TV's 10 Worst Series Finales

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    Battlestar Galactica: Aired: March 20, 2009 "Daybreak, Part 2."Four seasons of high adventure on the high space seas led to Capricans' "discovering" a lightly-populated earth from a few hundred thousand years ago, and becoming the Missing Link? Okay, that almost makes sense. But then a major character announces "my work here is done" and vanishes, turning what had been a sci-fi show that mixed elements of any number of religious theosophies into a polemic for intelligent design with this "touched by an angel" cop-out. The dust is still settling on this finale, but for now -- it fits just fine here, thanks to the way it betrayed its own history. What the frak, indeed.

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    St. Elsewhere. Aired: May 25, 1988 ("The Last One"). For some, this series ender is a brilliant masterstroke. For most, it tells fans their enjoyment of the series was a big waste of time. Nobody really believes show characters and places are real, but writers intimating that the doctors of St. Eligius were mere figments in an autistic boy's mind was the unkindest cut of all. A series should provide closure, but this overdid it. That said, fans with a little too much free time have speculated about other shows which included "St. Elsewhere" characters -- like "Homicide: Life on the Street," which itself crossed into "Law & Order" and even "X-Files" with shared characters. Are all of those places also stuck inside that boy's mind -- and snowglobe, too?

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    Felicity. Aired: May 22, 2002 ("Back to the Future"). "Lost" and "Fringe" fans, beware: Creator J.J. Abrams is brilliant at premises and story arcs -- then loses it with finales. "Felicity," a show about growing up in college, friendship and first real loves should have been a no-brainer to end; instead, over the final few episodes the titular character went back in time six months to fix her mistakes. Worse: Not every character's fate got resolved with this deus ex time machina, and viewers were left shaking their heads. Memo to scriptwriters: If you have to step into your own story and rewrite history, it's time to hand in those WGA cards.

    The WB
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    Gilligan's Island. Aired: April 17, 1967 ("Gilligan, The Goddess"). Three seasons and 98 episodes on the island later, producer (and theme-song writer) Sherwood Schwartz planned for a fourth season -- so he left the castaways stranded. Problem was, the series got canceled, so it took until 1978, when the first of two reunion movies aired ("Rescue from Gilligan's Island"). (The second, "The Castaways on Gilligan's Island" was a pretty obvious attempt to kick-start a new series on dry land.) In short, they got off the island, having missed most of the Vietnam War, Watergate, and the Bicentennial. Talk about a readjustment problem.

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    Little House on the Prairie. Aired: March 21, 1983 ("Hello and Goodbye"). The true series finale of "Little House" ended in 1983 with a few loose ends tied up and not a whole lot of fanfare. But that's because executives were really ending the episode in 1984, with "Little House on the Prairie: The Last Farewell." The plot was centered around a real-life issue: Producers had to return the land they'd built the town of Walnut Grove back to its owners -- as it was before they built the town. So the story went that the townies, protesting the town's purchase by a robber baron, decided to blow the thing up. Fan trauma ensued; it was like killing off a beloved character. Note to future producers: Leave your audience with the illusion that somehow, somewhere, the place they've visited weekly for nearly 10 years actually still exists. Put down the gunpowder.

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    Seinfeld. Aired: May 14, 1998 ("The Finale: Parts 1 & 2"). Yes, Elaine, George, Jerry and Kramer were nitpicky and judgmental -- but that's why we loved them. "Seinfeld" spent nine seasons getting its audience to be as curmudgeonly as they were, letting us laugh at the absurdities of the mortals -- low talkers, women with man hands. But in the last episode, the world got the upper hand, and all four were thrown in jail over a Good Samaritan violation. Suddenly the cool, witty friends everyone loved were considered reprehensible. So what did that say about the audience? Poor choice, writers -- no soup for you.

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    The Prisoner. Aired: February 4, 1968 ("Fall Out"). There were just 17 episodes, but star/writer/director/producer Patrick McGoohan wasn't prepared for his show to even go that distance. So when it did end, he scrambled to get everything resolved and ended up with a mess that confuses fans even 40 years later. It involved Beatles songs, a trial, unmaskings, a great big eye, a rocket ship and no dialogue for the last third of the episode. Did Number Six escape? Is he now Number One? Do we care? Maybe the A&E version of the series, set to air later this year, will resolve things better. If not, writers should look for a large menacing white bubble just over their shoulders….

    Everyman Films
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    Quantum Leap. Aired: May 4, 1993 ("Mirror Image: August 8, 1953"). It was supposed to be a cliffhanger season finale, this odd canonic contribution where "leaper" Sam Beckett, instead of jumping into a stranger's life, falls into his own. There's another mission that has to do with his holographic traveling companion Al -- anyway, the show never got renewed, so producers had to make do with what they had, and ended the entire series with a dark screen and the words, "Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home." Well, that's one way to tie things up in a nice bow.

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    Roseanne. Aired: May 20, 1997 ("Into that Good Night: Parts 1 & 2"). "Roseanne" was steeped in the harsh realities of living a lower-middle-class life (though with more zingers), which was one of its great appeals. Then it took a wrong left turn at Albuquerque in its last season when the family won the lottery shortly after Dan miraculously recovered from a heart attack. But the two-part series ender explained it all: That whole season was a dream, you silly viewers -- because the reality was so much harsher: No lottery, no recovery for Dan. And Jackie's a lesbian! Yes, all along Rosie was writing a book, then slid into a dream fantasy in season nine, then snapped everyone back to the "real world" in the closing moments. Who knew all along Roseanne Conner wasn't an overweight hausfrau -- she was actually God?

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    The X-Files. Aired: May 19, 2002 ("The Truth, Parts 1 & 2"). If your series relies on conspiracies and characters with names like Cigarette Smoking Man, the series finale requires some form of revelations. Instead, the bright bulbs behind the scenes realized they could milk the concept longer with another feature film (the first came out in 1998) – though it took until 2008 to see "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" realized. That led to a draggy finale in which Agent Mulder was stuck in front of a military tribunal, and few to no secrets were revealed. But that satisfied sigh you heard after it was over? David Duchovny, escaping from the role he'd been trying to leave for two years.