May is Series Finale Month at 80’s & 90’s Central!!

“How I Met Your Mother” had a final episode recently, and it pissed a lot of people off. I missed watching but I can understand why it upset so many. The truth is, ending a series is not easy. Some do it well and others do it….not so well.  Since May is generally known as the time when TV shows have their final episodes, I thought it would be fun if every Monday in May I take a close look at a popular series finale to see why some work, and others don’t. I will discuss two finale’s which were fantastic, and two which were just painful.

Today let’s take a look at a great one, and save the bad one for next week (and no it is not Seinfeld I have said MORE than enough about that). I want to talk today about :

Cheers went off the air after 11 seasons on May 20, 1993 after a ton of hype! And my friends I live in the Boston area. Trust me, the hype was CRAZY around here! I have only seen the Friends finale (ok and Seinfeld) compare in terms of publicity. But how good a final episode was it? Did it do the series justice? And why am I asking when I already spoiled that this was good? Ah, let’s just discuss the episode:

“One of the Road”

Plot Summary:Diane comes back into Sam’s life and the heat between them reignites. So much so that they decide to run off and get married! Meanwhile, Rebecca marries a plumber while Woody is officially sworn in to public office (yeah what was up with that anyway?).

Best Line:”Boy, I tell you, I’m the luckiest son of a bitch on earth.”

(a man knocks at the door)

“Sorry, we’re closed”….Sam saying the final lines of the series

Nipick of the Episode:I would have loved a real scene between Diane and Rebecca. The one we got here is OK but Rebecca was upset and weepy and we never really got to see these two characters, who had never interacted of course, have some real screen time together.

Standout Character:Everyone is just perfect  here. I love how this ensemble comedy ended with a very strong ensemble episode!

Syndication Edit-This episode was broken down into three parts for syndication but nothing to terrible was lost. Just a few scenes here and there, I think the scene where Frasier sees Diane in the bar was cut but not sure.

Episode Fun Fact-Before it became a cliche to have a special before the episode looking back at the series, Cheers had “Last Call” with Bob Costas hosting. The problem? The actual episode ran long and the special was gutted. Ah well, happens to the best I guess.

My Thoughts:What can I say? This was a fantastic finale, living up to the hype. It does a great job of tying up the series in a way where we know the series is over but the fictional bar will continue. Bringing back Diane could have come off as lame or forced, but they do a nice job here making it work. I think the reason why is because they don’t forget how Diane left six years earlier. The ramifications are dealt with. One thing I never understood is if Diane walked out on Sam on good terms, how come they never stayed in touch at all? Yeah I know there was no Facebook back then but still, nothing? This episode explains that a bit.

Seeing Diane again went as well as everyone expected. I commend Shelly Long for being in the episode. She left to be a movie star and could have been all egotistical about it. Of course, after the awful movies she had made she probably could have used a nice paycheck. But she slipped right back into the role of Diane flawlessly and I loved her interactions with the others. Especially when she notes how Cliff and Norm are exactly the same as when she left. The resolution to Sam and Diane’s story is well done, it makes sense and is not overly emotional or drawn out. The two reach the logical conclusion that they are not right for each other after all.

So what else happens in this episode? Actually everyone gets a little piece of good news. Woody gets sworn in and I still don’t understand the point of that story arc. Thankfully it’s forgotten later in “Frasier”. Rebecca gets a strong story herself. After years of going after rich men she marries an ordinary plumber. It was a nice way to end her character but I would have liked it if she had more than a passing appearance in that last scene. Cliff and Norm get promotions and Frasier….is getting ready to move to Seattle I guess. Yeah he and Carla are just sort of there but that’s ok. To be honest giving them good news would have been pushing things a bit.

That final scene with the characters sitting and smoking cigars is one of the best final scenes ever. I was never fond of the scene in Mary Tyler Moore’s finale where they are crying and hugging. Yeah it’s cute but it feels a little like to much. The scene here is much better. Underplayed, and the characters are all in character. They all get something to say and each go out on a high note. I love how Norm gets the last words, and what he says about honoring your true love no matter who or what that is. That’s followed by those final minutes where we get two homages for the price of one. First, Sam adjusts the picture on the back wall which is a nod of the hat to Nicholas Colasanto. And then he strolls down the hallway to the pool room. Why is this an homage? The very first shot of the very first episode was Sam coming down the hallway from the opposite direction. I love stuff like that!!!!

I also love that this episode feels like a regular Cheers episode. Many series will try to hard and make the final episode a bloated affair that doesn’t feel in step with the series (ahem, Seinfeld anyone?) or they throw a curve in at the end which ruins what we have been watching all this time (How I Met Your Mother is just the latest). Cheers ended much like Friends would later on. Quietly, giving each character a proper send off before the final fade to black. Can’t imagine it ending any other way.

Grade-A, Final episode that does everything right. It’s even got some funny as hell moments in it!

Next Monday, Series Finale Month continues as I look at a TERRIBLE series finale. I wont say which one you will have to wait and see.

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