- Sometimes TV stars are fired or choose to leave a hit series.
- When this happens, fans assume the show will flop without the lead because it’s just not the same.
- From “Roseanne” to “Charlie’s Angels,” Insider rounded up TV shows that continued on without the main actor, some flopping and others having great success.
In 2018, ABC swiftly cancelled “Roseanne” after its main star sent out a tweet comparing President Barack Obama’s former advisor Valerie Jarrett to an ape.
While “Roseanne” didn’t return to air, ABC premiered a spin-off of the series centered around the rest of the family without Barr called “The Conners.” It certainly wasn’t the first time a hit show has carried on after its lead was fired.
Insider rounded up shows that have tried to continue without its main actor. Some have continued on successfully for years while others floundered for a season or two before getting the ax. Let’s face it: Sometimes, it’s just not the same without a show’s original star.
Many of the show changes involved the firing of lead actresses after they asked for pay raises equal to their male counterparts. This was long before actresses like Jessica Chastain and former E! News host Catt Sadler were speaking out about pay equity.
Others are because of spats on and off set and allegations of sexual misconduct. And still other times, stars just felt they had told the story they had set out to tell and felt the show was, perhaps, past its prime.
“8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter” tried to continue after the sudden death of its lead star.
John Ritter’s unexpected death in 2003 during the production of season two left the show up in the air. After going on a brief hiatus, the show returned for two more seasons, but it was never the same.
Though the show wrote the star’s death into the show and had David Spade and James Garner join, “8 Simple Rules” couldn’t recover without its lead. Ritter’s death overshadowed the series with the show becoming a reminder week after week about the actor’s untimely death. It was a downer.
The show was cancelled after its third season in 2005 as ratings continued to decline. Things turned out all right for the cast.
“Once Upon a Time” tried to reinvent itself after a lot of the main cast left.
After Emma Swan and Captain Hook tied the knot at the end of season six, six original cast members announced they were departing the show.
With so many beloved characters gone, the show attempted hitting the reset button fall 2017 by fast-forwarding a decade and following Swan’s son, Henry. Unfortunately, the result felt too much like a rehash of the original show.
Showrunners Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis also attempted bringing back the Alice in Wonderland character – a personal favourite of Kitsis’ – even after a spin-off with that character had already failed.
ABC didn’t seem too invested in the show any more either. The series was moved from its longstanding Sunday night slot to the Friday night death slot at 9 p.m. when its presumed younger audiences weren’t tuning in. The show was cancelled after bringing in lower ratings than its previous sixth season.
“The Office” continued on for two seasons too long after Steve Carell left.
Will Ferrell and James Spader both tried to keep the show afloat after Carell left the NBC comedy on its seventh season in 2011; however, Deangelo Vickers and Robert California couldn’t really pack the same punch as Michael Scott.
Farrah Fawcett left “Charlie’s Angels” after the show became a massive hit during its first season.
Fawcett wanted to pursue a movie career, according to executive producer Leonard Goldberg.
But “Charlie’s Angels” became known as a member of “Jiggle TV,” shows which were criticised for focusing on its female characters’ sex appeal. It was something the actress didn’t seem pleased thrilled about.
“When the show was No. 3, I figured it was our acting. When it got to be No. 1, I decided it could only be because none of us wears a bra,” Fawcett was quoted after the show became a hit.
Years later, Fawcett told Johnny Carson she also left the show because of some disagreements over the direction of her character.
“It’s hard to explain.. because the show was successful and I loved the girls and everyone associated with the show, but I had very strong feelings about my character and things that I felt should happen and they disagreed,” said Fawcett. “I felt that they should go into a little more character development of each girl … they didn’t care.”
Cheryl Ladd joined the show’s second season in 1977, replacing Fawcett’s character as her sister. The series continued on ABC for four more seasons until 1981. Fawcett made several appearances on seasons three and four to avoid being sued for breach of contract.
Suzanne Somers was fired from “Three’s Company” after she asked for equal pay to her male co-star.
After four seasons on the show, and earning a Golden Globe nomination for best TV actress in a comedy, Somers asked for a big raise that would be on par with her co-star, John Ritter.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Somers wanted a raise from $US30,000 an episode to $US150,000/episode along with 10% of the show’s profits. ABC offered her a $US5,000 raise. In response, she missed tapings for two of the shows and received a reduced role on season five where the actress only appeared on screen for a minute at a time in phone calls as she took care of her sick mother.
The actress was fired the following season and Jenilee Harrison came on to play her cousin, Cindy Snow. The CBS comedy continued for another three seasons until 1984.
