Times Actors Left Their Roles, Ruining The Series While Leaving Low Ratings And Heartache In Their Wake

Sometimes, cast changes are an inevitable evil in the world of television. While some changes are seamlessly woven into the plot, others completely ruin the series. Take The Office, for example. Nothing was ever the same after Steve Carell left the cast.

And don’t forget how Nickelodeon thought replacing Steve Burns on Blue’s Clues was going to appease an army of toddlers is still a mystery. As fans and viewers of many shows, we’ve most likely all been effected by actors leaving or being recast, taking our favorite series downhill. Heads up, there are spoilers ahead; but keep reading to learn more about actors who left their roles, ruining the series.

Sandra Oh Leaving Grey’s Anatomy Hit Fans Hard

Sandra Oh Leaving Grey's Anatomy Hit Fans Hard
ABC
ABC

Although fans were not happy with her departure, Sandra Oh played the role of Cristina Yang for ten long seasons. The medical drama follows the story of a group of young doctors working at Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital, two of which are Meredith Grace and her best friend, Cristina Yang.

Their banter and love for one another are what got a lot of fans through hard parts of the show. So, when Oh decided it was time to hang up the character, the dynamic of the drama shifted, and not for the better.

Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton Leaving One Tree Hill

Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton Leaving One Tree Hill
The CW
The CW

For six years, fans of the teen soap opera One Tree Hill were in the middle of the Lucas-Payton love triangle with Brooke, Lindsay, and others. So, when they finally tied the knot and started a family, long-time Tree Hill enthusiasts couldn’t have been happier.

But the years of angst, music, literature, and drama all came to an end when Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton both up and left the show. With their departure, the show seemed to drag on and on until it finally “wrapped up” in season nine. Fans would have been very content to end the series watching Lucas and Payton drive off.

Mischa Barton Leaving The O.C. Was Horrible For The Show

the oc character
The WB Television Network
The WB Television Network

When the main character leaves a show, it is typically bad for ratings, since viewers get attached to certain people. So, when Mischa Barton decided she wanted to leave The O.C., the creators of the show had no choice but to kill off Marissa Cooper, one of the main characters.

Not only did Barton ruin her career by leaving the show, but the series also took a huge hit in their ratings. So long were the days of the constant fictional drama people were addicted to. And hello were the days of Ryan, Seth, and Summer growing up without Marissa to derail them — boring.

The Walking Dead Is Nothing Without Andrew Lincoln

The Walking Dead Is Nothing Without Andrew Lincoln
AMC
AMC

Since the first episode aired in 2010, people were hooked on Andrew Lincoln’s portrayal of anti-hero/hero Rick Grimes as he tries to keep himself, his family, and a rag-tag group of people alive during the zombie apocalypse. And while the survival of everyone in the show is always up in the air, the departure of Lincoln from the cast did no favors to The Walking Dead.

Unlike other actors who have left TWD, Lincoln’s was departure announced, so fans were able to wrap their heads around a world without Rick Grimes. And, lucky for them, the character will be returning in a movie.

Charlie Sheen Was One Of The Two And A Half Men

Charlie Sheen Was One Of The Two And A Half Men
The WB Television Network
The WB Television Network

The premise of Two and a Half Men was based around the bickering and banter of two brothers, Charlie and Alan. The comedy was all about their day-to-day love lives, single parenting, and how Alan disrupted Charlie’s go-with-the-flow lifestyle.

So, when Charlie Sheen was booted from the show in 2011, fans were a bit disheartened. Of course, the creators tried their best to re-boot the series with Ashton Kutcher, but it wasn’t the same. All people could see when they watched the show was Kelso from The ’70s Show, trying to be a billionaire. Even so, it’s considered to be one of television’s greatest comedy shows.

Steve Carell Made The Office What It Was

Steve Carell Made The Office What It Was
NBC
NBC

The critically acclaimed series The Office follows the story of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company in the town of Scranton, Pennsylvania. And while there are multiple characters in the show, one, in particular, stands out, Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell.

