A television series is a complex machine, full of uncountable variables and moving parts which must be meticulously managed. Teams of writers, directors, actors, producers, and hundreds of crew members all come together to create entertaining stories for the masses to consume. Sometimes, cast members choose, or are forced, to drop out of a production. Usually, the show comes up with some explanation for the characters’ sudden absence; lots of TV characters find themselves killed off-screen or taking a job overseas.
Every once in a while, though, television characters simply disappear without a trace, and are promptly forgotten by the rest of the ensemble. These characters don’t just leave the show; they fall into a black hole which absorbs their very essence, making it as though they had never existed at all. Let’s take a look back at some of television’s forgotten figures. Here are 15 TV Characters Who Completely Disappeared From Their Shows.
15. Chuck Cunningham on Happy Days
To this day, when a character disappears without a trace from a show, it’s called being “Brother Chucked,” or falling victim to “Chuck Cunningham Syndrome.” Happy Days is one of the most beloved sitcoms of the 1970s, a nostalgic throwback to the carefree teenage antics of the 1950s. The lead actor on the show was even Ron Howard, who, as a child, played Opie on The Andy Griffith Show, one of the seminal sitcoms of that bygone era.
On Happy Days, the future A-list director played Ritchie Cunningham, a high school student who lived with his parents, his sister, and his older brother, Chuck. This older brother character never really gelled with the dynamic of the show, however. First, the original actor, Gavan O’Herlihy, dropped out of the show and was replaced with the older Randolph Roberts, but he also failed to strike a chord with audiences or the writers. Ultimately, the character only appeared in 11 episodes across the first two seasons before disappearing without a trace. The show would go on to enjoy massive success, but Chuck would never reappear, or even be mentioned, ever again.
14. Mike Peterson/Deathlok on Agents of S.H.I.EL.D.
After the game-changing success of The Avengers, the Marvel Cinematic Universe quickly expanded to the realm of television. These days, Marvel is enjoying streaming dominance with their Netflix shows like Daredevil, but their first TV effort was ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is currently in its fourth season. The pilot of the series introduced audiences to Mike Peterson, who would recur throughout the first two seasons of the show, appearing in a total of 11 episodes.
However, since his final appearance in “The Dirty Half Dozen,” Peterson, better known to comics fans as Deathlok, has failed to return to the fold. He has yet to reconcile with his son, and his emotional character arc is simply unfinished as of now. Perhaps Deathlok will make a triumphant return in the future, but it seems like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has forgotten about him and moved on. They’re currently in the midst of arcs involving Ghost Rider and Life Model Decoys, and the show may be too busy to return to the intimate drama of Cyborg Mike and his strained relationship with his young son.
13. Tori on Saved By The Bell
The fourth and final season of Saved By The Bell turned out to include more episodes than was originally planned. After shooting a shortened season, the executives at NBC demanded that the run be extended to include 26 episodes, ten more than Elizabeth Berkley and Tiffani Thiessen had signed up for. Thus, after the series finale had been completed, ten additional episodes were produced without the two actresses, who were wrapped up in other projects.
To fill the void left by the absence of Jessie and Kelly, a new character, Tori, was brought in. Played by Leanna Creel, Tori shows up and quickly becomes a Mary Sue with whom both Zack and Slater are immediately in love. Fans didn’t take too kindly to Tori replacing Kelly and Jessie, and the character is mostly despised, or at least not held in particularly high regard. Bizarrely, due to the fact that the season finale had been completed prior to the development of the Tori episodes, Tori is conspicuously absent from the final episode, while Jessie and Kelly are suddenly back, as though they had never mysteriously disappeared.
Tori never made another appearance. Not on Saved By The Bell: The College Years, not on Saved By The Bell: The New Class, and not even on the television film, Saved By The Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas. However, Tori did show up in Bayside: The Musical, an unauthorized comedic-yet-affectionate skewering of Saved By The Bell’s innocent sensibilities.
