The 10 Most-Watched Series Finales Ever

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Everyone knows the world of television has completely changed in the last few decades. No matter how much you enjoyed the Breaking Bad finale, chances are more people tuned in for the last episode of Evening Shade or Becker or Amen. So what were the most-watched series finales in TV history? Let's take a look.

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.

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.

8. All in the Family, 1979. 40.2 million viewers watched as Archie professed his love for an ailing Edith.

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.

6. The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, 1992. Bette Midler and Robin Williams were the last to sit in Johnny's chair, but the finale didn't come until the following night. That was just Johnny and Ed, sitting back and reminiscing through clips and memories. 50 million viewers switched on their sets to hear Johnny deliver this heartfelt goodbye:

And so it has come to this: I, uh... am one of the lucky people in the world; I found something I always wanted to do and I have enjoyed every single minute of it. I want to thank the gentlemen who've shared this stage with me for thirty years. Mr. Ed McMahon, Mr. Doc Severinsen, and you people watching. I can only tell you that it has been an honor and a privilege to come into your homes all these years and entertain you. And I hope when I find something that I want to do and I think you would like and come back that you'll be as gracious in inviting me into your home as you have been. I bid you a very heartfelt good night.

5. 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.

4. Friends, 2004, 52.5 million viewers. What would happen with Rachel and Ross? Monica and Chandler? Phoebe and Smelly Cat? No shockers here: everyone lived happily ever after.

3. Seinfeld, 1998, 76.3 million viewers. And at least half of those viewers 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.

2. Cheers, 1993, 80.4 million viewers. "One for the Road" featured the Return of Diane. Everyone who wondered what had become of Shelley Long's character found out when she returned with a phony husband.

1. M*A*S*H, 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.

Any surprises on the list for you? I thought Dallas would make the top 10, but it just falls shy at 33.3 million viewers. More people (41.47 million) tuned in to see who shot J.R.

Sources: USA Today, TV Guide, Wikipedia, Reuters. This list originally appeared in 2010.

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September 29, 2013 - 11:11pm
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