TV Cliffhangers

E! Illustration

The cliffhanger is an indelible and inescapable part of the television viewing experience. And whether we like it or not, we're about to suffer through a whole bunch of them.

With the need for social distancing amid the global coronavirus pandemic having already brought Hollywood to a grinding halt, beloved shows like Grey's Anatomy have been forced to wrap their seasons early, leaving plotlines dangling off a cliff until the industry can get back to business. Whenever that may be.

However unplanned these cliffhangers heading our way may be, they're not necessarily a bad thing. It's been 40 years since Dallas practically invented the practice, as the CBS soap wrapped up its third season on March 21, 1980 with the villainous J.R. Ewing (the late, great Larry Hagman) shot by an unknown assailant, leaving fans to debate the now infamous question "Who shot J.R.?" until the show returned that fall. And since then, we've been subjected to countless surprise twists in the final moments of episodes of some of our favorite shows. And nearly all of them have made the increasingly fleeting communal experience of watching TV all the more enjoyable.

In honor of 40 years since "Who shot J.R.?" we thought we'd take a walk down memory lane and relive 20 of the most memorable cliffhangers to ever grace our TV screens. Oh, and it should go without saying, but there are (decades old) spoilers ahead. Enjoy!

TV Cliffhangers, Grey's Anatomy


The Walking Dead, Jeffrey Dean Morgan


Leonard Nimoy, Fringe

Craig Blankenhorn/FOX

TV Cliffhangers, Breaking Bad, Gliding Over All


TV Cliffhangers, ER, Noah Wyle, Be Still My Heart


TV Cliffhangers, The West Wing


TV Cliffhangers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The WB

TV Cliffhangers, Dallas


TV Cliffhangers, The Office


TV Cliffhangers, Sherlock


TV Cliffhangers, Gilmore Girls


TV Cliffhangers, Dexter


TV Cliffhangers, Game of Thrones


TV Cliffhangers, Battlestar Galactica


TV Cliffhangers, Alias


TV Cliffhangers, Lost


TV Cliffhangers, The Sopranos


TV Cliffhangers, Friends


TV Cliffhangers, The Simpsons


TV Cliffhangers, Twin Peaks


(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

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