TV Lists

5 of the Worst TV Show Finales

When a TV show that you love is about to come to an end, what you probably want most from it is a good final episode. It doesn’t seem like such a big ask. But whether a show has been cancelled in its prime or has fully run its course, so many of them get their finales so very, very wrong. Just why this might be is a topic for another day, but right now, five of our writers have decided to share their views on the TV finales that made them oh so angry. Rants incoming!

Smallville – ‘Finale’

Smallville’s finale, fittingly named ‘Finale’, is one of the best examples of crash landing a metaphorical plane in the most awful way. What’s even funnier is that Smallville’s Clark Kent (Tom Welling) was trying to save it at the time. The show ended up moving away from being about a young Clark Kent growing up in Smallville, to practically becoming a Superman show without Superman in it. The last episode sees Clark Kent and fated love interest Lois Lane (Erica Durance) plan to be married after a season of building up to it… only for the wedding to not happen because of a giant planet. The first half of the finale builds up to a wedding that doesn’t happen, and then the second half brings back Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex Luthor (the best thing in the series). But in true Smallville fashion, has him appear with Clark in one scene and then gets ten years worth of memories erased so he forgets Clark’s abilities. UGH. There is so much more wrong with this episode that this word limit just doesn’t cover. The really annoying part about it all? Season nine was genuinely one of the show’s best seasons and season ten wasn’t actually that bad. – Matt Latham

How I Met Your Mother – ‘Last Forever’

More than anything else, the How I Met Your Mother finale is a prime example that sticking to your original game plan is not always the best idea. The episode(s – as this was technically a two-parter) were actually pretty good, depicting the decade or so following Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin’s (Cobie Smulders) wedding, as the gang slowly drifted apart and aged out of each other’s lives, whilst the actual meeting really was worthy of nine years of build-up, and an instant classic of rom-com genre. The major problem with ‘Last Forever’, however, is that this all takes place over an hour whilst the previous 22 episodes solely covered the Stinson-Scherbatsky wedding, so the season’s structure utterly crippled the ending’s big emotional punches by the need to rush through them and treat all of its developments – Barney and Robin’s divorce, the dissolution of the gang, The Mother’s death – as tossed-off plot-points that came off borderline-callously. Played out over the course of a full season, I have no doubt that HIMYM could have put in an all-timer of a finale that secured the show’s place in the pantheon of great sitcoms and television in general, raw gut-punches similar to the show’s handling of the death of Marshall’s father or Robin’s inability to have children. Smushed into ‘Last Forever’ like an afterthought, it makes writer-creators Carter Bays & Craig Thomas, who supposedly had this ending planned since Season 2, look like stubborn mules incapable of course-correction or decent structuring and it destroyed the show’s legacy in the process.

Oh, and the Robin tag was irredeemable and curdled the whole show into something especially mean-spirited, but I’m still trying to blot that from my memory. – Callum Petch

Star Trek: Voyager – ‘Endgame’

Let’s be honest, Voyager was a bit rubbish in general, wasn’t it? Though launched in 1995 as an attempt to send the franchise back into deep space with station-bound Deep Space Nine ruling the Trek roost, Voyager spent seven years as largely The Next Generation reheated. Despite a premise which could have been astonishingly gritty and brave (a ship lost 75 years of travel away from home, made up of officers and rebels), Voyager recycles similar character tropes (The Doctor>Data, Chakotay>Riker etc) and plots in which the crew under Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) travel a long way but never go very far. Surely the blockbuster finale ‘Endgame’ at the end of Season 7, the culmination of over 150 episodes of Voyager’s Delta Quadrant journey, would deliver an emotional denouement befitting the travails of the crew. And in some respects, even while utilising a time-travel cheat plot to get Voyager where it needs to go, it does; the Borg are back, badder than ever, as is original Borg Queen Alice Krige; we get to see what turns out to be an alternate future when Voyager made it home, and we even get a cameo from Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) for good measure. Then it just… ends. They get home in a flourish, a quick chat with Starfleet and then… over. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!!

Consider how Deep Space Nine ended just two years earlier and Voyager isn’t even in the same galaxy, let alone quadrant. Granted, they were very different series but for ‘Endgame’ not to deliver some kind of epilogue for characters we had followed for seven years is the unforgivable cherry on the cake of Trek’s most underwhelming missed opportunity. – Tony Black

Star Trek: Enterprise – ‘These Are The Voyages…’

In many ways, Star Trek: Enterprise was very much the ginger-haired stepchild of the franchise up till then; it never really got a fair crack of the whip. When it came to its (premature) series finale, ‘These Are The Voyages…’ – what better way to cement this by bringing in Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Troi (Marina Sirtis) from The Next Generation, and making them the focus.

