News Column

Bentley: Where does 'Breaking Bad' rank among TV show finales?

October 1, 2013


Oct. 01--The finale of "Breaking Bad" aired Sunday night, and it was really, really good.

Despite 10.3 million people watching the episode, many of you may not have watched it yet. So I won't give away any spoilers except to say that the AMC series ended with the same superb writing, acting and production values that made it one of the best shows in TV history.

It is also one of the best endings ever for a series.

I know, that list is limited because a lot of TV shows get canceled without notice. But there have been plenty of shows -- ones with lots of time to create a proper finale -- that bombed.

Here's my list of the best and worst TV show endings:


1. "Six Feet Under": The theme of this superb HBO series was death and that was played out to the very end. In the last episode, it was revealed how and when each major character would die. Some were natural causes and others weren't. After investing so much in the characters, it was one beautiful and touching moment after another. Nothing has come close to beating this ending.

2. "Newhart": Viewers of the CBS comedy about a Vermont innkeeper (Bob Newhart) and his weird family and friends were caught off guard when, in the final scene of the show, Newhart wakes up on what appears to be the set of his previous comedy, "The Bob Newhart Show." He talks -- with his "Bob Newhart Show" wife, Suzanne Pleshette -- about the weird dream he had about being an innkeeper in Vermont.

3. "Breaking Bad": The perfect ending to a perfect show.

4. "M*A*S*H": It made sense the show about medics during the Korean War would end with the war being over. That closing scene of the word "GOODBYE," written in rocks and seen from a departing helicopter, is one of the most memorable moments in TV.

5. "The Shield": Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) was an anti-hero long before "Breaking Bad" came along. The talk was that Mackey had to be punished for his evil ways. But sending him to jail would have been a letdown. Having the maverick detective assigned to a desk job was perfect punishment and a proper ending.


1. "Seinfeld": This show about nothing had a nothing ending as the four main characters were sent to jail. It's the writers who should have been convicted.

2. "Dexter": I won't say much because many of you still haven't seen the finale, which aired Sept. 22. If you haven't seen it, skip it. The ending is trite, cliched and predictable. It was a sad way to end such a fantastic series.

3. "St. Elsewhere": The last scene shows that this series set in a hospital was actually just the in the mind of an autistic child, based on an image in a snow globe. That meant all that time watching was for nothing. "Newhart" used a similar twist, but it's easier to get away with a move like this when it's a comedy.

4. "Roseanne": Twist endings don't always work, even in comedies. The ABC series ended by revealing that what viewers thought had happened on the show were just part of a novel being written by Roseanne. The show didn't end. It died.

5. "Quantum Leap": The decision to end the show came so late there was no way to get the title character, Dr. Sam Becket (Scott Bakula), back home from all his time-jumping heroics. The show ends with the words, "Dr. Sam Becket never returned home." It would have been nice to have time traveled to fix the script.

In the middle

1. "The Sopranos": It's been years, but I still haven't made up my mind whether going to a black screen is genius or a letdown. It can be debated either way.

SHARE YOUR PICKS: Go to The Bee's entertainment blog to share your picks for best and worst TV show endings.

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at


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