5 Foolproof Ways to End a Sitcom

5 Foolproof Ways to End a Sitcom

You’ve created a sitcom. Your fans have been devotedly watching your characters’ stories play out for years. Now the time has come to wrap things up. You don’t want a so-so ending to make those viewers feel like they wasted all the time they spent. How are you going to land this plane? 

We’ve reviewed some of the most beloved sitcom finales ever and returned with some findings on the five best ways to bring a sitcom to a satisfying conclusion. This probably goes without saying, but just in case: Sitcom series finale spoilers lie ahead!


Is your show largely about kids? Then you should probably strongly consider capping off viewers’ time with them by putting those kids in caps and gowns. A graduation is, after all, already a finale, so for characters’ high-school careers to end along with our relationship to them just feels natural. It also spares you the challenge of contriving a reason for the whole cast to attend the same college. (The Facts of Life pushed through the Season Four Eastland graduation and aired the characters’ entire shared undergrad career… and then pushed its luck with a whole other season after that; Mrs. Garrett had been long gone by then.) 

If The Wonder Years had pulled the rip cord at Kevin’s graduation, it would have spared the show from closing on an abrupt, unplanned series finale that some fans are still mad about. But at least, in that case, the protagonist’s extraordinary intellect wasn’t a significant component of his show’s premise — unlike, for instance, Malcolm in the Middle.

Other Places You’ve Seen It: Never Have I Ever; Saved By The Bell

Time Jump

When you watch a sitcom from start to finish, you generally see the characters grow and change, evolving as a consequence of the situations they’ve gone through. So part of the reason it can be hard to face letting them go is that we may feel like their story is still in progress. You can make it easier for viewers to say goodbye with a time jump. Flash forward a few years or decades — or through eternity itself, in the case of The Good Place — and show us where everyone ends up. 

Sometimes these codas are comparatively brief: a peek at how things turn out for the Heck kids in The Middle; a film projection of the years ahead for J.D. and his loved ones as he departs Sacred Heart for the last time on Scrubs. (Yes, that wasn’t technically the series finale, but let’s pretend the season with the new intern class never happened — I certainly do when I rewatch the series.) Then there’s Veep, which closes in a place appropriate to its pitch-black tone: its eponymous character’s funeral. We get to see how all the surviving characters have fared since we left off with them, but the final moment has to go to the one who, by far, endured the most abuse.

Other Places You’ve Seen It: Mad About You; Will & Grace

Big Move

If you have the luxury of choosing when to end your story (or, at least, knowing far enough ahead of time that someone else has made that decision for you), then you get the chance to put an exclamation mark on things by moving some or all of your characters away from their setting. Fans can’t expect the series to go on if key players have scattered!

Often, the big move is career-related: TGS is ending, and 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon needs to figure out what she’s doing next. Sometimes it’s geographical, as when (the original) One Day At A Time’s Ann Romano departs Indianapolis to live in London with her new husband Sam. Sometimes it’s both — as when the Korean War ends and the characters of M*A*S*H bid farewell to their camp and return to their Stateside lives. There’s also the series finale of NewsRadio, another twofer, though one with much lower stakes. Station owner Jimmy, who’s retired to New Hampshire, gets bored and lonely and decides to start over. After purchasing a local newspaper and news radio station, he sets out to reconstitute his old life by poaching the entire WNYX staff to work there. Well: Almost the entire staff.

Other Places You’ve Seen It: The Larry Sanders Show; Barney Miller


Romantic comedies may be dead on the big screen, but they continue to thrive on TV. Any time a show introduces you to a couple of single cuties, you can reasonably expect that they’re going to become a couple sometime in the relatively near term (or, sometimes, right away). And while visibility has been rising for non-traditional romantic partnerships in pop culture, we’re still conditioned to expect love stories to end in marriage. 

With a big enough cast and a long enough timeline, you can periodically bust out a wedding here and there through the run of your show and still make one a series finale showstopper — as on Mom, where a few major characters had on-screen nuptials before Jill and Andy tied the knot in the show’s final episode. Clever writing can also include a wedding without necessarily foregrounding it: Insecure’s series finale might largely revolve around the marriage of Molly and Taurean, but the episode’s final moments are, as is right and true, devoted to declarations of platonic love between forever best friends Molly and Issa. And while three-quarters of the cast would stay together for the spin-off The Golden Palace, The Golden Girls closed its run with a nuptial send-off for Dorothy, the character who had, overall, been the unluckiest in love.

Other Places You’ve Seen It: Schitt’s Creek, The Office (U.S.)

New Parenthood

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that children ruin TV shows. (The proof, if you need it: the TV show Children Ruin Everything.) So if it makes sense for your character to add a child, that might as well be the last thing that ever happens to them. For example: Niles and Daphne in the series finale of Frasier. This two-parter actually incorporates several of these story cappers: Frasier plans a big move to San Francisco; Frasier then goes to Chicago for love instead; and Marty and Ronee get married. Amid all this eventfulness, Niles and Daphne also welcome their first child. And while we didn’t know at the time the episode aired, back in 2004, that there would ever be another season of Frasier after that, Niles isn’t going to be in the revival coming sometime this year, so baby David’s birth really could be the very last event in Niles Crane’s life — on-camera, anyway.

Friends is another show that incorporated multiple closers into its finale: Rachel is moving to Paris for a job at Louis Vuitton, and Monica and Chandler are departing New York for a suburban house in which to raise the as-yet-unborn baby they’re about to adopt. Then birth mother Erica, in the city for a visit, goes into labor early — and that’s not the only surprise they’re in for.

Other Places You’ve Seen It: The King of Queens; Sex and the City

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