Just like I don't want to read a book that's missing the last hundred pages...
April 21, 2012 12:10 PM   Subscribe

Recommend me TV shows which were consistently good throughout their run and had a proper, satisfying ending.

I haven't really watched any broadcast or cable television since the early 90s (and not a lot before that). A few years ago, my wife and I started watching (on DVD/Netflix/whatever) the critically acclaimed shows that I had missed.

One thing that we had noticed about watching shows like this, where we might go through ten episodes a week and an entire four-year series in a couple of months, is that it becomes really noticeable and frustrating when a show drops the ball in narrative or production quality (because of a change in writers or whatever reason). It's also such a recipe for heartbreak watching a great show that turns out to have been unceremoniously cancelled with no chance for resolution.

We're looking for more shows that maintained a consistently high quality throughout their run and had a finale that completes the story arc of the entire show in a satisfying way. I know that every show has bad episodes and that some seasons will be better than others, and that's fine. But we're specifically NOT interested in shows where you might say something like: "The first two seasons are amazing and then it sort of goes to hell, but the original writers come back to wrap it up in season seven and it gets awesome again."

Any genre is fine, but we're not really looking for shows that don't really have any narrative development from episode to episode. So dramatic comedies are great, but sitcoms probably not so much.

And to be absolutely clear, please do not recommend any shows that are currently airing, nor any shows that were unceremoniously cancelled, no matter how good they are or were.

Shows that we've already watched and enjoyed include:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The Sopranos
Battlestar Galactica (though it's certainly arguable whether that ending was satisfying, at least it was a real ending)
Twin Peaks
Firefly (sort of qualifies, if you consider Serenity, but definitely a border case)
Freaks and Geeks
posted by 256 to Media & Arts (95 answers total) 160 users marked this as a favorite
I found "The West Wing" to be consistently awesome, as well as "Boston Legal".
posted by dotgirl at 12:15 PM on April 21, 2012 [12 favorites]

Homicide: Life on the Street.

Seven seasons of excellence, capped with a two-hour movie that completely fascinated, wrapped everything up, and broke your heart in the process.
posted by timsteil at 12:17 PM on April 21, 2012 [10 favorites]

Everyone will rightfully recommend The Wire, because it's quite good, though I think there was a pretty significant dropoff in the 5th and final season.
posted by griseus at 12:20 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Arrested Development had 3 perfect seasons.
posted by Strass at 12:20 PM on April 21, 2012 [22 favorites]

Star Trek: The Next Generation's final episode "All Good Things" is a textbook example.
posted by fairmettle at 12:21 PM on April 21, 2012 [7 favorites]

Oh, and I heartily recommend Six Feet Under (although I'm only on season 4). From what I understand it was done almost perfectly.

Rome got cancelled and had to squeeze too much into the last few episodes, but it's also very well done.
posted by Strass at 12:21 PM on April 21, 2012 [12 favorites]

Due South was nearly perfect throughout, and had one of the best finales ever.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:24 PM on April 21, 2012 [10 favorites]

I found West Wing to be unwatchable after Sorkin left (5th season). But that's just my humble opinion.
posted by sbutler at 12:29 PM on April 21, 2012 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I think "Six Feet Under" is the answer. It was good throughout and the ending is one of the most moving things ever shown on television.

I also agree that "The Wire" comes close, but the last season falls short of the brilliance of the others.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:29 PM on April 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

Life. It lasted all of two nearly perfect seasons.
posted by rtha at 12:29 PM on April 21, 2012 [17 favorites]

Also, Ricky Gervais's "Extras" only had two seasons, but they were great, and it definitely has a planned and satisfying ending.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:30 PM on April 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Friday Night Lights (though the Second Season is weird due to the Writers' Strike and some weird network interference).
posted by ilikecookies at 12:32 PM on April 21, 2012 [9 favorites]

It's certainly arguable if Star Trek: Deep Space Nine started strong, but I think it remained cohesive and well written (except for a few clunkers here and there, but every show has those). It also works well towards the end, and the final episode is a true conclusion.
posted by SNWidget at 12:33 PM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Looking beyond the US might be worthwhile: shorter, less filler, less drop-off, definite endings.