And while the show has won many awards through the years, people tend to agree the quality of the show went downhill in later seasons. And if one thing can be agreed upon, the downgrade of the show happened after Carell’s departure in the seventh season.

Robert Sheehan Made Misfits Funny

Robert Sheehan Made Misfits Funny
E4
E4

The British drama Misfits was something else altogether. The series revolves around a group of teenagers who are assigned community service. The kicker? They all have weird superpowers. And while the dry British humor along with quirky super-powered characters was a huge draw, the main reason a lot of people enjoyed the series was for Robert Sheehan, the actor who played the immortal smart-mouth, Nathan.

Considered “the most bankable star” of the show, people thought Misfits was going nowhere but downhill after Sheehan’s departure. And while the series was still a good watch, it was never the same.

Pauley Perrette Leaving NCIS Broke Fans’ Hearts

Pauley Perrette Leaving NCIS
CBS
CBS

For 15 seasons, Pauley Perrette played Gothic-pig-tail-loving forensic scientist Abby Sciuto on the popular crime drama NCIS. The show surrounds a team in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service who specializes in terrorism, espionage, and any and all things relating to the United States Marine Corps and Navy. And while there are a handful of members on the team, it was a huge blow when Pauley Perrette decided to leave.

While show creators replaced Perrette with regular guest star Diona Reasonover, the show was never the same. And while people still tuned in to watch the 16th season, the ratings were never as good as the episodes with Abby.

Shameless Was Shameful After Emmy Rossum Left

Shameless Was Shameful After Emmy Rossum Left
Showtime
Showtime

Shameless follows the roller-coaster story of Frank Gallagher, a single father of six. And even though he has a lot of kids to take care of, he leaves most of the child-raising to his eldest daughter, Fiona, played by Emmy Rossum, while he sits and drinks at the bar.

As Fiona is the pseudo-matriarch of the Gallagher family, it was surprising to fans to learn Rossum was leaving after the ninth season. Her character was the glue that held the hot-mess of a family together. So, when Rossum left, an integral part of the show left with her, leaving a gaping hole in fans’ hearts and the show’s plot.

That ’70s Show Wasn’t The Same Without Topher Grace

That '70s Show Wasn't The Same Without Topher Grace
Fox
Fox

That ’70s Show first aired on Fox in 1998. Living in a fictional town in Wisconsin during the 70s, the series focuses on a particular group of teenagers, mainly Eric Foreman. There is a lot of peace, love, and happiness with a bit of the main character, Eric’s father Red yelling and complaining about life.

Then, when people were starting to feel part of the gang, actor Topher Grace gets up and leaves after season seven in favor of a film career. Since he played Eric, the character the series is based around, it felt as though the audience was left hanging out with friends of a friend.

Dan Stevens Was The Interesting One On Downton Abbey

Dan Stevens Was The Interesting One On Downton Abbey
ITV
ITV

Downton Abbey is a historical drama that follows the Crawley family and their servants during their daily lives in their Edwardian home. One of the more popular family members was Matthew, the lawyer only son of the late Doctor Reginald Crawley. But when actor Dan Stevens decided not to renew his contract, creators had no choice but to kill off the beloved character.

Let’s just say fans were not happy when Matthew’s end came in the form of a car crash. And after his character was gone, they were not pleased with the turn of the show. In nice terms, the already slow period piece got very boring.

Nina Dobrev Saying Goodbye To The Vampire Diaries

Nina Dobrev Saying Goodbye To The Vampire Diaries
The CW
The CW

After investing six seasons of the Salvatore brothers pining over Elena Gilbert, it was hard to watch actress Nina Dobrev leave The Vampire Diaries behind. First off, the entire series revolved around her character, the doppelganger everyone wanted to get their hands on. So, what was the show going to do now that Elena was in an “eternal sleep” until her best friend Bonnie died?

Answer: nothing spectacular. The series ratings drastically dropped after the main actress departed from the popular series. The good news is she made a brief appearance for the series finale for fan service.

