20 TV Shows That Ended at Just The Right Time


Knowing when it is time to pull the cord on a TV show is tricky. As a showrunner, it’s exciting to want to ride the wave of success for as long as possible. However, dragging things on for too long can tarnish a show’s otherwise outstanding legacy. This is why it is important for shows to never overstay their welcome.




More shows than we care to admit suffer from pushing their creativity a little too far and stumbling into another new season with little development to work on. The 20 TV series on this list deserve special praise for going against the contemporary trend for bowing out gracefully, and on time. Instead of stretching the narratives thin and clinging on too tight to its former sparks, these shows left audiences satisfied with their endings.

From fan-favorite comedies to nail-biting crime dramas, from science-fiction thrillers to profound period pieces, these pioneers of television refused to overstay their welcome. Instead, they delivered tautly-paced and well-narrated stories from beginning to end, maintaining the intrigue and concluding character arcs naturally.


20 Dark (2017-2020)

Dark

Release Date
December 1, 2017

Cast
Tamar Pelzig , Louis Hofmann , Moritz Jahn , Stephan Kampwirth , Christian Hutcherson , Karoline Eichhorn , Andreas Pietschmann , Maja Schöne , Deborah Kaufmann , Oliver Masucci , Jordis Triebel , Peter Benedict

Seasons
3


This German science fiction thriller amazed fans with its convoluted plot and tough-to-keep-track-of-time jumps. Set in a town named Winden, Dark follows the interconnected stories of four generations of families. Its story begins in the present day, when the disappearance of two children reveals the town’s long-buried secrets, as well as a time-travel conspiracy.

Tangled Timelines and Buried Secrets

The only correct way to watch Dark is to binge it. The show’s narrative is quite delicate and its characters complex. While each episode does an astounding job of peeling back the layers of its central mystery, the series could have easily become dreary and unsatisfying had it gone on for longer than three seasons. Instead, Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar demonstrate their impeccable storytelling skills but bring things to a full circle, where a huge crisis is averted and a gratifying conclusion is delivered. Stream on Netflix.


19 Mr. Robot (2015-2019)

mr robot

mr robot

Release Date
June 24, 2015

Seasons
4

Set in an alternate present, where Elliot Alderson, a young programmer, is approached by an underground hacker group because they want to recruit him, Mr. Robot is among the few shows that portray hacking and cybersecurity with realism. Elliot, however, struggles with anxiety and is socially awkward, and the opportunity evokes within him a sense of purpose. Soon, the real mission of the group is revealed and Elliot must decide the price he is willing to pay in order to change the world.


Mind-Bending Thriller About Technology

Mr. Robot has one of the best pilot episodes of all time. So it is only fitting that the series would go out with a bang. For four remarkable seasons, the show reveled in the emotive performances of Rami Malek and Christian Slater, who anchored its complex examination of mental health issues with dexterity. Not only does the series address its protagonist’s fragmented psyche, but it also delivers constant thrills and dark twists. And by the time it ends, fans are pretty satisfied with the story arcs. Stream on Prime Video.

18 Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008)


The only animated action series on this list, Avatar: The Last Airbender is set in a war-torn world that is divided between four nations, namely, Fire Nation, Earth Kingdom, Water Tribes and Air Nomads. Hostile towards one another, they’re anticipating an end because the Fire Nation has waged a war. Twelve-year-old Aang, who is the last surviving Airbending, has been frozen in ice for 100 years. But he is the only one who can master all four elements and fulfill his destiny as someone responsible for restoring peace in the world.

Culturally Impactful Animation Series

Receiving widespread acclaim for its cultural references, outstanding voice acting, art direction, and clever use of humor, Avatar: The Last Airbender was a flourishing fantasy series. With no source material to lean on, the creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko had practically no constraints in creativity, representation, and longevity. And yet, they resolved the climactic war between nations by having Aang succeed in his quest. Meanwhile, the series also imparted timeless lessons about life, friendships, and courage. Stream on Netflix.