Slings & Arrows (which is local to you)
Life on Mars / Ashes to Ashes
State of Play

I'd like to recommend the two seasons of Life (Damien Lewis), and I see on preview that rtha beat me to it: there's a bit of a weak spot in the middle of the second season, because the writers had to work around the writers' strike and Sarah Shahi's pregnancy, but the writers knew they were lucky to be renewed, and weren't going to get a third season so they got to end it properly. My one qualm is that the DVD/Netflix/Hulu release doesn't have the brilliant music used for the broadcast, because of rights issues.
posted by holgate at 12:35 PM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Newhart had what has to be one of the greatest series endings ever. If not the greatest. And was pretty darned dependably funny throughout its run.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:38 PM on April 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

Once&Again. Only two of the three seasons are for sale on DVD, but you can get copies from people who taped the third season on their VCR.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:40 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Avatar: The Last Airbender, animated Nickelodeon series that had a complete story arc over three seasons with not very much filler..
posted by zixyer at 12:41 PM on April 21, 2012 [14 favorites]

If you're open to something animated, I can't recommend "Avatar: The Last Airbender" highly enough. It was all on Netflix IW last time I checked.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:42 PM on April 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


The fifth and final season was of consistently high quality (in my opinion), and the final episode had a fantastic ending. One of my favorite finales ever.
posted by Salieri at 12:43 PM on April 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

Inspector Morse and Lewis. Love both of these shows.
posted by bjgeiger at 12:44 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I actually think the final season of the Wire is crucial to it as a work of art. It's painful to watch at times but I think it enhances the rest of the story.
posted by jann at 12:44 PM on April 21, 2012 [10 favorites]

Friday Night Lights for sure. I think the first and third season finales were written as potential series finales, but both episodes are fantastic and it made it to the fifth season, which had an excellent series finale itself.

My So-Called Life is fairly comparable to Freaks & Geeks (high school, single season)-- I'm not sure if the writers knew they were writing the series finale, but it's perfect.
posted by acidic at 12:45 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd definitely recommend LOST, Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica.
For something light and sitcom-y, I would recommend the first 8 seasons of Scrubs. It had a series finale and got put to bed quite nicely, but then got resurrected for a 9th season on another network, which was full of fail.
posted by THAT William Mize at 12:51 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

and the final episode had a fantastic ending.

Its a good episode but it's probably worth mentioning that the show was cancelled and that the last episode sort of ends on a cliffhanger (resolved in comics) and that you may not find it all that satisfying.

IMO Stargate SG-1 kinda qualifies - it wasn't unceremoniously cancelled but IMO went on 2 seasons too long. The last 2 seasons aren't bad but they were a bit of a reboot - they beat the bad guys by the end of season 8 (2 episodes before the end in fact) and as well as replacing the main character they have to invent a whole new enemy and the ending of that bad guy isn't resolved in the series, they made a tv film to finish it off.
posted by missmagenta at 12:52 PM on April 21, 2012

The Shield wraps it up pretty netly at the end of the last season. I also remember thinking that Supernatural had reached a quite satisfying series ending at the end of season five, though I think there's actually a sixth season (which I haven't seen).
posted by rjs at 1:03 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

The UK Office's two 6 episode seasons + Christmas special are great and satisfying.
posted by mmascolino at 1:05 PM on April 21, 2012 [7 favorites]

Absolutely Six Feet Under. It was perfect in every way!

Also, Friday Night Lights was amazing, and satisfying.
posted by katypickle at 1:06 PM on April 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

If you expand into Anime your options are vast. Series are generally preplanned and produced as a fixed number of episodes (13 per season) to tell a story. They have a beginning a middle and an end. Almost the reverse of the TV model where the show depends on ratings to continue.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:06 PM on April 21, 2012

Blackadder! (Ignore the created long-after-the-series special)
posted by smirkette at 1:07 PM on April 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

the last episode sort of ends on a cliffhanger (resolved in comics)

Yes, it's got a bit of a cliffhanger ending, but I think it stands on its own very well and is very much in keeping with the spirit of the series (which is why I love it so much). Don't feel like you have to read the comics to have the show feel "resolved" - I never did.

Supernatural is still going in its seventh season, and at this rate will probably have an eighth as well, so that doesn't fit your criteria. (Some have argued that the quality of that show has dropped, but I'm still happy with it.)
posted by Salieri at 1:08 PM on April 21, 2012

Chuck is good and surprisingly smart for what it was advertised as, IMO.

Veronica Mars, if you view the seasons as story arcs, kind of qualifies (although the series finale is open-ended in terms of several characters).

