A lot of factors determine a TV show’s success. Time slots, writing, budget, and marketing all play major roles in a show’s longevity. However, more often than not, it’s the familiar faces gracing our television screens week in and week out that hold the power to truly make or break a series.
This makes sense, since we are invested in these fictional peoples’ lives, after all… which makes it only logical that so many series have faced utter failure after losing their biggest and brightest stars.
The results vary widely, as do the circumstances surrounding the stars’ exits. Some are booted for their bad behavior on and off-set, like Brett Butler and Louis CK, while others were clearly mistreated and wronged by the studio’s devastating choices, such as the alleged Chandler Riggs.
Some franchises have suffered massive ratings dips, while others simply disappeared from network rotation permanently. Whatever the outcome, it seems clear that firing a show’s lead only spells trouble.
From fired actors like Stana Katic to Kevin Spacey to Ellen DeGeneres, here are the 15 TV Shows That Destroyed Themselves By Firing Actors.
15. Chandler Riggs On The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead has suffered from falling ratings for the past couple of seasons. Everyone swore that they were done with the show after Glenn died at the hands of Negan (and Lucille) in season 7. However, it was the perceived mistreatment of Chandler Riggs and his character Carl Grimes in season 8 that really sent fans over the edge.
Riggs’s father, William Riggs, accused Scott Gimple of leading his son on, implying to the young actor that he would be picked up for another three years on the series only to fire him a couple weeks before his 18th birthday.
Fans were outraged on Riggs’s behalf, striking up a petition to have Gimple fired as showrunner of the series. That firing won’t be happening, as Gimple has been promoted to Chief Content Officer for all content across the two Walking Dead franchises.
However, fans made sure that their disappointment was taken seriously by leaving the show in droves, leaving the season 8 midseason finale as the lowest rated since season 2.
14. Erinn Hayes On Kevin Can Wait
When CBS decided to take Kevin Can Wait in a radically new direction, actress Errin Hayes was left in the dust. Her character, Donna, who was supposed to be the wife of the show’s main character, Kevin, was killed off-screen between seasons 1 and 2.
The season 2 premiere made a couple off-hand remarks about Donna’s untimely death… and then the season quickly got on without her. Leah Remini’s character, Vanessa, was bumped to series regular in her stead.
Fans did not take Donna’s mistreatment lightly and took to Twitter to air their grievances. Remini herself became the target of many angry viewers who felt that she was personally responsible for Donna’s death and demanded answers as to why she would mistreat a fellow actress and whether or not the death would be further explored in the future.
13. Brett Butler On Grace Under Fire
Not every actor is unceremoniously sacked from their job for no good reason. Sometimes stars get a little out of hand and leave their employers with little choice. This was the case with Rhett Butler on the set of Grace Under Fire.
Butler has been very open and honest about her unruly behavior, admitting that she made her co-stars lives miserable. She became bossy and angry, clashing with execs for creative control and holding up filming while quibbling over the script and making all sorts of demands for her character.
She was eventually fired for her substance abuse and on-set behavior, but it was too little too late and the show’s five-year run came to an end as the series was canceled following Butler’s departure.
12. Stana Katic On Castle
Fans were outraged when Stana Katic was let go from ABC’s Castle after co-starring in the series for eight seasons. Katic revealed that she was not even approached with the opportunity to renew her contract for season 9.
Worried over whether or not he would be able to retain his stars, executive producer Alexi Hawley revealed that the crew had shot scenes that could be tacked on to season 8 to finish up the series. However, the crew was still hopeful that the show would continue with or without its stars, as the studio had dropped heavy hints that they were planning to renew the series.
This simply wasn’t the case, however, and the show was dropped less than a month later. ABC President Channing Dungey defended the decisions, claiming that the firing was to prepare for a season 9 but that the network ultimately decided it wasn’t in their best interest to renew the series.
11. Jeremy Clarkson On Top Gear
Jeremy Clarkson lost his job as host of the BBC’s Top Gear after years of controversial and offensive jokes. However, it was an off-screen altercation with producer Oisin Tymon that finally did him in. Clarkson became angry over a lack of food onset and verbally attacked Tymon before attempting a physical assault.
However, fans were unhappy with Clarkson’s firing and attacked the network for removing a voice they very deeply agreed with and that they felt represented them. Radio host Chris Evans took over hosting duties after Clarkson was fired, but ratings were disastrous, prompting Evans to quit only a year later.
Mark Thompson, who previously worked for the BBC, said that he felt that the network made a disastrous mistake in firing Clarkson, despite his total understanding of the network’s decision given Clarkson’s troublesome history.
10. Jamie Lynn Spears On Zoe 101
You can’t be a teen star without being squeaky clean. That’s why there are loads of rules, guidelines, and contractual obligations put in place to try to keep Disney’s teen stars in line. However, wild, young TV stars will be wild, young TV stars and networks are often quick to erase all trace of their former talent after their naughty deeds go public.
When Jamie Lynn Spears became pregnant at the age of 16, Nickelodeon flew into a panic. They were challenged with whether they should allow Spears’ series, Zoe 101, to continue with the actress or whether they should remove Spears from her role in the popular tween series.
9. Thomas Gibson On Criminal Minds
It makes sense that a show with a clear protagonist or host would suffer after losing their most familiar face. However, what happens when an ensemble decides to shake up the cast?
Well, sometimes removing a popular character from a group effort is just as risky. That’s exactly what happened when CBS removed Thomas Gibson from his role of Aaron Hotchner in Criminal Minds.
Gibson was written out of the show after a physical encounter with a writer in which he allegedly kicked the victim in the head while arguing over the quality of the script. Gibson maintained that there was a different side of the story and that he had never intended to purposefully attack any member of the crew.
