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Last Updated: Friday, 30 May, 2003, 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK
TV's strangest endings

By William Gallagher
BBC News Online

This lot were all a dream too, it seems
One of the UK's most well-known soaps, Crossroads, ended with a shock for viewers - it was all a dream. BBC News Online looks back at desperate endings to TV series.

So Jane Asher dreamt the whole of Crossroads: you knew she was talented, now you know she naps a lot.

The now twice-cancelled soap has gone out on a gag finish that makes you suspect it is a way of sticking a couple of fingers up at the people who cancelled it - and if that is the case, Crossroads joins a distinguished tradition.

The Colbys, a spin-off of Dynasty that ran from 1985 to just 1987, chose to end its final episode with its main character Fallon (Emma Samms) being abducted by aliens.

If it was to make trouble for Dynasty, however, it failed: Fallon returned immediately without a scratch or any evidence of extraterrestrial interference and the parent series took her back without question.


By far the best series finale in this line, however, was St Elsewhere's in 1988: the superb hospital drama packed out its last episode with endless in-jokes and references including one of a fat lady who needed treatment for her lost voice.

Nuclear explosion
The ultimate ending: Sledge Hammer! hit desperate measures
As soon as Dr Fiscus (Howie Mandel) cured her and the fat lady sang, the show was over - except for a spooky last scene in which the entire six years of the drama were revealed to have been imagined by Dr Westphall's autistic son.

More, since St Elsewhere featured a crossover episode with Cheers and some characters later appeared in Homicide: Life on The Street, the boy imagined those shows and maybe more too.

"Someone did the math once," said producer Tom Fontana in 2002, "and something like 90 per cent of all television took place in Tommy Westphall's mind. God love him."

There can often be unexpected consequences like this, especially when your big final episode turns out to not be your final one at all.

Begging for viewers

In 1987 there was no doubt whatever that ABC's satirical police comedy Sledge Hammer! was finished: the ratings were so poor that in the last episode characters begged for viewers.

With tongue even more in cheek than usual, the producers upped the violence and gratuitously introduced scantily-clad women while all the time telling us direct to camera that this is what they were doing and that it was to improve ratings.

Fatalistically, they ended the episode with policeman Sledge defusing a nuclear bomb - and failing.

So when the show unexpectedly got a second season, the first episode had to open with a caption: "Five Years Earlier".

In the same way, few remember now that Magnum, PI, was killed in the final episode and we even saw him go to heaven.

But the reason no one remembers is that, once again, the show was picked up for another year and the producers had to backtrack madly: it was a dream, they said.

We've seen that before, haven't we?

Crossroads 'was all a dream'
30 May 03  |  Entertainment
ITV drops Crossroads
10 Mar 03  |  Entertainment

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