TV producers' personal favorite finales
Posted January 16, 2013
Television writers and producers are fans, too. As some reminisce about or prepare for their own series finales, they offer their thoughts on some of their favorite - and not-so-favorite - small-screen goodbyes (the consensus pick: Bob Newhart's masterful sleight of hand in revealing that his series, Newhart, was entirely the dream of his character from the earlier Bob Newhart Show):
-- J. H. Wyman, executive producer, Fox's Fringe: "Newhart was the greatest thing ever. It was sort of like a real thank-you for your viewership." The St. Elsewhere finale, in which the common interpretation is that the show came from the imagination of an autistic child looking at a snow globe, "was really cool."
-- Dean Devlin, executive producer, TNT's Leverage: My favorite ending of all time was Newhart. Bob told me that his wife came up with the idea, which was really awesome. ... I'm on the camp that actually loved The Sopranos' finale. I know a lot of people are upset by it, but for me, it knocked me out of my chair. It was bold and unexpected and powerful."
-- Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, executive producers, ABC's Lost: They both loved the controversial Sopranos ending, in which the screen goes black with mobster Tony Soprano's fate up in the air. Lindelof says,: "We both thought it was brilliant. We were saying this to (TV Guide critic) Matt Roush as if it were just some sort of universal truth, and he said, 'Do you realize there's this incredible debate going on where many people feel it's a complete and total copout, a ripoff?' ... That was the moment where we became resigned to the fact that our show's legacy was going to be one that was fraught with conflict and debate."
Says Cuse, "Newhart had a great ending. I think M*A*S*H had a great ending. I would say those and The Sopranos would be the most memorable to me."
Says Lindelof, "I recently watched Friday Night Lights, the entire series over the course of probably six weeks. That was a pretty incredible finale, just in terms of satisfaction level."
-- Bob Daily, executive producer, ABC's Desperate Housewives: "The Newhart ending was genius. The Sopranos ending I hated in the moment but loved in hindsight. You know what a great ending was? Six Feet Under," which revealed how all the characters would eventually die. "That was amazing given it was a show about death.."
-- Robert Carlock, executive producer, NBC's 30 Rock: Frasier did a very good job of being true to the show and having room for the kind of farcical comedy that they would do. They just stepped aside and did a wedding farce that was not moving the story forward, and they did some other things that felt like they were out of a Frasier episode. At the same time, it ended where the character made a big change. He'd gone to Chicago, instead of San Francisco, to pursue Laura Linney, who was playing his love interest at the time. So you ended with this thing of, 'Oh, he went from Boston (on Cheers) to Seattle. Now he's made this other change.' It felt very much in keeping with the larger narrative of the show and if felt like an episode of the show.."
-- Greg Daniels, executive producer, NBC's The Office: "Probably Newhart's the best. I think that was the cleverest show finale. It was all dark at first ... and then they turned on the light. And you're like, 'Oh my God, that's the old set.' "
-- Shawn Ryan, executive producer, ABC's Last Resort: "A show I worked on previously, Angel, I thought was a really good one. I thought Six Feet Under was really great. Cheers was a finale I thought got it pretty right. Seinfeld was a good example of one that didn't work. They completely changed their show. Instead of doing a half hour, they did an hour and a half. Instead of really telling a story, they decided it would be a greatest hits where we're going to bring back all these guest stars we've loved over the years and elicit laughs from past episodes. Curb Your Enthusiasm did a sort of new finale for Seinfeld, which was much better. I was not a big fan of The Sopranos finale. I'm not even talking about the final scene or what that blackout meant. I just didn't think much interesting happened. I thought the episode that preceded it, the second to last, was really, really good, and that the finale was a bit of a letdown."
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