Like a sick dog crawling beneath a House, TV's longest-running medical drama ER curls up to die tonight. It could reclaim its title as the first modern "cutting-edge" drama by closing with a risky finish—or it can just phone it in. We'll see.
But what does a spectacular curtain call look like these days? Looking past all the hokey montages and group hugs, you'll see the best finales take a twist but stay true to the show's characters and tone. (So unlike the moronic Seinfeld send-off—attack from Planet Worst.)
We've complied our top 9 favorite TV swan songs (from modern times, people), and left No. 10 open for you to decide:
1. The Sopranos: What a gloriously ambivalent end, bleak and defiant of traditional finales. Was Tony whacked? Or was the abrupt blackout representative of the perma-blackened soul of the Soprano family? Could there be a better use of a Journey song? Hell no.
2. Sex and the City: Sveltely captured the evolution of each character: Miranda the ruthless loner transformed into Earth Mother; Samantha figured out that whole "intimacy thing"; Charlotte became worldly and complete; Carrie got even more fabulous. A syrupy, delicious confection for hard-core addicts and casual watchers alike.
3. Fraiser: The Olds tell us this is good or something. Well, we didn't bring our dictionary into the living room, so you can cool it with the "quips," you Shakespearean smartasses.
4. Six Feet Under: The most graceful use of a montage ever. In an attempt to give closure but not throw the kitchen sink at viewers, the show closed with macabre short shots of each character's death. We find out who died alone, who died young and who died in love. This finale reaches inside your face and jerks the tears right now.
5. Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Sarah Michelle Gellar gave us so much, and we have given her so little since she retired her supernatural stake. Reliably camp and always great fun, Buffy took her final stand against a legion of suburban vamps and had to choose between her two great loves: debonair David Boreanz and acid-tongued James Masters. Good triumphed, Angel got a spinoff.
6. The Kids in the Hall: The cancellation of this absurdist genius was a deathly blow to the rich tradition of Canadian sketch comedy. The final scene ends with a long three-minute shot of the funny boys getting buried alive in an open grave—because that's what syndication feels like.
7. Arrested Development: We all know what an epic mistake it was to cancel the irony-laden show—even though the ink is drying on the freshly signed movie deal. The writers knew it, too, and made this finale one giant "screw you" to the suits who axed them and to the clueless viewers who never got the joke. It was two hours of inside Bluth family baseball and a barrage that digs at critics. It would be terrifying to anyone who just tuned in. Best line: "I don't see it as a series...maybe a movie."
8. Star Trek: The Next Generation: Have you ever been to the Romulan Neutral Zone? Then maybe you missed the space-time-continuum—and certain doom for humanity! Luckily we had selfless Captain Picard to go back in time and sacrifice his crew and ship to save us (Christ-like, y'all). His knowing eyes and wiser-now-that-I've-traveled-through-a-worm-hole humility in the final poker scene solidified his place as the best Enterprise Captain. Moated, Shatner! Moat-ed!
9. Night Court: The oozing, decades-old wound left by the abrupt cancellation of Night Court in 1990 was recently healed comedy shamans over at 30 Rock. Penned by Kenneth the Page and shot in a recreated set, the original cast reunited, and we wounded fans were given the finale we deserved. Plus: Werewolves!
10. You Tell Us! Who did we leave out? What show's finale left you wanting more? Friends? Battlestar Galactica? I Love New York 2? Drop it in the comments!