Undeclared is basically the same people who did Freaks and Geeks, but it's set in college and stars pre-fame Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) and Jay Baruchel (How To Train Your Dragon); I'm not sure if it ended with the same finality.

If anime series are allowable, you could always go with Cowboy Bebop, or one/several of the shorter Gundam series (my personal favorite is 08th MS Team), or really any of the shorter non-fighting/magical girl shows.

I also heartily recommend the HBO miniseries of Band of Brothers and The Pacific if you're into barely-fictionalized history with a touch of drama.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:09 PM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

The Shield was excellent throughout its seven seasons. Had a well planned and satisfying finale which resonated with events right from series one and was well scripted and acted with themes and guest actors (Forest Whitaker, Glenn Close) brought in for individual seasons to kept things fresh.
posted by biffa at 1:09 PM on April 21, 2012

many great series have already been mentioned. Adding the parameter of a satisfying ending does narrow down the choices quite a bit.

Others ones to watch are:

Farscape (if you add in the tv movie)
The Shield
posted by 2manyusernames at 1:11 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I loved every minute of Lars Von Trier's The Kingdom.
posted by Dragonness at 1:15 PM on April 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

HBO's Rome was amazing and the last episode is probably the single best thing I've ever seen on TV.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:17 PM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Nthing Six Feet Under! I can't think of a single misstep in the entire series, and it has the best finale imaginable. The music played in the final scene still makes me a little misty.

I also thought of Friday Night Lights, but I'm only in the middle of the third season now.
posted by apricot at 1:19 PM on April 21, 2012

Chuck is good and surprisingly smart for what it was advertised as, IMO.

I'm a bit conflicted with Chuck as season 5 probably wasn't as great as the other seasons on account of the entire premise of the show being dropped. However it was still enjoyable.

My vote would be ... Spooks. Only 6 or so episodes per season but consistently good throughout, right to the end.

Boston Legal was great all the way till the end too.
posted by mr_silver at 1:26 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Wire and Friday Night Lights definitely.

Deadwood/Rome were cancelled but excellent. They wrapped up okay in my opinion.

Star Trek: the Next Generation.

UK Office.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:27 PM on April 21, 2012

Nthing the West Wing.
posted by KneeDeep at 1:35 PM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by 4ster at 1:37 PM on April 21, 2012

I hope the Arrested Development comment was a joke ... The third season was cut off, and the quality became horrible because they knew they were getting cancelled and they just kept making jabs at Fox. Also My So-Called Life was cancelled before they even finished the first season, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who is older than like 17.
posted by radioamy at 1:50 PM on April 21, 2012

Cracker is absolute and total pure genius.
posted by Summer at 1:50 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Boston Legal, and the West Wing.
I loved Deadwood but felt unsatisfied by the ending.
posted by ibakecake at 1:50 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another "if anime" suggestion... Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is pretty great. Two seasons of 26 episodes each, containing both long story arcs and one-shot self-contained episodes, with consistent high quality from start to finish.
posted by Edogy at 1:51 PM on April 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Charlie Jade is a nice little 2005 Canadian-South African production with twenty episodes about parallel universes. It's kind of slow, expository-wise, but overall I liked it. All of the story arcs are brought to resolution and the end wraps up with no more loose ends than, say, the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Nthing Rome and Avatar: The Last Airbender.

The Tudors is mostly an ahistorical smutty soap opera about Henry XIII, and hence contains many unceremonious endings, but was watchable.

I quite enjoyed Bramwell, a 90s BBC series about a Victorian lady doctor. There's more than what's on Netflix that I haven't been able to find, some TV movie sequels, but the series itself didn't end on a cliffhanger or anything of that sort.
posted by XMLicious at 1:53 PM on April 21, 2012

nthing Farscape and Battlestar Galactica. The first two seasons of Farscape are more episodic/less story arc, but good and lots of character development. The second two seasons are excellent.

Dollhouse is also consistently great. It was cancelled before the second season, but they sped everything up. I thought it gave the show a good pace.
posted by Adamsmasher at 1:55 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing Six Feet Under. I'd also--perhaps oddly--recommend the US version of Life on Mars. It's only one season, was canceled early--however the producers knew it was going to be canceled and so gave it a fitting, satisfying ending. I'd also recommend the UK version of The Office, which is wonderful, brutish, and short.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:05 PM on April 21, 2012

nthing Dollhouse, especially if you liked Firefly and Buffy.

