A trifecta of influences is prompting these musings about television series finales. With the exception of discussing the classic final episode of "M*A*S*H," references will be kept vague so as to not spoil surprises for folks who have not watched the show stoppers. These triggering events consist of late May being the traditional season of TV series' finales, CBS Home Entertainment recently releasing the (reviewed) epic 20-season "Gunsmoke" DVD CS set, and a covid-related sense that there is not much to which to look forward in life.
A major pet peeve regarding the swan song for series is the fairly prevalent practice of every major character experiencing a life-changing event. It is realistic that one character has a significant transformation, and it is nice when something good happens to a likable "friend" whom we have "known" for several years. Having one character get a dream job within a few weeks of another getting the girl after a lengthy pursuit, another couple learning that a bundle du joie is on the way, etc. is way over the top,
One otherwise high-quality show, which reflects the wisdom that seven years is the proper lifespan for most series, blows its finale in a related way. It is realistic that the business around which a workplace comedy is centered is sold; it is less believable that every employee with one exception gets the axe for that reason.
A companion series of that TV Land classic handles things better by having a main character move onto literally greener pastures. With the possible exception of a vaguely recalled pregnancy announcement, the lives of the rest of the ensemble are unchanged except for losing a pal and a confidante.
"M*A*S*H," which is known for successfully breaking many TV Land laws, provides a valid exception to the above. The end of the Korean War is a realistic premise for the final episode. This also makes it very realistic that the doctors, nurses, and other personnel of the titular Army hospital go their separate ways to pursue their professions back home.
The perspective that COVID-19 provides adds to the credibility of the idea that a main character breaks under the strain of life on the front lines despite nearing the finish line. Having largely been confined at home for two months and having to worry abut supplies of things such as toilet paper, soap, baking supplies, and meat does not mean that the prospective of life largely returning to normal in three weeks will prevent a fist going through the wall.
Another TV Land classic deserves an honorable mention for a notable finale that earns a footnote in television history. That one centers around an event that has its origins in the pilot; there also may have been one or more contrived events at the B-story in the episode. Despite all that, the final scene clearly establishes that it is business as usual once the dust settles.
The bigger picture is that the near absence of any appointment television these days deprives the viewing public of the glee associated with the anticipation and actual viewing of the end of an era. Your not-so-youthful reviewer was away at school when the "M*A*S*H" finale aired and crammed in a common room to watch it on a relic of a black-and-white set with a coat-hanger antenna.
Many years later, I scoured grocery and drug stores in the pre-Amazon era of the "Seinfeld" finale to get enough Tweety Bird Pez dispensers to host a viewing party. I also served Junior Mints and big salads, not that there is anything wrong with that.