500 blogs. Forgive the self indulgence for a second but that amazes me considering three and a half years ago I started these almost as a joke. I just wanted to see my name in the list of blogs on the TGWTG home page. But I kept coming up with ideas, and of course made friends that carried over here when I began posting on Manic Expression (three years ago to the day on Wednesday!!). This has become a fun hobby and nice diversion from the bad things that have happened these last few years.
I wasn’t sure what to talk about for this, and then remembered an idea I had been holding off on for awhile now. TV Cliffhangers! Oh you know that feeling, when you’re into the show and all of a sudden those three little words appear – TO BE CONTINUED. But I am not talking about two partners resolved the next week. No to be continued’s are even worst when you get a huge surprise and you’re dying to know what will happen next.,,,,and have to wait until next September to find out.
But while some cliffhangers were so good that they remain good to this day, some are not. They are lame or forced…or when the show returns for part 2 the cliffhanger is ruined when the show literally retcons it away to reestablish the status quo. Don’t tease us with a big change and then not deliver! Some are so silly that they are famous for how silly they are! Then there is one thing even worst–when there is no resolution at all!!!!!
Now to limit this I am only discussing season ending cliffhangers, and of shows I have actually watched (with one or two exceptions). My focus will be mostly sitcoms but I will mention some other shows.
Ok let’s start with the infuriating one’s…the one’s that have no resolution!! I went thru some of these last year so let’s go thru them again but real quick :
Benson-At the end of the series, the final episode involved the Governor and Benson running against each other. So who won? The world will never know
Alf-We see ALF missing his flight to be with his friends and is trapped by the Alien Task Force. What happened? No clue. Oh yeah there was a follow up movie years later called Project ALF which sucked.
Lois & Clark-As the awful season 4 came to a close, we got an episode where part of theme was Lois and Clark discussing having a baby. At the very end of the series finale, what happens? A baby appears out of nowhere! What’s the story? Sorry last episode.
Caroline in the City-the final episode has Carline ready to marry another guy when Richard re-appears. Yay.
The Sopranos-I never watched this show but this ending pissed off so many people I have to acknowledge it here. The final episode has someone walk into the restaurant where Tony is sitting. Tony looks up….and nothing! What kind of ending is that?
Lost-I haven’t discussed this one yet so let’s do it here. This whole show was a big mystery where the solution was promised on the final episode. What happened? The confusion final episode raised more questions than it answered.
My Name Is Earl-So did Earl ever finish that damn list or not?
There are plenty more but let’s move on into the cliffhanger’s which were either ill conceived or weren’t that bad…until the next episode either retconned the story away or quickly moved past it making the cliffhanger pointless or irrelevant in hindsight.
I mentioned this last year in another article but there is no way I can do a list like this and not discuss this one. It was the season finale as The Carrington’s are attending the wedding of Amanda Carrington and Prince Michael. All is going well when suddenly a bunch of terrorists storm in! They smash through the windows and shoot up the entire wedding party, guests and all!!! I am not even joking, that’s exactly what happened. The final shot of the cliffhanger is the entire wedding party on the floor, presumed dead. It’s a fantastic image to be honest. The show was going through a tough contract period, and the creators were playing hardball. The worst thing is when the next season premiere came on it established that almost everyone survived. It’s been said the show was downhill after this, and I have no doubt.
Will & Grace
This show loved to retcon their cliffhanger’s. I have kind of brought this up before but let me explain what I mean in detail. Season one ended with Will and Grace deciding they should live apart. That lasted one year. Season Two is the real bad example. Ok so the season ended with this convoluted story where Grace was dating two men while Will quit his job and ran way to an island but was followed by his boss who offered him a promotion to be partner if he worked with a client who turned out to be Stan and Karen…..yeah I got a headache now. The worst thing is that despite all this “character development” for Will it was all undone within the first fifteen minutes of the next episode. The promotion and the island were quickly dismissed and Will and Grace were back to normal. Huzzah. The end of season three Will meets his fantasy boyfriend…who doesn’t last till the opening credits of the next episode. Season four…well ok, this one did take as we met Leo in the following episode which began the process of flat out killing the series. Finally, I should mention the cliffhanger when Will and Jack wake up in the same bed together. It is quickly revealed in the next episode that nothing happened and the whole thing is forgotten.