There are a small handful of episodes about halfway through the first season where it drags, but once the writers knew that the show would definitely last more than one (but no more than two) seasons, they got their shit together, and wrote a fantastic show that had a really nice and coherent 'arc,' which is something of an anomaly among Joss Whedon's shows. It's got a distinct beginning, middle, and end.

Not many shows can claim that.
posted by schmod at 2:12 PM on April 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Friday Night Lights.

It's strange, too, because the five seasons feel very different from one another, and, yet, the series feels cohesive at the same time.

The ending was deeply satisfying. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
posted by stroke_count at 2:18 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're willing to consider miniseries: before The Wire, David Simon did an amazing miniseries called The Corner. There wasn't a single bad episode, and it was an immensely powerful and satisfying whole.
posted by yankeefog at 2:19 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

2nd-ing Babylon 5. I enjoyed all five seasons and it has some great character/narrative arcs that begin in season 1 and don't pay off until seasons 4 and 5.
If miniseries can count as shows: Brideshead Revisited is my favorite television ever.
posted by 2ghouls at 2:19 PM on April 21, 2012

Two of my favorites: Wire in the Blood and ReGenesis.
posted by Houstonian at 2:31 PM on April 21, 2012

I think Six Feet Under is the only pure answer.

Regarding the concept of "wrapping a show up" well, an easy way to avoid being burned by this sort of thing is to choose cable shows over network ones.

Cable channels typically order 13 episode seasons, many of which have been completed before the show premieres. (And premium cable tends to deliver the whole season before airing -- the first season of Girls was in the can almost a year ago, for example) As such, a show would have to be a HUGE bomb to get cancelled before all the episodes in a season had been shot, or for completed episodes to be unaired.

Conversely, the "Big 4" networks will usually order 13 episodes of a proposed 22 episode season and start airing episodes relatively quickly. Which means it's easy for networks to get that weird itch to pull the plug on a show in the middle of a season, because they can save money by not making any more episodes. And even if they don't get weird about canceling the show outright, if it's not a big hit they won't order "the back 9" to complete a full season. Which makes it difficult to create a story arc that can be wrapped up meaningfully. There are just too many ways the network can pull the rug out from under you.

So when you're browsing through Netflix for ideas, look up what channel it aired on. A show on Fox is much more likely to be unceremoniously yanked, whereas HBO would probably only do something like that in an emergency (imagine The Sopranos, but about a sympathetic terrorist, and premiering in August of 2001).

A suggestion for something that is still airing, but almost guaranteed to stay at its same level of quality and wrap up fairly well: Mad Men.
posted by Sara C. at 2:32 PM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Goodbye, Farewell and Amen for M*A*S*H.
posted by gregoreo at 3:17 PM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

The finale to 6 feet under was the best thing I have ever seen on television. Ever. The series is fantastic.

You might want to give Dollhouse a try since you listed other Joss Whedon stuff. It was canceled early, but they did resolve everything before the last episode, and I feel like the show got progressively better as it got closer to being canceled. The first season focuses more on the alternate lives of the characters, and the second season goes full bore into the underlying issues and evil stuff going on.
posted by markblasco at 3:22 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yet another recommendation for Six Feet Under. It's really Art. With a capital A. And the finale is the most satisfying I've ever watched.
posted by dchrssyr at 3:23 PM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Judgement for the TV Series The Fugitive.     Now you know I'm an old guy.
posted by gregoreo at 3:25 PM on April 21, 2012

I'm honestly astonished that we've got this far into the thread and nobody has yet mentioned Heimat. Three series made over 25 years. The first part has an 8.8 rating on IMDB: if it was an orthodox movie (and its director insists that each series is a movie, a single piece of work not a collection of episodes) that would put it in the top 14 of all time.

It will blow your mind.
posted by Hogshead at 3:32 PM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also The Prisoner. And nthing Homicide, State of Play and Life
posted by Hogshead at 3:40 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about the 13-episode mini-series I, Claudius? Based on the book by the same name, the story covers the life and death of Emperor Claudius of Rome.

The good:
- Brilliant acting with an all-star cast (Brian Blessed as Augustus! John Hurt as Caligula!)
- Tight narrative (the original book is amazing, and BBC did a good job of translating to the screen) with a pre-planned conclusion (well, I mean... it is the life and death of Claudius)

The bad:
- Seriously low production value (in one scene, the characters discover a dead baby. The baby is a plastic doll.)

