When did season finales become an "Event"?

CoryCory New Scotland
Story arcs will obviously play a big part in this.

I think of shows in the 80s and early 90s, thank ST: TNG for an example.  Standalone episodes, the two big finales were "Best of Both Worlds Part 1", which ends on a cliffhanger and is not part of a long-standing (particularly season long) arc.  Failing a bit shy of my criteria.
"All Good Things" is the other big finale, but it was also the series finale, so while it did wrap things up, it wasn't the ending to a long-running arc.

I don't remember DS9 or Voyager having big season finales outside of the series finales.

I guess my criteria is a season-long arc that concludes in the season finale (or penultimate episode like GoT).

Buffy was the first show that fit this criterion and set the standard for me.  Many of its successor series on the WB/UPN/CW adopted this style.

HBO gravitated towards this style as well.  I know "The Sopranos"  had story arcs, but not sure about big finales.  I feel "The Wire" fits it pretty well though (season-long investigations that wraps up in the season finales).  True Blood, GoT, True Detective followed this style for the most part as well.

Most, if not all Netflix (and I assume Starz and Prime, from my experience at least) follow it as well.

What's the first show you remember following this pattern?  And/or what do you remember about the evolution of long arcs concluding in big finales?


  • I'm not sure if this is answering your question per se, but the series finale of MASH was massive.  It sort of was a 'season finale' as we think of them now because it was an episodic and not serialized show so the last episode was the defacto season finale of the entire series.

    Another big on was the "Who Shot JR?" season finale of Dallas.  That I can think of, that's the first huge cliffhanger season finale where fans had to wait all summer to guess and theorize - speculating who shot JR became a cultural phenomenon for 3-4 months.
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