Clockwise from left: Randy Tepper/Showtime; Carsey-Werner Co/Everett Collection; Joey Delvalle/NBC/GettyImages
Some series finales not only live up to fans' lofty expectations but also elevate their respective series as a whole (Breaking Bad, Six Feet Under). Most are just fine (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). But some are such huge airballs that it feels as if the creators were watching a different show from the rest of us the entire time. Perhaps most frustrating, the finale-ruining moments tend to come in the last few minutes, the result of some misguided twist thrown in to make it all memorable.
How I Met Your Mother (CBS) Nine seasons is a good run for any show, and particularly for a comedy that seemed to have a limited premise: Once narrator/protagonist Ted met the Mother, showrunners Carter Bays and Craig Thomas promised, it would all be over. What makes this finale so awful isn't so much that Bays and Thomas killed off the utterly charming Mother, but rather the quickness with which they dispatched her (after giving her short shrift the entire season) and how they asserted that what Ted really wanted was to be with Robin. That kind of naked bait and switch, after nine years of emotional investment, left fans feeling justifiably cheated.
Dexter (Showtime) Honestly, all that really needs to be said about this one is that it ended with Dexter becoming a damn lumberjack. Oh, look, he's wielding a chainsaw, like the animals who killed his mother, only he's just using it to kill trees!
Battlestar Galactica (Syfy) The first Caprican-Cylon hybrid and early hominids were the ancestors of the human race, because the Capricans actually landed on Paleolithic Earth! And the Capricans decided to give up all their extraordinary technology and medicine to live like cavemen for no reason that makes anything even approaching sense! No real explanation regarding what the hell happened to Kara "Starbuck" Thrace after she disappeared for a while earlier in the series! Congrats on achieving the "Are you serious?" hat trick, Ron Moore.
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Roseanne (ABC) Depressing finales aren't necessarily bad, even if you're a comedy. But revealing that the entire last season of your series has been a story your protagonist has been writing to keep herself sane, and all the characters' victories never happened, is perhaps more of a wrist-slitter than most people are comfortable with. Dan really did die from the heart attack he suffered in Season 8, no one won the lottery, life is just one long slog toward the grave, etc.
Seinfeld (NBC) In the 15 years since Jerry, et al. bid America adieu, many a party-ruining argument has broken out over this kiss-off. Sure, Jerry and Elaine and Kramer and George were borderline sociopaths who got their comeuppance in the form of jail time, but the lengthy trial featuring all the people they'd wronged felt more like a glorified clip show than a proper summation.
Life on Mars (ABC) Yes, the show was canceled after only one season, so the writers decided to go for broke when it came to going out. Yes, any ending was going to suffer immensely by comparison to the brilliant BBC original. No, that's not enough reason to resolve your show's central mystery (is Sam Tyler in a coma or is he a time traveler?) by revealing Sam is an astronaut hallucinating during a shuttle launch.