Will the last episode of Mad Men live up to the hype?

Mad Men fans are gearing up for the final series — but how will it end for Don Draper? John Daly looks back at other iconic TV show finales.

Will the last episode of Mad Men live up to the hype?

IT’S going to be a slow, full-strength martini for fans of Mad Men as the series heads into its seventh, and final, season. For its final flourish, the series will be split into two sections of seven episodes each, with the first, entitled ‘The Beginning’, airing in April.

The show will screen in Ireland a few days after its US premiere. The final seven episodes, ‘The End of An Era’, will air in early 2015. Using the same split format that pulled in 10m viewers for the Breaking Bad last tango in 2013, the series has time to tie up all loose ends, and, hopefully, design a fitting end for Don Draper and his Madison Avenue rat pack.

“We plan to take advantage of this chance to have a more elaborate story told in two parts, which can resonate a little bit longer in the minds of our audience,” said creator, Matthew Weiner.

As with all great TV shows that have captured huge audiences, the burning question is how Weiner will frame that last sequence in the final episode. Will he leave us perplexed, as happened in The Sopranos, or will every box be ticked in an emotionally satisfying way, as with The Wire?

Despite multiple successful seasons, the final episode will define Mad Men’s cultural epitaph.

SEINFELD

When Jerry and George took Kramer and Elaine on a private plane trip to Paris, to celebrate their last hurrah, it was bound to end in tears. Kramer got jiggy in the cabin, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in a small Massachusetts town, where the quartet broke a law by laughing at the locals — which they had been doing in New York for years. In court, they faced all their tormentors from the past, including the Soup Nazi, Babu, Mr Pitt, Puddy, Uncle Leo and Sidra — “yes, they are real, and they’re spectacular.”

Accused of ‘criminal indifference’, they faced the full rigours of the law. “I do not know how, or under what circumstances, the four of you found each other,” the judge said. “But I can think of nothing more fitting than for the four of you to spend a year removed from society, so that you can contemplate the manner in which you have conducted yourselves. I know I will.” Good luck and good night.

FRIENDS

After 235 episodes, these six Big Apple friends of ours finally outgrew Central Perk and looked to distant, grown-up horizons. Monica and Chandler got their surrogate baby, except it was double their expectations — “We only ordered one.” Joey stayed a true-blue New Yorker, and got a new duck to ease the sorrow of farewell. Ross and Rachel finally got their act together and gave into the love that was obvious to everyone else — and departed with a wild ride to the airport in Phoebe’s taxi. As the gang threw their keys on Monica’s apartment table, Joey said: “Has it always been purple?” 52m viewers wondered the same thing.

THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW

Always the poor relation of Seinfeld, this clever take on the warped world of late-night talk shows ended its six-year run, in 1998, with the panache its loyal fan base had come to expect.

A show that frequently featured the best of Hollywood talent, including Sarah Silverman, David Letterman, Ben Stiller, Alec Baldwin and Adam Sandler, it pulled out the stops. The final episode, ‘Flip’, featured a stand-up row between the musicians, Tom Petty and Clint Black, in the green room; a visit from Jerry Seinfeld; a cameo from Warren Beatty; and an hilarious encounter between Bruno Kirby and Greg Kinnear. “I hope we beat Leno,” says Larry, walking slowly into the bright Californian sunshine.

ER

Cook County General had us at ‘hello’ from the first episode in 1994, right up to the emotionally wrenching grand finale 15 years later, in 2009. Created by the late Michael Crichton, the show had gone through many transformations and characters — leaving a tough job for the epitaph. As it had done so many times before, the ER got hammered with a major emergency and a brood of favourite characters returned for a final look around their old healing grounds. Mark Greene’s daughter, Rachel, toured the rooms where her late father had saved countless lives, and swapped tales with Drs John Carter, Peter Benton, Kerry Weaver, Elizabeth Corday, and Susan Lewis. Sadly, George Clooney did not appear in the last episode — disappointing millions of fans, a few of them women, perhaps.

FRASIER

After eleven years of public and personal psychoanalysis, Frasier Crane hung up his talk-show mike for the last time and opted to leave his comfort zone of Seattle.

The episode opened with him sharing his life story with a stranger on a plane — who, it turned out, was also a psychiatrist. Niles and Daphne had a baby, Dad Martin and Ronee get married in a vet’s surgery, and somebody new took over that old, familiar chair at the radio station. It all ended back where it started, with Frasier finishing his story, and revealing he was following the love of his life, Charlotte, to Chicago. “Wish me luck,” he smiled — and we did.

M*A*S*H

Who knew war could be so funny? After eleven years of hi-jinks on the medical frontline of the Korean War, the guys and gals of the 4077th finally got to go home.

The two-and-a-half hour episode, on February 28, 1983, remains one of the highest-rated endings ever. With plenty of banter and wacky wit, this long goodbye was more of a hug-fest than anything, and saved the biggest emotional punch for the final scene. As Hawkeye took off in a helicopter, he glanced out the window to see a message from BJ, his brother in scalpels. Written in stones on the chopper pad was a single word: ‘goodbye.’

NEWHART

Famous for its subtle humour and weird characters, this series about a New York author who decamps to rural Vermont to run a B&B opted for ‘the Bobby Ewing’ scenario for its final check-out. Newhart got one of TV’s best closing lines in the final scene. Waking up next to actress Suzanne Pleshette, who had played his wife 15 years earlier in a different sitcom, The Bob Newhart Show, he said: “Honey, you won’t believe the dream I just had.” Brilliant.

SEX AND THE CITY

Bit of a let down, really, with Mr Big galloping in on his white horse — well, okay, a United Airlines 747 — to rescue his lady love from the cold stares of a thousand Parisians .

Having stepped in dog doo-doo, literally, by going there in the first place with her Russian-installation artist, she’s swept off her feet and carried back to the Big Apple by the man whose first name we finally learned was John. Not the edgy ending we’d wanted, but a reasonable way to bid adieu.

CHEERS

The best ending of them all. The final bow of this Boston bar — the episode was called ‘One For The Road’ — brought sentimentality, sarcasm and a dollop of whimsy as part of the pleasure. Shelley Long returned as Diane, the love of Sam’s life, after six years away. The pair nearly ran away to a new life together, before Sam got sense and hopped behind the beer taps once more. “You could never be unfaithful to your one true love,” said Norm. In the very last scene, a stranger knocked on the saloon door: “Sorry, we’re closed,” said Sam, for the last time. Fade out.

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