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Published: Saturday, 5/6/2006

Long-running TV shows sign off with finales

BY ROB OWEN
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE
<i>That '70s Show</i> ends May 18. <i>That '70s Show</i> ends May 18.
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After limping along with what some viewers feel have been too many reruns, the 2005-06 TV season comes to a close this month with cliffhangers galore.

Some are intentional (Lost), and others are a byproduct of low ratings (will Boston Legal or One Tree Hill return?).

What we know for certain is that these shows won't be back:

Or do we? This is the only series that could get a reprieve if the newly formed CW network opts to un-cancel this family drama.

If not, the Camden clan has certainly had a long enough run (10 years, making it the longest-running family drama on TV; take that, The Waltons!). The Rev and his wife (Stephen Collins and Catherine Hicks) sheltered an almost uncountable number of boarders while tackling issues both personal (sex, drugs, relationships galore) and societal (racism, religious persecution).

Hail to the chiefs.

Some fans would love to see this series continue under President Santos (Jimmy Smits) after President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) begins building his library, but NBC's suicidal move of the series to Sunday nights ruled that out. One of the classiest TV dramas of all time, The West Wing will be fondly remembered.

Although they were generally thought of as dysfunctional, this family without a last name was more unusual for its representation of a lower middle-class family in prime time. With all the hijinks, that was easy to miss.

In the series finale, Malcolm (Frankie Muniz) graduates from high school, and his mother, Lois (Jane Kaczmarek), reveals she's been plotting to prepare him to be elected president of the United States all along.

Ashton Kutcher's gone, but his Kelso will return for the series finale as the kids ring in 1980.

The Forman house will be put up for sale as this sitcom ends, and it's about time. The show was set in 1976 when it began eight years ago, so it long ago outlasted the decade in its title.

Some critics carped about the overreliance on guest stars, and parents chafed at the sexual innuendo this show got away with, but when this zany comedy about four friends (Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes, and Megan Mullally), two of them gay, was at its best, it was a comedy powerhouse.

Those stellar episodes became fewer and further between as time went on, but there's no denying this year's Sound of Music sing-along episode was a total hoot.

After last year's season finale that seemed like a perfect series-ender, Charmed was unexpectedly renewed. No such magic this time as the witches depart along with their network.

Don't hold your breath for a Shannen Doherty cameo in the finale, although her deceased character, Prue Halliwell, may get a shout out.

Because no one ever seems to stay dead on this series, it should come as no surprise that the deceased clone of Francie (Merrin Dungey) will be back for the series finale, which, given the title "All the Time in the World," will likely end with Sydney (Jennifer Garner) and Vaughn (Michael Vartan) happily striding into the series' sunset.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rob Owen is TV editor for the Post-Gazette.

Contact him at: rowen@post-gazette.com.



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