Basically, Everyone Left Once Upon A Time

Basically, Everyone Left Once Upon A Time
ABC
ABC

The critically acclaimed television series Once Upon a Time had an outstanding running for six seasons. Set in the fictional land of Storybrooke, Maine, the series follows Emma Swan as she learns who she really is, the daughter of Prince Charming and Snow White. And while the series had multiple characters, there was always the main cast.

Too bad, only three of the original cast members decided to be in season seven. Pretty much the entire cast, including the location, left for the final season. It was pretty much an entirely different show, and fans were not here for it.

Shemar Franklin Moore Leaving Criminal Minds Was Heartbreaking

Shemar Franklin Moore Leaving Criminal Minds
CBS
CBS

While there was kind of a revolving door of main cast members for each season of Criminal Minds, no departure hurt the show more than Shemar Franklin. The series followed a Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI, where Shemar played one of the leading team members, Derek Morgan.

After being on the popular series for 11 seasons as one of the original characters, fans were sad to see the actor go. And while the show was still very good after his departure, nothing was the same after the Derek and Penelope banter came to an end.

Zach Braff Leaving Scrubs Was A Change No One Wanted

Zach Braff Leaving Scrubs
NBC
NBC

The medical comedy Scrubs had a weird running, having been discarded by its original network, picked up by another, and having its ratings all over the place from the get-go. But when it was announced the series was going to push for a ninth season, original cast member Zach Braff said goodbye to his character John “J.D.” Dorian.

Braff’s departure was only one of many things that happened in the ninth season, including a different location and only three of the original seven cast members. All of the changes led to the show receiving its lowest-ratings ever, and it was canceled.

Janet Hubert Left An Aunt Viv Void In The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air

Janet Hubert Left An Aunt Viv Void In The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air
NBC
NBC

Nothing says late-night television in the late 90s quite like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Starring Will Smith, the series followed the Banks family as they bring West Philadelphia-raised Smith into their Beverly Hills mansion and try to integrate him into life in California. At the head of the household, Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv.

Unfortunately, after three seasons, Janet Hubert decided to leave the role of Aunt Viv behind her. And even though the character was recast, there was always an Aunt Viv-sized hole left in fans’ hearts. No actress could ever get down Hubert’s “don’t mess with me” side-eye.

Steve Burns Leaving Blue’s Clues Was Traumatizing

Steve Burns Leaving Blue's Clues
Nickelodeon
Nickelodeon

In 1996, Steve Burns won out the role of Steve in the interaction live-action/animation hybrid television show Blue’s Clues. Preschoolers everywhere were highly invested in learning different words, solving puzzles, and yelling answers back at Steve when he asked questions.

Then, in 20002, Burns decided it was time to leave the show to pursue other roles, and his hair was falling out, something he refused to let happen on a kids’ show. Nickelodeon hired Donovan Patton to play “Joe,” Steve’s replacement. Patton proved to be a good host, but he wasn’t able to replace someone so closely associated with Blue’s Clues. After 50 episodes, the show was canceled.

Thomas Gibson Leaving Criminal Minds Ruined The BAU Team

Thomas Gibson Leaving Criminal Minds
CBS
CBS

Another original cast member from Criminal Minds that captured fans’ attention was Thomas Gibson, aka Aaron “Hotch” Hotchner. After the leader of the BAU left, Hotch became the frontman, calling the shots and leading the team on countless assignments. But after an altercation on set, Gibson left the show.

Considering the show saw one of its lead characters leave at the end of season 11, it was a huge hit for the series when Gibson departed. The team dynamic and show as a whole wasn’t the same without the ring leader, and the series ratings plummeted to an all-time low.

Claire Holt Leaving The Originals Took Away The Sibling Banter

Claire Holt Leaving The Originals
The CW
The CW

The spin-off Vampire Diaries series The Originals was an instant hit. Following the story of the original vampires, viewers watch the Mikaelson siblings venture to New Orleans, stirring up trouble as they fight to reclaim the city. Claire Holt, who plays Rebekah Mikaelson, says she signed on for a small role, and it spiraled into something larger.

She’s referring to her The Vampire Diaries role, something she thought was going to be a one-time thing. Obviously, it wasn’t, and fans began to love the sassy original vampire. Unfortunately, Holt missed Los Angeles. So, she left the show to return home, causing the much-needed sibling banter to leave in the process.

