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Gunsmoke's last episode: The Sharecroppers, March 31, 1975 Written by Earl Wallace, Directed by Leonard Katzman, Guest Cast: Susanne Benton, Victor French, Terry Williams, Jacques Aubuchon, Brtice Boxtleitner, Lisa Eilbacher, Graham Jarvis

Top final episodes of all time:

Accordning to, here are prime-time TV’s whopper windups, with the household ratings in parentheses:

1. “M*A*S*H,” CBS, Feb. 28, 1983 (60.3) – The saga of the men and women of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital ended with the sound of helicopters lifting them out of Korea and back to their civilian lives. The series had been averaging 22.6 million viewers, so it was not a surprise when the audience exceeded 100 million for the last goodbye. With numbers that large, CBS rushed a sequel, “After M*A*S*H” into production. It lasted 15 months.

2. “The Fugitive,” ABC, Aug. 29, 1967 (45.9) – For a relatively brief run (1963-1967), this series captured an audience that was large and loyal. It averaged 27.2 million viewers in the early 1960s – better than “The Beverly Hillbillies.” The finale left TV America buzzing for weeks. CBS in 2000 revived “The Fugitive” with Tim Daly playing Kimble. It was gone in less than a year.

3. “Cheers,” NBC, May 20, 19 93 (45.5) – In the finale, Sam (Ted Danson) and Diane (Shelley Long) tried one more time to be a couple, and again, it didn’t take. Sam was set to follow Diane to California then backed out. In the classic last scene, Sam shuts down Cheers, turning away a customer at the door by saying, “Sorry. We’re closed.”

4. “Seinfeld,” NBC, May 14, 1998 (41.3) – The last episode is best forgotten. Written by co-creator Larry David, it put Jerry, Kramer, George and Elaine in Massachusetts, where they see a carjacking. They fail to report it, violating the town’s Good Samaritan law, and thereby earn a year in jail. Characters who were insulted by the four over the years – hello, Newman – testified against them at the trial. The finish felt flat from beginning to end.

5. “Magnum P.I.,” CBS, May 1, 1988 (32.0) – The producers expected the series to end in 1987, so they had Magnum (Tom Selleck) shot dead and headed for heaven. Upon the series’ renewal, Magnum was back, but in a temporary coma. The series ended with him visiting “Tidewater, Virginia,” leaving the private-eye business for another hitch in the Navy and a reunion with his daughter.

6. “The Cosby Show,” NBC, April 30, 1992 (28.0) – Nice closing here. Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad, who played Cliff and Clair Huxtable, danced together as time ran out – danced right off the set and onto the soundstage where the show was taped. The last episode focused on the graduation of Theo (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) with Cliff being miffed at the commencement arrangements.

7. “All in the Family,” CBS, April 8, 1979 (26.6) – The breakthrough comedy ended in one form early in 1979 with Archie Bunker’s wife, Edith, dying of a stroke, and then continued until 1983 in another format. Carroll O’Connor continued with his character in 97 episodes of “Archie Bunker’s Place.”

8. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” CBS, March 19, 1977 (25.5) – This sitcom produced the most-talked-about last moment as the gang at WJM-TV departs with a group hug and a tearful version of “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.” The station changed hands, and except for pompous anchorman Ted Baxter (Ted Knight), the people in the newsroom presided over by Lou Grant (Edward Asner) were let go. Grant’s last words: “I cherish you people.”

9. “Dallas,” CBS, May 3, 1991 (22.0) – J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) loses Ewing Oil; his son, John Ross, leaves him to live with his mother, and brother Bobby ends up with Southfork. J.R. contemplates suicide. The “Who shot J.R.?” revelation on Nov. 21,1980, had 80 percent of U.S. viewers watching. In the last episode – No. 356 – Joel Grey plays an angel who shows J.R. how the world would be if he hadn’t been born.

(Thanks to Joe McGrenra)