Everybody’s upbringing is full of platitudes about failure and how it should make you stronger. If something does not work out the first time, don’t give up, there are always second chances and new opportunities awaiting. Even a lot of fiction in pop culture contains themes about failure, like how super heroes always lose once or twice before dusting themselves off to proclaim the ultimate victory in the final battle. These cliches are everywhere in film and television, but some actors do not live by this ideal and call it a day after a certain amount of failures.
There are a myriad of reasons why an actor would not return to a set after an unsuccessful project. Showbiz is rarely eager to hand out second chances unless the idea of said actor’s comeback will line their wallets. Sometimes it is the their choice, as a bomb may be a sign that it is time to retire, or at least slow it down a bit.
This list will be looking exclusively at TV actors who never tried grabbing the spotlight again after their shows whimpered out. Some of the performers may have had parts in other series or movies afterwards, but never in a starring role.
Here are 20 Actors Who Completely Disappeared After Their Shows Bombed.
20. Christopher Knight – The Brady’s
The Brady Bunch is an undeniably iconic television family, but the several attempts to bring the original cast back to the small screen have always had a hard time making it past a single season. The last of these efforts was 1990s The Brady’s.
This incarnation had a more serious tone and hour long episodes, but this shift in format did nothing to save it from being canceled after barely a month.
Most of the actors from The Brady Bunch have no other notable credits to their name, so they all have equal claim to this spot, but Christopher Knight remained particularly quiet in the decade that followed after the show’s cancellation. He only re-emerged for a small time in the mid 2000s for some reality TV. After that was done, he went right back into the shadows.
19. Giovanni Ribisi – Dads
2014 was a strange year for Giovanni Ribisi. He had a prominent role as Lee White in Selma, a highly decorated drama about the historic voting rights marches, but also was one of the stars of Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West, which was released to mixed reception.
This same year also saw the cancellation of Dads, a sitcom that is often considered one of the worst to ever hit airwaves.
Since that year, Ribisi has been keeping a low profile, with the exception of an appearance in Ted 2 (him and Seth MacFarlane must have a good working relationship). However, it is possible that this silence is due to his upcoming role in the future Avatar films, which started filming this past August.
18. Matt LeBlanc – Joey
Friends had an amazing ten season run. Any television show would be happy with half of the success and seasons that the sitcom managed to obtain. Once the legendary comedy went off the air NBC tried to continue off its success with a spinoff called Joey.
Despite a strong start in the ratings, Joey’s viewership sharply declined in its second year and was eventually canceled before airing all of its episodes.
After the spinoff’s failure, Matt LeBlanc went into a self imposed hiatus from television. The actor did not appear in a signal production for five years from 2006 to 2011. Thankfully, in recent years he has found success once again in television with the critically acclaimed Showtime series Episodes. Now that Episodes is over, the Friends actor has returned to a major network with CBS’s Man With a Plan.
17. Shad Moss / Bow Wow – CSI: Cyber
It is not unheard of for rappers to pursue acting. In fact, it’s so common it seems like a natural next step in the career for anybody in the genre. Some rappers do such incredible acting work that it becomes their primary focus. Others juggle both, while some return to exclusively doing what made them famous in the first place. For Bow Wow (real name Shad Moss) it looks like he may be currently evaluating which of the three categories he fits into.
Shad landed a starring role in the CSI spinoff CSI: Cyber, but the show was not destined for greatness like its predecessor and was cancelled after only two seasons.
16. Matthew Perry – Odd Couple
Unlike Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry never stopped trying to get a show off the ground after the end of Friends. In 2006, he starred in Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which distinguished itself from other Sorkin dramas by being the only one to last just a single season. Then, in 2011, he co-created and starred in Mr. Sunshine before it was cancelled after, again, a single year. Go On was a 2012 sitcom with a great cast, but also couldn’t get ratings to justify a second season.
The closest the actor has come to a successful show is 2015’s The Odd Couple, which managed to last more than one year. Still, after only three seasons the remake of the classic 1970s sitcom was canceled by NBC. Since then Matthew Perry has gone silent. Is he entering an early retirement or quietly planning a return to television?
15. Charlie Sheen – Anger Management
Anger Management was not the first sitcom that Charlie Sheen starred in. In 2003, the son of Martin Sheen was a lead actor on the very successful Two and a Half Men, but was fired in 2011 sparking his infamous meltdown. In 2012, he returned to TV with the FX series Anger Management which started off with big ratings, but was universally panned by critics.
While Anger Management did last one hundred episodes, it is because of a technicality.
