Updated: Mar 2, 2021
Sitcoms have been around for many years. They make us laugh and sometimes even cry. We get attached to these characters that we see get into all sorts of scenarios. We identify ourselves in them too. Some people are Carries, other's are Samanthas. Some are neat-freaks like Monica, and others might be the Stanley Hudson of their office. Whichever character you identify with, a big part of the experience is to get a deserving conclusion to the story. In this article, I try to narrow down the top 10 shows that gave audiences and me alike, that deep sense of satisfaction only a TV show can.
10. I love Lucy
No sitcom list is complete without mentioning I Love Lucy. This series was basically the blueprint for all the other sitcoms that came after, and in its time, it was the most-watched TV show for four of its six seasons. The show, along with actress Lucille Ball, received many accolades, and even though it went off the air in 1957, its popularity remains undisputed. The last episode gave audiences one last glimpse of Lucy being her classic wacky self, with Lucille Ball’s physical comedy being the star of the show. Even though the show didn’t have a conclusive ending, its finale was perfect for the time period.
9. Modern Family
Modern Family ended its run in April 2020 after 11 seasons. The series went on to win 22 Primetime Emmy Awards, and the comedy quickly became a staple in the mockumentary style format. Even though the series had a strong, award-winning start, the lack of character progress made so many storylines feel unnecessary. Overall, there seemed to be no real growth in these characters’ lives (I’m looking at you, Haley).
Still, creators Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd delivered an ending that was just the right amount of funny and sweet. It’s not over-the-top, just like Modern Family never was. The satisfaction comes from how simple yet wholesome it is. Sadly, this series is considered to be the end of sitcoms as we know it due to the rise in popularity of streaming platforms (they seem to have no warm feelings for this type of content). I remember the same thing was said when Friends ended, and many great sitcoms came after that, so let’s not lose hope.
8. The Good Place
I know this is a pretty recent show, but we can’t deny that it didn’t make us doubt and reconsider everything we know (or think we know) about existence and life itself. First of all, I appreciate that creator Micheal Schur didn’t extend the storyline and kept the series short at four seasons. In a world where creators ruin their endings by stretching their stories to needless lengths, The Good Place delivered just the right length of whimsical comedy. These characters had been through a lot, and even though there were some questionable detours, the end of the journey goes beyond the philosophical rationale and aims at the heart and goodness of humanity. As a bonus, the casting was brilliant.
7. Sex and the City
For today’s standards, Sex and the City isn’t perfect. It’s immensely white, and there’s a lot to be said for their portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters. Even though it’s a show that’s stuck in its time, their approach to female sexuality set the stage for the content we see nowadays. And it doesn’t matter if your Team Aidan or Team Big; I believe the “An American Girl in Paris (Part Deux)” finale was still a pretty sweet ending that should have been left alone. I don’t consider the movies canon and never will (as fun as they are to watch).
The annoyance of the ending is that everyone ended up with their version of “Prince Charming,” as if this is all that matters. But its beauty lies in the lessons learned (and in the reveal that Mr.Big’s name is John James Preston). Carrie realizes that not everything that shines is gold, Charlotte faces a new challenge by trying to adopt a baby, Miranda embraces her new life and is as brave as she’s always been, and Samantha tackles breast cancer and hot flashes in a way only Samantha would. I couldn’t help but wonder (get it?), the solo journeys these friends embark on are signs that life just goes on, with its hardships, but with your friends always by your side.
6. Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation had a rough start, very much like The Office, and it was accused at times of being a copy of the latter. Thankfully, something happened along the way that separated these two top-tier satires. Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope was a constant ball of joy and productivity that carried the show through its seven seasons, and unlike Modern Family, it treated its characters right all the way through the end.
The finale is hopeful of the future, and we see everyone thriving in their chosen lives. Ron builds a family and gets his dream job surrounded by nature. April and Andy give birth to a boy on Halloween, and Donna is living her fabulous rich “Treat Yo’ Self” life. Tom uses his failures to become a successful motivational speaker; Leslie and Ben continue their political journey with her being Governor of Indiana, and one of them probably being President of the United States. Gerry remains mayor of Pawnee, and Ann and Chris return for one final cameo. The name of the episode is “One Last Ride,” and it’s a very fitting, cute, and witty goodbye to the city of Pawnee.