If you can get over the 1970s, budget-limited film set and props, I think you might enjoy I, Claudius.
posted by tickingclock at 3:42 PM on April 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

Spaced, particularly if you're an Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg/Nick Frost fan. Short, but fits the rest of your criteria, I think.
posted by catch as catch can at 3:53 PM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

I found The Larry Sanders Show to be consistently good throughout its run, and had a strong finish.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 4:09 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Wire (some parts of the last season were poor, but so are some parts of everything). Six Feet Under (amazing finale). I didn't always love Angel, but I thought the ending was a really good, satisfying ending for the show. Dollhouse was less good. Slings and Arrows was lots of fun. I had issues with Friday Night Lights, but it was overall a good show with a very satisfying resolution.

Veronica Mars didn't really end in a satistfying way, as good as the show was.
posted by jeather at 4:17 PM on April 21, 2012

Dead Like Me went for a fantastic and quirky two seasons. The writer, Brian Fuller also wrote Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies. His shows tend to have the supernatural elements of Buffy, the life-searching of Freaks and Geeks (and Buffy), and this sort of magical joy. I'm not sure whether his shows were cancelled or he chose to end them, but I felt satisfied with each of the final episodes.

Also thanks to everyone who's recommended Six Feet Under. I'm adding it to my own watch list!
posted by juliaem at 4:19 PM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Danger UXB was a limited series from the UK which ran on Masterpiece Theater in the US. It was about the Royal Engineers in London during WWII, dealing with unexploded bombs dropped by the Germans, including some which had trick fuses deliberately designed to kill men trying to defuse them.

The ending is excellent. And it's available on DVD.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:24 PM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

My guy has wall full of television here and he's suggested Smallville, Quantum Leap, Babylon, Stargate, 24, Dead Like Me, Angel, and (kinda) The X files -- sorry if any of these have been suggested above.

I say go old school and watch M*A*S*H and shows of that type.
posted by patheral at 5:28 PM on April 21, 2012

Barney Miller.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:35 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Love for ST:TNG, but not ST:DS9? More solid on average and gets good faster than TNG did. All the ST is on Instant, fwiw.
posted by gregglind at 5:44 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I feel like ER was pretty consistently good for being such a long-lived series, managing to reinvent itself through various cast changes, and the final season is one of my favourite final seasons of any show, paying fond tribute to the past of the show while also looking to the future and ending things on a satisfying note. As a show it has a few ridiculous moments, but it holds up pretty well for all that.

And I second Once and Again (such a good show!) and Due South.
posted by Lina Lamont at 6:06 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

My So-Called Life is fairly comparable to Freaks & Geeks (high school, single season)-- I'm not sure if the writers knew they were writing the series finale, but it's perfect.

my so-called life ended because clair danes didn't want to do it any more. the last episode is a cliff-hanger that never gets resolved. if you need to have a satisfying ending avoid this one.

some suggestions that i haven't seen so far:
- flight of the concords
- futurama (though not technically over yet the last of the original, and the latest episodes both are good ending points)
- generation kill
- party down
- band of brothers/the pacific
- the increasingly poor decisions of todd margaret
- trailer park boys
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:06 PM on April 21, 2012

I definitely agree with Homicide (in terms of a satisfying ending, it ends with more grace than the Wire was allowed to), and the Shield.

If single seasons are acceptable (adaptations from books, no need for further episodes), I'll second Band of Brothers and add Generation Kill, an HBO adaptation of the book of the same name. Seven episodes following Marine 1st Recon in the second invasion of Iraq, as reported by a reporter for Rolling Stone. Excellent acting, great series. Perfectly wrapped up.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:20 PM on April 21, 2012

Definitely definitely The Wire (some people don't like the fifth season as much but I still think it was pretty great in its way). I held off watching a long time because of the exhausting hype and moralizing, but it is a really great entertaining show as well as being educational about social issues.

Someone recommended Veronica Mars -- be warned, the quality drop-off in the last season is pretty huge. The first season is perfect, and the second season is still pretty good, but then Veronica goes to college and things really do drop off, but I was always invested enough in Veronica and in Kristen Bell's performance to keep going.

Gilmore Girls is a bit up and down (the creator left and there was kind of a rough patch) but it wasn't as inconsistent as, say, Twin Peaks, and it definitely gets to tell the whole story and come to a really nice conclusion. I still cry every time I watch the finale.

