||This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page.
A series finale refers to the last installment of a series with a narrative presented through mediums such as television, film and literature. In many Commonwealth countries, the term final episode is commonly used in regards to a television series. While the term itself is usually applied to series that were able to make their final episodes according to plan, it is also used when a show already knows it's been cancelled, or has a strong feeling that it will not be renewed, as was the case with Medium. Episodes labeled "series finale," or ones leading up to it, often include remarkable events in the overall series story arc. An extended length episode, or television or theatrical film may serve as the series finale. The finale may also be used as a device to create a spin-off series.
Typical plot devices 
Series finales frequently feature fundamental deviations from the central plot line, such as the resolution of a central mystery or problem, the separation of the major characters, or the sale of a home or business that serves as the series' primary setting. Some alter the entire premise of the series, such as in St. Elsewhere and Newhart.
The final scene often takes place in the show's primary setting, such as in That '70s Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Martin, Full House, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, One Day at a Time, Lost, Boy Meets World, and One Life to Live.
Series finales often include looks into the future or show clips from the series' past, such as in Six Feet Under, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Guiding Light. Characters who have left the show often return, such as:
- Steve Carell in The Office
- Shelley Long in Cheers
- Ron Howard in Happy Days
- David Duchovny in The X-Files
- Denise Crosby and Colm Meaney in Star Trek: The Next Generation
- Sherry Stringfield, Noah Wyle, Laura Innes, Eriq La Salle and Alex Kingston in ER
- Elizabeth Mitchell, Ian Somerhalder, Dominic Monaghan, Rebecca Mader, Jeremy Davies, Cynthia Watros and Maggie Grace in Lost
- Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman in The Mary Tyler Moore Show
- Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher in That '70s Show (However, Kutcher had appeared in earlier episodes in a recurring role)
- Amanda Seyfried in Big Love
- Jennifer Morrison, Anne Dudek, Kal Penn, Amber Tamblyn, Sela Ward and Olivia Wilde in House
- Michael Rosenbaum, John Glover, Annette O'Toole and John Schneider in Smallville
- Jessica Biel in 7th Heaven (originally intended finale)
- Tisha Campbell in Martin
- Kristy McNichol in Empty Nest
- Estelle Harris in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody
- Robert Pastorelli and Pat Corley in Murphy Brown
- Adrianne Palicki, Zach Gilford, Taylor Kitsch and Jesse Plemons in Friday Night Lights
- Dana Delany, Roger Bart, Richard Burgi, Christine Estabrook, Lupe Ontiveros and Steven Culp in Desperate Housewives
- Nicole Sullivan in The King of Queens
- David Canary in All My Children
- Michael Landon in Little House On The Prairie
Unseen characters may be revealed, such as Eddy's brother (who had only been referred to) in Ed, Edd n Eddy and millionaire Charlie Townsend on Charlie's Angels, whose voice was only used previously, appears in a clip show only. Characters may make cameo appearances such as Huckleberry Hound in Johnny Bravo. Series finales can also serve as a lead-in to a spin-off series such as the finale of The Andy Griffith Show "Mayberry R.F.D." Many series finales often kill off several of the main characters, including Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Roseanne and Star Trek: Enterprise.
Most series in early television consisted of stand-alone episodes without continuing story arcs, so there was little reason to provide closure at its end. Early series which had special ending episodes were Howdy Doody in September 1960 and Leave It to Beaver in June 1963.
Considered to be "the series finale that invented the modern-day series finale," "The Judgement", the final episode of The Fugitive, attracted a 72% audience share when broadcast. This finale received the highest viewing figures in American history prior to being surpassed by the Dallas episode "Who Done It" that resolved the Who Shot J.R.? story (among regular television series episodes; the final episode of the miniseries Roots topped The Fugitive first).
Scrubs aired a two-part episode billed simply as a "My Finale" in May 2009 as the show's renewal or cancellation had not been decided as of its airing, and so it was not known whether the episode would conclude just the season or the entire series; Scrubs would eventually be renewed for one additional season.
Futurama has had three designated series finales, due to the recurringly uncertain future of the series. "The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings", "Into the Wild Green Yonder (Part 4)" and "Overclockwise" have all been written to serve as a final episode for the show.
