12 Best TV Series Finales of the 1990s


Much like in cinema, television in the ‘90s proved to be a deeply influential and groundbreaking decade in Hollywood. Beloved shows like Twin Peaks, Home Improvement, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air were all dominating the ratings and endlessly entertaining devoted viewers, with fans tuning in week-after-week to see what their favorite characters were up to.




During this time, such buzzed-about shows also had their final curtain calls and audiences said goodbye to beloved figures like Kevin Arnold, Michelle Tanner, and of course, Steve Urkel himself. The massively entertaining decade bid farewell to these adored programs and personalities, with many leaving a lasting impact on the small screen that is still seen and felt today. Here are 12 of the best TV series finales of the ‘90s.


12 Twin Peaks

Season 2, Episode 22: “Beyond Life and Death”

Twin Peaks

5/5

Release Date
April 8, 1990

Seasons
3

Lauded as one of the greatest TV shows of all time by critics and fans alike, David Lynch and Mark Frost’s spellbinding surreal drama Twin Peaks ran for two sensational seasons and memorably followed FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) as he headed to the mysterious Washington town to investigate the disturbing murder of beloved high school student and homecoming queen Laura Palmer.


As he looks deeper into the young woman’s death, Cooper begins to discover there is far more evil at play in the peculiar town than he could have ever even imagined.

Related: 15 Best Reboots and Remakes of Canceled TV Shows, Ranked

A Jaw-Dropping Final Scene

In the unforgettable series finale that ended on a truly epic cliffhanger, Cooper faces off against the terrifying interdimensional demon Killer Bob after venturing into the Black Lodge in pursuit of his rogue partner Windom Earle. The last episode famously features Cooper’s doppelgänger smashing his head against a bathroom mirror and laughing maniacally, all the while mockingly asking “How’s Annie?”

“Beyond Life and Death” was watched by 10.4 million households in the United States and left fans completely stunned by the shocking turn of events, which were eventually explored in the 2017 limited series revival.


11 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Season 6, Episode 24: “I, Done”

Will Smith began his incredible journey to becoming one of Hollywood’s most celebrated leading men when he starred as a fictional version of himself in the beloved ’90s juggernaut sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which centered on the trouble-prone teen as he moves from West Philadelphia to the ritzy neighborhood of Bel-Air, California to live with his aunt and uncle after making some bad enemies in his hometown.

Will experiences a major culture shock as he attempts to acclimate to the opulent life the Banks family is used to, often leading to side-splitting misadventures that affect the whole clan.


Will’s Poignant & Difficult Goodbye

Featuring the additional talents of stars like James Avery, Alfonso Ribeiro, and Karyn Parsons, the fan-favorite sitcom ran for six seasons and served as a major career stepping stone for Smith, who swiftly transitioned to film during the tail-end of the show.

Devoted audiences were left reaching for a box of tissues as the Banks’ said goodbye to their California mansion and prepared to move to New York City, while Will emotionally struggles with the life-altering monumental moments. The final shot of Will standing in the empty living room packed a serious punch for viewers, as they realized the zany family would no longer be on their screens.

10 Cheers

Season 11, Episode 28: “One for the Road”

Cheers

Release Date
September 30, 1982

Seasons
11


Touting a stacked ensemble cast of brilliant performers including Ted Danson, Woody Harrelson, and Shelley Long, the long-running, widely adored sitcom Cheers took the world by storm as audiences were introduced to Boston bartender and proprietor Sam Malone, a notorious lothario and former Major League Baseball player who owns the titular bar where “everybody knows your name.”

Sam becomes close friends with a slew of eccentric characters while manning the legendary watering hole, with his prominent on-again/off-again romance with cocktail waitress and graduate student Diane Chambers captivating fans.

Record-Setting Audiences Tune-In

In the highly-anticipated series finale “One for the Road”, Sam and Diane are reunited after the ambitious blonde had previously departed at the end of the fifth season, giving fans hope they would finally rekindle their romance. The concluding episode examines their compatibility (or lack thereof) and ultimately ends with the duo amicably going their separate ways, with Diane heading to California and Sam returning to Boston and his beloved bar.


The finale is the second-highest-rated series finale of all time and was watched by a whopping 80.4 million viewers, cementing its status as one of TV’s most iconic shows.

9 The Golden Girls

Season 7, Episode 26: “One Flew Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest”

Undeniably one of the small screen’s most wholesome and comforting shows of all time, The Golden Girls features the dazzling talents of Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty and focuses on a group of single, older ladies as they share a Miami home and navigate life and love while strengthening their friendship and bond.

Audiences were completely enamored by the four dynamic women Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and Sophia and their fun and distinct personalities, with the universally popular sitcom running for seven seasons and winning three Golden Globes during its tenure.


