We all have our favourite small-screen stars. With the quality and diversity of television on the rise, it’s not hard to find your next Netflix binge sesh, or your next tragically flawed anti-hero crush that will totally come around by the season finale.
Once these characters and, subsequently, the actors that play them, are fully ingrained in our hearts and psyches, it’s hard to imagine them not being able to achieve a similar level of success on their second (or third) attempt at a series. Unfortunately, the world of film and television is an unforgiving terrain, and though talent matters, producers and directors have to sweat the small stuff, which can be the difference between securing the gig and losing it.
It can be disappointing to hear about a favourite TV actor landing a new gig, and then mere days, weeks, or months later hearing about them being publicly and somewhat mysteriously let go – reasons like, “We decided to go a different direction” – are usually cited. Things like actor chemistry, having the right “look”, and inter-personal dynamics on set all factor into the ultimate decision as to whether the actor stays or goes. In the case of these fifteen stars, the call made by the higher ups was “go.”
Here are 15 TV Stars Who Were Fired After One Season (Or Less).
15. Lisa Kudrow – Frasier
Lisa Kudrow achieved international fame for portraying Phoebe Buffay (and, for that matter, Ursula Buffay) on NBC’s long-running sitcom Friends. Kudrow has kept busy in various roles since the finale of Friends in 2004: Kudrow was featured in two movies in 2017, and recently leant her voice to Netflix anthropomorphic cartoon Bojack Horseman.
Despite her success over the last two decades, Kudrow hit a bump in the road when she was fired from the earlier NBC brainchild Frasier. She appeared in the pilot as Roz, but was fired after the first day in lieu of Peri Gilpin.
Test audiences loved Kudrow but when push came to shove, Kudrow didn’t have the gutsy, hard-edged determination that was needed for Roz. Kudrow’s quirkiness and humor wasn’t a fit for the role – luckily, a year later she landed the part of Phoebe Buffay. K
14. Gates McFadden – Star Trek: The Next Generation
A beloved sci-fi actress, Gates McFadden is also known for memorable roles on the crime comedy Franklin & Bash (as Judge Mallory Jacobs) and as Allison Rourke on the ’90s hit sitcom Mad About You. However, McFadden’s rise to fame as a Star Trek mainstay was not a straight shot – nor is it entirely clear what happened.
In 1987, McFadden starred as Dr. Beverly Crusher – chief medical officer on board – on Star Trek: The Next Generation. After one season, McFadden left the show. Opinion is divided as to what actually went down, but according to a three-hour interview conducted in 2006 with TNG producer Rick Berman, McFadden was fired after season one because head writer Maurice Hurley “didn’t like her acting” and took personal issue with McFadden.
13. Selma Blair – Anger Management
Known largely for her feature films, Blair has dabbled in television (in fact, she’s landed a recurring role on the upcoming television reboot of iconic ’80s film Heathers). Blair appeared in Anger Management as Charlie Sheen’s character’s therapist.
It’s hard to tell exactly what happened, but the facts are these – after a ten episode season one, the decision was made (for syndication purposes) to produce a hundred-episode season two, with two episodes airing per week. Blair’s departure from the show occurred about halfway through filming of this order, which means she technically survived more than a season, but her tenure only lasted roughly a year into production of the show.
It seems that it stemmed from a fight with Sheen, after Blair complained about his poor work ethic, which makes her being let go a likely possibility for the reason behind her departure. Deadline reports that the actress was fired by Sheen via text, with him going so far as to call her a “c–t.”
12. Christina Hendricks – Roadies
Rising to fame as the strong-willed and scintillating Joan Harris/Holloway on AMC’s critically acclaimed Mad Men, Christina Hendricks has enjoyed a tenure on a handful of television shows since its finale – such as Hap and Leonard, Another Period, and Tin Star. Longtime fans will also remember her from recurring roles on Kevin Hill, Firefly and ER.
It’s hard to imagine any producer, director, or actor passing up the chance to work on a project with Hendricks – but it happened. In late 2014, it was announced that Hendricks would star in the upcoming Showtime series Roadies – but not six months later, it was revealed that Hendricks has been replaced with Carla Gugino, due to the show being “heavily reworked.”
Hendricks handled the decision gracefully, implying there were no hard feelings. As it happens, Roadies was canceled after just one season and Hendricks has continued to find success – with seven projects currently in post-production.
11. Anita Barone – Friends
In your most recent round of Friends binge watching, you may have noticed that Ross’ lesbian ex-wife Carol Willick is played by a different actress for her first appearance in the series second episode, “The One With The Sonogram at the End”.