Related: 10 Animated TV Shows Barely Anyone Remembers

17 Mad Men (2007-2015)

Mad Men Poster

Mad Men

Release Date
July 19, 2007

Seasons
7

A period drama that transports you to the 1960s and early 1970s, Mad Men follows advertising executive Don Draper, who leads the fictional Sterling Cooper and drives it to great heights at Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Behind the veneer of his glorious professional life, Don hides a secret and traumatic past even he cannot completely remember. As he consistently tries to reinvent himself in the changing world, Don also indulges into the vices of the Golden Age.


A Time Capsule of ‘60s Advertising Industry

Shot with gorgeous detail and introspective adult drama, Mad Men gifted television with some of the most richly textured portraits of humanity. While known for Jon Hamm’s exceptional and insightful depiction of the character, Matthew Weiner’s drama also thrives in its deep layers and creative storytelling. According to fans, the series did not overstay its welcome by using unnecessary plot twists or gimmicks, and instead left on an ambiguous, sentimental, and thought-provoking note. Stream on AMC+.

16 Orphan Black (2013-2017)

orphan black

Orphan Black

Release Date
March 30, 2013

Seasons
5

Studio
BBC America

Before she stunned everyone in Marvel’s She-Hulk, Tatiana Maslany delivered a powerhouse performance by playing multiple characters in Orphan Black. The science-fiction thriller revolves around Maslany’s streetwise con artist Sarah as she witnesses a woman, who looks exactly like her, taking her own life. After assuming the dead woman’s identity, she tries to get to the bottom of this mystery and discovers some hard truths about clones and how they are part of a bigger conspiracy.


Tatiana Maslany’s Powerful Breakout Role

Raising the stakes and heightening the drama with each episode, Orphan Black fueled its own amazing premise. Of course, Maslany’s complex heroine deserves all the praise for making this a thrilling ride, but what’s more interesting is that by the time the suspenseful finale arrives, we see her crossing paths with complex clones and violent foes.

Now, if visionary writer Graeme Manson and director John Fawcett wanted, they could introduce more seasons and newer conspiracies, but they put a satisfying full stop to it at the perfect time. Stream on AMC+.

15 12 Monkeys (2015-2018)


Another TV show that combines time travel and science fiction, 12 Monkeys is loosely based on Terry Gilliam’s 1995 movie of the same name. It takes you to 2043 and introduces you to a scavenger named James Cole. His mission is to travel back in time, all the way to 2015, and track down the mysterious ‘Army of the 12 Monkeys,’ who are responsible for spreading a deadly virus on Earth and ending almost all of the human race.

Masterpiece of Time Travel

12 Monkeys is all about preventing an apocalypse and saving humanity. But it is also a character-driven drama that pushes narrative boundaries and achieves new storytelling heights over four seasons. Created by Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett, the series features great special effects and enthralling plot twists, something Gillaim would be proud of. Another thing that the science-fiction series gets right is that it does not overstay its welcome and maintains the standard by ending gracefully. Stream on Hulu.


14 The Americans (2013-2018)

A gripping period spy drama, The Americans centers around the lives of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings who live as an ordinary American couple, raising a family in the suburb of Washington, D.C. But the truth is that they are trained KGB intelligence officers maintaining their marriage as cover while trying to spy on the American government. Because the show is set at the height of the Cold War, there’s also mention of shifting politics and unexpected infiltrations.


Tense Spy Drama Set During the Cold War

The Americans delivers one of the greatest finale episodes of the 21st century. By first crafting an unassuming portrait of marriage and then making it collapse under the strain of ideologies and politics, it commands the small screen and touches many fans. Across six seasons, the show maintains its authentic and realistic edge. What’s impressive is the masterful conclusion, aptly titled ‘START,’ which sees Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell’s characters escaping to Russia. Stream on Hulu.

13 Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

In its six-year run, Breaking Bad created a daunting legacy for itself. Its gritty premise saw a down-on-his-luck chemistry teacher, Walter White, being diagnosed with lung cancer. With an unwavering desire to provide his family the financial security he never could, he uses his scientific knowledge and launches an underground meth empire. He also partners up with Jesse Pinkman, a former student, and transforms into a ruthless crime lord and scientist, Heisenberg.


