10 Times TV Shows Tried to Replace Their Lead Stars
Some shows survive and even thrive after the loss of a core cast member: Think Beverly Hills, 90210 after Tiffani Thiessen replaced Shannen Doherty … or the original Charmed after Rose McGowan replaced Shannen Doherty! Others, unfortunately, aren’t so lucky.
The producers of the following shows all replaced a lead star to little avail, despite the best efforts of those fill-ins. Sometimes the producers had no choice — they had to contend with cast exits, actor deaths, or behind-the-scenes drama. But in other instances, they took a swing and missed…
Dick York had to bow out of the part of Darrin Stephens in the fifth season of this ABC sitcom amid back problems from an earlier injury. Dick Sargent filled the role for the ABC show’s final three seasons.
Kevin Can Wait
This sitcom controversially killed off Erinn Hayes’ character between Seasons 1 and 2, replacing her with a new female lead played by Kevin James’ former King of Queens costar, Leah Remini. CBS, however, canceled the show at the end of Season 2.
In May 2018, Clayne Crawford was fired from the cast of this Fox procedural after alleged bad behavior on set. In his absence, Seann William Scott costarred with Damon Wayans in what ultimately became the show’s third and final season.
Rob Morrow exited this Emmy-winning CBS drama amid a contract dispute midway through its fifth and final season. He was written off the show, and Paul Provenza joined the cast as his replacement, but the series ended 15 episodes later.
Steve Carell departed this beloved NBC comedy during its seventh season, and the leadership of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company’s Scranton branch went to characters played by James Spader, Catherine Tate, Kathy Bates, and Will Ferrell. Even with such talent, the show slipped in ratings and ended two seasons later.
By the time this NBC-turned-ABC comedy’s ninth season premiered, Zach Braff and Sarah Chalke had dropped to recurring status, and Judy Reyes had left the show. Eliza Coupe, Kerry Bishé, Michael Mosley, and Dave Franco fleshed out the Scrubs cast in their stead, but ABC canceled the show at the end of the season.
Nicole Beharie’s Abbie Mills was killed off this Fox drama amid the actress’ health issues at the end of Season 3. Producers brought in Janina Gavankar as the new female lead for Season 4, which ended up being the show’s final season.
That ‘70s Show
This Fox sitcom lost star Topher Grace at the end of its seventh season, and for the eighth and final season, producers brought in Josh Meyers — younger brother of Seth! — in an effort to replace him.
Two new agents — Robert Patrick’s John Doggett and Annabeth Gish’s Monica Reyes — started investigating the X-Files in this Fox drama after David Duchovny bailed on half of Season 8 and almost all of Season 9. (Mulder and Scully were back in action together in the show’s two revival seasons, however.)