You can thank Leave It to Beaver for bringing the series finale to TV sitcoms

''Family Scrapbook'' was for the record books.

Imagine a book missing its last chapter, or a film projector going kaput just before the movie's climax. You would be disappointed without the ending. This was not a concern with the television of the 1950s. The creators and networks never thought to give the audience a finale, nor did the viewers at home expect one. 

There are a couple of reasons for this. For starters, an episodic television series was more of a collection of short stories than a novel. Each episode was its own self-contained story. Overarching narratives were something left to other artforms. Which brings us to our second reason — folks just didn't see television as high art. An episode of television was a light amusement. Whatever the final mirthful episode of a sitcom happened to be, well, that was just the finale. Even the pioneering, brilliant I Love Lucy just… stopped with "The Ricardos Dedicate a Statue."

Leave It to Beaver changed that. It was the first primetime sitcom to craft an intentional ending. And that was like because it was a sitcom first of another sort. 

But before we get into that, let's talk about Howdy Doody for a moment.

The children's puppet show was the first notable series to provide closure with its series finale. Clarabell the Clown, silent as a mime throughout the entire series, at last broke his silence. "Goodbye, kids," Clarabell said.

The connection to kids mattered. And that brings us back to Beaver

Leave It to Beaver was the first primetime sitcom to focus on the children as the main characters. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet… well, that has the parents' names right there in the title. Other family sitcoms had kids, but here was a show expressly about the kids. Leave It to Beaver was a coming-of-age tale. The two principal characters, Beaver and Wally, grew up before our eyes. 

This is why the show needed closure. A phase of their life was ending. Childhood was over. For adults, another day is just another day. 

Leave It to Beaver smartly wrapped things up with another soon-to-be trope: the clip show. The Cleavers take out an old book of photos, literally turning the page on a phase of their boys' lives. The audience got to see flashbacks to Beaver and Wally from early episodes. The technique, while cliched now, underlined just how much the actors had grown. Jerry Mathers seemed to have sprouted up to twice his size. 

Decades later, sitcoms such as Growing Pains, Full House, Home Improvement, and even Seinfeld would utilize the clip-show format for their finales. They all borrowed the idea from Beaver. 

Gee, Wally, did you ever think we would be so influential?

Watch Leave It to Beaver on MeTV!