Perfects its Anti-Hero Like No Other

Breaking Bad had a competitive advantage over other crime dramas in that it found Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul to play its fraught and haunting main characters. Their searing performances were layered with the looming threat of White’s descent into one of fiction’s most perfect anti-heroes. By its taut conclusion, White comes to realize the truth about his unrelenting wrongs and face the consequences – but in his own tragic way. Something every TV classic should aim for. Stream on Netflix.

12 Atlanta (2016-2022)

Atlanta poster

atlanta

Release Date
September 6, 2016

Seasons
4


There aren’t many dramas out there that offer a timely reflection of hip hop culture and its correlation with the American Dream while also being steadily refreshing. Atlanta, created by and starring Donald Glover, is one of a kind. It follows college dropout Earn, who bounces between odd jobs while also managing his rapper cousin Alfred, known as “Paper Boi.” As the two navigate the local hip hop scene, they also try to hold love and friendship close.

There’s Nothing Donald Glover Can’t Do

Atlanta provided Brian Tyree Henry, Lakieth Stanfield, and Zazie Beetz the stage to showcase their talent in the most surreal and stylish ways. As Glover shone light on the struggles faced by communities seldom portrayed truthfully on screen, the drama also plunged you into the rap grind with a playful lens. The show lasted a little over 40 episodes, and while fans would have loved more of its mind-bending magic, its status as one of television’s most vibrant shows is held because Atlanta did not overstay its welcome. Stream on Hulu.


Related: Atlanta: How Does the Series Fit Into the Modern TV Landscape?

11 The Leftovers (2014-2017)

Adapted from a novel of the same name written by Tom Perrotta, this supernatural drama series transports you to a world where 2% of the Earth’s population suddenly disappears. With no explanation or cause whatsoever, the left-over citizens of a small suburb grieve and try to continue living in a world forever changed. At the center of it all is police chief Kevin Garvey and his family, who face strange cults and scary phenomena as a consequence.


Unfolds Like a Puzzle Box

The Leftovers comprises three fascinating and meditative seasons. By drawing inspiration from a beloved novel, creators Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta craft one of television’s most absorbing tales of all time. The series boasts an outstanding writing and brilliant performances, with the themes of loss and faith often being layered with the overarching ambiguous mystery. The series finale resolves any confusion there was around the whole premise and leaves the audiences with emotional truths and no cliffhangers. Stream on Max.

10 Schitt’s Creek (2015-2020)

In Schitt’s Creek, the formerly wealthy Rose family finds themselves completely broke after their business manager misappropriates their funds and assets. Now left with nothing but a small rural town that the Rose family patriarch, Johnny, bought for his son, David, years ago as a joke, they are forced to relocate. But because the community is nothing like they’ve seen or experienced or mingled with before, the Roses must learn to adapt and embrace their new life.


Refreshing Fish-Out-Of-Water Comedy

Throughout its run (and until much later) Schitt’s Creek remained critically underrated, and even within the entire series, it was the final two seasons that resonated with fans most. Watching the Rose family thrown into a fish-out-of-water plight and transform into loving acceptance was heartfelt and satisfying. From Annie Murphy’s Alexis stealing hearts as the emotionally evolved daughter to David finding love in the form of Patrick, the quaint little series bids the perfect farewell, at the perfect time. Stream on Hulu.


9 Parks and Recreation (2009 – 2015)

Another popular mockumentary sitcom (second only to The Office), Parks and Recreation follows Leslie Knope, the deputy director of the parks department in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. All Leslie wants is to make her town a better place. So she faces bureaucratic obstacles and, in spite of her less-than-supportive staff, only to work hard to achieve her dreams for the community.

Addictive, Funny, and Always Enjoyable

Parks and Recreation went on for seven golden seasons. Led by Amy Poehler, it features an outstanding ensemble of characters. At its core, the political satire is about the power of public service and activism, and when such themes are stretched out too long, they run a risk of losing their luster. Compared to the first episode, Leslie is in a much better and influential position in the end, with other characters also having accomplished their future feats. Thus, it was only ideal for the feel-good comedy to end when it did. Stream on Peacock Premium.


