Lassie Comes Home
A half-century later, we still get a hitch in the throat thinking about the three-part episode in which Lassie is stranded 600 miles from home, alone and scared, while Timmy (Jon Provost) prepares to mourn his beloved pet. As he buries Lassie's toys at their special spot near the fallen tree, we hear that familiar bark, the music swells, and the two are united in a dissolve of tears. "The Odyssey" was the first multi-part episode ever made for television.
The M*A*S*H Finale
In "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen," the 256th and last episode of the series, Hawkeye (Alan Alda) has a nervous breakdown. He tells psychiatrist Sidney Freedman (Allan Arbus) the haunting story of a Korean refugee who smothered a chicken in a bus after Hawkeye insisted that she quiet it. In fact, Hawkeye goes on to explain, the chicken was the woman's own infant, murdered at his command.
Edith Is Assaulted
You may have thought we were going to call out her death scene, but "Edith's 50th Birthday" on "All in the Family" is no less harrowing. Home alone while her family prepares a surprise party, Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton) lets in a man who claims to be a detective searching for a rapist. In fact, he's the rapist, and even though he fails in his attempt to assault Edith, the ordeal leaves her terror-stricken and the rest of us shaken.
ER Loses One of Its Own
Dr. Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards) of "ER" is dying from an incurable brain tumor. When his once-estranged daughter Rachel visits her father at his deathbed, she slips a pair of headphones on him and plays "Over the Rainbow" as quietly passes away.
A Dog Named Beau
In 1981, Jimmy Stewart went on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" and read a poem he'd written about the death of his beloved dog. Entitled "I'll Never Forget a Dog Named Beau," the poem ended: "And now he's dead. And there are nights when I think I feel him climb upon our bed and lie between us. And I pat his head. And there are nights when I think I feel that stare. And I reach out my hand to stroke his hair. But he's not there. Oh, how I wish that wasn't so. I'll always love a dog named Beau."
Homer Loses His Mother
In Season 7 of "The Simpsons," Homer learns that his mother, Mona, who he thought had died nearly three decades earlier, is actually alive and living on the lam. Mr. Burns alerts the FBI to Mona's whereabouts and she's forced to abandon her son once again. At the end of the episode, Homer sits on his car and stares into the open sky—with unbearably sad music taking the show out. It's like a death occurred, only without a body.
Bobby Simone Dies
"NYPD Blue" detective Bobby Simone (Jimmy Smits) gets a heart transplant but develops a bacterial infection that spreads quickly to his brain. His new wife is sitting on Bobby's deathbed as his partner, Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz), bends over and whispers, "I'll take care of her." Andy kisses Bobby goodbye and leaves the newlyweds alone. Moments later, Bobby slips away.
All the President’s Men
In 2005, as the final season of "The West Wing" was being filmed, cast member John Spencer, who played White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, died of a heart attack. Leo was among the series' most beloved characters, and his death on the night he's elected vice president was written into the show. The pallbearers at his funeral include his stricken best friend, outgoing President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen), and his running mate, President-elect Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits).
Six Feet Under’s Green Burial
Favorite son Nate Fisher (Peter Krause) dies from a brain hemorrhage as his brother David (Michael C. Hall) sleeps by his side. Nate's "green burial"—his body is simply wrapped in cloth, and not encased in a coffin—combined with David's intense grief over his brother's death, is among the HBO series' most emotionally powerful scenes.
Farewell, Mr. Hooper
When Will Lee, who portrayed Mr. Hooper on "Sesame Street," died in 1982, the show used the event to help teach children about death. The adults in the episode have to tell Big Bird that his friend has died and won't ever be coming back. There wasn't a dry eye on the Street.
Final Goodbyes in the Newsroom
The finale of the Emmy-winning "Mary Tyler Moore" series has the entire WJM-TV team (except for anchorman Ted Baxter) fired by a new station manager. In a poignant moment, the normally gruff and unflappable news director, Lou Grant (Ed Asner), fights back tears as he comes out with the show's most heart-wrenching four words: "I treasure you people."
In May 1992, after 30 years of sitting behind a desk interviewing people in front of a live audience, Johnny Carson spent his last show alone onstage introducing retrospective clips to invited guests. But what really got to us was Bette Midler, the final guest, serenading the late-night legend with "One for My Baby, and One More for the Road."
And then there were Johnny's final words:
"I can only tell you that it has been an honor and a privilege to come into your homes all these years and entertain you. And I hope when I find something that I want to do and I think you would like and come back, that you'll be as gracious in inviting me into your home as you have been. I bid you a very heartfelt good night."
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