The finale of the sit-com is always a bittersweet program for the cast and the fans of the show.
The people who work on the show tend to go all out and preset an extraordinary show. They know it's their last shot at glory and that, in a way, their entire legacy of excellence rests on the quality of the send-off.
And the fans look forward to the conclusion for weeks. We debate the merits of the show afterward, saying it was either anticlimactic or spectacular.
Here are nine prominent nominees, in alphabetical order:
1) Cheers (1993): Fittingly, the show concluded its run with the eternal question of whether Sam and Dinae would get back together and live unhappily ever after.
2) The Cosby Show (1992): The most admired show of its time, and maybe of all time, appropriately showed off the acting gifts of Bill Cosby, as Cliff Huxtable. Has any television dad ever oozed more wisdom and empathy?
3) Ellen (1998): Ellen DeGeneres' finale as a sit-com star underwhelmed some viewers at the time because they were unfairly obsessed with Ellen's sexuality instead of the merits of the program.
4) Entourage (2011): I was so sorry to see the guys go but it was time for the boys to grow up and face adulthood -- like adults. I can't wait for the movie to arrive and resolve the up-in-the-air plot twists.
5) Friends (2004): And so everyone's best sit-com pals rode off into the sunset with the fans clamoring for more -- which is how a series should conclude.
6) The Larry Sanders Show (1998): I'll never forget Hank Kingsley's meltdown after the final "episode," in which he finally let loose with all of his insecurities. Beautifully played by Jeffrey Tambor, Garry Shandling and, especially, Rip Torn. You know, we never did find out what Artie's last name was.
7) MASH: I think more tears were shed over this final show than any other. It might have been the high point for network television, too, as cable soon began to infiltrate and finally devour ABC, CBS and NBC.
8) Newhart (1990): If you've never seen the ending, I won't spoil it for you. But you owe it to yourself to check it out.
9) Seinfeld: (1998) Plenty of people who loved the show were dissatisfied that the show ended with the four pals in jail. Typically, they were riffing about ... nothing. But for my two cents, this two-part finale, written by the comedy genius Larry David, was actually the best sit-com finale of them all. What more could anybody want?
MEDIA MATRIX QUESTION OF THE DAY: What show gets your vote? And as a sidebar, what great programs did I leave out here?