The first season had ten episodes and if the ratings hit a certain point, the show would be automatically renewed for a second season of ninety episodes. After the show was taken off the air in 2014, Sheen has kept a low profile. Is he resting on his various royalties or biding his time for a comeback? If it’s the latter, 2017’s 9/11 sure was not the start of one.
14. Michael Richards – The Michael Richards Show
Following the end of Seinfeld, there was the legendary “Seinfeld curse,” where it seemed like the actors from the hit show were doomed to fail at every project they started. Julia Louis-Dreyfus has since succeeded in breaking this curse with her venerated role in Veep. Before this, however, her former co-star Michael Richards tried to carry a series all on his own with The Michael Richards Show.
The show featured the actor as a quirky but successful private detective, but the show only ran for eight episodes before being canceled by NBC.
Richards quietly pursued his standup career until entering the spotlight again in 2006 when, during an outburst, referred to a group of black audience members as a severe racial slur, thus self destructing his career. Other than a paltry amount of guest spots on TV shows, the eccentric comedian has rarely been seen in front the camera.
13. John Kricfalusi – Adult Party
Known more as the creator of Ren and Stimpy rather than an actor, John Kricfalusi nonetheless voiced Ren the Chihuahua when Billy West refused to do voice over work for the 2003 revival series Adult Party Cartoon. West’s principle reason for rejecting the offer to return was that the script was so bad and offensive that it would hurt his career, which turned out to be the right call for him.
The negative reception to Adult Party Cartoon was so strong that it is often cited as the reason Ren and Stimpy has never been revived for more episodes.
John Kricfalusi’s reputation was permanently tarnished by the failed series and has had almost no television work since. John still keeps busy with other art work, but it is impossible to know if there will ever be new Ren and Stimpy Episodes.
12. Brian Bosworth – Lawless
Fox was not known for producing a myriad of hit shows in the 90s. With the exception of classics like The X-Files and The Simpsons most of its lineup was forgettable. One such forgotten show was the Brian Bosworth series Lawless. Series is maybe the wrong word to use, since it only aired a single episode.
Before Lawless, Bosworth played for the NFL for three seasons, but was forced to retire due to injuries. He then pursued an acting career, but movies he starred in were consistently met with poor critical reception and low box office numbers.
11. Charlton Heston – The Colbys
Charlton Heston is an immortal figure in cinema. Throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s, he performed in many iconic roles that were hits with both audiences and critics. However, his career slowed down significantly after the failure of the prime time soap opera The Colbys in the mid 1980s.
A Spin-off of Dynasty, the show was much like its predecessor in that it followed the trials and tribulations of an immensely wealthy family.
Unlike Dynasty, however, The Colbys failed to bring in good ratings for ABC and was pulled off the air after two seasons. Heston still has more credits to his name after his failed TV than most other actors on this list, but none of the roles are even half as prestigious as Moses or Judah Ben-Hur. Considering his pedigree, one failed TV show should not have slowed him down one bit.
10. Dennis Miller – The 1/2 Hour News Hour
Dennis Miller is no stranger to political comedy. He is often considered to have been one of the finest anchors on the classic Saturday Night Live segment “Weekend Update” which he hosted from 1985 to 1991. Despite this previous experience, his appearance on the Fox News’ 2007 political satire The 1/2 Hour News Hour couldn’t save it from lasting more than seventeen episodes.
The satirical news show was different than its piers because its jokes were told with a right wing slant. This list is not going to judge based on political affiliations, but, by all accounts, the humor fell flat on its face.
Afterwards, Dennis Miller has not been seen on television except for appearances on The O’Reilly Factor, which itself was recently canceled. It would be nice to see Dennis Miller return to TV, just maybe keep it apolitical, for the comedy’s sake.
9. Melba Moore – Melba
Melba Moore has had a successful music career, which is no surprise since she herself is the daughter of a saxophonist and a singer. She also tried to become a star of the screen as well with appearances in television and film. While the singer had roles in significant movies like Hair, it all came to a halt after trying her hand at TV stardom with the extremely short lived Melba.
Melba had the extreme misfortune of premiering on the same day as the Challenger space shuttle tragedy. This may be one of the reasons that it tanked in the ratings and only lasted six episodes, but it is impossible to say for sure.
8. James Newman – Skins
The United States often adapts shows from across the pond for its own audiences. Sometimes this works out really well and viewers are treated to a long, successful series like The Office. Other times the attempts fail to captivate audiences, as is the case with MTVs adaptation of Skins. Despite heavy marketing, Skins only lasted ten episodes.
James Newman made his career acting debut as Tony on the very short lived drama. As of 2018, it is still his only roll in any television series or film. Before being cast in the show, James was pursuing a career as an amateur boxer. He keeps a low profile, so it’s hard to know if he is looking for a new role or training for a return to the ring.
