Ahead of the finale of Happy Valley on Sunday, we rewind 15 of the most heart-stopping, and sometimes funny, shows like The Sopranos and Corrie
As Happy Valley reaches its finale on Sunday evening, with an expected face-off between Sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) and killer Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton), we are sure it is going to be one of the most talked about moments in television.
But how will it compare with the others? We take a look at some of the most famous moments in TV which got everyone talking.
Warning, spoilers for multiple different television programmes ahead.
Fade to black, The Sopranos
Often touted as the best television show ever made, HBO’s mob series was always going to face an uphill battle to end on a high (much like another famous HBO entry on this list…).
Over nine million viewers tuned into the series finale with bated breath to see if Tony got whacked, only for the series to end with a blunt cut to black during a Soprano family dinner — leaving the fate of the mafia boss unknown.
The ending caused so much controversy some people believed they had a power outage when it happened. It’s still talked about 17 years later, so while disappointing to some, there is no doubting its legacy.
Who killed Archie?, EastEnders
EastEnders loves a mystery and does nothing better than the ‘who killed… storyline.’
Characters like Dirty Den, Lucy Beale and Vincent Hubbard have all been subject to a cliff-hanger but none as dramatic as the murderous reveal of who killed Archie Mitchell.
The father of Ronnie and Roxy and husband to Peggy meant the suspects made up an extensive list. But all was revealed during an infamous live episode when Stacey Slater was unveiled as the one who bludgeoned him to death.
The live episode was a much-talked about TV moment in itself, with some gaffs (How’s Adam?) and a dramatic fall for Bradley Branning, who became the first (but not the last) person to take a tumble from the Queen Vic’s roof.
You stay, I’ll go, Normal People
Just weeks into the pandemic and the UK under some of the toughest lockdown restrictions, the BBC decided to off-load a whole other bunch of pain onto us — why don’t Connell (Oscar nominee Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) just stay together?
Based on the acclaimed Irish novel from Sally Rooney, Normal People followed the journey of head-strong wallflower Marianne and reserved GAA star Connell from their secret school romance, right up to their disastrous university days.
Millions of viewers binged the series in just a few sittings making it one of the most iconic pandemic-era programmes. It was only beaten by….
I’ll never financially recover from this, Tiger King
Who would have thought a series which opens with the aim of highlighting the dangers of exotic pets would have led to a sordid tale of gay love affairs, torn off arms, attempted (and alleged) murders, and… Carole Baskin.
Tiger King became the watercooler moment everyone was talking about with their colleagues, friends…via Zoom/Teams/2ft apart while masked.
Love him, loathe him, free him — no matter your view of Joe Exotic, he and his band of misfits running his big cat ‘zoo’ captivated the world as Netflix followed his journey which ended with him behind bars.
Bar trouble, Only Fools and Horses
It’s probably the most famous moment in British television history — and the most played.
It’s also probably the simplest moment on this list — it doesn’t contribute anything to the storyline. Hapless Del Boy simply falls through the bar via an open bar gate.
The moment may not have made him a millionaire (that came later in the series finale, which was then ‘undone’ but further episodes) but it certainly made TV history and is a moment still talked about today.
David’s dead, Celebrity Big Brother
UK viewers might not have been overly familiar with US reality star, Tiffany ‘New York’ Pollard prior to her entrance into the CBB house in 2016, but they certainly were afterward.
This entry may be titled ‘David’s dead’ referring to the legendary moment Angie Bowie told the aforementioned reality star her famous ex-husband had died, leading to an unfortunate mix-up with housemate David Gest — there are so many moments from this series any could take the top spot.
“I’m claustrophobic, Darren” — being another iconic phrase from this series.
Polar bear island, Lost
What’s a polar bear doing on a desert island? What’s that smoke? What is in the bunker? What’s a sideways flashback?
Lost often left viewers feeling as confused as the islanders themselves, but the moment which got everyone talking took place just two episodes into the series when Kate and Sayid were confronted by a charging polar bear in the jungle.
Unlike many things in Lost (so were they all dead?) the polar bear was explained as having been brought to the island for the suspicious Others to experiment on.
Over the top, Blackadder
Despite Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis’ series being a comedy, the final moments of Blackadder remain some of the most poignant scenes in British television history.
Titled ‘Goodbyeee’ the final episode of the series sees Captain Blackadder and his men go ‘over the top’ in No Man’s Land to an unknown fate.
The victim revealed, The White Lotus
The trend of watching wealthy people suffer continues to dominate television, with Succession, WeCrashed, and Schitt’s Creek all picking up acclaim, but none of them can top a stay at HBO’s The White Lotus.
The first season finally revealed that it was in fact scheming hotel manager Armond who left a very infamous present for one of his guests in the body crate at the beginning of the series, although the hotel worker’s death can’t quite top the death reveal in series two.
Viewers were on the edge of their seats to find out it was series favourite Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) who went sleeping with the fishes in Italy after trying to escape being murdered.
Who is ‘H’? Line of Duty
The long-awaited finale of the police anti-corruption series finally revealed the identity of the corrupt police officer known as “H” as Detective Chief Superintendent Ian Buckells.
The finale curse however struck again as people claimed the final episode was boring and not satisfying enough to serve as the ending to the BBC series.
This has led to multiple reports to a much rumoured but not confirmed series 7.
I am the one who knocks,
The series which put Netflix on the map in the UK enjoyed a legendary TV run and made stars of its leads Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul who starred as the teacher turned drug lord Walter White with his sidekick Jesse Pinkman.
Although the entire series is acclaimed, the most talked about and the most quoted moment is White’s monologue to his unsuspecting wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) in which he tells her he doesn’t fear danger knocking on his door…he is the danger.
The new ruler of Westeros, Game of Thrones
Love or hate it, but mostly hate it, the final episode of Game of Thrones is still a hot topic (and sore spot) for fans today.
After seven seasons, three dragons, and thousands of white walkers, over five million people in the UK watched Bran Stark crowned the new ruler of Westeros and not Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen or even a Lannister.
The less said about the rest of the conclusion to the programme, which was almost exclusively filmed in Northern Ireland, the better.
Liam Neeson takes on gang,
The return of Lisa McGee’s semi-biographical comedy was much anticipated after taking an extended break due to the pandemic. Erin, Clare, Orla, Michelle, and James finally landed back on our screens in April 2022
In the opening episode of the final series ‘The Night Before’ followed the girls (and James) as they nervously awaited their GCSE results.
After one mishap after the next involving an ‘accidental break-in’ to their school, the girls are dragged to the local RUC station only to be greeted by a surprise guest appearance from the one and only Liam Neeson.
Canal trip, Coronation Street
Despite being fictional, Richard Hillman was the most hated man in the UK from his first appearance in Weatherfield in 2001.
The UK was gripped when he killed poor Maxine who just came home from a party early and made mother-in-law Audrey Roberts think she was going mad.
However, his final act, in which he strapped the Platt family into a people carrier before driving them into the canal remains one of the long-running soap’s best moments.
The dream shower, Dallas
Plenty of television programmes use dream sequences for extra effect, but in 1985 American soap Dallas took it one step further when their entire ninth season was shown to be a dream and Bobby Ewing, brother of JR (who was subject to his own iconic television whodunnit) was alive all along.
This means his untimely death in the previous series was all a figment of his wife Pamela’s imagination. Bobby Ewing in the shower remains one of the biggest twists in television history.
The final episode of Happy Valley airs on BBC One, Sunday, February 5 at 9pm