No, this is not, for once, an entry about death. But we are coming up to the final episode of Desperate Housewives, after eight very long seasons, and I've been thinking about so many other long-running shows that had special good bye episodes.
I don't know why we have stuck with Desperate Housewives. It was a quirky, fun little sit-com when it began and it sucked both Walt and me in but then it got very weird and it kept getting more weird. I'll tell you, you did not want to live on Wisteria Lane. The crime rate on that one block is proportionally higher than about any place in the country, I'll bet. There have been plots that held us for a long time and then went nowhere (whatever happened to that creepy guy with the body buried under his swimming pool?) and plots that have just been stupid and now poor Bree has been arrested for a crime committed by Gabby's husband and Gabby doesn't even care.
Well, whatever. We stuck it out, week after endless week, at the end of each episode askng ourselves why we were still watching this damn program. But it's finally going to end on Sunday, in a 2-hour finale that, I hope, will wrap things up nicely and we can move on with our lives. I hope it does as good a job as some other shows we have watched over the years.
The first "memorable finale" that I can remember (though there may have been earlier ones) was St. Elsewhere, one of those wonderful medical dramas set in the fictitious old St. Eligius Hospital in Boston, in the years when Howie Mandel had hair and Denzel Washington and Mark Harmon were just little kids..
The show lasted 6 seasons and I watched it religiously. A lot of viewers were shocked at the finale to discover that the entire 6 years all took place in the imagination of an autistic boy looking into a snow globe.
Dream sequences worked much better in my very favorite finale ever, the finale of Newhart, Bob Newhart's second sitcom. In that show Bob was an innkeeper in Vermont or someplace. In his previous sitcom, The Bob Newhart show, he had been a psychiatrist, married to Suzanne Plechette. The final scene of Newhart shows him in bed and waking up from a nightmare. He turns to his wife to tell her about it--and it is Plechette. He tells her he dreamed he was an innkeeper in a little resort in Vermont. That ending was absolutely brilliant.
I only remember the very final scene of the last episode of M*A*S*H, which, up to that time, was probably the most watched finale of all time. As I recall, I didn't like that episode much because Hawkeye was not the devil-may-care doctor he had been throughout. After 11 years he was suffering from some post-traumatic stress disorder or something. But I will always remember the sight of the helicopter lifting off with him in it and the message written in stone on the ground.
The Mary Tyler Moore show had a good finale too after 7 seasons, with all the cast standing in a huddle, not wanting to say goodbye, shuffling off together toward the door. It was a funny way to end the show, and Mary's returning to turn off the lights was a way to give her a final bow.
Similarly Sam Malone (Ted Danson), all alone, closes down the bar in the final episode of Cheers (after 11 seasons) and calls out to a customer that he can't come in because the bar is closed. Simple. Sweet. Effective.
The Golden Girls ended its 7th season with Dorothy newly married and about to go off on her honeymoon, and unable to say goodbye to her former roommates, leaving and then returning again and again for another emotional goodbye, until she just never returned the final time.
Seinfeld lasted 9 seasons and it ended with all the cast in jail. Funny, but not really up there with some of the really good finales, at least not for me, though some thought it was perfect.
Six Feet Under only ran 5 seasons, but it had a wonderful finale which laid to rest (yes, I meant to say that) any possibility of a reunion show by showing the viewers when each person had died and how they died, but did it in a very good, logical way.
And of course speaking of ambiguous endings, nobody really knew for sure what happened in the finale of The Sopranos, which just went to black at a critical moment and we weren't sure if something had happened with the transmission or what. I'm still not exactly sure what it meant, but assume that Tony and his family were all killed at the moment the screen went to black (and we didn't see it happening because Tony was dead).
So I wonder if Desperate Housewives is going to go into the annals of TV history as one of the memorable finales or will it, like so many others, just fade into obscurity and nobody will mention it again.