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The 10 Most Shocking Cliffhangers in TV History

Find out what happens to Todd on the Todd Margaret season three premiere tonight at 10P on IFC.

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When fans heard that Todd Margaret was coming back to IFC for a third season, they were more than a little bit surprised. Not because the David Cross-led series isn’t great, which it is, but because of the surprising cliffhanger that ended the show’s second season. Todd seemingly caused a nuclear holocaust, making a third season a tall order. And yet, Cross has found a way to bring the show back for a third season, premiering tonight at 10P on IFC. That explosive ending got us thinking about some of the other great cliffhangers in television history. Whether they’re played for laughs or horror, the cliffhanger is one of the great gifts of episodic television. Here are the best, as we see it, TV cliffhangers. Oh, and obviously SPOILERS AHEAD.


10. Battlestar Galactica, “Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 2”

Universal Television

Universal Television

For a show filled with great cliffhangers (The Cylons can take human form! Who did Boomer just shoot?! Starbuck is a Bob Dylan fan?!), the second season finale will surely go down as its best. With the vagabond fleet finally settling on a planet, we jump a year into the future. While sudden time shifts have become a go-to move on television lately, at the time it was a revelation. Having made the leap, we then watched a seemingly happy ending turn into a dystopian nightmare. First, we watch as our favorite characters grow feckless and, in the case of pretty boy Apollo, downright husky. Then Cylons, the robot army our heroes had been furiously fleeing, show up, taking over the planet and the human population that’s trapped on it. This cliffhanger pretty much had it all, and had us yelling “One more episode!” just like Fred and Carrie.


9. Dynasty, “Royal Wedding”

When Dallas shot one of their lead characters, causing a sensation, the writers of Dynasty thought, why not just open fire on everybody? That’s how a wedding between two of the show’s leads, Amanda and Prince Michael of Moldavia, turned into one of the biggest bloodbaths television had seen up to that point. As the show’s fifth season faded to black, the majority of the cast was left littered on the ground, seemingly lifeless. It would take months to realize that only a couple minor characters were killed, but by then everyone was so happy to have their favorites back for another seasons of backstabbing and shoulder padding, that no one really seemed to care.


8. The Walking Dead, “Days Gone Bye”

AMC

AMC

Here’s another show whose cliffhanger game is on point, (we’re still reeling over Glenn’s recent close call) even as far back as the intense pilot episode. Right up to the end of the first episode, we’d followed Rick, a terrified sheriff who awoke from a coma to a world filled with the literal walking dead. As the episode came to a close, he was surrounded by zombies, and out of options. That is until a voice crackled through a radio, showing him that his life may not have been quite as screwed as he thought it was. Never have the words “Hey, you. Dumbass…” been more chilling.


7. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Becoming, Part 1”

This episode marked the point that Buffy the Vampire Slayer transformed from a quirky show for teens into one of the greats of its era. Always dripping with metaphor, the show’s second season mined the idea that boyfriends can turn into monsters after you put out. That’s certainly what happened here, with puppy dog vampire Angel going full psycho after finally getting to, uh, “stake” a Slayer. As Season Two came to an close, evil Angelus started really wreaking havoc, torturing and killing those close to Buffy. Kendra, a fellow Slayer whose one weakness was a bad accent coach, was murdered ferociously. The episode comes to a close as Buffy discovers her body at the exact wrong moment, setting up what may be the most heartbreaking finale in the show’s history.


6. Friends, “The One with Ross’s Wedding”

By the time the fourth season of Friends wrapped up, Ross and Rachel seemed destined to forever be “on a break.” That is until this cliffhanger brought America’s favorite sitcom couple back together with a shocking twist. A twist that, reportedly, came from an honest mistake. Actor David Schwimmer, who played dopey Ross on the show, accidentally called his character’s new girlfriend “Rachel” during a take earlier in the season. Show runners David Crane and Marta Kauffman instantly recognized the potential of such a Freudian screwup, and crafted the season finale around it. Seemingly one “I do” away from a lifetime of bliss with English beauty Emily, Ross accidentally calls her his former flame’s name, reigniting Ross and Rachel’s tumultuous love affair one more time. The show went one to squeeze another six seasons out of their “will they or won’t they” romance.


