The writer-producers from a disparate trio of hit shows discussed their favorite moments from their respective series finales—and which shows they thought had the best final episodes of all time in Austin, Texas, on Friday.
Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman, Queer as Folk showrunners Daniel Lipman and Ron Cowen, and Justified showrunner Graham Yost took questions posed by Entertainment Weekly editor Henry Goldblatt at “The Final Finale” panel at the ATX Television Festival.
Interestingly, all the writers picked the very last moment from their big finales as favorite scene from their last episodes. For Yost, it was [spoiler alert] the goodbye between Raylan and imprisoned Boyd. For Kauffman, it was when the gang moves out of their iconic apartment and the camera pans slowly around their empty longtime home. While on Queer as Folk, Lipman cited the show’s final shot of Brian dancing alone by himself.
As far as selecting their all-time favorite TV finales, there was one clear winner among the group: The famous ending of CBS’ Newhart, where Bob Newhart wakes up back in the life of his previous The Bob Newhart Show sitcom. “That last moment was so brilliant,” Lipman said.
Kauffman also noted that HBO’s Six Feet Under finale was “genius.” “It was a full circle that landed in such a perfect place.” she said. While Cowen touted the “profound” ending of NBC’s St. Elsewhere, where the hospital is revealed to exist inside a boy’s snow globe. “It asked where do we all live, and what is our reality, and whose imagination are we in?” he said.
Also from the panel…
How each showrunner decided how to end their respective series:
Kauffman: “The show was about that time of your life when your friends are your family, and when you get to a point 10 years later when they’re having their own families, it’s over. A part of making a successful series finale is knowing when to stop. When Monica and Chandler had their twins, it’s over.” The producer also who drew laughs by pointing out she had nothing to do with the show’s infamous spin-off Joey.
Lipman: The producer pointed out the creative setup on Queer as Folk wasn’t entirely dissimilar to Friends. “It’s boys becoming men. As soon as the boys became men and had separate lives, we knew we had to stop.”
Yost: “WWED—’What Would Elmore [Leonard] Do?’ He would end his novels in a certain way and we tried to aim for that. I don’t know if we did it perfectly, but that became our marching orders.”
On the pressure to make a series finale perfect:
Kauffman: “I was so anxious about getting it right. The last two weeks [working on the script] I knitted 14 hats. After 10 years you want to get it really right—partly because we’re saying goodbye and you want to express your love for these characters.” Kauffman also said there was pretty much zero doubt that Ross and Rachel would end up together. “My rabbi would stop me in the parking lot and say, ‘When are they going to get together?'”
Yost: “I honestly only through about it when somebody would ask me, and I’d say, ‘Thank you, now I’m scared shitless.'”
On whether they listened to what fans wanted:
Lipman: “When we did Queer as Folk people at network said the fans were writing in and they want the character to do this and story to do that … as much as I appreciate the fans, this is not the Red Cross.”
Kauffman: “I listen to the producers, the writers, the crew. But there are too many voices out there that are crazy and they want what they want for their own personal agenda. My job is to write the show that I want to watch.” Having said that, Kauffman noted revealing Monica and Chandler in bed together in the fourth season finale wasn’t intended to represent the start of a real relationship, but only to suggest a fling. The explosive fan reaction, however, “told us [the audience] were waiting for that…and we had to rethink the relationship.”
Yost: “I don’t pay attention to [fan reactions] but there are writers in the room who say the ‘Twitterverse exploded when this happened.'” Once again, there was also an exception: “There was a certain thing that came up about Winona character that people didn’t like and I did pay attention to that … But [fans are] watching the show, you’re invested in us, you have to trust that we’ll do a good job.”