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123 Comments

billygardener19 5 months ago
Everybody needs closure whether they admit it or not. All the budding sit-com writers out there have the perfect last show,,,right!!! I can't believe just how many movies I have seen where, when they were over, they left me hanging and unsatisfied (it's why I will choose TV shows every time...there is a continuance). I convince myself that there will be a sequel to tie up all the loose ends.. To have a show that just ends, leaves you to wonder what happens, as not everything is sewed up, and you go for years wondering how things went forward or were resolved. I was lucky to be among the millions of people who watched the MASH finale, after never missing an episode. I could not imagine the show just ending without a closure. We all know the Korean War ended and would wonder what the fate of the characters was. It helped ease us out and into new shows for the characters, such as "Trapper John..." all that of course, when a show ends gracefully and is not abruptly cancelled.
Jon 5 months ago
The finale was unrealistic in the clip setups. A prime example was there being a picture of Beaver & Larry Mondello in Larry's sister's bedroom, sneaking a peek at her diary. There were obviously no cameras in the room when they snuck in. The other clips were also similar in that there would be a picture of Wally with no context, and Ward said "Oh yes, that's the time when...".
Runeshaper 5 months ago
I’m glad when shows have and take the opportunity to create a finale. Closure is important, even on TV 📺!
CoreyC 5 months ago
It was a clip show not a finale.
dominicanbride1 5 months ago
Love this show. It has so much character an morals. These show can help our society it only more parents shared with their children an so on an so forth.
Lillyrose 5 months ago
I love the "Leave it to Beaver" series and series finale, and also "Newhart," which had a brilliant finale. I love "The Brady Bunch" series, but the finale is kind of weird.
Andybandit 5 months ago
I like when shows are going to end and they have a good series finale.
GOOSEYGOOSE9 5 months ago
Lumpy my favorite as well as Eddie Haskell
LalaLucy 5 months ago
Like the look back, but cringe a bit at so many photos of things they would not logically have pictures of.
McGillahooala 5 months ago
I really dislike finales, particularly for sitcoms. Why not just let them run until you pull the plug? No reason in my opinion to wrap everything up.
Paladin33 15 months ago
The last ,,regretable season of beaver,,he mentioned " I wish i was old enough to join the marines,,," circa 63,,NO you dont beave,,you would have been in with the first into Vietnam in March 65,,but you were smart enough to get into the Hollwood Natl guard with Wally ,,Sam elliot and all the other connected kids ,,us dumbasses went and got killed,,agent orange etc dealing with the horrid VA for life ,,
sarajames 24 months ago
I couldn't find it on MeTv this morning from 8-9AM... Was it because of Memorial Day?
Paladin33 sarajames 15 months ago
memorial day is a real pain to you isnt it,,
Timmc8 Paladin33 5 months ago
You aren't no Paladin bud.
vinman63 36 months ago
At times LITB sounded a bit preachy but Hugh Beaumont was an ordain Methodist minister.
Kramden62 vinman63 5 months ago
Believe it or not, Hugh Beaumont also had a bit part in the "Our Gang" short "Good Bad Boys." He played the bailiff in the courtroom scene.
Mark091 39 months ago
On the last episode of LEAVE it to Beaver while looking through the
Scrapbook the character of Larry
Mondello is mentioned by Beaver
But Beaver doesn't say that Larry
Moved out of town or whatever happened to Larry Mondello.
Mark091 39 months ago
On Leave it to Beaver Judy Hensler
Went upstairs and never came back
Down . And a new girl whose name
Was Penny Woods arrives in
Mayfield in 1960 and replaces
Judy Hensler.
BiggieB 39 months ago
I remember seeing that episode in reruns. Even as a kid I knew that some of the "photos" in the family album couldn't have existed. Like the one of them "shaving". Nobody was there to take a photo!
39 months ago
I like that episode. But I am positive Beaver would remember bringing home the letter from Miss Canfield. He stated " I don't remember that"
WSK2513 40 months ago
Guess with a series where the actors weren't getting royalties from the show this would have worked. With I Love Lucy, the Christmas Episode was not shown for many years as those actors (or their estates) got a royalty payment based for each clip used in a flashback.
Tim WSK2513 36 months ago
Not true. It wasn't included in syndication because CBS didn't think people would watch a Christmas episode at a random time of year.
Lillyrose 41 months ago
Leave it to Beaver is one of my favorite shows, so sweet and wholesome. I like the finale, too. But my favorite sitcom finale is the "Newhart" finale. Hilarious and brilliant! Speaking of "Newhart," I wonder if MeTV will ever air "Newhart"? "Newhart" is the best sitcom of the 80's!
ma2lyssa Lillyrose 41 months ago
Newhart is on Decades TV every weekday at 4:30 eastern. My absolute favorite episode of Newhart is "Born to Be Mild." It's the one where George regroups his old gang and they "rumble" with a rival gang who's members are also past their prime. It's hilarious.
Lillyrose ma2lyssa 40 months ago
Thanks! My favorite "Newhart" episode is "Vermont Today," where he gets his own show. It's the funniest Newhart episode ever!
McGillahooala Lillyrose 5 months ago
Newhart is just great. I would agree, best sitcom of the 80s.
Lillyrose McGillahooala 5 months ago
I agree. Great show.
Kramden62 Lillyrose 5 months ago
I *absolutely despised* that show. It was so *dumb!*
timothys71 Lillyrose 5 months ago
I believe at one time the original Bob Newhart Show from the 1970's was airing on MeTV, and Newhart was on Antenna TV in the same time slot! I would love to see either show return to MeTV, since Catchy Comedy (f/k/a Decades) is not available over the air in my area.
Lillyrose timothys71 5 months ago
"The Bob Newhart Show" is a good show, too. Many "Newhart" episodes are on YouTube.
Mark 41 months ago
I was never a fan of the flashback episodes of TV shows. To me, flashbacks say that the writers have run out of ideas. For example, I'm a huge mega-Star Trek fan. However, the absolute worst episode of Next Generation was the season 2 final episode. Riker gets bitten by a vine and the only way to cure him to to reflect on his memories from the first two seasons. Absolutely horrible.

Seinfeld was a great show, but the finale, they had no idea how to wrap it up so they put clips together to say goodbye, long and boring. I love the routines episodes and stories (about nothing).

Now Friends finale was a good ending for the series. Star Trek DS9 and Voyager were great ways to end their adventures. Gilligan's Island never wrapped, but they got made-for-TV movies to follow the series.

Happy Days, Three's Company, Mary Tyler More, MASH. They all had great finales to wrap up their shows, and they were not flashback episodes.
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