9 times networks bungled the endings of classic TV shows

Even fantastic shows can do fans wrong in the end.

Image: The Everett Collection

Where was that orphan that Fonzie had just adopted? Why did that girl in The Twilight Zone suddenly talk like Rocky from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show? Where was Greg Brady's dad on his big graduation day? Wait… where is the part two of that cliffhanger??

Sometimes, television shows do not end the way the writers intended. Networks dig up some unused episodes to air after the planned "series finale." Perhaps an unexpected cancelation leads to dangling threads. Circumstances such as these led networks to fumble the finales of the following series.

Many shows — from Hogan's Heroes to Gilligan's Island — seemed to just… stop… without a true end to the overall story. That's not what we're talking about here. These are endings that networks stretched into months-long waits — or even eternal waits. The stories behind them are rather fascinating. Let's take a look.

1. Happy Days

Happy Days had the perfect ending. Chachi proposes to Joanie. Fonzie shows his maturity and adopts an orphan. He then serves as the best man for Chachi at his wedding. Richie (Ron Howard), who had left the show, returned home for the celebration — sporting a mustache. Happy Days had the perfect ending… until it wasn't the ending. After this epic two-part conclusion titled "Passages" aired, the network realized it had some unaired episodes in the can. So, after the intended finale aired in early May, more Happy Days kept on coming. Five more, to be exact. Which means, the last episode people saw was "Fonzie's Spots," months later in September of 1984, with Fonzie anachronistically dressed as the Easter Bunny.

2. Star Trek

Fans saved Star Trek. The sci-fi series sat on the chopping block after season two, but a letter-writing campaign from loyal Trekkies convinced the network to bring Kirk and crew back for another year. But when it came time to air the series finale, "Turnabout Intruder," the Enterprise hit an obstacle it could not overcome, the death of a former American president. On Friday, March 28, 1969, Dwight D. Eisenhower passed away. NBC justifiably preempted the Star Trek finale to air a special report on the death of a legend. But then the network seemed to just forget about Star Trek. "Turnabout Intruder" sat on a shelf for more than two months. When it finally ran in June, the last Star Trek episode confusingly appeared at a new night and time, Tuesday at 7:30PM. 

3. The Andy Griffith Show

Barney and Gomer had been gone from the series for a few seasons; they left back in the black & white days. Still, Don Knotts returned to Mayberry in the color years. He could have come back for a tender, touching finale. Andy and Helen could have gotten married. The newlyweds could have welcomed a new child. Well, in fact, both of those life-changing events did happen, only they occurred on Mayberry R.F.D., not The Andy Griffith Show. Instead, Andy wrapped up with a pilot episode, "Mayberry R.F.D.," which focused more on new characters like Ken Berry rather than the beloved regulars. 

4. Twin Peaks

With its dense plot, a multitude of characters, unfolding mystery and cult fanbase, Twin Peaks had fans on the edge of their couch waiting to see just how the heck the story would end. And they had to wait. And wait. In April 1991, the David Lynch series aired "The Path to the Black Lodge." As the title suggests, in the episode, we finally learn the way to Black Lodge. (Look, it would take a novel to explain the plot if you haven't seen it. Just trust us when we say that this was important.) The next episode would not air for two agonizing months. At last, in June, the final two episodes of season two aired. Of course, we had to wait another quarter century to figure out what the heck happened next.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. ALF

It was a cliffhanger that kept on hanging. In the final moments of season four, at the close of "Consider Me Gone," ALF is surrounded by federal agents just as he's planning to leave Earth to join his alien pals Skip and Rhonda on New Melmac. "To Be Continued…," the screen declared. However, it wasn't continued. The network axed the show after the cliffhanger finale had been filmed.


6. V: The Series

ALF was not the only '80s sci-fi franchise to leave fans hanging. A continuation of the smash miniseries V (1983) and V: The Final Battle (1984), V: The Series (1984–85) brought cinematic splendor to the small screen. No wonder — with a price tag of $1 million per episode, V was the most expensive show on television. Production was so costly, that when the network scrubbed V from its lineup (and, more importantly, its accounting books) filming of the second half of the two-part finale was 86'ed. Thus, "The Return" ended on a cliffhanger, and the subsequent conclusion, "The Attack," was never seen.

Image: The Everett Collection

7. Miami Vice

It may have been the ultimate '80s show in terms of aesthetics, but Miami Vice did not wrap up until 1990. That was not the intention. "Freefall," the two-hour series finale, aired on May 21, 1989. The fifth and final season of Vice had been darker, more violent, Jan Hammer-less and hairier (Crockett sported an epic mane that would make Bon Jovi jealous). But "Freefall" was not the end. In the summer following that movie-length finale, NBC aired three new episodes of Miami Vice, "World of Trouble," "Leap of Faith" and "Miracle Man." There was a fourth previously unseen episode, too, the oddly appropriately titled "Too Much, Too Late." However, that tale, guest starring Pam Grier, was deemed too risque for network television. The USA Network finally aired almost a year later, in early 1990, on cable. Yep, fans without cable could not watch the final episode.