If you loved Buffy and Firefly you probably will like Angel also, I can't speak to the ending because I'm midway through S4 right now. It actually gets better after the first season.

Pushing Daisies is also of a consistently high quality and they knew they were getting cancelled so it does get a proper ending.
posted by SoftRain at 6:29 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

JAG, 10 seasons. It had a rocky start, what with switching networks and all. But it stayed strong right up to the end.

Monk, 8 seasons. The change in cast not withstanding was an excellent show.
posted by zinon at 7:10 PM on April 21, 2012

Regarding juliaem's suggestions, I think Wonderfalls has a proper, satisfying ending. It was only one season and was cancelled early enough for the writers to write a proper ending. A great show. Highly recommended.

I think Pushing Daisies and Dead Like Me were cancelled after filming so their endings aren't as satisfying. However, there's no cliffhanger or anything since the writers knew the show was on the bubble. Personally, I think the endings are good for the circumstances, but they were not as satisfying as Wonderfalls. (The Dead Like Me movie made a couple of years after cancellation was terrible, so that didn't help.)

tldr: Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me, and Pushing Daises are all fantastic shows, but I think only Wonderfalls fits your criteria. And you should watch it.
posted by aloysius on the mixing boards at 7:52 PM on April 21, 2012

Nth-ing _Life_, two seasons of brilliance. I'd dispute _The Prisoner_; the finale episode is really ... something ..., but not a "proper, satisfying ending" by any means. My wife gets annoyed if I even bring it up.

Twin Peaks is a pretty odd example, because holy crap did that sucker ever drop off fast in the second season. (quick! find another villain!)
posted by silentbicycle at 8:38 PM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also: _Better Off Ted_, particularly if you liked _Arrested Development_. Two seasons, on Netflix.
posted by silentbicycle at 8:48 PM on April 21, 2012 [7 favorites]

Nthing Life. Best television I've ever watched. Also another vote for Boston Legal, and Band of Brothers (if allowed by your parameters).
posted by spinturtle at 9:02 PM on April 21, 2012

I absolutely agree with Six Feet Under. I'm re-watching it as we speak, and it's still amazing the second time through.
The Wire is also quite good although, as already stated, the last season is sort of downhill.

Star Trek:Deep Space Nine is painful for a few seasons, but after Sisko shaves his head, it gets better, and is actually quite deep and well thought out for season 5 and 6. Season 7 is kind of soap-operaey( if that's a word) but still good. If you can make it through 2 seasons of kind of bad, and one of not so good, I recommend it.
posted by Gargantuantoe at 11:43 PM on April 21, 2012

Came to say Monk. I was thrilled with that ending.

Also, I watch one anime every 5 years. It's not my style, so I can compare this show to others, but I found Deathnote very satisfying.
posted by CarlRossi at 11:57 PM on April 21, 2012

My guy has wall full of television here and he's suggested Smallville

Different tastes and all, but I wouldn't recommend Smallville. I watched every single episode and it started going down the pan around the time the writers ran out of original stories and started ripping off their favourite films (season 5 I think?).

The ending did wrap things up pretty well (which was partially why I kept with it) but it felt rushed and you had to get through a hell of a lot of really terrible stories to get there.
posted by mr_silver at 1:07 AM on April 22, 2012

The Killing. The original Danish one. The first season is spectacular, the second is excellent. Each is self-contained but they should be watched in order.
posted by tavegyl at 2:32 AM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Super agree about Slings and Arrows.
posted by ifjuly at 5:11 PM on April 22, 2012

You want to watch Six Feet Under. And if miniseries count, you want to watch Band of Brothers.
posted by teriyaki_tornado at 5:26 AM on April 23, 2012

Oooh, I'm amazed nobody mentioned Brit TV series Bodies. Brilliant from start to finish.
posted by Dragonness at 6:12 AM on April 23, 2012

Also. Definitely not Heroes. It's, like, the antithesis of what you're looking for.
posted by schmod at 8:19 AM on April 23, 2012

markblasco: "You might want to give Dollhouse a try since you listed other Joss Whedon stuff. It was canceled early, but they did resolve everything before the last episode"

Oh, and they had a weird contingency plan. (No major spoilers ahead)

If you watch to the end of the first season on DVD, you see the final episode, Epitaph One, which never aired during the show's original run, and is actually in sequence after the first season's finale. It's set 20 years in the future, and tells you in no uncertain terms how the show is supposed to end (but only gives you glimpses of specific details). To put things lightly, it's got a very different aesthetic from the rest of the show, and might be my favorite episode of the show's entire run.