7. Anne-Marie Martin – Sledgehammer
Sledgehammer is an incredibly funny show, but was barely able to remain on air for two seasons. It was so sure of its cancellation after the first season that the season finale had the main character accidentally blowing up all of Los Angeles.
A couple of reasons for its failure include its compromised time slot and lack of a laugh track which, at the time, was unconventional.
Anne-Marie Martin was the titular character’s partner and it proved to be her last acting gig. In 1987, during the show’s run, she married famed writer Michael Crichton and retired from the business after the screwball cop comedy was cancelled. She also co-wrote the 1996 film Twister, but never stepped foot in front of a camera again.
6. Barbara Bosson – Cop Rock
Recently, musicals and television have been having a good time with each other. The numerous live musical specials have consistently brought in good reviews and ratings, while the series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is using the medium to discuss themes not usually talked about on television.
Before this magical relationship, there was 1990’s Cop Rock, whose combination of serious cop drama and musical numbers was nothing short of bizarre.
Barbara Bosson was married to Cop Rock’s creator, Steven Bochco, but the two divorced in 1997. coincidentally, or maybe not, this is also the last year she appeared in any television show or movie. Many of her roles came from Bochco created series like Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, and NYPD Blue so it is not a far fetched idea to think this is why her work opportunities dried up. Hopefully she just decided to retire of her own volition.
5. Kent McCord – Galactica 1980
When the original Battlestar Galactica was canceled in 1979, it left plenty of fans hungry for more stories in the universe. ABC’s answer to fans’ desires was Galactica 1980, whose premise involved the heroes finally finding earth and now having to defend it from the cylons. While the original series has twenty four episodes, this second series only has ten.
Kent McCord had made a name for himself in the 1970s with the popular cop drama Adam-12, which lasted seven seasons. After the failure of Galactica 1980, Kent never found a regular spot on a long running show again. He also did not fare any better in films, aside from roles in Predator 2 and Airplane 2. His name may not be recognizable to younger readers, but hopefully the success he did find on TV was enough for him to live comfortably off of.
4. Phil Cowan – The Wilton North Report
In the past, Fox has made numerous attempts at entering the late night game and often with little fanfare. The first of these ventures was The Late Show With Joan Rivers which managed to last just over two years. The second shot at late night popularity was The Wilton North Report, a late night show that ended after barely four weeks.
For Phil Cowan, one of the show’s hosts, The Wilton North Report makes up half of his credits on IMDb. His only other appearance is in the little known 2001 film Making Something Up, playing a character named Ted. These days, the actor and host sticks to the radio and has not been seen on television for many years in any capacity
3. Stuart Townsend – Night Stalker
By the mid 2000s, Stuart Townsend had been slowly working his way up the Hollywood hierarchy, but bad luck seemed to get in the way. He was cast in The Lord of the Rings trilogy but was replaced at the last minute by Viggo Mortensen. Then, he starred in Queen of the Damned and was Dorian Grey in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which were both critical and financial disappointments. The last nail in his celebrity coffin seemed to be the failed 2005 series Night Stalker.
After the series’ six episodes, Townsend has remained quiet, but still working. He made his directorial debut with Battle in Seattle and played the titular character in the French/Canadian drama XIII, but both efforts failed to get audience’s attention. Townsend is still only forty five years old, so it’s not too late for a breakout starring role, but it seems like the actor has slowed down in recent years.
2. Melody Anderson – Manimal
For a perfect example of the inanity hour long dramas in the 1980s, look no further than Manimal. It’s about a man who turns into animals in order to help the police solve crimes. There are well done transformation scenes done by the master of creature effects, Stan Winston, but it was not enough to keep audiences interested and the show was cancelled after eight episodes.
The female lead, Melody Anderson, may be recognizable to readers from 1980s Flash Gordon. In the years following Manimal’s cancellation, roles were fewer and far between for the actress. Eventually she graduated from New York University and now is a full time social worker who has held lectures on drug use and its effect on families.
1. William Christopher – AfterMash
M*A*S*H was such a phenomenon that it was only natural for the network to try and exploit its success with spinoffs. The first of these attempts was AfterMash, a sitcom that followed the exploits of several of the original show’s characters after the end of the Korean War. Unfortunately, AfterMash was not destined for the same type of success and was cancelled after two seasons.
One of AfterMash’s stars was William Christopher, who played Father Mulcahy and was a regular cast member of the original show for every season (excluding the pilot where his character was played by a different actor). Afterwards, William was mostly relegated to bit parts and guest appearances. Unfortunately, the actor passed away on New Year’s Eve 2016 after battling cancer.
Are there any other actors that deserve to be on this list? Let us know in the comments!
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