5. Lost, “Pilot”

ABC Studios

ABC Studios

That hatch. The flash-forward. “We have to go back.” Here’s yet another show that took the cliffhanger trope to a new level. But all those twists and turns owe a debt to the brilliant pilot, which instantly hooked us with a question we’d spend years of our lives trying to dissect. “Guys. Where are we?” It turns out no one, including the writers of the show, had any idea, but in that moment, all that mattered was getting some answers.


4. The Simpsons, “Who Shot Mr. Burns?”

20th Century Fox Television

20th Century Fox Television

It took six seasons before The Simpsons tried to put their stamp on the cliffhanger, and it’s no shock that the episode, aired during the show’s Golden Age, became an instant classic. Fans were prepared going in, so no one was shocked when Mr. Burns took a bullet, but discovering who fired the gun became a sensation. A 1-800 number (remember those?) was set up over the summer of 1995, where fans of the show could offer their own theories. FOX even aired a special called “Springfield’s Most Wanted” before the show’s seventh season premiere, breaking down all the different theories. In the end, Maggie Simpson was revealed to be the culprit, which just further proves the point that babies are out to get us.


3. Star Trek: The Next Generation, “The Best Of Both Worlds, Pt. 1”

In its early years, Star Trek: The Next Generation had sputtered out of the gate, trying to live up to its namesake. It took three seasons for the show to really hit its stride. Still, no one could have been prepared for the season three finale, in which Patrick Stewart’s indelible Captain Picard was captured and assimilated by The Enterprise’s most vicious foe, The Borg. With no good options, acting captain Riker ordered his ship to fire on The Borg vessel, and his own captain. Stewart’s contract was actually in negotiations at the time, and no one knew for sure if he would be returning. That confusion led to one of the great cliffhangers of all time, and helped ST:TNG go from good to great.


2. Breaking Bad, “To’hajiilee”

AMC

AMC

In the history of television, has there ever been a show that’s blown our minds more consistently than Breaking Bad? Just when we think we know what’s happening, sh*t really hits the fan. The fact that Breaking Bad was nearing its end when they dropped this classic episode on us just further illustrates how incredible this show was, from start to finish. As “To’hajiilee” comes to a close, it seems that, after years of trying, DEA agent and wacky brother-in-law Hank finally has his man. We’re left to wonder how Walter is going to get out of this scrape, as he has so many others. And then the cavalry arrives, whether we want them to or not. Made up of pissed off drug dealers, armed to the teeth, they have no intention of letting anyone live. The fact that this episode just stops midstream, leaving us white knuckling our seats, desperate for answers, helped to make this episode a modern classic.


1. Dallas, “A House Divided”

If Kim Kardashian’s butt broke the internet, than this episode of Dallas broke people’s minds. It seems almost quaint now, but in the summer of 1980 all anyone could talk about was who shot J.R. It took eight long months before the show finally revealed who shot the irascible rancher, with 350 million people watching worldwide. While the cliffhanger had been toyed with before, this was a dawn of a new era, and what many consider to be the beginning of serialized storytelling in primetime. When you’re talking the best cliffhangers of all time, there can be only one.

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Thank Azaria

Best. Characters. Ever.

Our favorite Hank Azaria characters.

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GIFs via Giphy

Hank Azaria may well be the most prolific voice and character actor of our time. The work he’s done for The Simpsons alone has earned him a permanent place in the pop culture zeitgeist. And now he’s bringing another character to the mainstream: a washed-up sports announcer named Jim Brockmire, in the aptly titled new series Brockmire.

We’re looking forward to it. So much so that we want to look backward, too, with a short-but-sweet retrospective of some of Azaria’s important characters. Shall we begin?

Half The Recurring Simpsons Characters

He’s Comic Book Guy. He’s Chief Wiggum. He’s Apu. He’s Cletus. He’s Snake. He’s Superintendent Chalmers. He’s the Sea Captain. He’s Kurt “Can I Borrow A Feeling” Van Houten. He’s Professor Frink. He’s Carl. And he’s many more. But most importantly he’s Moe Szyslak, the staple character Azaria has voiced since his very first audition for The Simpsons.