8 Ted Lasso (2020-2023)

ted lasso

Ted Lasso

Release Date
April 14, 2020

Seasons
3

For those looking for a lighter, more optimistic drama, Ted Lasso unlocks some poignant life lessons while also delivering comedy-infused sports action. The titular character is an American football coach hired to manage a fictional British soccer team. Despite having no experience or knowledge of the sport, he makes up for all of it with an underdog spirit. Even though the players are skeptical about his methods, Ted ends up bringing out the best in them.


Heartwarming Sports Drama

With his role as Ted, Jason Sudeikis charmed the world for three brilliant seasons. He used his wit, wisdom, and sincerity both on and off-screen to make the series an uplifting one. Towards the end of the show, he took AFC Richmond to second place in the English Premier League, which is by far their highest achievement. He also returns to America to spend more time with his son. By saying farewell at its peak, Ted Lasso walked the comedic high-wire and inspired sentiment in fans. Stream on Apple TV.

Related: These Are Some of the Best Fish Out of Water TV Shows

7 The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017-2023)

Miriam “Midge” Maisel lives the ideal life on New York’s Upper West Side. She has the perfect husband, doting in-laws and two kids to look after. But when her husband, Joel, suddenly leaves, her life changes, and she discovers a newfound talent for stand-up comedy. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel sees Midge become a performer in the 1950s, when the industry was dominated by men and the societal expectations for women were different.


Delights You With its Retro Setting

Writer and creator Amy Sherman-Palladino brings the same quick-witted dialogue and charismatic characters as her previous The WB hit, Gilmore Girls. Over five critically acclaimed seasons, she conjures up the visual splendor of retro NYC – from loud costumes to fancy hats – and pulls the audiences in.

Rachel Brosnahan is simply dazzling as the feminist trailblazer whose one-liners elicit endless laughter. By bidding adieu at the right time, the show leaves an unforgettable impression on small screen content. Stream on Prime Video.

6 Derry Girls (2018-2022)

Derry Girls

Derry Girls

Release Date
December 21, 2018

Cast
Saoirse-Monica Jackson , Louisa Harland , Tara Lynne O’Neill , Kathy Kiera Clarke , Tommy Tiernan

Seasons
3


Derry Girls is a criminally underrated coming-of-age comedy series. Based on the true events that took place in the 1990s, it takes you to Northern Ireland and follows the misadventures and mishaps caused by Erin and her cousin Orla, and their friends Clare and Michelle, and her English cousin James. The sectarian tension caused by The Troubles makes them scarred and uncertain, but the girls never fail to get into antics that are both charming and relatable.

Weaves Its Way Through The Troubles

Written by Lisa McGee and directed by Michael Lennox, Derry Girls is a deftly-paced and well-acted series. Across three short and sweet seasons, it delivers both absurdity and political commentary through the eyes of the youth in Derry.

While the young actors’ breakneck timing and defiant actions took center stage in the series, it was also about a volatile time in their lives that was beyond their control. Which is why it is only fitting that Derry Girls ends with the Good Friday Agreement, an important poll in the history of Northern Ireland. Stream on Netflix.


5 Six Feet Under (2001-2005)

An ensemble drama that is made to leave you in tears, Six Feet Under centers around the Fishers. Led by Nathaniel Fisher Sr., they are an eccentric family who run a funeral home in Los Angeles. Before his untimely death, he passes the reins to his sons Nathaniel Samuel Jr and David. Every episode introduces itself by beginning with a death and eventually diving into the personal and professional lives of the Fisher clan.


Adds Layers of Nuance Until the Very End

With one well-executed season after the other, this groundbreaking drama balanced deeply resonant character stories, profound emotion, dark humor, and complex family dynamics with care and precision. Created by Alan Ball for HBO and starring Michael C. Hall and Peter Krause, its bittersweet story often centered around the fates of the Fisher family, and when their relationships had found an elevated truth, Six Feet Under departed without ever feeling strained. Stream on Max.