Image: The Everett Collection

8. The Brady Bunch

Behind the scenes, Robert Reed did not hold back his criticism of The Brady Bunch. The actor found some of the plots too inane. Reed argued with producers over the script for "The Hair-Brained Scheme," in which Greg dyes his hair orange with a non-FDA-approved tonic before his graduation. The producers, in turn, wrote Reed out of the story. So, when Greg Brady finally earns his high school diploma, his dad, Mike Brady, is nowhere to be seen. "We're so proud that you graduated with honors, Greg," Carol says. "Too bad your father was out of town and had to miss it." The Bunch was missing a key family member in the end.

9. The Twilight Zone

"The Bewitching Pool" was not intended to be the final episode of The Twilight Zone. A tale of divorce and a magical swimming pool, the season five episode was meant to air in March of 1964. Problems arose during post-production. The outdoor footage had aggressively loud background noise from the studio lot, making the audio recording unusable. The cast had to return to re-record and dub in new dialogue. Unfortunately, actress Mary Badham, who played the daughter who dives in the mystical pool, had returned home to Alabama. The studio was unwilling to pony up the money to fly her back to L.A. for some audio dubbing. Instead, producers hired ace voice actress June Foray to dub in the voice of the character. Which is why the character Sport Sharewood speaks with a Southern accent indoors and suddenly sounds exactly like Rocky the Flying Squirrel when she's by the pool (as seen here). Once you learn it's June Foray doing the voice, it's hard not to hear Rocky! Which is better than getting the Bullwinkle guy, I suppose. Because of all that fuss, "The Bewitching Pool" did not air until June, a month after the penultimate episode.

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RedSamRackham 17 days ago
Also in that Happy Days finale when Joanie and Chachi wed Howrad mentions raising 2 wonderful kids leavinf viewers to wonder "Uhh, what about Chuck? Why didn't he return for the finale?" ☺
scp RedSamRackham 9 days ago
I always thought it would be amusing if, on some other TV show, they had a brief mention of a story out of Milwaukee about police finding the remains of a teenager who'd died sometime in the 1950's being found in a crawlspace of an old house along with a basketball.
Tresix 17 days ago
"Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior", "Heist", and the 2000 "Fugitive" TV series all ended on unresolved cliffhangers. Which really irked the Hell out of me!
Pacificsun 20 days ago
I could be wrong (and usually am) but it wasn't intended for Star Trek:TOS to have a finale, much less an "ending" episode. Turnabout Intruder was probably the second worst premise, next to Spock's Brain. However, in theory the opening narration already identified the ending, in terms of a five year mission. Every episode counted down a star date. But producers (being the keen strategists they are) calculated that the Star Trek movies would carry on the story arc (adventures) to a satisfying conclusion, simply due to the nature of aging actors. They recognized that reasoning as a way to gradually write them out of the story arc for noble reasons. And to support the fans during their long goodbye.
There were a lot of clunkers in Star Trek's third season, including Spock's Brain, but I think that the final episode, Turnabout Intruder, was one of the best episodes. If you don't agree, this is mutiny!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lOePOxPjF4
djw1120 garykevinware 17 days ago
I think BOTH episodes were - in a word - LOUSY!!!
ST-TOS's best episode was the one that won the Hugo Award "City On The Edge of Forever"
Another good one was the two-parter "Court Martial" where Spock went on trial facing the only death penalty on Federation records - contact with the planet "Talos Four"
Dicazi 21 days ago
You missed Quantum Leap and Alien Nation.
Both ended on cliffhangers.
Alien Nation was renewed. The writers were on-lot and working when the new head of Fox cancelled the show because he personally didn't like it.
Vozpit Dicazi 21 days ago
Quantum Leap didn't end on a cliffhanger. It said Sam continued to leap through time, never to return home.
Dicazi Vozpit 20 days ago
That wasn't the way it was meant to end. And fans hated it.
Pacificsun Dicazi 20 days ago
Quantum Leap's finale was to be "an" ending, while leaving open the door for a potential pickup or movie. Bellisario was quite competent about his QL vision. And could've used the wide open premise to create all kinds of endings. But in fact left the fans with a very creative mystery. Those who wanted an ending, may have read something into it. However true fans always want more!
djw1120 Pacificsun 17 days ago
Ain't that the truth.
MrsPhilHarris 22 days ago
I don't remember a voice change in The Bewitching Pool.
cperrynaples 22 days ago
Robert Reed WAS on the set of the final episode, he just refused to perform and watched along with his boyfriend. This version has been confirmed by the cast members and depicted in a FOX TV movie!
Yep, Robert Reed wrote himself out of the final episode.
DawnGraham cperrynaples 22 days ago
Don't blame him, it was a terrible episode.
A footnote on the Fox Brady movie. First of all, I am not referring to the horrible "Bradys In The White House" in which Gary Cole's Mike Brady accidentally becomes President. The show I'm referencing was an one-hour special which was double billed with a "Diff'rent Strokes" film that must be seen to be believed. Basically, it was narrated by a dead Dana Plato ala William Holden in "Sunset Boulevard". Most bizarrely, it featured the real Todd Bridges playing a drug dealer!!
Pacificsun cperrynaples 20 days ago
Gad, what were the producers sniffing THAT day!
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