Speaking of retconning cliffhangers. Yeah, this show did these too and they were actually pretty dramatic for this show, even if they ultimately affected nothing. One season ended with news that Harry Stone was no longer a judge, and Christine was! This four episode arc was pretty good and real funny……but at the end Harry was back and Christine was a lawyer again, as if the four episodes accomplished nothing. The next year we find out Dan is in the Army (out of the blue), is sent on a mission to a war zone (of course he is)….and is presumed missing after being shot down! That’s quite a heavy way to end a season! The following season began with Dan stuck with some Eskimo’s and having to perform surgery on an Eskimo girl before he is saved. Wow, and what affect did this have on his character? None, he was back to normal the next episode and this was never mentioned again.
Ok this wasn’t retconned away (exactly) but I had nowhere to put this one since it was not a good cliffhanger in my opinion. At the end of Season 3 we had two episodes where Murphy was torn between two guys. The final scene of that second episode was the shocking cliffhanger ending that Murphy was, in fact, pregnant. By who? Who cares! Yawn. True they did manage to make the whole pregnancy arc work pretty well that next season but this cliffhanger is so forced and flat out of nowhere that it’s more confusing than anything. There was no set up, no foreshadowing, it was just thrown at us. And for me this was the series jumping the shark moment. And while the pregnancy was the big story the next season, the baby very quietly faded into the background after he was born.
Damn this drama and their cliffhangers that went nowhere! One very powerful ending to an episode showed Dr.Green apparently letting a patient die. Long story short the patient was gunman who shot up a school. Green is stuck in an elevator when the guy flatlines, and Green just kind of stares at him and does nothing rather than apply the paddles. Wow, that’s powerful! What happened next? It was quickly dealt with and forgotten in the next episode. There was another cliffhanger involving small pox…only it wasn’t really small pox and it was really stupid. Yeah for a really cool drama series this show didn’t resolve their cliffhangers so great. They were either boring or blatant stunts. However they did season ending episodes (that were single, self contained episodes) very well.
The Big Bang Theory
Yeah I hate to say it but they’re season ending cliffhangers suck. One season the guys went to the South Pole, and nothing came from it (well ok Leonard and Penny start dating). Two years ago we had Leonard go off on a long term trip leaving Sheldon alone. There was a lot of potential here to explore Sheldon being alone…nope, Leonard was back two episodes later as if he never left. Last year the cliffhanger was Sheldon going away on his own. Wow, what potential to see Sheldon travel the country while his friends cope with his absence…..NOPE. Sheldon is back by the end of the first episode as if he never left. The one decent one was Howard going to space but is that even technically a cliffhanger? In that episode we see Sheldon hold Amy’s hand. Wow! He is showing her affection! What comes from this? Nothing never mentioned again. Yeah this show is not perfect.
Just Shoot Me
This may be one of the best examples of retconning a season ending cliffhanger ever. Here is the setup, at the end of a season finale we see Dennis and Nina talking at night (wont get into their stories not important here). Things get romantic, there is music playing (long story part of the episode), and the two suddenly begin to seriously make out. Fade to black, end of episode. What happened? The next season begins with the two being interrupted, and Dennis flees. Ok long story short, Dennis ignored Nina the next day to her aggravation and finally reveals he kissed Nina to pay her back for being mean to him when he started there. Trust me, there is no indication in that first episode that the kiss was a ploy by Dennis to get Nina back for anything. Not to mention this was NINE YEARS LATER. Dennis must really have patience! The creators clearly pulled that one of out of their, you know, because they didn’t want the two to get together. Why end with that cliffhanger then? Good question!!!
The West Wing
Toward the end of the series I was finally watching when one season ended with quite a pair of episodes. The president’s daughter is kidnapped, and the president temporarily relinquishes his job because he can’t focus on running the country. Yikes! What happened next? The next episode the daughter is rescued very easily and the president gets his job back with no trouble. In fact the episode rushes through a whole year, making the tension filled previous episodes basically a waste of time. It was boring and I was disappointed. Apparently this was due to a change in the people running the series and man did it show. By the way I have read the season 1 cliffhanger was really good but either didn’t see or it don’t remember it.