5. 30 Rock
I’ve always felt that 30 Rock stands on its own in terms of comedic style. It’s not like anything we’ve seen before, and it’s not like anything that has come after. Tina Fey made sure to pull all the stops when it came to its last episode. The one-hour season finale had the classic absurdist tone that characterizes the show but gave beautiful closure to all of its main characters.
The episode included a nostalgic reference to the St.Everywhere finale, and with this, it was revealed that Liz Lemon’s grandaughter is actually the creator of 30 Rock. Many critics have called this ending a masterpiece, and I honestly can’t think of a show that remained as consistent as this one. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be “working on my night cheese.”
4. The Big Bang Theory
The Big Bang Theory is the longest-running sitcom of all time, with 12 seasons under its belt. This is one of those rare cases where it was good from beginning to end. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a situational comedy do character development as well as Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady did. Howard is an entirely different person than when we first met him (thanks to Bernadette, and I can’t thank her enough). Raj gains confidence in himself, and Penny grows into a successful and determined leader. Amy Farrah Fowler learns how to trust others, open up, and ends up winning a Nobel Prize with Sheldon. Leonard’s character arc is sadly not as amusing as the others. It’s without saying that Sheldon’s evolution is the best of the entire cast. He learns how to be a friend, a husband, a son, a brother, and a scientist. The Big Bang Theory’s themes remain unique all the way through the end, and if you didn’t cry during Sheldon and Amy’s acceptance speech, I must conclude you are a heartless monster.
“I got off the plane.” This is just one of the many unforgettable one-liners Friends gave us. This sitcom ended at the perfect 10 season mark. The bittersweet ending had us say goodbye to Monica’s iconic apartment, and the never-ending “we were on a break” debacle was finally resolved. This episode was the most-watched finale since Seinfield and the fourth-most watch of the entire series. The impact of the show is crystal clear, and even though I would’ve liked to see Rachel go off to Paris, Phoebe claiming there is something wrong with the plane’s “left phalange” is one of those moments that will never fail to make me laugh. I think we can all agree that nothing compares to that last scene with the six friends standing in that empty apartment, going out for one final cup of coffee.
It is undeniable that without Cheers, Friends would’ve never happened. To this day, it’s one of the most loved sitcom endings. The three-part episode might be a little too long for some, but they knocked it out of the park by calling up old castmembers like one of the most emblematic ex-girlfriends in sitcom history, Diane Chambers. The finale doesn't fail to forget that the root of the show are the personalities that fill the screen, and the last scene represented just that. One last conversation, one last scene with these characters simply talking and exchanging ideas about the point of life is such a romantic closure to this drunken comedy.
The Office is probably considered the best mockumentary-style comedy to date. A series that had a little bit of a weak beginning had one of the most vital endings. Even though the show had many highs and lows (most notably Micheal Scott leaving) that took away comedic consistency, the series pulled through, and the last episode made everything worth it. The behind the scenes crew of the documentary return to film some extra footage of the cast, and this is where we get to see everyone after Dunder Mifflin. The finale has many full circle moments the give a sense of peace to the fans of the show, and to me, the best moment is when we get one final “That’s what she said,” from Steve Carell. That to me, is literally *chef’s kiss*.
Seinfield: I think the finale of this sitcom is one of the most polarizing to date. Either you love ir or you hate it. And while it may not be perfect, their last episode is still a topic of conversation, which I feel is a testament to the success of the show which did so many things for situational comedy.
Arrested Development (the original run): This show has always been very underrated and misunderstood. It's first run had only three seasons and it didn't garnered very high ratings. Still, the finale (the original one), made a good job in rounding up the story of the Bluth family. It makes me happy to see that, years later, more people are finding this comedy and realizing how special and funny it really is.
Schitt's Creek: This comedy was also under appreciated for many years. Luckily, Dan Levy's writing along with the stellar cast were able to have 7 successful seasons and I'm confident the heart-warming finale will be remembered for many years to come.
Feel free to share in the comments your favorite sitcom finale. There are so many out there, it's hard to pick just one.
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