Jane Sibbett is known for her turn as the recurring role of Carol, but it was actually originated by Anita Barone. Apparently, Barone wanted a more regular role, so the producers let her go in favor of Sibbett, who had auditioned for one of the series leads. Barone had also auditioned for a series lead, and already had a decent number of television credits, such as a recurring role on Carol & Company.
It’s likely this entry was a more mutual decision, but the producer’s clearly saw more consistent potential in Sibbett – the Carol character was supposed to have a three episode arc, but Sibbett’s performance earned her a grand total of fifteen episodes. Barone went on to star in The Jeff Foxworthy Show and, more recently, The War at Home.
10. Leah Remini – The Talk
Remini rose to television prominence for her portrayal of Carrie Heffernan in the Kevin James helmed sitcom King of Queens. She’s experienced relative success after the show’s end, taking on roles in In The Motherhood, Family Tools and Kevin Can Wait (again with Kevin James).
In 2010, she was on the panel for the first season of the discussion based female talk show, The Talk, alongside Sharon Osbourne. At the time of her dismissal, Remini publicly took to Twitter and called out Osbourne, citing her as the reason for her dismissal, which Osbourne denied. In a more recent interview, Remini has changed her tune about the incident. She claims, “I have a big mouth and I have a temper, so that’s not good for people. That’s not good for executives.”
9. Jenna Fischer – Man With A Plan
It would be hard to imagine Jenna Fischer starring on a sitcom as anyone other than Pam, but the actress has chops and knows how to capture the hearts of her audience, so we have faith!
She originally landed the role of Andi, wife of Matt LeBlanc’s character in the new CBS sitcom Man With A Plan. However, Fischer was replaced prior to the official network presentation and replaced with Liza Snyder. CBS studio executives claimed that the reason for Fischer’s dismissal was chemistry issues between the two leads, with CBS president Glenn Geller explaining: “It just wasn’t the right actress for the right role, ultimately, when we saw the pilot.”
We’re sure Fischer has more exciting opportunities on the horizon – in fact, she’s currently starring in ABC series Splitting Up Together which was picked up for the 2017/2018 television season. She also has a movie in the works – The 15:17 to Paris – which is currently filming.
8. Lisa Bonet – A Different World
Lisa Bonet rose to fame as the second eldest daughter of Cliff and Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show. Her character was a fan favorite, known for her fashion sense and spirited attitude. It was no wonder that after three seasons of The Cosby Show, Bonet’s character Denise was given a spin-off chronicling her time at college.
This was A Different World, which originally premiered with Bonet in the lead role in September 1987. However, despite the decent ratings, the series was receiving scathing reviews from critics and something had to be done. It’s rumoured Bonet already had tension with Cosby – whose behavior and manipulation has now more clearly come to light – and when she announced her pregnancy, there was little discussion as to whether she would stay or go.
Under Cosby’s direction, Bonet was removed from A Different World, and put back on The Cosby Show – taking a hiatus during her pregnancy so no storylines involving an unwed mother would be written in.
7. Rebecca Gayheart – Firefly
Rebecca Gayheart achieved success in the late ’90s through her roles in horror films such as Urban Legend and Scream 2 – she also showed off her knack for comedy in movies like Jawbreaker and Hairshirt.
When it came time to break into television, Gayheart almost had it made – she was originally cast in the role of Inara Serra on the cult classic television show Firefly. However, after only one day of filming, Gayheart was replaced by Morena Baccarin. The official line is that Gayheart lacked chemistry with the rest of the cast.
Fortunately, Gayheart managed to land herself a leading role on another short-lived cult classic television show: for the first season of Dead Like Me, Gayheart starred as the spontaneous and free-spirited Betty Rhomer, who exits the show after following a soul through the gateway to heaven. Though Gayheart hasn’t done much in television lately, she recently was featured in Grey Lady, a film starring her husband, Eric Dane.
6. Jennifer Ehle – Game of Thrones
It’s no secret that Game of Thrones is one of the most successful television shows of all time. Most actors would eat their hats to land a gig on the show – especially a recurring role over a season or more. Jennifer Ehle was almost one of those actors – she actually starred in the original pilot episode as Catelyn Stark, mother to Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran and Rickon, and wife of Ned. It’s a juicy role that spans over multiple seasons, but Ehle was let go after the original pilot (which never publicly aired – it was reshot and heavily re-cut).
The creators of Game of Thrones have been tight-lipped as to the exact reason for Ehle’s firing, except to say that: “Jennifer Ehle is really brilliant, but I guess things changed about the way everybody saw it.” Ehle, however, claims the reason for her departure was personal – it was too soon after her daughter’s birth. Ehle had already achieved acclaim by portraying Elizabeth Bennet in BBC’s Pride and Prejudice mini series years earlier.
