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Top Ten TV Goodbyes: Who Makes The List?

May 20th, 2011 5:00pm EDT | Jonathan Teigland By: Jonathan Teigland

The Office Goodbye Michael

With Steve Carell leaving ‘The Office’ last month, it’s time to reflect on big goodbye episodes.  I thought ‘The Office’ pulled off his departure well, although I’m not sure how I feel about the future of the show.

Here’s my top ten list of other shows that have successfully sent a character off in style.  The rules: it is a true “goodbye” episode with a major character or star departing.  If it happens off-screen, it doesn’t count.  So that’s why I’m not including some obvious departures, such as Rhoda Morgenstern, Frank Burns, Coach Pantusso, etc.

Here they are.  Do you agree?

10. T.R. Knight, ‘Grey's Anatomy’ – ‘Now or Never’ – May 14, 2009

I wasn’t even a fan of the show by this point, but rarely has a regular character exited a TV show in such a twist.  Thinking George had already left, the staff treats a badly disfigured John Doe who has been hit by a bus.  The final revelation that it’s George packs a wallop.  Perhaps a cruel sendoff, but a powerful one.

 

T.R. Knight

9. Jimmy Smits, ‘NYPD Blue’ – ‘Heart and Souls’ – Nov. 24, 1998

Speaking of powerful send-offs, we know Bobby Simone is critically ill after a heart transplant, but watching him die is still wrenching.  But the most poignant part of his exit is the end of the Simone-Sipowicz relationship.  Bobby dies in the episode, but so does part of Andy.

 8. Anthony Edwards, ‘ER’ – ‘On the Beach’ – May 9, 2002

Okay, let’s get the sad deaths out of the way, shall we?  Dr. Greene is ill with brain cancer and chooses to spend his last days on the beach.  He does manage to make up with his daughter before succumbing.  The staff receives the news while working.  It is a realistic, cold, hard death.  And his exit would be felt for many seasons.

 7. Diana Muldaur, ‘L.A. Law’ – ‘Good to the Last Drop’ – March 21, 1991

Hmm, another death.  But this one’s different.  Rosalind Shays is such a love-her-or-hate-her character.  She is notorious.  Many characters at the law firm probably fantasized about her dying.  So when she randomly steps into an empty elevator shaft and falls to her death, it’s one of those shocking moments where you don’t know whether to laugh, gasp or shriek.  It is an abrupt end to a polarizing character.

 

LA Law

6. Gary Burghoff and McLean Stevenson, ‘M*A*S*H’ – ‘Abyssinia, Henry’ – March 18, 1975; ‘Goodbye, Radar’ – Oct. 8 and 15, 1979

Some people are still mad about this show killing off Col. Blake.  When Henry gets discharged, it seems like a happy moment.  But when everyone gets word he got killed on his way home, the show turns instantly tragic.  It is the saddest moment of the series, and probably the most shocking.  Radar’s departure is not as sad, but after seven years on the show, seeing characters bid him farewell is heart-wrenching.  If you don’t choke up when Col. Potter tears up telling him, “It’s not exactly how I wanted to say goodbye, Radar,” you might not be human.

5. Bea Arthur, ‘The Golden Girls’ – One Flew Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest’ – May 9, 1992

One might argue Bea Arthur did not actually leave the show since this is the last episode, but she really did.  It would have continued if she hadn’t departed, and it did continue, in fact, in the form of the failed spin-off ‘The Golden Palace’ on CBS.  In this finale, Dorothy finally finds love after Stan in the form of Leslie Nielsen.  She walks down the aisle and prepares to move away.  Her final goodbye to the girls, when she tearfully re-emerges twice for another hug, is perhaps the series’ most emotional scene.

 

The Golden Girls

4. Shelley Long, ‘Cheers’ – ‘I do, Adieu’ – May 7, 1987

Sam and Diane have already been house-shopping and are prepared to walk down the aisle, but a roadblock emerges.  A publisher expresses interest in publishing Diane’s novel, and before they say, “I do,” Sam halts the ceremony and sends Diane off to live her dream.  He knows it’s a final goodbye, though, and tells her, “Have a good life.”  The camera cuts to his fantasy of him and Diane in some sort of alternate universe, dancing together, growing old together.