12. Mr. Turner on Boy Meets World
Mr. Turner, played by Anthony Tyler Quinn, appeared on 51 episodes of Boy Meets World. As the cool teacher, the lessons which Mr. Turner taught his students were as much about how to deal with the unpredictability of life as they were about how to pass upcoming tests. In the fourth season episode, “Cult Fiction,” Turner gets into a terrible accident on his motorcycle and is last seen crippled in the hospital.
And that’s it. Seriously, after this dramatic and unexpected turn of events, Mr. Turner is never heard from again. Did he die? Is he in a coma? Boy Meets World never revealed Turner’s fate, and it seemed like the mystery would persist forever. That is, of course, until the surprise sequel series, Girl Meets World. In the heartwarming episode, “Girl Meets The New Teacher,” it was revealed that Mr. Turner fully recovered from his injuries and went on to become Superintendent of Schools, and maintains a friendly, almost familial, relationship with his former students, Cory and Topanga. Turner is set to make another appearance in the series finale of GMW, entitled “Girl Meets Goodbye.”
11. Scorpina on Power Rangers
Scorpina was one of the Power Rangers‘ most dangerous foes during her run on the hit series. Despite being a mainstay on the show — essentially Goldar’s female counterpart — she inexplicably disappeared when the villainous (and legitimately terrifying-looking) Lord Zedd showed up in season 2, making only a single appearance before fading into the ether forever.
In this case, the actress who had been cast as Scorpina in season 2, Sabrina Lu, decided not to return for future episodes, and so the character was left hanging, and is now ultimately forgotten by all but the most diehard of Power Rangers fans. There had been plans to bring the character back for subsequent seasons in an effort to resolve her arc, but such efforts never amounted to anything, not even a cameo or off-hand reference. Perhaps one day, Scorpina will rise again to do battle with the Rangers, but that day is not likely to be arriving anytime soon.
10. Doctor Pulaski on Star Trek: The Next Generation
Gates McFadden’s most famous role is that of Dr. Beverly Crusher, Chief Medical Officer of the Enterprise-D. However, McFadden was quickly written off of Star Trek: The Next Generation for its second season. The legend goes that the head writer, Maurice Hurley, wasn’t a fan of McFadden’s acting, and had no interest in keeping her around. So, for season 2, Crusher was said to be working as a boss at Starfleet Medical, which brings us to the polarizing character of Doctor Katherine Pulaski.
Played by Diana Muldaur, Pulaski was Crusher’s replacement during season 2 of the show. While some viewers liked her no-nonsense approach to space travel and her workmanlike devotion to her job, others derided her lack of chemistry with the main cast. Ultimately, season 3 brought back Gates McFadden as Doctor Crusher, and Pulaski simply vanished. Don’t weep for Diana Muldaur, though; after leaving Star Trek, she joined the cast of LA Law‘s fourth and fifth seasons. Her character, Rosalind Shays, went on to become one of the most important television figures of the era.
9. Kendra on Degrassi: The Next Generation
There is a phenomenon on the internet known as the “Degrassi Black Hole.” More than any other show on this list, Degrassi had an unusually high number of characters who simply disappeared, usually with little to no explanation. Characters like Wesley, Bruce, Derek, and Leia, were all main players who were unceremoniously dropped from the show with no closure for their story arcs.
One of the first and most notable victims of the Degrassi Black Hole was Kendra Mason, who was a recurring favorite in seasons 2 and 3 of Degrassi: The Next Generation. Like many of her peers, she vanished with little fanfare, but her absence was bizarre, since her brother, Spinner, remained on the show as though nothing had happened.
Supposedly, the character was going to have a storyline in which she would have sex with Toby. The parents of actress Katie Lai were said to have objected to this development and yanked their daughter from the show.
