After getting caught up in an amazing TV series, we expect that the story will come to a satisfying end. Series like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy, Homeland, and M.A.S.H. all delivered on that promise. If you invest the time, after all, it’s only fair to believe that it will all pay off in a poignant way with a fantastic send-off. But many popular series have missed the mark, leaving viewers empty, angered, or cheated out of a proper goodbye. But which were the worst TV series finales of all time? We break it down here.
(Note: There will be major spoilers for each of the series discussed.)
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Despite its long and successful run, True Blood did not end with a bang. Instead, it ended with what fans described as a disappointing story that failed to provide satisfying closure for characters they had invested so much time in. The focus shifted far too much to characters pairing off and the importance of having children. So much so, in fact, that Bill urged Sookie to kill him so she could pursue a “normal life,” which goes completely against the overall direction of a show that always pushed boundaries and went against the grain. Not to mention that it was Bill making the decision for Sookie to move on and marry someone else, she wasn’t making it for herself. The finale undid everything the series had done for gender equality so needless to say, fans were not impressed.
Created by: Alan Ball (Based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris)
Cast: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, San Trammel, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Chris Bauer, Nelsan Ellis, Jim Parrack, Carrie Preston
Number of seasons: 7
After six seasons of getting familiar with Hannah and her misfit group of girlfriends trying to navigate adult life (and often miserably failing), the ending of Girls seemed totally forced and rushed. Hannah got accidentally pregnant by a random guy who left her to have the baby on her own. Then, she and her best friend, Marnie, decided to raise the baby together. There was little closure for the rest of the main cast, including breakout character Adam (Adam Driver). The sole focus in the finale was on Hannah, Marnie, and Hannah’s story as she prepared for actual adult responsibilities. Fans waited through several seasons for something, anything of meaning to happen that would demonstrate growth for every character. But in the end, it was a warped version of a happy ending for Hannah, with no resolution for the rest of the characters and their stories.
Created by: Lena Dunham
Cast: Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet, Adam Driver, Alex Karpovsky, Andrew Rannells, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Jack Lacy
Number of seasons: 6
Beverly Hills 90210
After 10 seasons of teen angst and drama, the big ending for this popular Fox sitcom, which originally aired in 2000, saw Donna (Tori Spelling) and David (Brian Austin Green) finally get married. Beyond their torrid romance, rather than move onward and upward with her life, Kelly (Jennie Garth) decided to pursue her relationship with lady magnet and constant drifter Dylan (Luke Perry). Really? Adding more fuel to the horrible fire, Jason Priestley, who had left the show after the prior season, didn’t even return in person to reprise his role as key character Brandon, and simply sent a video message with warm wishes for his once best buds. The show was never Shakespeare, but the finale left many believing that it overstayed its welcome.
Created by: Darren Star
Cast: Jason Priestley, Shannen Doherty, Jennie Garth, Ian Ziering, Gabrielle Carteris, Luke Perry, Brian Austin Green, Tori Spelling
Number of seasons: 10
Dexter aired for eight seasons on Showtime from 2006 to 2013, and viewers became completely infatuated with the title character. A tortured vigilante serial killer, beautifully portrayed by Michael C. Hall, you couldn’t help but fall in love with Dexter and his complex straddling of good and evil. Each season seemed to be better than the last at first, but the series showed signs of peaking in season 4 when John Lithgow wowed us with a character arc as the Trinity Killer. Loyal fans continued to stick with it for the lackluster seasons that followed, though, hoping for at least a satisfying ending. That never happened, unfortunately, and the finale — which felt all too rushed — just ended up angering longtime viewers by implying that Dexter had run off to the woods to hide and work as a lumberjack. There is a shot at redemption with an upcoming 10-episode limited series that might finally bring proper closure to the story that, even eight years later, has still left fans with a sour taste in their mouths.
Created by: James Manos Jr. (Based on Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay)
Cast: Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, Jennifer Carpenter, Erik King, Lauren Velez, David Zayas, James Remar, C.S. Lee, Desmond Harrington
Number of seasons: 8
Game of Thrones
After eight seasons of build-up, fan reactions to the finale of this HBO series were mixed, but many were disappointed with not only the final episode but the final season on the whole. Without George R.R. Martin’s insight, show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had to wing it, so to speak. To say viewers weren’t satisfied with their decisions is a dragon-sized understatement. Character development was pushed to the wayside, story arcs were rushed, and popular characters weren’t given the due they deserved. Many felt Targaryen dragon queen Daenerys’ journey to becoming the Mad Queen, for example, happened far too abruptly. No one expected a happy ending for the series overall, per se, but for a show that started strong and managed to keep its loyal viewers eager for its return throughout a two-year hiatus, we expected so much more than a default king and a banished Jon Snow.
