8 Recent TV Shows That Kept Going After Losing Their Star, Before 'Roseanne' Became 'The Conners'

Roseanne, Lethal Weapon, House of Cards, The Ranch and Transparent

When news broke that ABC greenlighted a spinoff of Roseanne called The Conners, which would basically be the same show minus Roseanne Barr’s once-eponymous character, many fans were left surprised by the decision to keep a show alive after having to axe the main character.

However, looking back over the long and tempestuous history of television, you’ll find that this is anything but unusual. In 1968, Andy Griffith got tired of playing the iconic sheriff of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show and decided he wanted out. Unable to call the show The Andy Griffith Show without the titular star, they rebranded with a spinoff/continuation called Mayberry R.F.D.

The same happened when Valerie Harper left her show, Valerie, at the end of the show’s second season in 1987. The show was retitled, briefly as Valerie’s Family and then The Hogan Family, which is what the show was called for more seasons than its original title.

The trend of boldly soldiering on in the face of losing a star has occurred throughout the decades. Suzanne Somers leaving Three’s Company, Shelley Long abandoning Cheers, Steve Carell quitting The Office, and, perhaps most famously, Charlie Sheen getting fired from Two and a Half Men and getting replaced by Ashton Kutcher — fans have seen these kinds of changes time and timer again.

However, you don’t even need to go back that far for some prime examples. In just the last few years, some major shakeups have rocked a few of our favorite (or at least newest) dramas and sitcoms, leaving producers scrambling to save their series. Here’s a look at eight recent shows, other than The Conners, that kept going after losing a seemingly vital star.

1. Lethal Weapon (2016 – Present)

Lethal Weapon

Fox’s buddy cop dramedy, based on the film series of the same name, follows detective Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans), an aging, straight-laced cop who gets partnered with unstable loose cannon Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford). 

As it turned out, Crawford allegedly shared some of his character’s unpredictable character traits and, after reports surfaced detailing allegations of hostility and disruptive behavior between Crawford and the rest of the cast and crew, he was fired from the show after the second season. 

Having to recast one of the two main characters in a buddy cop series is never an easy task, and the show’s creators have turned to Goon star Seann William Scott to shoulder the burden. Scott will star as a brand new character when the series returns for its third season later this year.

2. The Ranch (2016 – Present)

The Ranch

While Netflix’s comedy series is more an ensemble piece than a few others on this list, the show’s core premise surrounds a dysfunctional family made up of a cantankerous old rancher, Beau, and his two sons, Colt (Ashton Kutcher) and Rooster (Danny Masterson). 

While many fans initially loved seeing the two That ’70s Show co-stars reunite for the middle America-oriented comedy, Masterson was written off of the show in season three. The decision was made after reports broke last March that Masterson was being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department over multiple sexual assault allegations stemming from the early 2000s. Masterson has denied the allegations against him. 

To fill the void, producers cast Dax Shepard for a guest recurring role in the show’s third season, the first half of which was released to Netflix earlier this year.

3. House of Cards (2013 – Present)

House of Cards

When House of Cards started, it was all about duplicitous politician Frank Underwood, played with scene-stealing gusto by then-beloved A-lister Kevin Spacey. As the show went on for five seasons, it racked up two Golden Globes, four Emmy Awards and countless other nominations and accolades.

Then October 2017 came about, and it quickly became clear that Netflix was going to have to kick Spacey to the curb. Multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment spanning the last three decades surfaced against the two-time Oscar winner within a matter of days, and the digital streaming service worked quickly to cut all ties.

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Luckily, the show’s plot lines had oddly mirrored Spacey’s real-life downfall, which made it easy for Robin Wright — who stars as Frank’s Machiavellian wife, Claire — to step firmly in as the show’s main lead.

Over the course of five seasons, Frank got elected to the Oval Office, and through his machinations, he got re-elected with Claire as his vice president. As the fifth season of the political drama came to an end, Frank resigned in disgrace after a series of scandals, leaving Claire as the first female president of the United States and Frank behind bars.

The show’s hotly anticipated sixth and final season will premiere on Netflix in late 2018.

4. Transparent (2014 – Present)

Transparent

The acclaimed Amazon original dramedy revolved around Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor), an older trans woman who doesn’t reveal her own gender identity to her family until late in life. The show won two Golden Globes and eight Emmys, with a lot of praise directed toward Tambor for his dynamic and groundbreaking performance.