8. Monica on Heroes
NBC’s Heroes was plagued with inconsistent writing and the general squandering of its unique premise of superpowered humans in the real world being hunted by the government and sinister cabals. Nowhere is this haphazard lack of focus more evident than in the character of Monica, played by Dana Davis. Introduced in season 2, Monica had the creative power of “Adoptive Muscle Memory:” after seeing someone perform a physical task, she gained the ability to replicate it perfectly. Whether it be performing advanced gymnastics, playing complex piano pieces, or even knocking out robbers with wrestling moves she saw on television, Monica’s ability to adapt had grand potential for further stories.
Unfortunately for the show, Monica’s last appearance was in the season 2 finale, and she was never seen or mentioned again. She didn’t even pop up in the short-lived revival series, Heroes Reborn. At least she played a large role in the canon comic books, Rebellion, by Zach Craley. For those willing to peruse the Heroes Expanded Universe, one could uncover Monica’s further adventures, but the average viewer was left out in the cold.
7. Seven on Married… With Children
Sometimes a series tries something, realizes it was a mistake, and then pulls the plug and hopes the fans forgive them for having such a dumb idea in the first place. The legendary 1990s sitcom, Married… With Children, tried to shake-up its formula by adding a fresh-faced little kid to the Bundy clan. Unfortunately, the sensibilities of the show were so endearingly crass and lowbrow that bringing in a child came off in poor taste.
The boy, clearly based off of The Brady Bunch’s ill-advised Cousin Oliver character, was introduced in MWC’s seventh season. His name? Seven. After just a dozen episodes, Seven was wisely dropped from the show and quickly forgotten, though the show did have one more joke at the boy’s expense: in season 8, Seven’s face is seen on a carton of milk, indicating his status as a missing person, but the brain-dead Bundys fail to notice. In any other show, this would be horrifying; in Married… With Children, it’s comedy gold.
6. Judy on Family Matters
Family Matters was an ABC sitcom which ran for 9 seasons (with the final season airing on CBS). The cornerstone of the network’s revered TGIF programming, Family Matters followed a working class family, led by patriarch Carl Winslow (Reginald VelJohnson) and their adventures with their annoying neighbor, Steve Urkel (Jaleel White). The Winslows consisted of husband Carl, wife Harriette (Jo Marie Payton), and their two kids… Or was it three?
For the first four seasons, the Winslows had two daughters and one son. In season 5, however, their youngest, Judy, was mysteriously absent, and the Winslows acted as though they had never had a third child. The legend goes that the young actress who played Judy, Jaimee Foxworth, wanted more money for her return, and ABC called her bluff.
Seven years after her final appearance on Family Matters, Foxworth’s life took some pretty odd turns. After a bout with substance abuse, she adopted the stage name Crave and appeared in a series of pornographic films. Her life, post-Family Matters, was documented during her appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
5. Brenda Leigh Johnson on Major Crimes
TNT’s The Closer was the show that put the network on the map. Until then, TNT was mostly just a graveyard for long-forgotten cop shows and movies interrupted with endless commercial breaks. However, thanks to an Emmy-winning performance by Kyra Sedgwick, bolstered by a marvelous supporting cast and strong writing, The Closer became a ratings juggernaut and transformed TNT into a choice destination for adult-oriented dramas.
After seven seasons, Sedgwick decided to move on to other things, and the show was retooled into the excellent Major Crimes, starring Mary McDonnell. The core concept of the spin-off is that it’s “The Closer Without Kyra,” and it succeeds in that goal, with some fans going so far as to hail MC as superior to its predecessor. While Brenda is said to have taken a job elsewhere in Los Angeles, obviously leaving the door open for a return in a “special guest star” capacity, no such event has taken place yet. This wouldn’t be so bad, if not for the fact that Jon Tenney is still recurring on the sequel series as Fritz Howard, Brenda’s husband and FBI (later LAPD) big shot. His continuing presence makes her lingering absence all the more noticeable and distracting. Of course, if Kyra Sedgwick could just make a single guest appearance on Major Crimes, then all will be forgiven.