“I think we should all be paid commensurate with the amount of tickets that we sell and I was selling more tickets than any other woman on television. So, why were all the men, who weren’t selling as many tickets as me, being paid 10 and 15 times more?” Somers told Fox of speaking up about pay disparity decades ago. “They had decided before my husband even came into the renegotiation meeting that they were going to fire me … If you take the No. 1 female on the No. 1 show and fire her for being asked to pay commensurate with the men, it’s going to scare all the other women.”
Kevin Spacey was fired from his Netflix series “House of Cards” after he was accused of sexual harassment.
Fall 2017, Spacey was accused by several men of sexual harassment and assault. Eight current and former employees on the Netflix series also accused the actor of sexual misconduct.
The streaming site promptly fired the actor from the series’ final sixth season.
“Netflix will not be involved with any further production of ‘House of Cards’ that includes Kevin Spacey,” Netflix said in a statement.
Robin Wright, who co-stars as Spacey’s wife, took over as the show’s lead. The final season aired in 2018.
Michael J. Fox left “Spin City” due to his battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Fox played the deputy mayor of NYC on the ABC sitcom until the end of season four.
“I feel that right now my time and energy would be better spent with my family and working toward a cure for Parkinson’s disease. This does not mean I am retiring from acting, producing or directing only that I want to relieve the strain of producing and performing a weekly network series,” Fox said at the time in 1998.
Heather Locklear was brought onto the show before Fox left and Charlie Sheen took over as the show’s lead for its final two seasons. Connie Britton, Alexander Chaplin, and Victoria Dillard also left the show along with Fox.
Fox returned for three episodes on the show’s final sixth season in 2002.
“Two and a Half Men” killed off Charlie Sheen’s character after the actor’s infamous public downward spiral.
After being in and out of rehabilitation centres, Sheen went on a verbal, anti-Semitic tirade of “Two and a Half Men” creator Chuck Lorre during a radio interview on the Alex Jones show in 2011.
At first, CBS shut down production on the series. But after the actor appeared in more bizarre interviews with NBC’s “Today” show, and “20/20,” he was fired from the show. (Sheen infamously told “Today” he was “a rock star from Mars” and that he has “tiger blood.”) According to TMZ, an 11-page letter from Warner Bros. TV said Sheen was fired because he “committed felony offences involving moral turpitude.“
The show carried on for four seasons without Sheen. Ashton Kutcher was brought on as a billionaire who bought Sheen’s home after he was supposedly killed off the show. It was later revealed that wasn’t the case on the show’s 2015 finale. Lorre claims Sheen was offered a cameo on the show’s final episode, but turned it down. A stand-in for the actor appeared on the show’s final moments before being killed by a falling piano.
“Scrubs” tried to carry on for a ninth season without most of its main cast.
Then it was thought 2009’s season eight would be the last. Instead, it was renewed for another season. The problem? By then,Zach Braff and most of the main cast wasn’t going to return for another season.
The show tried soldiering on by revolving around a bunch of new interns. Braff and Chalke did appear on a handful of episodes to help the show’s transition, but it wasn’t the same. ABC finally cancelled the series after its 10th season. Recently, Braff acknowledged that he likes to pretend only eight seasons of the show exist.
“Top Gear” host Jeremy Clarkson was fired after an altercation with a BBC producer.
Clarkson had been on the show since 2002.
Connie Britton left “Nashville” after the show moved from ABC to CMT.
ABC cancelled the country music drama after four seasons in 2016. When the show headed to Country Music Television (CMT), Britton’s lead character, Rayna, was shockingly killed off. According to co-showrunner Marshall Herskovitz, leaving was Britton’s idea.
“When CMT picked up the show, Connie came to [co-showrunner] Ed Zwick and myself and said that she felt inner conflict,” Herskovitz told Variety. “She felt that creatively, she wanted to move on from the show, and she was very torn because she loved the show. She loved the people on the show and it was like a family, but after four years, she felt she needed a different challenge, which is something I really understand as an artist.”
Ashton Kutcher and Topher Grace decided to leave “That ’70s Show” after its seventh season.
The two actors wanted to move on to different projects in 2005. Bret Harrison’s character Charlie was killed off the show to star on a new Fox series, “The Loop,” which lasted two seasons.
Though Tommy Chong returned to the show to fill in some of the void left and several new characters were added, “That ’70s Show” only lasted one more season without its leads as the show focused on Kutcher’s departure and a new relationship for Donna.
Kutcher and Topher returned for the finale.
Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton left “One Tree Hill” after its sixth season.
Burton told Entertainment Weekly in 2009 it wasn’t a rash decision for her or Murray to leave.
