So it's the final show? How to wrap a TV series up

It's not easy to say goodbye. These show runners thought about it long and hard

A number of prominent shows signed off for good this season. They won awards, they went their own ways, they played it unsafe. And in the case of "Two and a Half Men," that could mean viewers might want to get themselves checked out.

These series are now gone but not likely to be soon forgotten.

Full Coverage: Emmys 2015

'Boardwalk Empire'

Setting: A different kind of organized crime drama, based on the nonfiction book "Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City." The series followed politico Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (Johnson in history) and his evolution into a Prohibition-era mob kingpin.

Awards: Recipient of 40 Emmy nominations and 17 wins. Among its trophies: the Emmy and Directors Guild of America Award for Martin Scorsese's direction of the pilot; Emmys for director Tim Van Patten and supporting actor Bobby Canavale; many technical nods for art direction and other crafts; a Writers Guild Award for new series; Golden Globe Awards for best drama and lead actor Steve Buscemi; and two Screen Actors Guild Awards each for ensemble and Buscemi.

Saying goodbye: "Boardwalk's" definitive ending broke from the fate of the real, long-lived Nucky Johnson: "Our fictional Nucky was much more of a 'traditional' gangster than his real-life counterpart. Since he lived by the sword, we felt it fitting that he die that way also," said show runner Terence Winter.

"The flashbacks to Nucky's childhood depicting the early events that shaped his life were the most satisfying aspects of finishing the series," he said, but Winter added that he thought the show might be remembered for something it accomplished behind the camera. "Bringing Martin Scorsese to series television seems like it started to attract more and more 'movie people,' opening a collaboration between film and TV artists that heretofore did not exist."


Setting: Based on iconoclastic crime novelist Elmore Leonard's U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, an ensemble character in two novels before getting his own novella, "Fire in the Hole." "Fire" depicts Givens being transferred/demoted to a Kentucky jurisdiction including Harlan, the small mining town in which he grew up, and the setting of the show. As manifested by show runner Graham Yost's team and star Timothy Olyphant, "Justified" played as a violent, modern western with Leonard-level snappy dialogue.

Awards: Recipient of many nominations from various bodies, including Emmy nods for Olyphant and Walton Goggins along with writing and art direction. Winner of a 2011 Peabody Award and Emmys for guest actor Jeremy Davies and supporting actress Margo Martindale.

Saying goodbye: Leonard died in 2013, but the force of his writing continued to power the show. "We'd talk about Elmore all the time," said Yost. "When we'd introduce a new character, we'd run down the list of the great Elmore bad guys, whatever, and try to land on something that felt like it was in that world. And story points too.

"The story started with Raylan coming back to Kentucky to find Boyd Crowder, and along the way he met Ava; that was the heart of our story. So to bring it back to that [at the end] felt like the right thing to do. The tone we strove to get was bittersweet, which was often how Elmore would end his books. To the extent that we succeeded, we're delighted."

'Nurse Jackie'

Setting: In and around a New York City hospital's emergency room and the slow-motion train wreck that is the life of the titular protagonist (played by Edie Falco). The consequences of Jackie's addiction to prescription pills come home to roost in the final season, which ends June 28.

Awards: Recipient of many nominations from various bodies (including the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Assn.'s Dorian Award and , the Humanitas Prize), especially for acting, writing, sound, casting and comedy series. Winner of Emmys for Falco's lead performance and Merritt Wever's supporting work. Falco has been nominated for Golden Globes (four times), Emmys (five total), SAG Awards (six, plus one for ensemble) and others.

Saying goodbye: When show runner Clyde Phillips (formerly of "Dexter") took over in the fourth season, he felt the show was a little too "loose" and akin to regular network fare. He wanted the "shrapnel" of Jackie's actions to have lasting, serious effects. "There's no knowing what an addict will do. An addict doesn't know what an addict will do. Yet you love her. There are a couple of reasons why you love her: What she's doing is human and painful and authentic, and it's Edie Falco."

