Looking back over the decades, it’s amazing to see just which television shows got the highest rankings for the most watched finales. It leads many to wonder whether this was indicative of weekly viewing or if network hype caused occasional viewers to tune in for that final episode. Also, one thing to keep in mind is that many of these ‘most watched ever’ TV finales were decades ago.
Can you imagine how very huge the audience would be if those statistics were balanced against the significant increase in population today as compared to back then? The ratio would make them even a bigger success which is, in itself, an extraordinary concept. Here are the top five most watched TV finales EVER!
1) M.A.S.H. – 1983
Coming in first place was the hit TV series M.A.S.H. with the finale, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” directed by star Alan Alda. With 105.9 million viewers watching that finale as it aired, it is still the all-time leader in most watched TV finales. An amazing bit of trivia here is that this would have been the most watched TV event in history as well if Super Bowl hadn’t topped the ratings in 2010 with 106 million viewers.
2) Cheers – 1993
The series finale of Cheers saw the return of original character, Diane, and was viewed by 80.4 million people as it aired on network TV. The return of Diane, played by Shelley Long, also brought her phony spouse and the reason why she disappeared from the show. As the second most watched TV show finale ever, viewers around the country can still see reruns on DISH stations around the country.
3) The Fugitive – 1967
At the height of the Vietnam war there were a great number of anti-government movements going around. To be labelled as part of the ‘establishment’ was the ultimate insult and perhaps accounted for the huge success of The Fugitive. Although the storyline was well written and the characters believable, it leaves you to wonder if world events didn’t play into the show’s popularity with viewers. Coming in third place as the most watched finale ever, this end of series show saw 78 million viewers who were there for the second half of the two part finale.
4) Seinfeld – 1998
With just 76.3 million viewers, Seinfeld comes in fourth. One thing you may want to note is the direction in which TV was going by this point in time. All the favorites from the ‘90s on seem to be sitcoms, or lighthearted, to say the least. With three of the top five being sitcoms, all dating after 1993, it appears as though the nation was ready for a bit of humor.
5) Friends – 2004
Finally, Friends which aired its final episode in 2004 had 52.5 million viewers and viewers are said to have been ‘somewhat disappointed’ as there was nothing unusual about the show. It was a fairytale happy-ever-after finale where the cast went on their way in the same way they lived show after show. Critics believe the writers could have left the series with a bit of mystery as to what the characters would do, but that didn’t happen and a great number of people felt it was a letdown.
So, here you have the five most watched TV finales ever and if you stay tuned to satellite reruns, you can probably catch a great number of them for their millionth time around. Because they are the most watched finales, they will continue to say goodbye for decades to come. Thank you network reruns!