“There really wasn’t a lot of turmoil. It was a fabulous six-year run, which is how long my contract was for, and I feel really lucky to have been a part of the show,” said Burton. “So when I hear that there’s turmoil or negotiations based on money it kind of hurts my feelings, because it’s not what’s been going on at all. I think my fan base in particular knows that money isn’t necessarily a big motivator for me, that’s why I work in the world of independent film.”
In 2017, Burton claimed the series’ showrunner Mark Schwahn sexually assaulted her during her time on the show. Burton says she turned down a big raise to return for a seventh season. She became one of 17 women to accuse Schwahn of harassment. Burton said that experience made her never want to lead a show ever again.
As for Murray, video surfaced of him in March 2009 telling fans he wasn’t returning to the show because CW wouldn’t pay up.
“One Tree Hill” carried on for three more seasons and Murray returned for the show’s finale.
Shelley Long quit “Cheers” after its first five seasons.
It was Long’s decision to leave the NBC hit after she filmed an episode where her character got engaged to Sam Malone (Ted Danson). It wasn’t a big secret Long and Danson had some tension on set.
“I ain’t gonna say anything bad about my partner,” Danson told People of Long leaving the show in 1987. “I mean, my wife and I have terrible arguments sometimes, and they’re kind of our business. Our relationship, Shelley’s and mine, has included not being happy with each other and being happy with each other.”
Long had signed a contract with Disney before leaving the show, but said on she had mulled leaving the series for a while.
“I knew that I had a five-year contract, as did everyone else,” said Long on “The Phil Donahue Show.” “I pretty much indicated that I was ready to devote more time to my family and I already had my contract with Disney by that point. Although I hadn’t given them a final decision, I’d indicated where I was going.”
Kirstie Alley came onto the show to replace her, but never became a love interest of Sam’s. Long returned as a guest on the show’s final 11th season.
Clayne Crawford was fired from “Lethal Weapon” after multiple incidents on set.
Warner Bros. TV fired Crawford in May of 2018 after two incidents that took place during the second season.
According to Crawford, the first incident involved an outburst on set about potentially “unsafe” conditions. Ironically, the second time came when Crawford was directing an episode and another actor said they felt unsafe after being hit with a piece of shrapnel.
“I am incredibly sorry if my passion for doing good work has ever made anyone feel less than comfortable on our set, or feel less than celebrated for their efforts,” Crawford said in an apology on Instagram. “Furthermore, I apologise to all the crew and cast for any negative attention ‘Lethal Weapon’ is receiving because of these incidents.”
Sean William Scott (“American Pie”) replaced Crawford on the show’s third season.
“Valerie” became “The Hogan Family” after Valerie Harper was killed off the show.
After “Valerie” was renewed for a third season on NBC in 1987, Harper and her husband, Tony Cacciotti, who worked as a producer on the show, asked for a raise.
When denied, Harper held out filming more episodes. It was a tactic that previously helped her get a raise for her series “Rhoda.” It didn’t work this time and NBC considered another actress taking over the lead role (Sandy Duncan). Instead, the show tried carrying on with Harper and eventually fired her. Harper’s character was killed off the show in a car crash.
Originally, the show was re-titled “Valerie’s Family.” Duncan wound up coming onto the show as the new lead, Aunt Sandy, who entered the picture to care for the family after their loss.
The show’s title was changed again after Harper sued for wrongful termination and won. According to People magazine, the production company, Lorimar Television, was painting Harper out as “a greedy, menopausal shrew,” which she later called out in an interview. She was awarded $US1.4 million in damages for lost wages, along with 12.5% of profits from the show.
“I truly feel that my career of 17 years, my standing in the community, in the industry, my popularity with the public was exploited and used to bring the show along to a certain point,” Harper says on a 1988 clip from “Hour Magazine.” “And then for some reason that was expedient, was kicked off.”
The series carried on for three more seasons without Harper.
“The Conners” is starting its second season after killing off Roseanne.
The “Roseanne” revival was cancelled in May 2018 after Roseanne Barr compared President Barack Obama’s former senior adviser Valerie Jarrett to an ape on Twitter.
“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey said in a statement to Insider at the time.
The rest of the cast, including Dan Goodman and Sara Gilbert, returned for a 10-episode show which followed the Conners after Roseanne’s shocking death.
Barr, who created “Roseanne” and the characters, has no financial or creative involvement in the new series. Insider learned she reached an agreement with “Roseanne” producer Tom Werner for the spin-off to be made.
“I regret the circumstances that have caused me to be removed from Roseanne. I agreed to the settlement in order that 200 jobs of beloved cast and crew could be saved, and I wish the best for everyone involved,” said Barr in a statement to Insider.
“The Conners” season two is on ABC’s lineup for 2019-2020.
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