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How 'The Sopranos' and 'The Wire' paved the way for peak TV

‘The Sopranos’ cast debates show’s ending on 20th anniversary

Best and worst TV finales

‘The Sopranos’Quite possibly the biggest anticlimax in TV history: Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini, center) meets his family in a restaurant and looks up, and then, with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” playing in the background, the screen cuts to black. “Sopranos” fans have long debated the ending: Did Tony die or not? Creator David Chase has walked through the scene in detail but hasn’t said one way or another.

Best and worst TV finales

‘Parks and Recreation’Fans called the series finale of “Parks and Recreation” — filled with flash-forwards — a home run.

Best and worst TV finales

‘Two and a Half Men’Ashton Kutcher, from left, creator/executive producer Chuck Lorre and Jon Cryer all appeared in what many have called a downright bizarre series finale of “Two and a Half Men.” Some fans were unhappy that Charlie Sheen did not make an appearance.

Best and worst TV finales

‘True Blood’When “True Blood” met its true death with its series finale in August, it had the nerve to drag one of its central characters with it. (This person may or may not be pictured.) Fans were divided on the ending.

Best and worst TV finales

‘How I Met Your Mother’“How I Met Your Mother” ended after nine seasons in March 2014, and fans still debate the finale. After spending so much time listening to Josh Radnor’s Ted Mosby describe how he married the mother of his kids, some viewers were outraged that “the mother” isn’t the person Ted ends up with when the series ends.

Best and worst TV finales

‘Breaking Bad’The AMC drama “Breaking Bad,” about a former high-school chemistry teacher turned corrupt meth kingpin, aired its final episode in September 2013, and fans still haven’t stopped talking about it — or gotten over the show ending. Overall, many seemed more upset that the series was over than about how it ended.

Best and worst TV finales

‘Seinfeld’For “Seinfeld’s” final episode, co-creator Larry David returned to write the script. He apparently decided that the four main characters were beyond help, because they ended up in jail after a trial in which many of those they’d wronged testified.

Best and worst TV finales

‘Cheers’Having the characters just hang out at the “Cheers” bar for one last scene (after Sam nearly left them all for Diane) seemed a very appropriate way for “Cheers” to say goodbye. And when a customer knocked on the door, Sam Malone — in the darkened bar — said, “Sorry, we’re closed.”

Best and worst TV finales

‘Freaks and Geeks’The critically acclaimed but low-rated “Freaks and Geeks” shot its series finale early just in case it got canceled, and it was a doozy. From Nick’s dance contest to Daniel playing “Dungeons & Dragons” to Lindsay and Kim secretly following the Grateful Dead for the summer, it was poignant, touching and everything we loved about this show.

Best and worst TV finales

‘Roseanne’After a truly bizarre final season of “Roseanne,” it turned out the family did not win the lottery after all. It was just a story Roseanne made up after husband Dan died. Kind of a downer ending.

Best and worst TV finales

‘Friends’For “Friends,” everything was wrapped up with a bow. Ross ended up with Rachel; Monica and Chandler, with kids in tow, moved out of the building; and Phoebe was married off. Joey was off to L.A. for his own sure-to-be-successful spinoff … Oops. Still, it was a nice, tidy sendoff after 10 years.

Best and worst TV finales

‘The Cosby Show’“The Cosby Show” finale came full circle as Theo — struggling with school in the series premiere — graduated college. It was great to see Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad hold hands and get one last round of applause from the studio audience.

Best and worst TV finales

‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’Capt. Jean-Luc Picard’s travels through time with Q, and that last shot of the crew playing cards, made for a fitting farewell for “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” And of course the crew of the 24th-century Enterprise kept things going for four movies.

Best and worst TV finales

‘M*A*S*H’A record audience watched the tearjerker of a finale for “M*A*S*H” in 1983, as the Korean War ended and everyone prepared to go their separate ways.

Best and worst TV finales

‘Lost’“Lost” had one of the most controversial endings of all time, but how could it not? The expectations were so high going into it. For every detractor, there was a defender for this finale — in which Jack saves the day and dies moments later. The episode was more concerned with an ending to the story than it was in explaining the many mysteries. That was saved for a DVD-only epilogue.

Best and worst TV finales

‘FrasierIn the finale of “Frasier,” Niles and Daphne had a kid, Martin married Ronee, and the character of Dr. Frasier Crane left Seattle with a new potential love interest, bidding goodbye to television after 20 years.

Best and worst TV finales

‘X-Files’Long after many viewers cared — in large part due to the departure of David Duchovny in season 7 — “X-Files” got Scully and Mulder back together. We learned that aliens would colonize Earth and the world was set to end on December 22, 2012 (phew, that was close).

Best and worst TV finales

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’As Buffy and her expanded Scooby gang fought to save the world one last time (though Sunnydale didn’t quite survive), the premise behind “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” came to something of a logical conclusion, with every potential Slayer being activated around the world.

Best and worst TV finales

Best and worst TV finales

Best and worst TV finales

‘St. Elsewhere’Everything that happened at St. Eligius over all those years? It was all in the mind of a boy with autism. So were those six seasons of “St. Elsewhere” a giant waste of time?

Best and worst TV finales

‘Dinosaurs’“Dinosaurs,” the wacky sitcom with the Jim Henson life-size puppets, ended with all of the characters about to be wiped out by the Ice Age. Ha ha?

Best and worst TV finales

‘The Fugitive’in “The Fugitive,” Dr. Richard Kimble finally caught up with that one-armed man who killed his wife and got his ultimate revenge. It doesn’t get more satisfying than that in TV drama.

Best and worst TV finales

‘Life on Mars’“Life on Mars” lasted only a season on ABC, but there was some anticipation to see how the producers would end their version of the series after the UK’s incredible finale. It turned out that Sam Tyler’s trip to the 1970s was all created in his mind, as he slept in suspended animation, before landing on Mars. A bit literal, don’t you think?

Best and worst TV finales

‘Smallville’Lois and Clark got married (they saved it for the end, unlike the other show with their namesake), and finally, 10 years into “Smallville,” we got to see Clark don the iconic red and blue suit.

Best and worst TV finales

‘The Office’It was Dwight’s wedding day (to Angela, thankfully) and Pam and Jim were ready to move on. Michael Scott showing up to fill the role of Dwight’s best man was just one of many things the finale of “The Office” got just right.

Best and worst TV finales

‘Big Love’In the final minutes of “Big Love,” Bill is suddenly gunned down by a neighbor,and the sister-wives are forced to move on without him. As we learn through an emotional flash-forward scene, even without Bill to bond them, they remain together. Definitely a shocker.

Best and worst TV finales

‘Medium’Psychic Allison DuBois could do many things on “Medium,” but she couldn’t save her husband, Joe. Her belief that her husband was still alive on an island somewhere turned out to be an illusion, and the whole thing was so depressing that it was only saved by a final scene where Allison died many years later and reunited with him.


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