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End of the road: Top 10 most-watched scripted-TV series finales of all time

UPDATED: Wed., May 20, 2020

Thursday is the 30th anniversary of the final episode of CBS’ “Newhart,” the finale in which the Stratford Inn owner Dick Loudon, portrayed by Bob Newhart … WARNING: SPOILER AHEAD … wakes up only to find himself back in his previous TV series from the 1970s, “The Bob Newhart Show,” also on CBS.

Additionally, his wife, Mary Frann, has reverted to his ’70s better half, Suzanne Pleshette. That is one way to wake up from slumber!

Before we get into the Top 10 most-watched scripted-TV series finales of all time, make certain to turn the Serendipity page to check out 14 other memorable TV series finales alongside “Newhart,” among them “Seinfeld,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Sopranos” and “Mad Men.”

Again, a WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD heads up is in order, and here is the Top 10 most-watched finales of all time:

10. “Home Improvement” (1999)

The comedy starring Tim Allen, Patricia Richardson and Jonathan Taylor Thomas drew 35.5 million viewers for ABC when it aired its last episode.

9. “Family Ties” (1989)

Michael J. Fox’s young Republican Alex P. Keaton prepared to move to New York away from his liberal parents and bid adieu to 36.3 million viewers after seven seasons on NBC.

8. “All in the Family” (1979)

The finale on ABC wrapped up life to set up the spinoff, “Archie Bunker’s Place,” a brief time later, but 40.2 million viewers still watched as Archie (Carroll O’Connor) professed his love for his wife, Edith (Jean Stapleton).

7. “The Cosby Show” (1992)

Oldest son Theo (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) graduated from college, and second-oldest daughter Denise (Lisa Bonet) revealed her pregnancy to 44.4 million NBC viewers. The spinoff “A Different World” soon followed.

6. “Magnum, P.I.” (1988)

In a rare move by a TV network, CBS filmed the finale again after fan outcry, adding a bonus season and not killing Tom Selleck’s title character. Some 50.7 million viewers watched the finale of the action series, which is enjoying a reboot starring Jay Hernandez.

5. “Friends” (2004)

The entire gang – Chandler, Joey, Monica, Phoebe, Rachel and Ross – visited Central Perk a final time for 52.5 million NBC viewers. My 12-year-old niece has discovered this sitcom and loves it.

4. “Seinfeld” (1998)

The finale of the NBC sitcom, aka “The Finale,” divided its 76.3 million viewers. Jerry and company in jail? Really? No soup for the series finale writers.

3. “The Fugitive” (1967)

The identity of “the One-Armed Man,” the murderer of Dr. Richard Kimble’s wife, is revealed to 78 million viewers on ABC. Harrison Ford would take on the role of Kimble in the 1993 big-screen blockbuster.

2. “Cheers” (1993)

The extra-long final episode, “One for the Road,” brought 11 seasons of “Cheers” to an end for 80.4 million viewers on NBC. Shelley Long returned as Diane Chambers for the end. Do you remember if Sam (Ted Danson) and Diane end up together?

1. “M*A*S*H” (1983)

The champion of all time, an astounding 105 million people watched the last episode of “M*A*S*H.” The CBS series would hold the record of most-watched TV event until the 2010 Super Bowl between the champion New Orleans Saints vs. the Indianapolis Colts in Miami.

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