A Bittersweet Goodbye

Fans of the vivacious ladies took great pleasure in watching them live their day-to-day lives as they faced a colorful array of problems involving men, family, personal ethics, and of course, their own friendships.

When it was time to say goodbye to the extraordinary girls, viewers tuned in for one final episode and watched as Dorothy prepared to move out of the Miami home after accepting a marriage proposal. The four cherished characters shared a powerful and deeply touching hug with one another (that was hilariously prolonged) in the final scene, proving once again just how unparalleled their connection truly was.

8 Dinosaurs

Season 4, Episode 14: “Scent of a Reptile”

Dinosaurs

Release Date
April 26, 1991

Seasons
4


The criminally underrated and delightfully wacky ’90s gem Dinosaurs was developed by the one and only Jim Henson and took place in 60,000,000 BC in Pangaea, where the anthropomorphic Sinclair family resided and attempted to find happiness and success in a seemingly modern world.

The unique series tackled a slew of topical issues including women’s rights, environmentalism, and body image throughout its four seasons, and the characters often broke the fourth wall and addressed audiences during the hilarious episodes.

A Startlingly Dreary Grand Finale

Despite being a typically light-hearted and goofy sitcom, the series finale of the comedy shocked audiences with its deeply dark and depressing tone, as the actions of the dinosaurs ultimately causes an Ice Age to ensue because of their actions against the environment, thus leading to their extinction.


Co-creator Michael Jacobs wanted to “make the episode to be educational to the audience. The show would end by completing the metaphor and showing that extinction.” Dinosaurs remains an entertaining and wonderfully weird viewing experience, winning both an Emmy and three Environmental Media Awards during its run. Stream on Disney+

7 Family Matters

Season 9, Episode 22: “Lost in Space Part 2”

Jaleel White became a household name when he starred as the ultimate pesky neighbor Steve Urkel, famously donning suspenders and oversized glasses while portraying the nerdy character in the sitcom Family Matters.

The series revolves around the Winslows, a hard-working, African-American family who lives in Chicago and find themselves constantly dealing with the persistent Urkel and the many hijinks and headaches the geeky young man inadvertently causes for them. Urkel is constantly at odds with patriarch Carl (Reginald VelJohnson) while pining for the object of his affection Laura Lee Winslow.


Related: These Are Some of the Best Black Sitcoms of All Time

Urkel’s Persistence Pays Off

With 9 seasons and 215 episodes, Family Matters was the second-longest-running live-action sitcom in the United States at the time, with White’s Urkel surprisingly becoming the show’s breakout character after joining midway through the first season. Urkel finally gets the girl after years of pursuing Laura Lee, with the legendary TV nerd returning home after being lost in space during a NASA mission.

Audiences cheered as the two characters shared a long-awaited kiss, and both Urkel and the Winslows’ story finally came to a close after the sitcom helped become a trailblazing comedy in the world of television.

6 Newhart

Season 8, Episode 24: “The Last Newhart”

Newhart

Release Date
October 25, 1982

Seasons
8


Revered comedian and actor Bob Newhart starred alongside Mary Frann in the aptly named sitcom Newhart, following married couple Dick and Joanna Loudon as they say goodbye to New York City and head to a rural Vermont town to run a 200-year-old Stratford Inn. A travel book and do-it-yourself author, Dick eventually finds further success as a host for a local TV show and subsequently becomes surrounded by the town’s eccentric oddballs, many of who work and stay at the popular inn.

Newhart’s Exceptional Plot Twist

A critically acclaimed hit that dominated in the ratings during its 8 seasons, Newhart was nominated for 25 Emmy Awards yet somehow never took home the coveted accolade. Regardless, its distinct series finale has been lauded as one of the most memorable in all of TV history, with the Loudons becoming the only people in the town who refuse to sell their land to developers.


In a massive plot twist, it is revealed that the series was actually just a dream Dr. Robert Hartley (Newhart’s character in The Bob Newhart Show) had, with his former co-star and on-screen wife Suzanne Pleshette also appearing in the sequence.

5 Star Trek: The Next Generation

Season 7, Episode 26: “All Good Things…”

The third TV series in the groundbreaking sci-fi franchise, Star Trek: The Next Generation takes place nearly a century after Captain Kirk embarked upon his wondrous five-year mission and introduced passionate fans to fascinating new characters including Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), Data (Brent Spiner), and William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) as they explore the Beta and Alpha quadrant in the galaxy.


The new and dynamic Starfleet crew experience exciting adventures as they venture deeper into space and once again boldly go where no one has gone before.

Star Trek Continues Its TV Reign

During its 7 seasons, The Next Generation continued to capitalize on the success of the spellbinding franchise and was the recipient of countless accolades like 19 Emmys, six Saturn Awards, and a Peabody, while averaging around 20 million viewers per episode.