4. Mandy on 24
24, Fox’s groundbreaking and controversial spy drama, featured a high level of turnover in its cast over the years, as characters were killed off with alarming frequency. One character who never received a well-deserved comeuppance was Mandy, a mercenary who found herself working with terrorists in the show’s first season. Then, in Day 2, this cold-blooded killer nearly assassinated President David Palmer in the closing seconds of the season finale. Finally, in Day 4, she, in a shocking twist, was granted a full presidential pardon in exchange for information on that day’s terror attacks.
Since then, Mandy has yet to make a return appearance. At one point, she was going to pop up in Day 7 as an accomplice of the turncoat Tony Almeida, but those plans never came to fruition. Perhaps she’ll finally make her long-awaited return in the upcoming 24: Legacy? Time will tell. Maybe Mandy made the most of her free pass. Maybe she’s on a beach, sipping margaritas and living life to the fullest, having renounced her evil ways. Who can say?
3. Janice Rand on Star Trek
In the original Star Trek series, Captain Kirk had a yeoman, Janice Rand, who essentially acted as his secretary. The actress hired to play Janice was Grace Lee Whitney. This being Captain Kirk, he and his yeoman were written to have romantic feelings for each other. However, a pair of concerns caused these plans to ultimately come to naught. First, the producers of the show favored the idea that Kirk not be tied down with any one woman, preferring that he find new love in outer space every week. Second, and more pressingly, the show was over-budget and needed to fire actors in order to cut costs. Grace Lee Whitney was considered to be the least essential member of the cast, so she got the boot. Her character’s sudden disappearance was never explained.
Grace Lee Whitney entered a years-long struggle with alcohol addiction, but she recovered, and even appeared in four Star Trek films (The Motion Picture, III, IV, and VI), as well as the “Flashback” episode of Star Trek: Voyager, reprising her character after a long absence.
2. Dan Briggs on Mission: Impossible
Most people know that Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible films are actually a continuation of the classic 1960s television series of the same name. In the first film, Jon Voight plays Jim Phelps, a role originated by Peter Graves in the series. Many fans forget, however, that Jim Phelps was not the original IMF team leader. Peter Graves didn’t join the cast until season 2; the show’s original lead was Dan Briggs, played by Steven Hill.
Steven Hill parted ways with the show because its busy shooting schedule clashed with his strict religious views. As an orthodox Jew, Hill was unable to work on the Jewish Sabbath, which lasts from Friday evening to Saturday night. Ultimately, this proved to be too inconvenient for the show, and he was dropped for season 2, which introduced Peter Graves as the new team leader. No explanation was ever given for the sudden loss of the Dan Briggs character, even though the producers could have easily made the excuse that he was killed on a mission. It was a spy show, after all. Perhaps they thought he might one day return as a special guest or something, but no such occurrence ever took place. Hill went on to regain his fame in the 1990s, as the District Attorney on Law & Order.
1. Billie Young on Night Court
Night Court, the legendary NBC sitcom, took a few years to find the right public defender to go toe-to-toe with John Larroquette’s Emmy-winning performance as Dan Fielding, the ultimate hilarious slimeball of the 1980s. A few episodes into season 2, NBC found their female lead: actress/rock and roll goddess Ellen Foley. In 1977, she sang on Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell album, and went on to record albums of her own. By the time of her Night Court debut in 1984, she had three albums under her belt: 1979’s Nightout, 1981’s Spirit of St. Louis, and 1983’s Another Breath.
Even though she had strong chemistry with the rest of her Night Court cast, she was not asked back for the show’s third season. Actress Markie Post had always been producers’ first choice to play the Public Defender, but she had been stuck on a different show, The Fall Guy. After that show was canceled, she was quickly scooped up by Night Court, and the Billie Young character was let go with no explanation.
Markie Post remained a regular on the show until the end of its nine-year run, while Ellen Foley went on to appear in a number of films, such as Cocktail and Fatal Attraction. In 2013, she finally released her long-awaited fourth album, the aptly-titled About Time.
Can you think of any other TV characters who suddenly disappeared from their shows? Have you added Ellen Foley’s music to all of your Spotify playlists? Sound off in the comments!
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