The 10 Most-Watched TV Series Finales Ever
Over the past several years, television audiences have said goodbye to some of the most acclaimed television series of all time, from The Sopranos to Mad Men to Breaking Bad. And while their finales have made a lot of headlines—sometimes for being divisive—no series yet has managed to match the ratings bonanza that came with the final episode of M*A*S*H.
Nearly 40 years after the series went off the air, M*A*S*H's final episode still holds the record for the most watched television finale of all time. How long will it remain there? Only time will tell. In the meantime, these are the most watched television series finales of all time.
1. M*A*S*H // 1983
In 1983, 105.9 million viewers watched the Alan Alda-directed "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" episode of M*A*S*H, which was not only the most-watched series finale ever, but the most-watched television event ever—until 2010, when the Super Bowl topped it with 106 million viewers.
2. Cheers // 1993
After 11 seasons, the beloved comedy Cheers decided it was closing time. The final episode, "One for the Road" (which actually aired in two parts, featured the return of Shelley Long's Diana Chambers—and a whopping 80.4 million viewers.
3. The Fugitive // 1967
Andrew Davis's 1993 film version of The Fugitive may have won an Oscar (for Tommy Lee Jones, as Best Supporting Actor), but its original TV version has some major accolades as well. Across the country, 78 million people tuned in to watch part two of the finale and see what would happen to Richard Kimble.
4. Seinfeld // 1998
One could safely estimate that at least half of the 76.3 million viewers who tuned in for Seinfeld's finale were sorely disappointed with what they saw. One critic deemed it a big "So long, suckers!" farewell to the audience who had made the show about nothing such a big hit.
5. Friends // 2004
Would Rachel and Ross live happily ever after? Could Chandler and Monica make it work in the suburbs? And where has Phoebe's Smelly Cat been? 52.5 million viewers turned into find out who would ge their happily ever after when Friends came to a conclusion.
6. Magnum, P.I. // 1988
Is Higgins really Robin Masters? What really happened to Lily? Will Rick get married? At least 50.7 million other people wanted to know the answers to those questions too.
7. The Cosby Show // 1992
Theo graduated from NYU in front of 44.4 million viewers and Denise returned via phone to reveal her pregnancy. But the real shocker was when Cliff finally got the doorbell to work properly after he had been trying to fix it all season.
8. All in the Family // 1979
40.2 million viewers watched as Archie professed his love for an ailing Edith.
9. Family Ties // 1989
36.3 million viewers tuned in to see if Alex would take his dream job in New York and leave the Keaton family.
10. Home Improvement // 1999
With 35.5 million viewers, Tim Taylor edged out Frasier (#11), Dallas (#12), and Everybody Loves Raymond (#15) to crack the top 10.