Its series finale “All Good Things…” attracted an audience of over 30 million viewers, with the last installment focusing on Picard as he seemingly protected humanity from destruction, though it is later revealed to have been a test by Q. Picard memorably sits down for the first time to join the card game, in what has since been described as a truly poignant moment for TNG.

4 Home Improvement

Season 8, Episode 27: “The Long and Winding Road: Part 3”


Inspired by Tim Allen’s stand-up comedy routine, the popular sitcom Home Improvement centers on the everyday lives of Detroit family the Taylors, as the tool-loving, car aficionado Tim and his spirited wife Jill attempt to raise their three very rambunctious sons Brad, Randy, and Mark while the patriarch also hosts his own handyman TV show called Tool Time. Tim is constantly causing sidesplitting accidents and hijinks both on-set and off, testing not only the patience of Jill but also his calm and level-headed co-host Al.

A ’90s Favorite Bids Farewell

Home Improvement effectively launched Allen’s Hollywood career and swiftly became one of the most-watched sitcoms of the decade in the United States, with fans tuning in week-after-week to see what kind of trouble Tim would get into in the sitcom.


In “The Long and Winding Road,” Tim and Al host what they believe to be the final episode of Tool Time while entertaining other career opportunities, as Tim is surprisingly willing to give up his TV show so that Jill can finally pursue her own ambitions and dreams. The endearing last entry attracted 35.53 million viewers and helped the show go out on a high note after 8 seasons.

3 Sister, Sister

Season 6, Episode 22: “Fly Away Home”

Ultimate dynamic duo Tia and Tamera Mowry captured the hearts of audiences everywhere when they played twin sisters who were separated at birth and later reunited as teenagers in the family-friendly sitcom Sister, Sister.


When the studious Tia Landry meets wild child Tamera Campbell unexpectedly at a shopping mall, the long-lost siblings make it their mission to stay together after years of being apart and their respective parents Lisa and Ray end up allowing the girls to live in one household, with the two becoming a blended family.

A Delightful Full-Circle Moment

Jackée” Harry and Tim Reid were excellent as the twins’ doting parents, while Marques Houston appeared as the siblings’ love-lorn neighbor Roger, who has a passionate crush on the two girls. After being canceled by ABC after two seasons, Sister, Sister was saved by The WB where it ran for four additional seasons, much to the delight of devoted fans of the sitcom and twins.

The last episode of the series featured a full-circle moment where the girls returned to the same store they first met in years before, as they emotionally prepared to be separated for the summer with both Tia and Tamera following exciting opportunities for themselves.


2 The Wonder Years

Season 6, Episode 22: “Independence Day”

In the heartwarming coming-of-age comedy The Wonder Years, adolescent boy Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) grows up in middle-class suburbia during the late ’60s and early ’70s with his older brother and sister, as he develops a wholesome and tender crush on the girl-next-door Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar) in an endearing romance that completely changes his outlook on life.

Kevin and his friends experience many growing pains as he matures and experiences the ups-and-downs of adolescence, with Daniel Stern narrating the series as an adult version of Kevin.


Fans Are Dismayed by Kevin & Winnie’s Fate

Longtime fans of the enduring program were left devastated when it was revealed that Kevin and Winnie did not in fact get their happy ending upon the conclusion of the sitcom. In “Independence Day”, after Winnie kisses a co-worker, Kevin punches the guy and the couple have a heated argument over the fate of their relationship.

Though they ultimately decide their romance is too important to give up, a time jump shows that Kevin goes on to have his own family and son while Winnie studies art history in Paris and pursues her career ambitions. It is a sad yet realistic representation of childhood love that to this day remains a deeply moving small screen moment. Stream on Hulu

1 Full House

Season 8, Episode: “Michelle Rides Again” (Part 2)


Both loved and mocked for its G-rated content and life lessons at the end of every episode, the smash hit sitcom Full House nonetheless catapulted its stellar ensemble cast to widespread fame, namely the iconic Olsen twins Mary-Kate and Ashley, Bob Saget, and John Stamos.

Set in San Francisco, the series centered on single father and widower Danny Tanner as he attempts to raise his three young daughters after losing his wife, with his longtime best friend Joey Gladstone and brother-in-law Jesse Katsopolis moving in and giving their close pal a helping hand with the girls.

One Last Tender Life Lesson

After 8 seasons and countless heartfelt moments, playful shenanigans, and wholesome TV gold, the Tanners and the rest of the Full House gang took their final bow. With 24.3 million people watching, Michelle was able to recover from her amnesia following a scary fall from riding a horse, and D.J. was reunited with her longtime beau Steve just in time for her senior prom following a brief separation.


In true Danny form, the patriarch reminded his kids and loved ones that they will always get through whatever life throws at them, just like they always have in the past, and that nothing is truly more important than family. Stream on Max



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