10 Actors' Dramatic Departures from Popular Shows


As the season premiere of Two and a Half Men edges closer, many fans are alternately waiting to see how the addition of Ashton Kutcher to the cast will change the show while simultaneously shaking their heads over an actor (we're looking at you, Charlie Sheen) who was unwilling to rein in his self-destructive behavior just a tad during production season in exchange for almost two million dollars per episode...! Mr. Sheen's isn't the first major character to be axed from a hit show, and there are others who (sometimes) ill-advisedly killed their own golden goose while their former show, despite dire predictions, went on. Here are some memorable examples:

Co-workers bid Shelley Long Cheers

When Cheers debuted in 1982, one of the main continuing story threads was the love/hate relationship between wannabe-intellectual waitress Diane (Shelley Long) and retired athlete/bar owner Sam (Ted Danson). But behind the scenes, Long's relationship with not only Danson but the rest of the cast and crew of Cheers leaned more toward the "hate" side of the equation. Long was a perfectionist and, among other quirks, often held up taping for 45 minutes or more to have her hair and make-up redone (all the while, the studio audience was sitting and waiting). After the box office success of her 1987 film Outrageous Fortune, Long decided to leave Cheers to pursue her movie career. Unbeknowst to critics and viewers who predicted certain death for the sitcom with the departure of such a major character, Long's departure actually relieved a good deal of on-set tension and virtually revitalized the cast and writers. Cheers ran for another very successful six seasons until Ted Danson finally decided to call it quits.

He found his thrill behind the camera

It was high treason, and it mattered a great deal

What do you think, sirs?

When the prospect of a major motion picture version of MST3K became a reality, Jim Mallon suddenly took charge and insisted upon being named director. He then offered Joel, who was supposedly his equal partner in the MST franchise, various associate producer-type credits. Joel felt that his overall role in the show was being minimized, and that to object would start a legal fight that could jeopardize not only the movie but the series as a whole, so he left the show during the fifth season. Michael J. Nelson, who had been head writer for the series since the beginning, took over the hosting duties after Joel's departure. Joel has since confessed in subsequent interviews that he really didn't think the show would last five more seasons without him and that he occasionally has had some 20/20 hindsight twinges of doubt about his decision to leave.

Wild child

"It wasn't supposed to be like this

When All in the Family ended its run, Jean Stapleton had decided that after nine seasons the character of Edith was as developed as it would get and had nowhere else to go. She signed on for the first season of Archie Bunker's Place with the understanding that it would be Edith's swan song. As the first episode of Season Two of ABP opened, Archie and Stephanie are eating an awkward breakfast together. As the dialog progresses, we learn that Edith had died suddenly of a stroke in her sleep three weeks earlier. Archie's soliloquy after finding Edith's bedroom slipper was very emotional, but ABP had another three seasons to go, so he had to get over his grief fairly quickly so that the writers could have his character date other women in future episodes.

Better late than homophobic

Second time wasn't the charm

A dark and depressing crime show? Who'd-a thunk it?!

Behavior unbecoming a Huxtable

Bonet's first "offense" was co-starring in 1987's Angel Heart, a film in which her explicit sex scene with Mickey Rourke had to be seriously edited so that the rating could be reduced from X to R. Less than a year later Bonet appeared semi-nude on the cover of Rolling Stone. Producers felt that Bonet's off-stage antics could potentially harm the squeaky-clean Huxtable image, but Dr. Cosby (who already had a spin-off in development) intervened and allowed Lisa to continue playing the character of Denise on A Different World. Bonet's eventual pregnancy threw a further wrench into the works; she was married but Denise was not, and even though A Different World sometimes explored controversial issues, an unwed pregnant college student was not one of the plot lines the producers had in mind. Bonet returned briefly to The Cosby Show, but when her marriage to Lenny Kravitz began unraveling, she often turned up late to the set or not at all and was ultimately let go due to "creative differences." Not only was Bonet absent from the series finale (geez, even Vanessa’s former fiancé Dabnis was present!), she has thus far not been invited to attend any of the subsequent Cosby Show reunions.

From saving lives to saving money

Sort of.

M*A*S*H soldiered on for eight more seasons, and Wayne Rogers' acting career never got completely back on track. However, Rogers is one of the few actors in Hollywood who works for the sake of artistry, not a paycheck. When he first started out in the business he saw too many stars losing everything they'd earned thanks to bad investments, so he set out to educate himself in the world of finance. He befriended entrepreneur Lew Wolff (head of real estate at 20th Century Fox) and learned all about real estate and money management. Today, Rogers owns the Stop-N-Save convenience store chain, an upscale chain of New York bridal stores, and Wayne M. Rogers & Company, an investment strategy firm.