I debated discussing this one but here we go. In the end of the third season we see Piper and Prue seriously wounded while Phoebe, Leo, and Cole are trapped in the underworld with Phoebe having given her oath to stay there forever. Heavy stuff! To bad Shannon Doherty left the series so that when the next episode started everything had already been resolved, and Prue was dead.
Ok so let’s talk about the cliffhangers that had everyone talking…and did not disappoint the next season!
Oh hell yes my friends. I will go on a limb and say that even today there aren’t many who has never heard of “Who shot JR?”. It was an ingenious set up as JR, played of course by Larry Hagman, is seen in his office one night. He hears a noise, and when he looks out the door someone shoots him. And the country went nuts! Seriously everyone wanted to know this one, heck there were even betting parlors in Vegas laying odds on who the killer was! It was just huge. Who was the killer? It was Kristen, J.R.’s scheming sister-in-law and mistress, but apparently everyone in the cast filmed a short scene where they had shot J.R. and no one would know who would really be the killer until the episode aired. This was and is still a classic, and has been spoofed by many including Saturday Night Live and of course The Simpsons. This set a standard for cliffhangers to come.
So, what about that other famous cliffhanger where Bobby Ewing popped out of the shower and revealed he never did and the whole ninth season was a dream? It was a stupid and lame stunt meant to bring Patrick Duffy back to save the show. I even knew about in 1986 when I barely knew what Dallas was. And that’s all I can say about that. This series did a cliffhanger every year and I would be here all day if I discussed them all.
This show did cliffhangers well, very well! The cliffhanger of Ross saying Rachel at the alter rather then Emily was huge. The series was literally never the same after that. After all the Ross and Emily stuff it looked like they would marry, especially after Rachel went all the way the London to tell him she loved him–and couldn’t do it. When Ross said “Rachel” no one knew what would happen next!Â The series other season ending cliffhanger of note was the Vegas episode where Ross and Rachel suddenly emerge from a wedding chapel! Credit to the writers this wasn’t quickly retconed away, it took a few episode to resolve and remained a part of the characters history from then on. But the absolute best cliffhanger ending in my opinion was Monica and Chandler’s wedding where we find out that Rachel is pregnant! What??? While this was out of the blue like Murphy Brown the difference is that Friends took time to explain and explore this rather than just throwing us a curve and then expecting us to just accept this while the series went on as normal.
Ok so they weren’t all perfect. On the other hand, when Rachel and Joey kissed at the end of season nine it led to nothing. The whole romance stuff between the two was quietly done away with two episodes later when they realize neither were in love with each other after all. Ross and Charlie also broke up later, making that whole cliffhanger utterly pointless.
One of the best examples of a good cliffhanger came from this series. Long story short, Sam had been dating a councilwoman named Janet but Diane was still very much around. Eventually the new woman hears that Sam had a thing for Diane and makes him fire her. She overhears and resigns. Then Janet ends up breaking up with Sam anyway because she believed he was still in love with Diane. This was a three episode arc that I will admit I have not really watched. So the season ends with Sam alone in Cheers, and picking up the phone and calling someone, asking them to marry him. Which? Fans had to wait the whole summer to find out it was in fact Diane. There were other cliffhangers this show did but this one was by far the best.
You may notice not to many 80’s shows made it on this list. Because back in those days, seasons on sitcoms didn’t end in big special episodes that ended in cliffhangers normally. They just had a final episode that may have been a little more special but still self contained, and that was it. Cheers was one of the few which did cliffhangers as I just stated. Here’s are two rare one’s :
Growing Pains-It’s funny how this silly little show always seems to make it on my lists. So the whole season had been building up that Mike was in love with Julie (who was the nanny for the baby Chrissy). Finally, in the season finale Mike confesses that love to all (it had been a secret) and asks Julie to marry him. What does she say? We had to wait till the next year to hear her say yes. Sadly the plans were changed when the series couldn’t work with the actress but it was still a decent cliffhanger.