Created by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss (Based on A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin)
Cast: Sean Bean, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Michelle Fairley, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Iain Glen, Kit Harington, Richard Madden, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Peter Dinklage
Number of seasons: 8
How I Met Your Mother
The finale of this long-running comedy series polarized viewers. The premise of the show, which ran on CBS for nine seasons from 2005 to 2014, had lead character Ted Mosby (voiced in narration by Bob Saget and played by Josh Radnor) recounting to his now teenage kids the long, roundabout story of how he met their mother. Every episode featured an integral moment in his life that supposedly led up to that big meeting. So when, after a 208-episode buildup, viewers find out the mother had actually long passed on and wasn’t about to walk into the frame to let them know dinner was ready, hearts across America sunk in despair. What truly angered fans, though, was that Ted went on to pursue his on-again, off-again relationship with Robin (Cobie Smulders), thus cheapening the story. Basically, the mother that had been so central to the story ended up playing second fiddle to “Aunt Robin.” Sure, love stories don’t always have a happy ending, but with such a long, drawn-out story about how Ted met this woman, one would expect it to be a romantic love story, not a tale of the one that got away.
Created by: Carter Bays, Craig Thomas
Cast: John Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris, Alyson Hannigan, Cristin Milioti
Number of seasons: 9
Another finale that polarized viewers, the much-hyped end to Lost aired on ABC to conclude the show’s six-season run in 2010, and seemed to add more confusion on top of the head-scratching premise of the series as a whole. So wait, were they dead all along? Are they dead now? At which point did they die? Which parts of the time-jumping story were real and which weren’t? Admittedly, while many fans called this show’s finale one of the worst, others appreciate the open-ended nature of the conclusion, which spurred debates and theories that are discussed to this day. Maybe that’s what the creators intended. Either way, some clarity would have been nice to tie up the convoluted, strange, and mysterious series.
Created by: Jeffrey Lieber, J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof
Cast: Naveen Andrews, Emilie de Ravin, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia, Maggie Grace, Josh Holloway, Malcolm David Kelley, Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Evangeline Lilly, Dominic Monaghan
Number of seasons: 6
This 1988-1997 sitcom almost single-handedly made viewers despise the “dream sequence” — even more so than St. Elsewhere did years before (see below). After nine seasons of depicting an average working-class family struggling to get by, the show took a weird turn when title character Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) hit it big and won the lottery. The family went on a bender, living it up with their newfound wealth, and setting viewers up for a disastrous end. Viewers eventually learned that, sadly, it was all a story contrived by Roseanne. In fact, we discover that her husband, Dan (John Goodman), didn’t recover from the heart attack he suffered in the prior season. Everything they’d seen was a product of her writings, including details of her family that were altered for dramatic effect. Sure, any person with a heart would have shed a tear listening to Roseanne’s final, touching voice-over, but why turn what was an uplifting, comical show into a well of sadness, leaving us all with pits in our stomachs at the uncomfortable realization? The popular continuation spinoff, The Conners, which is now in its third season, practically erased the finale, breathing new life into the characters and stories that suggest the dream at the end was itself just a dream (or nightmare).
Created by: Matt Williams, Roseanne Barr, Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner
Cast: Roseanne Barr, John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Michael Fishman, Lecy Goranson, Natalie West, Sarah Chalke, Emma Kenney
Number of seasons: 10
After nine seasons chock-full of brilliantly funny episodes about nothing, fans were understandably peeved when the final episode of this popular NBC sitcom fell short of expectations. The two-part finale saw the core foursome — Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld), Kramer (Michael Richards), Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and George (Jason Alexander) — arrested for failing to help out someone in trouble, apparently breaking the Good Samaritan Law. While on trial, they face a series of people for whom they have caused trouble over the years — from the old lady Jerry robbed for a loaf of marble rye, to the virgin woman who inspired the four to hold “The Contest.” In theory, it was a great way to remind viewers of some of the best moments (and characters) from the previous seasons, like The Bubble Boy and the Soup Nazi. Sadly, the execution did not live up to the promise.