Notable series finales 
By audience share, the highest rated finale to date was from the series M*A*S*H in 1983. The episode, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen", gained an audience share of over 77%. In the extended-length episode, the Korean War ends, and the characters of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital make their goodbyes and finally go home. Another famous series finale is that of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which aired in 1977.
Friends ended in 2004 with 52.5 million American the most watched entertainment telecast in six years. The finale was the second most-watched television show of the year, behind the Super Bowl. Named The Last One, it showed all six cast member starting new lives: Rachel moving to Paris but later returning after Ross says he loves her, Monica and Chandler finally having children when their surrogate gives birth to twins, Joey is still living in his apartment with a job on Days of our Lives while Phoebe and Mike decide to have children. The show ends with all six friends standing in Monica's empty apartment, before going to get some coffee. The last words that were said by Chandler who says "where" referring to where to get coffee which is ironic because they have spent the last 10 years getting coffee at Central Perk.
Some positive critical reviews come from shows that have controversial or twist endings. The finale of The Prisoner, "Fall Out," caused controversy by providing a cryptic end to the series. The lead actor of the series, Patrick McGoohan, wrote and directed the final episode. He recalled in an interview years later that the final episode attracted a large audience, who demanded a clear resolution to the series. McGoohan recalled having to hide from fans immediately afterwards because of the reaction to the ending.
The episode "The Last Newhart" ended the series Newhart, by revealing the run of the series to be a dream conjured up by the main character of The Bob Newhart Show. In a similar vein, the series St. Elsewhere ended with the suggestion that the entire series is a fantasy of a small boy in the episode "The Last One".
The 2005 series finale of Six Feet Under, "Everyone's Waiting", was ranked as episode #22 on TV Guide's list of "TV's Top 100 Episodes of All Time", and was also named one of the best TV moments of the decade.
The Sopranos finale caused millions of viewers to temporarily believe they had lost cable service due to an abrupt blackout finale; the final scene left open the fate of Tony Soprano (series creator David Chase had wanted the cut to black to last for several minutes and take the place of post-show credits, so that the first thing the audience would see was an HBO notice, but the network refused this and there was a very short jump from the final shot to the credits).
Use as spinoffs 
Series finales are sometimes used as a platform for spinoff shows. Examples include:
- Three's Company series finale was a platform for the spinoff Three's A Crowd
- The Andy Griffith Show's series finale was a platform for, and shared the same title as, the spinoff Mayberry RFD.
- Duet's series finale was a platform for the spinoff Open House.
- M*A*S*H* series finale was a platform for the spinoff AfterMASH, starring Harry Morgan, William Christopher and Jamie Farr.
- The Closer series finale was a platform for the spinoff Major Crimes.
See also 
- "TV's All-Time Best Series' Finales". Retrieved 2007-07-14.
- "Top 100 TV Shows of All Time". Variety. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
- "Show History". The official Sledge Hammer! Web Site. Retrieved 14 August 2009.
- J. Michael Straczynski (1996-12-18). "From jms re: yr 4/5". Compuserve. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
- J. Michael Straczynski (1997-05-21). "How will this play out". Compuserve. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
- Cortez, Carl (September 1, 2010). "Exclusive Interview: 'FUTURAMA' CO-CREATOR DAVID X. COHEN BLOWS OUT THE 100TH EPISODE CANDLE AND TALKS ABOUT THE SEASON SIX FINALE". If. Archived from the original on 2010-09-07. Retrieved March 19, 2012. Archived by Wayback Machine from the original on September 7, 2010.
- Zalben, Alex (June 22, 2010). "Exclusive: Futurama Creator Spills on Special Last, Last Episode! (Page 3)". UGO. Retrieved August 25, 2010.
- DVD Verdict, The Prisoner
- Schneider, Michael (2007-06-15). "Going Out With a Bang". Variety. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
- The Hugo Awards by Year, World Science Fiction Society website, accessed 29 January 2008
- "tv guide magazine, TV Guide Magazine, Entertainment Entertainment and Celebrity News, TV News and Breaking News | TVGuide.com". Tvguidemagazine.com. Retrieved 2012-10-24.
- "Top Moments of the Decade". TV Guide. Retrieved 2010-10-17.