4 The Good Place (2016-2020)


It is appalling how robbed The Good Place has been of the Emmys despite it winning universal acclaim. Its premise centers around Eleanor Shellstrop, a saleswoman who leads a morally questionable life on Earth. She arrives in the afterlife and is sent to the Good Place, where she hides in plain sight among kind and virtuous people who genuinely belong to the place. After a bunch of twists and revelations, she experiences personal growth and eventually peace.

Feels Like a Tender and Comforting Hug

The Good Place was a total hit on NBC. Under the sharp guidance of showrunner Mike Schur, the series brought joy and laughter to the viewers. Its philosophically-infused narrative not only provided big-hearted lessons but also led us to ponder the afterlife. The series concluded after four seasons, which is also when it was revealed that the “Good Place” wasn’t good after all.

However, its experimentation led to certain characters restoring their optimism and ability to grow and making for an appropriate and timely ending. Stream on Netflix.


3 The Wire (2002-2008)

The Wire poster

The Wire

Release Date
June 2, 2002

Seasons
5

Set against the most realistic backdrop of Baltimore, Maryland, The Wire is an iconic crime drama that dissects the city and its residents, mainly blue-collar street cops, and their relationship with criminals, dockworkers, city politicians, journalists, and addicts. Through interweaving storylines, the show shines a light on all of society’s failures – from the destructive drug war and corruption within institutions to the lack of an education system and poor infrastructure.


Groundbreaking in Every Sense

Based on David Simon’s own experiences as a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, The Wire’s central aim is to be real to not just the seedy underbelly of the city, but also to the portrayal of the media on television. The landmark HBO series crafted an array of indelible characters, like Dominic West’s Detective James McNulty and Idris Elba’s Stringer Bell, across five rich, deep, and textured seasons. When the final season rolled out, Simon knew the story had come to its natural and honest conclusion. Stream on Max.

2 Fleabag (2016-2019)

Fleabag

Fleabag

Release Date
July 21, 2016

Seasons
2

Adapted from her one-woman show performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival back in 2013, Fleabag is Phoebe Waller-Bridge at her absolute best. The comedy series follows a young woman – dry-witted, angry, grieving, but viciously funny – who comes undone after her best friend’s death. By juggling job woes, embarrassing encounters, and dysfunctional relationships with the family, Fleabag continues to move forward on her bizarre journey of self-discovery.


Waller-Bridge’s Raw and Brilliant Tragicomedy

Still a fan favorite almost half a decade after its premiere, Fleabag is a gut-wrenching piece of comedy that won fans over with just two seasons. Waller-Bridge’s unmatched performance deserves credit for being at the center of this tragicomic masterpiece; her writing sublime and her character relatable. Towards the end, the series ties all loose ends.

The Priest officiates the wedding of Godmother and Dad, and redefines love and marriage and “happily ever after,” and he and Fleabag have a confession moment, after which she tells the audience they cannot follow her on her path anymore. She denies the temptation to overstay her welcome then and there. Stream on Prime Video.

1 Succession (2018-2023)


After their patriarch, Logan Roy, steps down from the throne and his grip on the company loosens, the Roy family’s lives become ruthlessly delicate and competitive. With the anticipation of who will take control of Waystar RoyCo, the powerful media and entertainment conglomerate, there is more manipulation and maneuvering of power and politics than ever before.

A High-Stakes Family Saga

For four seasons, we see plenty of backstabbing and betrayals fueled by greed, fear, and ambition. Apparently, that’s exactly what creator Jesse Armstrong had in mind for HBO’s savage satire of wealth and power. Succession is an intoxicating comedy drama, and its core lies in fleshing out the truth about American dynastic decline.

With the kind of plot twists and moral dilemma skewered in season 3 and season 4, it was only fitting for the show to end when it did. When the Roys’ fates met their dire epilogue, the drama cemented itself as one of the greatest of the 21st century. Stream on Max.




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