1. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”
The gold standard in classy comedy endings: both ironically hilarious — the entire cast is fired from their jobs but Ted Baxter is kept on — while letting the tears flow freely with a final group hug/sing-along of “Long Way to Tipperary” that will haunt forever.
Total score: 17
The greatest surprise twist ending of a sitcom in history, as Bob, the Vermont innkeeper, awoke in the bedroom of Dr. Robert Hartley — his character on his previous series — revealing that the entire Newhart series had been a dream of the Bob Newhart Show. Also, perhaps the funniest final line in sitcom history (watch above).
Total score: 15
The groundbreaking Korean War comedy decided to throw out the gags when it came time to wrap up, going all in with tearjerker moments and displaying the horrors of war in a cinematic style beyond anything the series had thus far achieved. It was no laugh riot, but with 50 million households tuning in, it is likely to retain its slot as most watched scripted program in history until the end of time.
Total score: 14
4. “The Office” (U.K.)
After dancing for two mini-seasons with the topic, the awful tragedy of David Brent was laid bare in this final episode that at once dared you to pity him and dared you not to.
Total score: 14
5. “I Love Lucy”
The tears were all in the subtext when the totemic sitcom, by then transformed into The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, wrapped. The story had already broken to a shocked public that television’s favorite couple were divorcing; this news brought to life the meaning of a song performed in the show’s final moments, “That’s All,” sung by Edie Adams. The song was followed up by an incredibly sad final kiss between the iconic couple.
Total score: 14
The classy, if formulaic, comedy had a classy, if formulaic, end, allowing the characters to find some genuine closure to their struggles.
Total score: 13
7. “30 Rock”
The show’s madcap irreverence didn’t stop for the finale, but it paused to take a few deep breaths. 30 Rock went out bristling with all the energy it has shown throughout its run. It didn’t exactly play for tears while saying good-bye, but it gave a little room to those who felt a good cry was in order.
Total score: 12
After 10 years together, the gang finally got to grow up and have their by-the-book romantic comedy endings. Those who loved them were moved. Those who didn’t weren’t.
Total score: 11
Sam almost gave it all up to move to L.A. with Diane, but at the last moment, he gave us the ending where the character does not move on, after all.
Total score: 10
10. “All in the Family”
When Edith has a near-death encounter, Archie faces the possibility of life without her and shows, in a relatively shameless soliloquy, for the first time a moment of pure human vulnerability. What emotions the finale provoked, it should be noted, were quickly undermined when the show refused to leave but instead rebooted itself as Archie Bunker’s Place.
Total score: 9
An interesting idea for a finale — the characters on trial for the crimes they committed during the course of the series — skipped sentiment completely. But in the end, it was too cumbersome a device to carry the show’s regular heights of hilarity.
Total score: 7
12. “Cosby Show”
Cosby wasn’t going to become the funniest show on the air in its last night. The Huxtables danced off the stage in a gentle, if not particularly funny moment in keeping with the show’s broad family-friendly tone.
Total score: 6
After nine seasons, the show was all but collapsing on itself. The finale, which suggested that parts of the show were inventions of Barr’s character, did nothing to pump a last bit of life into Roseanne’s corpse.
Total score: 5
14. “Happy Days”
The shark had been jumped years before. Joanie married Chachi. The Fonz adopted a boy. Richie returned with a mustache, and the definitional show-that-went-on-too-long reminded audiences why it had long ceased to bear any resemblance to the iconic hit of yore.
Total score: 5
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