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Parting is such sweet sorrow. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the "Top 10 Saddest TV Goodbyes."
For this list, we’ll be taking a look at the most tear-jerking farewells from scripted television shows. We’ve excluded goodbyes that involve death, since we already have a list for that. Oh, and since we’ll be giving away a few plot details, a spoiler alert is in order.
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#10: Ann Perkins & Chris Traeger—Parks and Recreation
This power couple’s departure was LITERALLY heartbreaking. With a baby on the way, Ann longs to be closer to her family, so she decides to move to Michigan, and Chris agrees to go with her. While Leslie is sad to see them go, she sends them off with a huge goodbye party that celebrates every holiday and birthday in the coming year. Chris exchanges thoughtful gifts with his friends, Ann and Leslie get a quiet moment together, and the couple is sent off with the optimism and goofy energy the series is known for. And let’s not forget the most powerful moment, as Ron Swanson expresses as much emotion as he possibly can.
#9: Cristina Yang—Grey’s Anatomy
This determined surgeon knows exactly how to deal with tough goodbyes. After 10 seasons of being Seattle’s most blunt doctor, Cristina is offered a cushy job in Switzerland. While her relationship with the rest of the hospital has been rocky over the years, almost everyone is sad to see her go, but her best friend Meredith Grey is particularly shaken. Knowing this, Cristina takes her friend aside for an epic speech about how much she means to her. Sandra Oh’s pitch perfect, rapid-fire delivery, and the intimate dance party that follows, wonderfully wrap up Cristina’s storyline, but both the hospital and Meredith won’t be the same without her.
#8: Rachel Green—Friends
After 10 years of “being there for you,” it was hard to see this friend take off. Rachel gets a job offer in Paris, forcing her to leave her kooky, but caring, companions. During her going away party, she takes each friend aside, telling each of them how much she’s going to miss them. Rachel’s private goodbyes strike a great balance between funny and sad, but the most surprising moment comes from her talk with Ross, or lack thereof. Because Rachel leaves without saying goodbye, Ross assumes she doesn’t care about him, but when Rachel confronts him later, she tells him the exact opposite. This is one goodbye that turned into a big “Hellooooo.”
#7: Diane Chambers—Cheers
It’s always difficult walking away from a place where everybody knows your name. A college-educated cocktail waitress, Diane brought plenty of class—and laughs—to the Boston bar over the years, and had a long-running relationship with womanizing bartender Sam Malone. But when she gets a chance to pursue her writing career, Diane realizes she may have to leave her job, and her friends, behind. While conflicted about leaving, Sam manages to convince her to go, and even calls off their wedding to do so. This leads to their touching final moments. Diane’s departure had TV audiences everywhere raising their glasses with one hand as they waved goodbye with the other.
#6: Dorothy Zbornak—The Golden Girls
It’s never too late to start a new life. Having spent seven years living together with three other women, Bea Arthur’s Dorothy finally gets a chance to do just that when she marries Lucas Hollingsworth, played by Leslie Nielsen. Unfortunately, true love comes at the cost of leaving Rose, Blanche, and Sophia behind in order to move to Georgia. After her wedding, Dorothy gets some time alone with her sisters, and finds out how hard saying goodbye can be. Coming back for not just one, but two tearful group hugs, it’s clear how much these ladies love each other. Cheesecake will never be the same without Dorothy.
#5: Mona Simpson—The Simpsons
Though renowned for making people laugh, this animated comedy pulls no punches when it comes to emotional moments, like Mr. Bergstrom’s goodbye (x-ref). However, there’s no better example of this than the episode “Mother Simpson,” where Homer has a reunion with his mom Mona, whom he had long thought to be dead. Mona and Homer make up for lost time, and she bonds with her son’s family, but is forced to leave town when Mr. Burns sends the FBI after her. Homer and Mona hit the road, where they share a tearful goodbye. A happy reunion cut far too short, the ending even lingers on Homer as the credits role, playing appropriately melancholic music, in case you weren’t already crying.
#4: The Tenth Doctor—Doctor Who
There’s a tinge of sadness that comes with every Doctor’s regeneration, but this one hits especially hard. David Tennant spent five years playing the titular Doctor. So when the time came for him to leave, many fans were distraught. Fortunately, Tennant’s Doctor was given plenty of time to say goodbye to all the companions he’s had over the years, including Martha Jones, Donna, and, of course, Rose. Each meeting is more touching than the last, until the emotional roller coaster ride culminates in the Tenth Doctor’s final words. A sentiment that was surely shared by fans everywhere.
#3: Michael Scott—The Office
This man’s departure left a huge hole to be filled. When Michael decides to leave Scranton to be with his fiancée, Holly, he leads his employees to believe that his last day at work is actually his second-to-last day. However, Jim and Pam figure out his plan, and give him an emotional one-two punch, starting with Jim confronting his boss in his office, and ending with Michael and Pam’s silent hug at the airport. While others tried replacing him, there’s only one Michael Scott. While Michael’s departure left many in tears, the fact that he finally got to be with someone he loved, and who loved him, was a heartwarming and satisfying conclusion to his story.
#2: Lou Smith—The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
This goodbye had us flipped, turned upside-down. Fourteen years after abandoning him, trucker Lou Smith pays his now grown-up son Will a visit. Claiming that he wants to get to know him better, Lou asks his son to forgive him. While Will initially agrees, his uncle Phil is skeptical. In the end, Lou once again abandons Will, leading to this powerful moment. Having rejected Lou as his father, Will gives a rant about how he doesn’t need a dad, before breaking down completely. In a show known for goofy humor and silly dances, the raw honesty of this scene—mostly improvised by Will Smith—made this one of the series’ most unforgettable moments.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Elena Gilbert—The Vampire Diaries
- Doug Ross—ER
- Jax Teller—Sons of Anarchy
#1: The Entire Cast—M*A*S*H
They say suicide is painless, but this goodbye definitely wasn’t. As the Korean War enters its final days, the staff of the 4077th MASH get ready to head back stateside, putting an end to several close relationships that audiences watched blossom over the years. This is especially true for close friends Hawkeye and B.J. B.J. is unable to say goodbye to Hawkeye, which irritates him, but when Hawkeye gets onto his chopper, B.J. tells him he left him a note. As the chopper pulls away one last time, Hawkeye gets a look at B.J.’s note. An appropriately bittersweet send-off to one of the most popular shows of all time.
Do you agree with our list? Which TV send-offs left you feeling like you’d lost a friend? For more poignant Top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to MsMojo.