Created by: Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld
Cast: Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards, Jason Alexander
Number of seasons: 9
Sex and the City
What made the finale of this popular HBO romantic comedy so bad was that it went against the very premise of the show. For six seasons, we were taken through the life of Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), a 30-something single woman living as a writer in New York City, and her friends Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Charlotte (Kristin Davis), and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), also all single, but dating. Oh, were they dating. The largely female audience lauded the four women for their successes, independence, and, of course, stunning outfits. And viewers seemed to want to see Carrie remain alone. Unfortunately, she ended up with her on-again, off-again (and again and again) boyfriend “Mr. Big” — much to fans’ disappointment. This wasn’t supposed to be a love-story-with-a-happy-ending kind of show. It cheapened what was supposed to be a powerful dramatic comedy about female empowerment, turning it into a story about a woman pushing 40 who finally finds her knight in shining armor. A continuation sequel series called And Just Like That… will premiere with 10 half-hour episodes in Spring 2021, with the original cast minus Cattrall reprising their roles. Will the story make up for the lackluster finale? Fans will have to wait and see.
Created by: Darren Star (Based on Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell)
Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon
Number of seasons: 6
After six seasons of sex, drama, and violence, many expected The Sopranos to end with a bang. But the show, which ran on HBO from 1999 to 2007, actually ended with a fizzle. Viewers were left without answers, and with a cheapened feeling every time they hear Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’, the tune that played in the background as the final events unfolded. In the final scene, it appeared as though mob boss Tony Soprano (the late James Gandolfini) was about to get whacked while he and his family were enjoying a peaceful meal at a diner. But then the screen simply turned black. Viewers were not only disappointed, but many frantically grabbed for their remotes, thinking their TVs had gone kaput until they saw the credits slowly, and discouragingly, begin to roll. Talk about a letdown.
Created by: David Chase
Cast: James Gondolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Robert Iler, Jamie-Lynn Sigler
Number of seasons: 6
After six seasons and 137 episodes packed with myriad storylines and tons of medical drama, viewers come to discover that it was all a dream — an imagination from inside the head of an autistic boy glaring into a snow globe that contained a miniature version of the hospital. Viewers were understandably aghast. It made every heartstring pulled, every emotional scene, and every love story nothing more than a facade. Running from 1982 through 1988 on NBC, St. Elsewhere ultimately made medical dramas a genre of their own. It won tons of awards, and is often considered one of the greatest shows of all time. So to have such an abysmal ending was a true disappointment. Even William Daniels, who played Dr. Mark Craig, admitted during a cast reunion interview with Entertainment Weekly in 2012 that a lot of the cast didn’t care for the ending. “But they did want to end the show, and not have little St. Elsewheres coming after it.” Making it seem as though the show never really existed is as good a way as any to accomplish that.
Created by: Joshua Brand, John Falsey
Cast: Ed Flanders, David Birney, G.W. Bailey, Ed Begley Jr., Terence Knox, Howie Mandel, David Morse, Christina Pickles, Kavi Raz, Denzel Washington
Number of seasons: 6
Two and a Half Men
This CBS show was arguably doomed from the moment Ashton Kutcher replaced Charlie Sheen. The storyline about Sheen’s character, Charlie, suddenly passing on, and a random billionaire (Kutcher) happening upon the house and deciding to buy it and take pity on squatter Alan (Jon Cryer) was unbelievable on its own. Not to mention that the show lost the “half” part of the “two and a half men” when Angus T. Jones (Jake) left as a regular cast member in the 10th season of the 12-season run. But the finale put the icing on the cake. It played with the idea that Charlie wasn’t dead after all, but rather kept prisoner by his longtime stalker, Rose (Melanie Lynskey). In the end, a person presumed to be Charlie but seen only from the back arrives at the door, greeted by a piano that falls from the sky and kills him. The shot cuts to director Chuck Lorre, who declares, “Winning!” in reference to Sheen’s famous catchphrase, which he often used after being removed from the show. It was more like a middle finger episode to Sheen than it was an attempt to offer closure for a show that had seen such a long and successful run.
Created by: Chuck Lorre, Lee Aronsohn
Cast: Charlie Sheen, Jon Cryer, Angus T. Jones, Ashton Kutcher
Number of seasons: 12