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The Ten Most-Watched Series Finales of All Time

Friends tv series
Series finales often leave a lasting impact on viewers, attracting diverse generations with the stories of beloved characters over the years. Credit: Flickr / Geoffrey Chandler CC BY 2.0 DEED

Series finales often feel like the end of an era, leaving an indelible mark on devoted viewers. Some shows have gained unprecedented popularity thanks to exciting stories and charismatic characters loved by millions.

Over the course of decades, certain shows, such as those below, have attracted generations of viewers. Some have been able to relate to characters on-screen, while for others, a new episode of their favorite TV series has become the long-awaited event of the week. Here are ten of the most watched finales of such shows that resonated with millions of fans.

10. Home Improvement, Finale Watched by 35.5 Million

The top ten opens with the television sitcom Home Improvement. It covered almost an entire decade, serving as one of the symbols of the ’90s and airing from 1991 to 1999.

The series launched the acting career of Tim Allen, as well as the beginning of the television career of Pamela Anderson, who starred in the first two seasons. The plot centers around the Taylor family, consisting of the father, Tim, his wife Jill, and their three children. They live in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. Their neighbor, Wilson, is also an important figure in the show, often giving advice to Tim and Jill.

Their story was followed by millions, and the final episode attracted 35.5 million viewers.

9. Family Ties, Watched by 36.3 Million

A classic from the 1980s, the sitcom Family Ties lasted seven seasons. It tells the story of the Keaton family and its dynamics during the Reagan era. The sitcom made a name for Michael J. Fox, who won three Emmys for his outstanding performance as Alex.

The show’s finale aired in 1989 and attracted 36.3 million viewers, who watched to say good-bye to their favorite characters.

8. All in the Family, Watched by 40.2 Million

TV series All in the Family, 1972
All in the Family. Credit: CBS Television / Public Domain

The sitcom All in the Family became famous for its humorous and insightful approach to social issues. Nine seasons of the series, which attracted viewers from 1971 to 1979, focused on the Bunker family.

The show was the first sitcom to tackle topics such as racism, homosexuality, the Vietnam War, women’s liberation, rape, miscarriages, abortion, cancer, menopause, and impotence. The series won twenty-two Emmy Awards.

The show also ended on a high note, with the finale attracting 40.2 million viewers.

7. The Cosby Show, Watched by 44.4 Million

The Cosby Show, hailed as “TV’s biggest hit in the 1980s” by TV Guide, captured its audience from 1984 to 1992. It was co-created by Bill Cosby, who also played one of the main characters. The plot focused on the Huxtables, an upper middle class African-American family living in Brooklyn, New York. The show bid farewell to viewers on April 30, 1992, with its final episode gathering 44.4 million viewers.

However, the show’s legacy became tarnished due to Bill Cosby’s sexual assault case. He faced accusations from numerous women over the course of his career. In June of this year, he was sued by nine women who accused him of sexual assault.

6. Magnum P.I., Watched by 50.7 Million

The ‘80s crime drama television series Magnum P.I. followed the adventures of the charismatic and mustached private investigator Thomas Magnum. The action of the show takes place against the backdrop of Hawaiian landscapes, and the main cast is comprised of Tom Selleck.

Its finale, which aired in 1988, drew in an impressive 50.7 million viewers, marking the end of an era for fans of the popular action-packed series.

5. Friends, Watched by 52.5 Million

The worldwide famous hit sitcom Friends gained the love of fans due to its portrayal of the lives of six friends in New York City. The project became one of the most famous in the 1990s, receiving six Emmy Awards.

Fans followed the development of the main characters for ten seasons from 1994 to 2004. In addition, in 2021, a special episode was released on the HBO Max video service with the participation of all the main actors of the original show, including Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer.

The original series bid farewell to its lovers with its final episode on May 6, 2004 drawing an impressive 52.5 million viewers.

4. Seinfeld, Series Finale Attracted 76.3 Million

Seinfeld, the acclaimed sitcom often dubbed “the show about nothing,” aired from 1989 to 1998. The plot followed the eccentric lives of four friends in Manhattan with a focus on the minutiae of daily life.

Fans faithfully watched their favorite characters for nine seasons, and the series finale attracted a staggering 76.3 million viewers.

3. Fugitive, Watched by 78 Million

A gripping 1960s crime drama series, the Fugitive, tells the story of Dr. Richard Kimble, who was wrongly convicted of murdering his wife. Having narrowly avoided the death penalty, he began a relentless pursuit of the real killer, the “one-armed man.”

The project was based on the real case of Sam Sheppard, widely known in the United States. He was convicted in 1954 of the murder of his pregnant wife without clear evidence of his guilt. Twelve years later, he was completely acquitted.

The Fugitive final episode, aired in 1967, attracted 78 million viewers, cementing its place as one of the most influential shows of all time.

2. Cheers, Watched by 80.4 Million

Cheers, the famous 1980s sitcom, aired for eleven seasons. The main story takes place at Cheers Bar in Boston, Massachusetts, where a group of locals gather to drink, relax, socialize, and have fun. Fans followed charismatic bartender Sam Malone and his colorful regulars, engaging the audience with their witty and touching jokes.

The series finale, which aired in 1993, saw an impressive 80.4 million viewers say goodbye to their favorite characters.

1. M*A*S*H, Series Finale Watched by a Record 105 Million

The groundbreaking war dramedy M*A*S*H, set during the Korean War, followed the lives of the 4077th Mobile Surgical Hospital’s doctors and staff. Its eleven seasons, ranging from broad comedy to tragic drama, show “survival amid chaos,” as the New Yorker noted.

The series finale, which aired on February 28, 1983, was watched by a staggering 105 million viewers, setting a record that remains unbroken to this day.


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