Last night, NBC brought down the curtain on The Office in rather a lovely fashion, with a series finale that was warm, nostalgic, and plenty funny. Bringing a long-running sitcom to a close is a tricky bit of business (how ya doin’, Roseanne), but The Office joins a handful of shows that have done it very, very well. Here are some other examples.
“Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen,” the 1983 final episode of the long-running Korean War series (11 years — eight more than the war itself) set the bar for epic sitcom finales: It ran 135 minutes, considerably longer than not only an average episode (30 minutes) but most feature films. It was appropriate, though, as “Goodbye” had the depth, nuance, and pathos of a very good movie; it dealt, as the show’s best episodes had, with the genuine psychological horrors of war, but with grace, wit, and emotion. And viewership was astonishing: the show was watched by 125 million viewers, with 77% of all sets tuned to CBS that night. It remains the highest-rated series finale ever, and was the highest-rated television program of any kind until the 2010 Super Bowl.