5. Glenn Quinn – Angel
Glenn Quinn was an Irish-American actor who tragically passed away in 2002, at the young age of 32. Quinn was known to struggle with drug addiction, and he died as a result of heroin overdose. However, Quinn was a beloved television star in the 1990s, with a recurring role as “tough-guy” Mark Healey on Roseanne. Healey eventually ends up marrying long-time girlfriend Becky, daughter of Roseanne.
After Roseanne ended, Quinn went on to guest star on Fair City and took parts in a handful of films. He landed the part of Allen Doyle on Joss Whedon’s cult classic Angel in 1999. However, Quinn only appeared in ten episodes, as he was killed off part-way through season one, despite being one of the main characters. The death is sudden – though carefully done – so it leads one to believe it was a calculated move on the behalf of the producers and writers. Though it occurred three years before Quinn’s death, his battle with drug addiction was already well-known.
4. Merrin Dungey – Private Practice
Merrin Dungey is no stranger to television; she has had recurring roles in a variety of hit shows over her twenty year long career. Early on, she starred in Alias with Jennifer Garner and had a secondary role as Kitty Kenarban in Malcolm in the Middle.
When the time came for Dungey to feature in a crossover episode of Grey’s Anatomy – setting up Kate Walsh’s departure to Private Practice – it seemed inevitable that she had another juicy role secured on a hit show. Unfortunately, after the initial crossover episode, Dungey was replaced by Audra MacDonald. The reason? Chemistry was lacking between Dungey and Taye Diggs, who was set to play Dungey’s husband. Apparently it was hard to imagine the two as a viable couple.
Luckily, Dungey has gone on to nab recurring roles in three of the hottest shows on TV right now – as Ursula in Once Upon A Time, as Sharon Jeffords (wife of Terry Jeffords) in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and as Detective Quinlan in Big Little Lies.
3. Kim Delaney – CSI: Miami
When CSI: Miami premiered in 2002, David Caruso wasn’t the only big name attached to the project. A late in the game addition, Kim Delaney was cast as Megan Donner, who returned to work at the lab after taking time off for her husband’s death.
Delaney had already achieved acclaim in the television world: she played Detective Diane Russell on the long-running crime series NYPD Blue and featured in All My Children as Jenny Gardner Nelson before that. However, she lasted less than a season – she was written out of the show after ten episodes, with her character unexpectedly quitting. The reason given by executives was, again, Delaney’s lack of chemistry with Caruso and the other main actors.
It was a tough year for Delaney – with a DUI charge earlier that year – but she found a place for herself by returning to NYPD Blue for a year. Delaney achieved television success again on the show Army Wives, which she starred in from 2007 to 2012.
2. Ray Romano – News Radio
NewsRadio was the little sitcom that could – it challenged the norms of sitcoms at the time, trying to re-invent comedic stereotypes and setting the stage for wacky workplace comedies to come, such as Parks and Recreation and The Office. It also launched the careers of comedic actors into the mainstream, such as Dave Foley and Andy Dick. It perhaps could have had the same influence on Ray Romano – if he hadn’t been let go after one day of rehearsals.
Romano was cast as the Electrician, a role that was later given to Joe Rogan. Romano’s comedic timing and delivery didn’t jive with the feel of the show, so producer’s let him go. Luckily for Romano, he landed his own sitcom – the ever popular Everybody Loves Raymond – in 1996. Romano continues to enjoy success in film and television – he recently co-starred in the indie comedy The Big Sick.
1. Robert Downey Jr. – Ally McBeal
Now a fully-fledged film superstar, Robert Downey Jr. had some rocky moments in the early 2000s, where he struggled with with drug abuse. In a move to try and revitalize his career and his image, Downey Jr, joined the cast of Ally McBeal, which was trying to get ratings up in its fourth season.
The move worked for the show, and backfired for Downey Jr. – his drug use continued and he hated the mundanity of television. He managed to film all but one episode of the fourth season before his behavior got him fired: he was arrested for drug use in April 2001, and the axe came down quickly – Downey Jr. was let go from the show, effective immediately. Unfortunately, that episode happened to be his character’s wedding.
The penultimate episode (where he proposed) had to be re-written so that he ended up breaking off the relationship instead, and the wedding plot was abandoned entirely, in lieu of an appearance by a young Josh Groban, singing at a prom.
Thankfully, Iron Man turned things around in the end.
Did you miss these actors in their roles? Who else was fired in their first season? Let us know in the comments!
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