Regardless of whether or not Gibson was guilty, the series’ ratings plummeted to an all-time low– and the angry fans attacking the remaining cast and crew for unjustly firing Gibson only made matters worse.
8. Jessica Biel On 7th Heaven
Not every controversial TV star has actually earned their nasty reputation. Sometimes they simply get a bad rap for behaving like… well, people. Jessica Biel played good girl Mary on the WB’s 7th Heaven, so naturally, she was expected to maintain a squeaky clean image.
When she posed for a series of risqué photos for Gear magazine, her future on the show was dangerously compromised. Mary was written out of the series for a full season, which Biel claimed to have been a move that would allow her to attend college at the time. However, she only returned for one more season before eventually leaving the show for good.
Biel was very vocal about her regret over the photos, openly stating that she would never have participated in the photo shoot had she known how things would turn out.
7. Jennette McCurdy On Sam And Cat
While some actors may regret the actions that led to their job loss, Sam and Cat‘s Jeannette McCurdy refused to apologize for the scandal that got her kicked off the fledgling Nickelodeon series.
When racy photos of McCurdy were leaked online, Nickelodeon reacted exactly as they did with Jamie Lynn Spears’s pregnancy scandal: they canceled the series immediately.
Unlike Jessica Biel, McCurdy flat out refused to apologize, stating that she was not a role model and had done nothing wrong. The cast and crew seemed to pretend that McCurdy had never been a part of the short-lived series, choosing not to mention her in their heartfelt goodbyes.
6. Cindy Williams On Laverne And Shirley
Cindy Williams wasn’t exactly fired from Laverne & Shirley, but she wasn’t given much of an option but to leave. The studio insisted that she film on her due date, a request that Williams had no choice but to refuse.
The studio was not happy with Williams’s insistence that she not work the same day that she was supposed to give birth and refused to budge, prompting her to leave the series prematurely.
Williams was supposed to appear in season 8 but was mostly written out of the show. The series struggled to retain its audience without Williams and co-star Penny Marshall’s famous banter.
5. Kevin Spacey On House Of Cards
When news of the assault allegations against Kevin Spacey were revealed, Netflix wasted no time in severing all ties with their House of Cards star. Spacey was simultaneously edited out of Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World.
The subsequent recasting of Spacey in All the Money was a critical and box office success, which was quite a feat for a last-minute reshoot. House of Cards did not get back on its feet so quickly, though.
Following the removal of Spacey as Cards‘ Frank Underwood, season 6 production was put on hold while the streaming company pondered what to do with the show. Netflix revealed plans to end the series after season 6.
4. Adam Richman On Man Finds Food
Clearly, attacking the cast and crew of your television show is a terrible idea… but attacking the fans of that show might actually be worse. What could possibly possess a person to intentionally incite anger in the very people responsible for your livelihood? For Man Finds Food star, Adam Richman, the final straw was the backlash directed at his alleged fat-shaming.
Richman posted a photo of a suit that he could not fit into on Instagram, captioning the ensemble as his “thinspiration.” Followers cringed at the phrase, accusing Richman of endorsing a lifestyle that promotes negative body image.
He lost it and began attacking followers through social media. He doubled down on his previous remarks, saying that inspiring people to lose weight was a good thing, while he personally attacked critics.
Richman swore that he would not apologize but ultimately did before deleting all trace of the rant. In the end, it wasn’t enough, and his series was canceled by the Travel Channel before it ever aired.
3. Ellen DeGeneres On Ellen
Before she was everybody’s favorite dancing daytime talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres was the star of her own sitcom. When she finally decided to come out as gay, she chose to simultaneously reveal her TV character’s sexual orientation, as well.
This was a bold, unprecedented move designed to normalize the orientation, while also allowing DeGeneres to truly be herself in all aspects of her life. This being the ’90s, however, things did not go well on either front.
The series was canceled and DeGeneres found herself in a Hollywood dry spell, unable to find work for years following the death of her sitcom. Her only mention in the media was the press’ obsessively vulture-like reports on her love life. DeGeneres eventually landed her talk show and things have been looking up ever since.
2. Louis CK On All Of His Shows
Just a few short months ago, he was one of the most successful comedians of all-time. Writing, producing, and starring in various films and TV shows, along with his popular stand-up comedy specials, it seemed the only place for Louis CK to go was up.
He had even managed to retain respect after rumors began to spread that he had a habit of harassing female comedies, but as no proof had been revealed, his star still shone brightly… and then everything came crashing down.
Eventually, the truth did come out, as it always does, with emails and messages sent from CK to his victims attempting to apologize for his behavior, which acted as evidence.
Faced with no other recourse, CK finally admitted that the rumors that he had denied for years were, in fact, true. FX dropped four of CK’s shows following the announcement and severed ties with his production company. Similarly, HBO pulled any and all CK projects from their streaming services.
1. Half The Cast Of Once Upon A Time
Fans of ABC’s Once Upon a Time were shocked and confused when it was announced that six major actors would be leaving the series ahead of season 7. While some had claimed to have left of their own accord, ABC execs admitted they had always planned to revamp their cast in what they dubbed a “soft reboot.”
They claimed that the show’s story, as it was, had come to its natural conclusion and that they planned to tell a new story, out of a new book, in season 7.
The gamble failed to pay off, however. The casting shake-up, combined with the show’s new time slot, resulted in the season 7 debut bringing in a low demographic rating compared to the season 6 finale and the season 6 overall average.
Can you think of any other shows that were ruined when they decided to fire actors? Sound off in the comments!
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