So, in writing my review of "The Shield" finale, I'm going out on a limb and declaring it my favorite drama series finale ever. This prompted a question from my editor about what other finales I would put in my top 5. "The Wire" is definitely on there (though, as with all things "The Wire," it was more of a cumulative achievement than anything in one particular episode). I'm also fond of the polarizing finales for both "The Sopranos" and "St. Elsewhere," and am considering "Six Feet Under" just for the final montage.
The problem with doing this kind of list is that most great series -- drama or comedy -- don't have great finales, because they tend to be on for so long that they lose all creative momentum, or because they try something big in the finale that doesn't work. (For the comedy equivalent of this, see the "Seinfeld" finale.)
While I wrestle with my list (and my review), I'm curious for some of your picks. They must be series finales, so suggestions like "The 'Friday Night Lights' season one finale, and pretend the rest of the series didn't exist" (that one courtesy of Fienberg) don't help.