Oh, and He’s Frank Grimes

For all the regular Simpsons characters Azaria has played over the years, his most brilliant performance may have been a one-off: Frank Grimes, the scrappy bootstrapper who worked tirelessly all his life for honest, incremental, and easily-undermined success. Azaria’s portrayal of this character was nuanced, emotional, and simply magical.

Patches O’Houlihan

Dodgeball is a “sport of violence, exclusion and degradation.” as Hank Azaria generously points out in his brief but crucial cameo in Dodgeball. That’s sage wisdom. Try applying his “five D’s” to your life on and off the court and enjoy the results.

Harold Zoid

Of Futurama fame. The crazy uncle of Dr. Zoidberg, Harold Zoid was once a lion (or lobster) of the silver screen until Smell-o-vision forced him into retirement.

Agador

The Birdcage was significant for many reasons, and the comic genius of Hank Azaria’s character “Agador” sits somewhere towards the top of that list. If you haven’t seen this movie, shame on you.

Gargamel

Nobody else could make a live-action Gargamel possible.

Ed Cochran

From Ray Donovan. Great character, great last name [editorial note: the author of this article may be bias].

Kahmunra, The Thinker, Abe Lincoln

All in the Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian, a file that let Azaria flex his voice acting and live-action muscles in one fell swoop.

The Blue Raja

Mystery Men has everything, including a fatal case of Smash Mouth. Azaria’s iconic superhero makes the shortlist of redeemable qualities, though.

Dr. Huff

Huff put Azaria in a leading role, and it was good. So good that there is no good gif of it. Internet? More like Inter-not.

Learn more about Hank Azaria’s newest claim to fame right here, and don’t miss the premiere of Brockmire April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Flame Out

Brockmire and Other Public Implosions

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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There’s less than a month until the Brockmire premiere, and to say we’re excited would be an insulting understatement. It’s not just that it stars Hank Azaria, who can do no wrong (and yes, that’s including Mystery Men, which is only cringeworthy because of Smash Mouth). It’s that the whole backstory of the titular character, Jim Brockmire, is the stuff of legends. A one-time iconic sportscaster who won the hearts of fans and players alike, he fell from grace after an unfortunate personal event triggered a seriously public meltdown. See for yourself in the NSFW Funny or Die digital short that spawned the IFC series:

See? NSFW and spectacularly catastrophic in a way that could almost be real. Which got us thinking: What are some real-life sports fails that have nothing to do with botched athletics and everything to do with going tragically off script? The internet is a dark and dirty place, friends, but these three examples are pretty special and mostly safe for work…

Disgruntled Sports Reporter

His co-anchor went offsides and he called it like he saw it.

Jim Rome vs Jim “Not Chris” Everett

You just don’t heckle a professional athlete when you’re within striking distance. Common sense.

Carl Lewis’s National Anthem

He killed it! As in murdered. It’s dead.

To see more moments just like these, we recommend spending a day in your pajamas combing through the muckiness of the internet. But to see something that’s Brockmire-level funny without having to clear your browser history, check out the sneak peeks and extras here.

Don’t miss the premiere of Brockmire April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Mirror, Mirror

Portlandia Season 7 In Hindsight

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available Online and on the IFC App.

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Another season of Portlandia is behind us, and oh what a season it was. We laughed. We cried. And we chuckled uncomfortably while glancing nervously around the room. Like every season before it, the latest Portlandia has held a mirror up to ridiculousness of modern American life, but more than ever that same mirror has reflected our social reality in ways that are at once hysterical and sneakily thought-provoking. Here are just a few of the issues they tackled:

Nationalism

So long, America, Portland is out! And yes, the idea of Portland seceding is still less ludicrous than building a wall.

Men’s Rights

We all saw this coming. Exit gracefully, dudes.

Protests

Whatever you stand for, stand for it together. Or with at least one other person.

Free Love

No matter who we are or how we love, deep down we all have the ability to get stalky.

Social Status

Modern self-esteem basically hinges on likes, so this isn’t really a stretch at all.

These moments are just the tip of the iceberg, and much more can be found in the full seventh season of #Portlandia, available right now #online and on the #IFC app.

via GIPHY

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