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The 10 Toughest TV Farewells of the Year

The 2012–13 TV season brought us some high-profile finales, but some long-forgotten shows drew to an close, as well. “That was still on?” said everyone leading up to the series finales of Weeds and Damages. Yes, they were still on! But now they’re not. We said adios to a lot of high-quality shows this year, too, but here are the ten that hurt the most — because they were still great, or because they had fantastic series finales, or because they just really plucked the ol’ heartstrings. We’re listing these in alphabetical order because how can you rank love?

30 Rock
Liz lived happily and neurotically ever after. Jack got to sail off into the sunset and come right back. Kenneth’s immortal vessel got to run NBC well into the flying-car future. And Lutz — 51-year-old, bisexual, part-Inuit Lutz — got to pick the lunch place. Definitely the best finale of the season.

Damages never quite got back the juju it had in season one, but it never dipped too far, either, and even in its last throes the show could still spin a mystery and build a villain — plus, Ryan Phillipe was just right as this season’s faux Jullian Assange, all pouts and vague murder-y vibes. In a sea of same-y same-y lawyer shows, Damages always stood out for its unconventional flashback/flash-forward timelines and constant surprising reveals, and the series finale managed to pull off a pretty good twist. Patty Hewes stayed evil and mesmerizing, and the show’s commitment to her villainy was solidified in the closing moments, which focused in on Glenn Close’s super-intense Patty-stare.

Delocated ended in April 2012, but then came back this March for one last hurrah — and I’m glad it did. Because any opportunity to revisit the show’s lunatic world of organized crime, ski masks, and terrible ideas is a treasured one.

Oh, Enlightened, you were too sensitive and precious for this world. Mike White’s exploration of the nature of activism and the desire to do and be good was beautifully, perfectly tragic, even as it tried to be a show about optimism. Laura Dern was amazing as Amy Jellicoe for the show’s entire two-season, eighteen-episode run, but in season two, Luke Wilson, as Amy’s alcoholic ex-husband, maybe stole the show. (White’s impishly awkward romance with Molly Shannon was also a joy.)

Gossip Girl
DAN WAS GOSSIP GIRL. That stung. But hey: Chuck and Blair got married, Serena and Dan got married, and Jenny and Eric and Vanessa returned! So that part was good.

Happy Endings
I’m still in denial about this one, but it looks like our quip-happy, reference-heavy days are over. Happy Endings was at its best when it really committed to a wacky concept — like its Real World: Sacramento segment. Endings didn’t have a proper finale, but that’s a minor indignity compared to ABC’s overall treatment of the show.

The Office
Some shows are unceremoniously canceled, and others far outstay their welcome. The Office is in the latter category, so even though the finale episode itself was pretty great, it felt more like a one-off special rather than an of-a-kind natural conclusion. For a show that once thrived on heartache and awkwardness, things wrapped up very cheerily for the characters — and for the fans, who got one last Michael Scott “that’s what she said.”

The last thing television needs is another cop show. And yet Southland is nothing like the rest of its genre. It’s not a procedural, episodes don’t end with climactic arrests, and there’s no clunky exposition. (“You mean, if we find a hair here at this crime scene, we can match it to one of the killer’s hairs, and then have a definitive I.D.?” “Yes, exactly!”) This season included one of the most upsetting episodes of television I’ve ever seen and a final cliff-hanger that, while great, will sadden me pretty much forever. At least Lydia’s story line had a happy ending. (In the interest of acknowledging one’s flaws, yes: I am obsessed with Southland and wrote about it earlier this week, too.)

Spartacus: War of the Damned
Is it hard to keep a show going when its star dies? Yes. But Spartacus pulled it off: After original Spartacus Andy Whitfield died in 2011, Liam MacIntyre took over the role — and it worked, for two juicy seasons. The series finale itself was great, all full of fighting and feelings, but the brief glimpse of Whitfield’s face was a damn near perfect moment.

It was definitely time for Weeds to end. Probably past time. But the show’s finale brought back so many characters from the early days it wound up being a stinging reminder of just how fresh and fun and withering the first few seasons had been. Good-bye, Agrestic.

Honorable Mentions
These shows were also hard to say good-bye to, just not quite as hard: America’s Best Dance Crew, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, The Big C, Dirty Jobs, Fringe, The Hour, iCarly, Jersey Shore, Private Practice, Smash, The Closer, The Dog Whisperer. Good night, sweet shows.

The 10 Toughest TV Farewells of the Year