By shoehorning it into a TNG episode, ‘These Are The Voyages…’ manages to do both the show and its regulars a massive disservice, by not only effectively making them guest stars in their own programme, but also showing them only as Holodeck recreations. It really is hard to imagine any other Trek series being treated in quite such a disrespectful way, and not giving the crew the proper send-off they deserve – even Kirk & company got a far better final episode, which is really saying something, seeing as they ended up being cancelled without time for a proper wrap-up being planned.

Oh, and in the midst of all this, we even get a further huge slap in the face by killing off one of the characters – Chief Engineer Charles ‘Trip’ Tucker (Connor Trinneer) – with a death which is almost as pointless and without merit as the demise of Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) all the way back in Season 1 of TNG. It takes a special sort of creative talent to miss almost every single mark, and give the audience something which leaves as nasty an aftertaste as this. Boldly go do one, ‘These Are The Voyages…’. – Lee Thacker

Seinfeld – ‘The Finale’

After a run of 173 episodes over a nine year period ending in 1998, one of the greatest sitcoms of all time finally came to a close. The hour-long finale of the show about nothing, with four irrefutably detestable New Yorkers who never grow, never learn, and never change, was an event that united the nation – in the US, at least. Over here, it hardly registered at all due to an infamously terrible time slot. The plot for the final episode of season nine was a heavily guarded secret, but just as the majority of the previous two seasons had been, it turned out to be a total bummer. The programme had been exceptional during its run (right up until Larry David stopped writing the show in the seventh season), but had stumbled its way through to its big finish.

None of Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld), George (Jason Alexander), Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Kramer (Michael Richards) had at any point in the run been ‘likeable’. They were all deeply flawed, lacking in morals, selfish, greedy, and emotionally immature. There was never going to be a happy ending for the group because nothing they had ever done deserved one. But even with David back on script duty, ‘The Finale’ was utter nonsense. A succession of cameos from characters who had been wronged by the group over its near-decade long existence were wheeled out in a court room to defame the foursome’s reputation. It served to remind viewers just how mean-spirited the writing had been over the past two seasons. Whereas previously you were still able to enjoy the jibes and the antics, in the latter seasons, the Jerry et al had really become nasty and spiteful.

In the end, the show wrapped and sadly it was a relief to know there would not be a tenth season even despite a reported record-breaking NBC offer to Jerry Seinfeld. The throwaway line in the closing jail cell about George and Jerry having already had the conversation about buttons before – a nod to the first ever episode – proved that the show had run its course and was out of fresh ideas. And they all knew it. – Owen Hughes


  1. A great series with a bad final episode makes you think, “If I knew it would have ended like this, I’d never have watched in the first place.” I see your 5 & raise with the following shows that fell from great heights after jumping the shark & ended very badly
    The Prisoner – Most of its episodes have stood the test of time but the last 2 are an incomprehensible psychedelic shambles that so enraged viewers, who like Number 2 had demanded answers, that Patrick McGoohan fled to Hollywood.
    Dallas – From the heights of its worldwide popularity, Dallas went into a steep decline following Showergate & ended with a bizarre It’s a Wonderful Life episode that couldn’t even decide if life would have been better or worse if JR hadn’t lived, rather missing the point. The 2nd last episode, where JR loses everything, would have been a better ending
    Lost & BSG – Like The Prisoner, 2 great series that lost their way in the final season. Viewers of both series who were expecting answers & a happy ending in the final episode were left both bemused & angered with a downbeat pseudo religious shambles
    Quantum Leap – A disappointing season for this hitherto enjoyable series that began with the jump the shark JFK episode &’ended with a bizarre incoherent episode that only became the finale when the series was axed & post episode captions were added revealing Sam’s fate

    1. We’re going to have to agree to disagree on that one. 😀 It was utter garbage. A succession of wheeled out cameos to form the basis of what was essentially an hour-long clip show that smugly derided all the rumours about how the show was going to end. By the time Seinfeld had finished – a programme that had been for the longest time one of the best things on TV – it was so far up its own backside that it could tell you what its own lungs tasted like.

      1. As in ‘what show ever had such a cast of characters beyond the core’? Er, I thought that was rhetorical. I don’t remember questioning the quality of the characters, but the quantity of cameos is surely no measurement for the success of the final episode? Is that really entertaining or a fitting way for a show like Seinfeld to bow out?

        But, to answer your question more directly anyway, I guess Game of Thrones has a list of characters as long as your arm. Maybe The Simpsons betters it, if you want to stick to comedy only?

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