I'm not sure if the episode originally came about as an alternative to the usual "We're being cancelled, let's wrap everything up in one episode" contingency, but it's absolutely brilliant. It even works really well if you watch it before the second season, because you begin to wonder how the characters and plot reach that end point. It's not a spoiler, even though you know exactly where things are headed. (And, hey, if the show did get cancelled, it's still an ending, albeit a mostly-unexplained one)

I have no idea why Fox didn't air it, and opted for a DVD-only release instead. It provides great framing for the trajectory of the second season.

Admittedly, I also watched Serenity before Firefly, and I don't think that ruined things either... I still wish that Firefly had a satisfying ending; I basically consider Serenity to almost be an entirely separate story.
posted by schmod at 8:41 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would definitely NOT recommend Undeclared, at least not in this instance. Wonderful show, but canceled abruptly with no resolutions whatsoever. I'm still mad all these years later!

Same goes for My So-Called Life - great show, but ended out of nowhere, with nothing resolved. Damnit!
posted by silverstatue at 8:59 AM on April 23, 2012

Paranoia Agent (if animation is allowed) 13 episodes and a definite conclusion. Another vote for cowboy bebop too.

Father Ted, comedy not drama but well worth a watch, 24 episodes
posted by chelegonian at 4:23 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Supernatural was a crappy popcorn show, but given I was watching Torchwood at the time, it compared favourably!*

The end of the first season where they all died in a car accident was actually pretty satisfying in a 'rocks fall, everybody dies!' kinda way.
Oh wait...
it has seven seasons now?

Sorry, read the above with snark goggles firmly on.

BSG would also have been way, way better ended half-way through the last season, when they thought it might have been ending due to the writers strike. Actually, it's kind of the show that proves your point for me. It was so good, and the ending was such a let-down that I no longer pay any attention to the show.

* Not hard. :P

How about miniseries, like Ultraviolet? Or Black Books? Three seasons, fun & satisfying.
posted by Elysum at 12:15 AM on April 24, 2012

YMMV on Dollhouse; the way the series ended seemed like they did it because they had to, not because that's how they would have ended it otherwise.
posted by ejaned8 at 10:27 AM on April 24, 2012

I must be the only one who couldn't get into Six Feet Under. I tried but ended up bailing in Season Three. I didn't like the characters.

I found The Wire was excellent, though the ending as some have mentioned was a little loose.

Deadwood is another one I loved, though it also had a so-so ending. I didn't mind it because like the Wire, there was so much to love. Same with Carnivale.

Rome had a very strong first season but only a so-so second season.

Finally, the show with the best ending - The Shield. Shakespearean is all I can say. The series itself had some slow parts, it ran for seven seasons but if you don't mind sticking with it, that ending oh boy.

Overall I would say for pure excellence, Deadwood and The Wire followed by Carnivale and the Shield.
posted by storybored at 9:35 PM on April 24, 2012

Just thought of another one I've raved about here before: The Thick of It. If you like political satire, Brit-style, there's nothing better.

And a hilarious New Zeland one: Flight of the Conchords.

Oh and a funny and endearing Brit one: Gavin & Stacey.

You can watch the latter two online on Amazon.
posted by Dragonness at 7:06 AM on April 25, 2012

Gilmore Girls
posted by cherrybounce at 4:21 PM on April 26, 2012

I can understand your sentiment. I'm not sure how satisfying the conclusion of Lost or BSG was so I think we may have slightly different tastes in tv shows. With that disclaimer, I really liked the show "damages". It definitely has a narrative that is strong throughout the first 4 seasons. It has very high production values and is enjoyable to watch. It has similar twists and touches on some sociological implications of people in power as does BSG. Also, it seems that it will be ended in a controlled manner with the upcoming season 5.

tl;dr version - Damages.

PS. This is my first post and I have tried to emulate style of mf message I like that link to interesting pages. Feedback is appreciated.

PS 2. Beware with the Lost and BSG links as they contain spoilers.
posted by uswestcool at 1:34 PM on April 28, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! We've started watching Six Feet Under and, four episodes in, are loving it. We'll be coming back to this thread again as soon as we're done. In fact, I'm sure it's a well we'll be returning to for years.
posted by 256 at 11:40 AM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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