Gimmee A Break-One season ended with middle daughter Julie running off and getting married. The final scene had Julie and her new husband telling a shocked Nell when The Chief calls from the other room, asking if Julie is in there. Nell screams “No!” and the scene freezes, what happened next? We never knew because sadly Dolph Sweet passed away so when the next season began that cliffhanger ending was quietly dismissed. Which I can certainly forgive in this case. Although it was mentioned that The Chief accepted the new husband.
Most of the cliffhanger’s for this series would quietly be retconned away the next year. Like the one where Frasier gets everyone fired, they were all re-hired a few episodes later. Or how about one where Roz quits Frasier’s show and is angry at him for dating another woman she doesn’t like. The next episodeÂ she got her job back in the first five minutes and retconned it so that her anger was really misdirected anger at her father, and all was forgiven.
With one exception. This series had one of the most talked about cliffhanger endings. And while you could argue it was a bit of a cop out, it wasn’t forgotten or retconned in any way. The show was forever changed by this cliffhanger which did NOT disappoint. Of course I am talking about the episode where Niles finally confessed his feelings to Daphne. At firsts she rejects him, but the episode ends with the her running away from her wedding and the two whisking away together in a Winnebago…to the end of the driveway. Yeah it felt like the creators kind of played it safe, but the episode did a decent job of following that up successfully. Niles and Daphne stayed together and several episodes that next season dealt with the consequences of their actions.
Not sure what to say about this one. Yeah the cliffhanger was good but the follow up episode was….eh. I am talking about the episode where Becky and Mark decide to run off and get married. It’s a real shocking end, almost coming out of nowhere! In the next episode, time has passed and everyone is kind of cool with it. Except Dan anyway. Obviously they were writing Lecy Goranson out and so while I’m glad the two stayed married the fact Becky vanished from the show hurt this one in hindsight, for me anyway. When I looked this up I was surprised to find this was not a season ending cliffhanger, it was a two part season premier. I could swear that’s not true, but ok I am still bringing it up because of how shocking it was. I guess it makes sense this show would have no dramatic cliffhanger since every episode was a cliffhanger in a way. Season 8 was the closest when Dan and Roseanne have a massive fight and it looks like she is leaving.
It’s just impossible for me to keep this show off a list isn’t it? In a rare season ending cliffhanger, we see Jerry and Kramer have a fight over keys. Kramer storms off and ends up running away to California. And appears in an episode of Murphy Brown! In the two part season finale (which aired in the summer originally for some reason), we see Jerry and George go out and find him. There was a story about Kramer being wanted as a serial killer plus a lot of cameos. But it all worked, this is when Seinfeld was at it’s prime and couldn’t do anything wrong.
3rd Rock From the Sun
This silly little show did a decent job with it’s cliffhanger endings. I mean sure the episodes didn’t change the series, but at least the follow up’s were satisfying conclusions. Season 1 had Dick replaced with an evil look a like. Season 2 had the family leave after they have started dreaming, leaving Dick behind. They come back the next episode. Season 3 had Harry be kidnapped by his girlfriend’s ex. The follow up was technically a retcon since it didn’t follow the story set up in the first part, but the ex had been played by Phil Hartman, who was sadly killed between seasons. So yeah I can sure forgive that one.
Saturday Night Live-Wait, what? It’s a sketch comedy show! Well yeah which is why in 1985 the show did a satire of these cliffhangers. The whole cast was stuck in a burning room, except Jon Lovitz who Lorne Michaels saved, and the question was WHO WOULD SURVIVE? Since most of that cast was fired the answers was no many. Cute parody.
I know I missed dozens more from 24 to Battlesrar Galatica to Dr.Who to Sarah Connor Chronicles to Quantum Leap. So feel free to comment on the cliffhangers which got you excited….or disappointed.
You be wondering about a certain major TV show cliffhanger I did not mention. It set a standard for TV cliffhangers, and is one of the best EVER. Plus it’s from a series I love and talk about a lot. So where is it? Well my friends I decided that it was to big a subject to tackled alone, or in a small section inÂ this article, so I have decided to ask for assistance. Join me next time as I take a close look at the Star Trek cliffhanger season finale’s with help from my good friend Les. Besides, I wouldn’t be here without him so it only seems fitting to have him help celebrate my 500th blog and 3rd anniversary on the site. So yes what I am saying is…..
To Be Continued…. (aren’t I a wise ass?)