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Top Five Cable and Broadcast Finales of All Time: Who's Number One?

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood October 1, 2013 at 2:00PM

The water cooler lives. For all the hoopla surrounding the "Breaking Bad" finale, it was neither the most-watched cable finale, nor did it come near the sheer numbers generated by the top broadcast finales. (Our analysis here, roundup here.) Variety helpfully put together a list of the top TV finale performers.
1
'Blood Money'
'Blood Money'

The water cooler lives.

For all the hoopla surrounding the "Breaking Bad" finale, it was neither the most-watched cable finale, nor did it come near the sheer numbers generated by the top broadcast finales. (Our analysis here, roundup here.) Variety helpfully put together a list of the top TV finale performers, but posted in the form of an annoying photo gallery. To spare you that, here's the list:

BROADCAST FINALES

#1: "M.A.S.H." 

(CBS) 1983 - 105.9 million

'The Sopranos'
'The Sopranos'

#2: "Cheers" 

(NBC) 1993 - 80.4 million

#3: "Seinfeld" 

(NBC) 1998 - 76.3 million

#4: "Friends"

(NBC) 2004 - 52.5 million

#5: "Magnum P.I."

(CBS) 1998 - 50.7 million

CABLE FINALES

#1: "The Sopranos"

(HBO) 2007 - 11.9 million viewers

#2: "Sex and the City"

(HBO) 2004 - 10.6 million

#3: "Breaking Bad"

(AMC) 2013 - 10.3 million

#4: "Monk" 

(USA) 2009 - 9.4 million

#5: "The Closer" 

(TNT) 2012 - 9.1 million



This article is related to: TV, TV News, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, Sex and the City


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.