your inner organs, so you'll probably die soon."
And that's it. That's where the show ends. We can only conclude that the writers got a vision of the Cameron Diaz movies and decided to do everything possible to kill the franchise and prevent that future.
Battlestar Galactica Has A Legacy Of Shitty Endings
Seven-year-old spoiler alert: The most recent incarnation of Battlestar Galactica ended in the most WTF way possible. That is, with one of the characters as an angel, others as robots, and Bob Dylan as some kind of immortal space god or something. As it turns out, the show never had much of a chance, since all iterations of Battlestar are destined to have frustratingly shitty finales.
The original '70s series was what would happen if Star Wars was made by a dollar store instead of a movie studio, but it's not without its charm and originality. The last episode found Apollo and Starbuck looking for (presumably non-Dylan) signals from Earth -- which, like in the remake, is their ultimate destination.
Oh, right. Starbuck was a dude in the original, and spent way more time on his hair.
In the episode's final moments, as they're leaving this observation room to go party, one of them bumps up against the controls with their butt -- because like Chekhov said, if you introduce someone's big ass in the first act, it should eventually have an impact on the story.
A second after they leave, this happens:
They just missed the Earth signals! And that's how the show ended: with a depressing butt dial. Now they'll never get to Earth, but not for their rectum's lack of trying. This is the kind of cruel twist normally reserved for jerks who stumbled into The Twilight Zone, not intrepid space heroes.
A new series was soon launched, Battlestar Galactica 1980, but the ending wasn't an improvement. In the finale, we flashback to find out what happened to Starbuck (who wasn't in the new series until that point). Apparently, he crash-landed on a strange planet where he repaired a downed Cylon robot out of loneliness. Instead of trying to kill him, the usually-murderous robot became his buddy, playing cards with him and bickering with him like they're an old married couple. It's like a backdoor pilot for a really fucked-up sitcom.
The concept eventually morphed into Perfect Strangers.
Bizarrely, the Cylon decides that Starbuck needs a woman and storms into the desert, returning the next day with an unconscious lady whom he plucked seemingly out of nowhere. She's magically pregnant with Starbuck's child, because she's some kind of wizard or god -- or in retrospect, probably Bob Dylan in disguise. In the end, Starbuck's Cylon buddy is killed and the strange woman and his magic baby take off on a spaceship, leaving him alone to die.
See? It's at least half as ridiculous as the modern version.
Mork & Mindy End Up Lost In Time Forever
Mork & Mindy was a family-friendly sitcom starring Robin Williams as the eponymous wacky alien from planet Ork (that's Mork, not Mindy). Although it had some weird stories over the years, the show completely lost its shit during the three-part finale, in which the pair battle an evil alien who's trying to kill Mork. What kind of amusing plans does the alien employ? Oh, you know, innocent stuff, like sending an android which suicide-bombs Mindy's apartment.
To escape the gun-wielding villain, Mork uses a pair of time-travel shoes to go back in time ...
They had the same FX budget as a current Doctor Who episode.
... but the shoes malfunction, and Mork and Mindy end up stuck in the prehistoric age, living with a clan of primitive humans.
"Holy shit, look at that hairy monster!" -- the cavemen
The bad guy tracks them down, and Mork uses the faulty shoes to escape again. The pair fly through some kind of time vortex, unsure of where they're going. And that's where the show ends: with the beloved couple lost in time, caught in a swirling tunnel of nothingness, relentlessly pursued by a gun-wielding maniac. A bold move for a sitcom, but kind of a mindfuck for fans. If you thought it was rough seeing the Seinfeld gang in jail, imagine if it ended with them floating in some kind of endless black hole. That would be a show about nothing.
Smallville: We Never Even Got To See Superman
A revealing look at how Superman's hometown was improbably populated with gorgeous teenagers, Smallville was an entire series telling the story of how Clark Kent became the world's greatest hero. So it was only reasonable to expect that the final episode would show us, you know, Superman.
In the last episode, after years of teasing us with weird leather jackets and emo trench coats, Clark is finally given his Superman suit by his dead dad, who's hanging around the Fortress of Solitude.
He didn't even get his own suit. They merely gave him the awful one from Superman Returns like a Goodwill hand-me-down.
Immediately, Superman leaps into action. And by "action," we mean we kind of see a blurry thing in the distance. First, Superman needs to save Air Force One, presumably because Harrison Ford doesn't exist in the DC Universe. As if Superman has a restraining order against the cameraman, we only see him from way far away.
"Look on the TV screen! It's a ... smudge?"
At the end of the episode, we flash-forward to when Clark is working for The Daily Planet. It finally seems as though we're finally going to get to see Superman after ten years of watching a Superman show. Clark runs up to the roof of the building, rips open his shirt and ... the series ends.
The "S" stands for "Sopranos is my favorite show."
This would be like if Batman Begins took ten years to watch and then ended seconds before Bruce Wayne started applying his eye makeup. Maybe they were sparing us the sad moment where Superman is instantly recognized by a Smallville citizen, since that guy didn't even wear glasses for most of his teen years.
J.M. McNab co-hosts the pop culture nostalgia podcast Rewatchability, which can also be found on iTunes. Follow him on Twitter @Rewatchability.
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