Series finales pose a formidable challenge because, no matter what course of action you choose, there will always be someone left in a state of fury, venting their frustrations on the internet.
While this can happen with any episode, a series finale is subjected to heightened scrutiny, and most episodes can’t withstand the pressure.
Given that it’s termed a finale for a reason, there’s no room for a do-over. It represents the curtain call, the grand finale, the ultimate send-off, or as they say, “Don’t mess this up, kid.”
Considering all the additional pressure, it’s a remarkable feat when audiences are ever treated to a truly satisfying finale.
However, for numerous Black TV shows, there’s an extra layer of anxiety: the imminent risk of sudden cancellation. No countdown, no poignant farewell, no opportunity to craft a suitable ending.
One week, the show is present, and the following week, it vanishes, akin to the abrupt extinguishing of a burnt-out light bulb.
So, which shows managed to defy the odds and deliver a fitting conclusion? I’m pleased you inquired. Here are three that achieved precisely that.
The Cosby Show
The Cosby Show enjoyed an impressive eight-season run, dominating American television as the number one show for five of those seasons.
To call it popular would be an understatement; it was nothing short of adored. Families from all walks of life tuned in to watch the Huxtables handle every conceivable issue with humor and grace.
Remarkably, the show managed to strike a balance between being aspirational and relatable.
Whether it was the challenges of getting caught drinking, getting your ear pierced, or the joys and trials of parenthood, their stories became the viewers’ stories.
Even as the final season of the show saw a dip in popularity (they were ranked 18th in the ratings by then), and new characters made their appearances (Dabnis Brickey, anyone?), the warmth and tenderness of the show remained intact.
The series finale revolved around Theo’s college graduation. Just like the finale itself, it was a day many never thought would arrive, yet there it was. Audiences chuckled through their tears as Cliff struggled to secure enough tickets for the event, only to find out that no one even read names during the commencement.
The episode remained true to The Cosby Show‘s core values, emphasizing the importance of family, trust, and unconditional love.
In the final scene, it was just Cliff, Claire, and a bit of jazz. Bill Cosby whispered into Phylicia Rashad’s ear. She laughed and shed tears. The fourth wall was broken, revealing the studio for the first time, and Bill Cosby danced Phylicia Rashad right out of there.
It’s a television moment that many will long remember.
Also Read: The Top Shows in WB and UPN History: 15-8
A wedding, a Black woman donning a blond afro wig in a dive bar, and the return of the pesky neighbor turned studly singer, Roger Evans – if every episode of Sister, Sister had been as intriguing as this, the show would have likely garnered a much larger viewership.
The series was consistently characterized by its campy and comical elements.
I’m certain that early reviews frequently featured terms like “antics” and “hijinks.” However, at its core, it was a show about a non-traditional family striving to navigate life’s challenges.
The series finale offered a fitting conclusion to Sister, Sister‘s six seasons, striking a balance between its trademark campiness and a touch of elegance. Extra kudos for the R&B-infused Beatles cover that closed the show on a high note.
In the popular series Benson, a spinoff of the often-controversial Soap, Robert Guillaume takes on the role of the titular character, a sharp-witted butler employed by the governor of an unspecified state.
Fast forward seven seasons, and Benson himself has become the lieutenant governor, running for governor against his friend and former employer.
To add to the drama, there’s a corrupt senator in the race as well.
Benson and Governor Gatling engage in feuds and conflicts in the final few episodes as the election date approaches.
However, in the concluding episode, they put their differences aside and watch the election results on TV together, as friends.
But prepare to be frustrated because the episode concludes with a freeze frame just before the election outcome is disclosed.
The final episode of the series was actually the seventh season finale, but ABC canceled the show that summer, leaving the election results forever uncertain.
However, this is one instance where an abrupt cancellation might have been the best outcome.
Benson and the governor remain forever preserved in their friendship. Benson‘s journey, breaking through racial and class barriers from a service position to an elected office, is a noteworthy achievement.
Sometimes, it’s best to end a series on a high note.
So, which other series finales made you cheer, brought tears to your eyes, or made you want to throw your shoes at the TV? (Cough, cough, Family Matters, cough, cough.) Let the passionate discussions and debates begin.