That focus shaped the yet-to-be-broadcast finale: "We were going to finish it with this huge event that would affect the hospital, but we realized we were ending on story and not on character. So midstream, we changed our thinking. It took a lot of work and a lot of courage from talented writers, but we turned it around so it ends on and about Nurse Jackie. You will gasp when you see it."

'Two and a Half Men'

Setting: Sort of "The Odd Couple" with way more venereal disease and drugs, the show initially matched über-hedonistic jingle writer Charlie (Charlie Sheen) with his struggling, divorced brother, Alan (Jon Cryer), and Alan's son, Jake (Angus T. Jones). They lived together in Charlie's Malibu beach house, part sitcom set and part Pain Room. After Sheen's well-publicized dispute with the show's creative team, more laid-back Internet billionaire Walden (Ashton Kutcher) took his character's place.

Awards: In its 12 years, the series collected a host of awards and nominations. Cryer won two Emmys, guest actress Kathy Bates got one and the show picked up several for editing, sound mixing and cinematography.

Saying goodbye: Show runner Chuck Lorre fully embraced the risky and risqué: "We found that the nature of building a show around someone like Charlie gave us a lot of freedom to be the mischievous show, the bad-boy show. It was fun to do.

"There was no reason to go out subtly; the show was never known for its subtlety. It's not like we were going to get canceled. We had [guest star] Arnold Schwarzenegger deconstruct the entire ludicrous run of the series. That was one of the coolest days I've ever had on a stage in 25 years.

"There were some dark times, but looking back on it now, it was fun to do."


Setting: The second attempt to serialize the 1989 film lasted much longer than the first's single season. Show runner Jason Katims ("Friday Night Lights") guided the Bay Area's Braverman clan through six seasons of marriage, divorce, pregnancy, death and dreams dashed and realized. (The film was about the Buckmans of St. Louis.)

Awards: Among its accolades were an Emmy nomination for guest actor Jason Ritter and a Golden Globe nomination for supporting actress Monica Potter. The show's diversity was recognized through nominations by the Humanitas Prize, Image Awards, the Gay and Lesbian Critics Assn., the American Latino Media Arts Awards and others.

Saying goodbye: Katims said the decision to make the show an hour (rather than the earlier incarnation's 30-minute length) was key to delving into the large ensemble's stories in depth, including long arcs about breast cancer, Asperger's syndrome and the death of the patriarch: "The thing that I'm proud of is that we gave these stories their due. We didn't just do an episode about autism. I have a son who's autistic; I know it doesn't end. It's not a three-episode arc. You're in for the whole story.

"I don't know that I ever would have said it was time to end. It was too personal to us, to the writers, the actors, everybody who became involved in the show. Something about the nature of 'Parenthood' got under your skin."

'Parks and Recreation'

Setting: Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope was far too intelligent and savvy to be called "naïve," exactly, but her energy and accomplishments — in the framework of a small-town government bureaucracy — were a testament to the power of positive thinking. She and her oddball cohorts in the Pawnee, Ind., Parks and Recreation Department formed a family as they worked to make their town better in this pseudo-mockumentary.

Awards: Poehler received five Emmy nominations; the show got seven other Emmy nods, including one for comedy series. It collected Peabody and American Film Institute awards, as well as a host of honors from other organizations, including the Golden Globes.

Saying goodbye: Show runner Mike Schur knows well what the show owed to its ensemble: "I think in 10 years or 20 years or even two years, people will be dumbfounded all those people were on the same show. [Chris] Pratt is blowing up, and Amy is Amy, but I'm on record saying that Aubrey Plaza is going to win an Oscar some day. Nick Offerman and Adam Scott, then you add in Rob Lowe and Rashida [Jones] — it's ridiculous.

"We never knew if we were coming back. So pretty much every year we accelerated things really, really quickly. It ended up making the characters dynamic … it's not the best thing for your health to live under the sword of Damocles, but I'm so grateful for it."


Timeline: Emmy winners through the years

Video: Emmy contender live chats

Full Coverage: The Envelope

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