EW takes a closer look at a few series' final episodes. Flashy stunts help struggling shows make a last-ditch effort for renewal

By Margeaux Watson
April 28, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT
Charmed: Mitchell Haddad

Finale season has sprung — and with it come plot ploys to save those shows that are anxiously awaiting pickup for next year. Case in point: the kissing-cousins, bleached-puppet lunacy unleashed on the recent season (and possibly series) finale of Fox’s Arrested Development. Below, a peek at how other shows are making bids at self-preservation:

Charmed (May 22)
The WB witches have lost a bit of their mojo after seven years, summoning an average of 3.6 million viewers each week, down from 5.4 million in 1999. Surefire ratings boost: girls gone wild! This season ends with the trio flirting with black magic after their ancient spell book goes missing. The outcome is ”absolutely a surprise,” says exec producer Brad Kern. ”I withheld script pages from even the crew. I can say that the Charmed Ones will literally never be the same. Literally.”

Jack & Bobby (May 11)
Voted most likely to succeed during pilot season, The WB’s coming-of-age polidrama has seen approval ratings lag (it averages 2.5 million viewers). The exit strategy: finale cameos from Gore Vidal, Norman Lear, and Tim Robbins (in a voiceover); an appearance from the boys’ heretofore unseen dad (Lou Diamond Phillips); plus the death of a major character. Says exec producer Greg Berlanti, who’s clearly preparing for the worst: ”Our decision was to make the best episodes we can, so there’s an amazing boxed set.” Sniff.