Over the course of just a few weeks in May of 2023, six popular and long-running TV series aired their final episodes. How good of a job did those shows do wrapping up their runs?
(Spoilers, of course, for all of the relevant shows)
The long-running ABC sitcom finished things on May 3, after a ten-year run. The show’s conceit was to look back on creator Adam F. Goldberg’s childhood, against the backdrop of the popular culture of the 1980s. The gimmick, though, was that nothing ever went in chronological order, and it never really mattered what year was actually being depicted.
The series had a sweet enough finale, with mother Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey) finding a new romantic prospect (Rob Corddry), following the death of her husband Murray (Jeff Carlin, fired from the series after a Season 9 scandal.) But The Goldbergs was clearly one of those shows that went on for two or three years longer than it probably should have.
A Million Little Things
Also on ABC, the adult friendship drama A Million Little Things wrapped up its five-season run on May 3. The show long lived in the shadow of NBC’s This is Us, another tear-jerking drama that finished a year earlier, only the ABC version was about a friend group and not a family.
The series ended with the death from cancer of the series’ best character, Gary Mendez (James Roday Rodriguez) while giving just about every other character a happy ending. It was very good, but couldn’t quite live up to the fantastic endgame of This is Us.
Either way, the two shows represent the last of a dying breed on network television, which now fills its lineup with game shows, reality TV, and other such content.
There has not been an announcement that the Apple TV+ megahit is officially over, but its May 31 finale played in every way like a series finale.
The final season of the series, as pointed out by many, was generally mediocre, not doing the work to set up satisfying plot arcs, while erring on the side of writing everyone to be nice, everyone to get along, and getting too-easy redemption arcs. This was especially the case with Nate (Nick Mohammed), who had a heel turn throughout Season 2 but barely got any time to be a villain before his redemption began.
That said, the finale was very, very good, concluding with a montage set to Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son” that was spread out to such length that it played at least one of the verses twice.
The final season of Bill Hader’s HBO assassination comedy/drama was one of the network’s two series finales on May 28, when it wrapped up after four seasons.
The show looked like it painted itself into a corner with the arrest of Barry at the end of Season 3, but the series succeeded in making some great television, while sticking the landing as well. It also featured one of the best TV show scenes of the year:
Hader, now that Barry is over, is going to direct some great, great movies.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Amazon Prime Video show finished up its fifth and final season on May 26. First launched in 2017, the series fell out of the zeitgeist a long time ago, due in part to iffy reactions to past seasons, and a nearly three-year COVID hiatus.
But the final season of the series was outstanding, incorporating a flash-forward device to show the characters far in the future, putting Midge Maisel on the writing staff of a talk show (hosted by Veep veteran Reid Scott), and actually acknowledging (albeit in the finale) that Susie is gay. The productive design and costumes were gorgeous as usual, and the creators were smart enough not to put Midge and Joel back together.
My fellow Jewish people spent the entire run arguing about whether or not the cast’s various non-Jewish actors were believable as midcentury Jews, but that never bothered me, and Mrs. Maisel’s final season, overall, was one of its best ones.
But of course, the best ending of any series this year was HBO’s Succession, which also finished its four-year run on May 28. The final season was a murderer’s row of episodes, including the instant-classic third one, featuring the death of Logan Roy (Brian Cox):
Handling season-long plots involving both the sale of the company and the presidential election, Succession‘s last season was full of great character moments, and performances that are sure to sweep the Emmys and Golden Globes.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.