TV shows aimed at younger audiences have a responsibility to keep things light and playful. No one wants their children exposed to subject matter that could warp their tiny, developing minds, which is why so much content is created specifically for kids. However, it seems like the concept of a "happy ending" varies from person to person, as there are a shocking number of sad kids' show finales.
Instead of leaving their innocent viewers with pleasant, surgar-coated endings, these series chose to wrap with harrowing scenes of violence, character deaths, global catastrophe, and existential dread. While some shows purposefully ended in tragedy, others were victims of cancellation, meaning their utterly hopeless endings were supposed to reach an eventual resolution.
If you remember any of these kids' shows with dark finales, get ready to relive some childhood trauma.
Dinosaurs was Jim Henson's final gift to the world before he tragically passed away in the early '90s. The show focuses on a family of animatronic dinosaurs, and flaunts a goofy, playful attitude, right up until its infamously horrible series finale in 1994.
Earl — the Sinclair family's Megalosaurus patriarch — works for the Wesayso Corporation. While the company is well-intentioned, its work inadvertently messes with the laws of nature, and brings about an ice age that none of the dinosaurs can survive.
The show's harrowing final shots show the family sitting nervously in front of their TV — their house covered in snow — hoping desperately that the news will provide them with some reassurance. Instead, anchor Howard Handupme solemnly bids them, "Goodbye," at which point the screen fades to black.
- Actors: Stuart Pankin, Jessica Walter, Jason Willinger
- Premiered: April 26, 1991
Up until the show's finale, the most disturbing thing about the lovable, alien fuzzball was his insatiable appetite for cats. That's pretty impressive, considering that ALF (Alien Life Form) ran for 102 episodes between 1986 and 1990.
While this is definitely a solid run, the series's dark final episode suggests that ALF was meant to continue even longer. "Consider Me Gone" ends when the friendly alien is captured by mysterious government agents who'd been keeping tabs on his every move. To make matters worse, it's implied that they plan to probe and dissect the poor guy in some underground lab. Fans had to wait six years to learn of ALF's true fate. .
- Actors: Max Wright, Anne Schedeen, Andrea Elson, Ben Gregory, Liz Sheridan
- Premiered: September 22, 1986
Set in the 1870s in rural Minnesota, Little House On The Prairie tells the quiet, wholesome tale of a farming community, and focuses particularly on the daily lives of the Ingalls family. The show originally aired between 1974 and 1982, and appealed predominantly to young girls.
Well, those young fans must have been pretty depressed after they watched the show's finale, "The Last Farewell." When the townsfolk learn that the property mogul Nathan Lassiter has bought up a huge plot of "homesteading" land, they try their darndest to fight back. However, their resistance is futile, and when it becomes clear that they are fighting a losing battle, they are forced to take more drastic measures. When Lassiter arrives in town, he finds it totally destroyed and devoid of human life.
- Actors: Michael Landon, Karen Grassle, Melissa Gilbert, Melissa Sue Anderson, Karl Swenson
- Premiered: September 11, 1974
Teen Titans (2003-2006) achieved a near-perfect balance of grit and levity during its five season run. Though the feature-length Trouble In Tokyo was later created to tie up loose ends, the show's original series finale was the half-hour special, "Things Change." At the start of the episode, the Titans return to their hometown, only to discover that all their favorite shops have closed down.
The plot thickens when Terra — Beast Boy's sometimes girlfriend who turned into a statue in Season 2 — abruptly reappears. However, she has no memory of her past life with the Titans, or of her relationship with Beast Boy. Her apparent amnesia bothers Beast Boy to no end, and he goes to great lengths to try and jog her memory. Unfortunately, none of his efforts prove fruitful, and the new Terra actually begins avoiding him.
Beast Boy loses his grip, and begins frequenting the places he and Terra used to visit on dates, hoping desperately that he'll run into her. Instead, he comes face to face with the robotic doppelgänger of the Titans' arch enemy, Slade. As Beast Boy and Slade duke it out in a hall of mirrors, the villain explains that he has nothing to do with Terra's reappearance, and that it's really Beast Boy who's hurting her by refusing to move on with his life.
After taking down the robot, Beast Boy tries one final time to remind Terra of who she used to be. His ploy fails, and she tells him that "things change" and that the Terra he remembers is "just a memory." The two are then separated by a crowd of people, at which point the series ends.
It's never too early to expose children to the harsh reality that everything they care about will one day melt away into nothing.
- Actors: Hynden Walch, Scott Menville, Greg Cipes, Khary Payton, Dee Bradley Baker
- Premiered: July 19, 2003