However, when allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct were leveled against the 73-year-old actor by a fellow cast member and his personal assistant, Tambor announced that he would be leaving the show, and he was officially fired from the series in February.

Tambor’s termination left Transparent‘s future in jeopardy, considering the show revolved almost entirely around his character. However, Amazon has already confirmed that it would continue for a fifth (and likely final) season, and would focus mainly on Maura’s loved ones instead.

5. Nashville (2012 – 2018)

Nashville

The popular music drama premiered in 2012 and followed the professional rivalry between legendary country music queen Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton) and rising country starlet Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere). The show had a devoted following that stayed with it even after it got canceled by ABC in 2016 and subsequently picked up by CMT for two more seasons.

However, a show about a rivalry really only works when both characters are still alive, and during the show’s fifth season, Britton decided she wanted to move on from the show, leading to her character getting killed in a car accident in the ninth episode. 

The show then shifted focus to a new rivalry between Juliette and Rayna’s daughter, Maddie Conrad, with Juliette transitioning into the role of the fading star and Maddie in the role of the up-and-comer. But with the sixth season being the show’s confirmed final season, many fans felt the plot lost most of its propulsion. TheNashville series finale airs July 27.

6. Once Upon a Time (2011 – 2018)

Once Upon a Time

It’s always hard when a show has to replace a lead character that devoted fans have come to love, but for ABC’s Disney-themed fantasy drama, Once Upon a Time, they decided to just go for broke and basically kill off nearly everyone.

While the show had a strong first season, and an impressive rating bump during its second, it steadily lost viewers as it went on for six seasons, and critical reception to the series declined in step.

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So, in an effort to essentially pull off a buzzy soft reboot, producers wrote off nearly all their main characters, including Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), Belle (Emilie de Ravin) and the Wicked Witch of the West (Rebecca Mader).

While some fan favorites stayed on — including Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) and Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) — the show’s additions of the Disney princesses Cinderella (Dania Ramirez), Rapunzel (Gabrielle Anwar) and Tiana (Mekia Cox), did little to improve its ratings or reviews, and the seventh season served as the show’s last.

7. Kevin Can Wait (2016 – 2018)

Kevin Can Wait

While networks often have to scramble to replace stars who want to leave, sometimes the recasting goes the other way — much to the surprise of the star getting recast.

Kevin Can Wait chronicled the life of retired cop Kevin Gable (Kevin James), and his beautiful, loving wife, Donna (Erinn Hayes). The show received mixed reviews and unimpressive ratings, so, in an attempt to pull in fans of James’ hugely successful previous sitcom, King of Queens, producers brought on Leah Remini to guest star in the season one finale, playing Kevin’s former police partner, Vanessa Cellucci.

When her appearance proved popular, the show’s creators announced that they had decided to kill off Hayes’ character and bump Remini up to series regular, blindsiding both fans and Hayes alike.

The show’s second season takes place a full year after the end of the first, with Donna having died during the interim, leaving a widowed Kevin struggling with his new responsibilities as a single father and the difficulties of starting his own security firm alongside Vanessa, his new business partner. For some reason, a grieving husband and the adorable antics of children who had unceremoniously lost their mother proved to not be fertile comedy terrain and Kevin Can Waitgot the axe at the end of its second season. 

8. The Vampire Diaries (2009 – 2017)

The Vampire Diaries

Throughout the CW’s melodramatic supernatural drama, the love triangle between human woman Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) and the vampire brothers Stefan and Damon Salvatore (Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder), made up basically the entire premise of the series. It’s why fans watched.

When Dobrev announced in 2015 that she would be leaving the show at the end of the sixth season, fans were heartbroken and the show lost steam. After all, the very character who was writing the titular vampire diary (at least in the early seasons) would no longer be a part of the cast.

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However, on the off-chance that Dobrev would want to come back to wrap up the show’s entire reason for existing, the writers didn’t kill her off when she left in the sixth season. Instead, they but Elena into a coma, and then trudged along for two more seasons.

The coma decision turned out to be a good one when the actress agreed to return for the series finale at the end of the eighth season, when she woke up and put an end to the love triangle once and for all by choosing Damon and living happily ever after.

For more on The Conners, check out the video below.

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