When it comes to graceful departures, most television series are like a magician's patter: Now you see it, now you don't. But ABC tonight presents what must be a TV first, with a "Farewell Evening" for three long-running series. Hourlong wrap-up episodes of "Who's the Boss," "Growing Pains" and "MacGyver" at 8, 9 and 10 p.m. (on WJZ-TV, Channel 13) say goodbye to viewers for good -- or at least goodbye to new episodes, for repeats of all three are already running in syndication, TV's lucrative life-after-death-experience .
The vast majority of shows do not make it past an initial 13 episodes, so these three have notched impressive runs: 199 episodes in eight seasons for "Boss," 166 episodes in seven seasons for "Pains" and 138 episodes in seven seasons for "MacGyver."
Rather than reveal too much about the finales -- and no, ABC has not let on whether Tony and Angela (Tony Danza and Judith Light) make things work out after all on "Who's the Boss" -- here is a trivia test about the three shows:
1. On "Who's the Boss," both Mr. Danza and Katherine Helmond (Mona) previously had hit prime-time series, and Ms. Light also had a daytime TV role. Can you name each person's credits?
2. In earlier seasons on "Boss," Mona was courted by a character played by an actor who next month will be integral to the departure of another long-running series, NBC's "The Golden Girls." Does anybody remember him?
3. Star Alan Thicke came to "Growing Pains" from another TV format, and also has had some key behind-the-camera roles in other shows. How many can you name?
4. "Pains" co-star Joanna Kerns had an earlier TV credit, too. It was for a short-lived series that tried unsuccessfully to capitalize on a hit movie of the same title. And that film starred a big star of a big TV series. Do you know it?
5. A co-producer of "MacGyver" is also the former star of a long-running TV hit. Do you know who?
6. Before finding stardom as the inventive adventurer of the fictional Phoenix Foundation, Richard Dean Anderson had roles in two previous series. Can you name them?
While you are thinking, note that both "Growings Pains" and "Who's the Boss" represent sitcoms of their times, with unconventional family relationships and strong career roles for women. And each series also saw children grow up into more mature individuals.
As for loner Mac, well, tonight's finale even puts him surprisingly into the family way.
The answers, please
1. Mr. Danza was boxer/cab driver Tony Banta on "Taxi," Ms. Helmond was Jessica Tate on "Soap" and Ms. Light won two Emmys (in 1981 and 1982) for her role as Karen Wolek on the soap opera "One Life to Live."
2. Mona's occasional boyfriend was silver-haired Max Muldoon,played by Leslie Nielsen of "The Naked Gun" movie series. Now he also plays Lucas, the man Dorothy (Bea Arthur) will marry in the final episode (May 9) of "The Golden Girls."
3. Mr. Thicke's best-known credit was the late-night talk show "Thicke of the Night" (1983-84). But he also was the producer of the irreverent "Fernwood 2-Night" mock talk show (with Martin Mull) and even co-wrote (with Gloria Loring and Al Burton) the theme song for the series "The Facts of Life."
4. Ms. Kerns played a stuntwoman, the girlfriend of real estate man Ted (Tony Roberts), on the series "The Four Seasons" in 1984 on CBS. The failed show also occasionally featured appearances (as a lawyer) by creator Alan Alda ("M*A*S*H"), who had starred in the movie.
5. Henry Winkler, the Fonz in "Happy Days," co-produced "MacGyver" (with John Rich and Paramount Television).
6. Mr. Anderson played Lt. Simon Adams on the short-lived "Emerald Point N.A.S." (for Naval Air Station) on CBS in 1983-'84, and a season earlier was Adam McFaden on the equally unsuccessful "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" on CBS.
THE NOT-SO-BORING BARD -- Leave it to Alistair Cooke to put Shakespeare into perspective for a television audience.
The sparely articulate host of "Masterpiece Theatre" urges viewers of "Henry V" to consider director/star Kenneth Branagh's twin motivations: to view the youthful Plantagenet king as a media celebrity of his time, and to convey "the messiness of war" in the wake of modern conflicts in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The movie can be seen at 9 p.m. tomorrow on Maryland Public Television and Washington's WETA-Channel 26. (By way of comparison, WETA is also screening at 9 tonight Laurence Olivier's classic 1944 version of "Henry V.")
Even on the small screen, the newer film is quite an achievement, turning the poetry that usually sounds so stilted to modern ears into almost conversational dialogue.
And while much praised for its crashing, bloody battle scenes, the film's better moments are the quieter ones.
The opening scene in Henry's castle, as the Lord of Canterbury deftly pricks the wastrel monarch's youthful pride, is full of shadow and flickering flames in wall-mounted torches. You can feel the damp, bored restlessness that will lead the young king to the battle of Agincourt.
And later, his troops encamped and fearful of a much larger fighting force, Mr. Branagh's king roams among the troops before dawn, cloaked in anonymity, enjoying and perhaps terrified by the allegiance his leadership has aroused.
For "Henry V" is really a form familiar to TV and movie viewers alike: the coming-of-age story. In the film, it is perhaps best illustrated as the king must permit the hanging of a former drinking companion, who had looted a church, to go forward unhindered as an example to his troops.
In this scene and others, Mr. Branagh is perhaps best when he is not speaking Shakespeare's words, for his expressive face captures the complexities behind the text.