John Francis Daley Leaving Bones Was Beyond Sad

John Francis Daley Leaving Bones
Fox
Fox

Bones follows FBI agents as they study forensic anthropology and forensic archaeology in order to deduct the mystery behind human remains found throughout the country. John Francis Daley joined the main cast in the third season as criminal profiler Dr. Lance Sweets.

Daley was a main cast member until season 10, when he up and left the show, having the opportunity to direct one of his screenplays. And while the world of film was lucky to have him, fans were saddened to see Sweets go out as he did.

David Duchovny Leaving The X-Files Took Away Half Of The Team Dynamic

David Duchovny Leaving The X-Files
Fox
Fox

For years, The X-Files kept fans entranced with its formula surrounding the three Ms: Mythology, Monsters, and Mulder’n’Scully. So when they were told David Duchovny, aka Mulder, wouldn’t be returning to the Fox show due to contract financial negotiations gone wrong, they were devastated.

To no ones surprise, the series’ ratings suffered from the loss of one half of the shows’ dynamic duo. Thankfully, the short reboot brought Mulder and Scully back together in all of their former X-Files glory. Even so, fans have said that the reboot wasn’t the same.

Patrick Dempsey Leaving Grey’s Anatomy Wasn’t Okay

Patrick Dempsey Leaving Grey's Anatomy
ABC
ABC

When Patrick Dempsey said goodbye to Grey’s Anatomy and the character, Derek Shepard, aka McDreamy, after 11 seasons, more than one fan tear was shed. He and co-star Ellen Pompeo were considered couple-goals for years. So when Dempsey departed, no one knew what route the show was going to take, or if it was even going to work.

It took a while for die-hard fans of Grey’s Anatomy to get used to seeing the cast without McDreamy. And while his departure didn’t “ruin the show,” it didn’t really help it in any way either.

Ashton Kutcher Took The Comedy When He Left That ’70s Show

Ashton Kutcher Leaving That '70s Show
Fox
Fox

The departure of lead actor Topher Grace, unfortunately, prompted co-star Ashton Kutcher to follow suit leaving That ’70s Show after the seventh season wrapped up. And while both of their departures from the show kind of made sense career-wise, fans couldn’t help but miss the dumb witted Michael Kelso.

As the gang grew older, moving further into adulthood, fans couldn’t help but wonder if the show had been going on for long enough. Then, with the departure of Kutcher, they figured it was about time to say goodbye to their favorite Wisconsin crew and start to watch re-runs.

Yvette Nicole Brown And Donald Glover Leaving Community

Yvette Nicole Brown And Donald Glover Leaving Community
NBC
NBC

Community is a comedic series set in a Colorado community college. One of the ensemble cast members people fell in love with was Yvette Nicole Brown’s character, Shirley. So, when she decided not to come back as a regular for the sixth season, fans of the cult show were devastated.

And while Brown leaving was a huge hit, show creator Dan Harmon has said the downfall of Community really happened with the departure of Donald Glover’s character Troy. And while it’s up in the air if Glover leaving was the death of the show, one thing is for certain: two main cast members leaving was a hard hit.

Patrick J. Adams And Megan Markle Leaving Suits

Patrick J. Adams And Megan Markle Leaving Suits
USA
USA

After Meghan Markle departed from Suits, fans didn’t think the show could take another hit, they were wrong. In 2018, Patrick J. Adams decided to say farewell to the legal drama and his character Mike Ross, after 100 episodes. With his departure, show creators decided it was time to revamp the cast.

As predicted, the show lost a lot of viewers with the departure of Adams and Markle. At the end of the seventh season, Suits was averaging 1.3 million viewers. Then, after the departure of two of the stars, viewership dropped to 1.2 million.

Spin City Was Never The Same After Michael J. Fox Left

Michael J. Fox Leaving Spin City
ABC
ABC

In the ABC sitcom Spin City, Michael J. Fox played New York City deputy mayor Michael Flaherty. Unfortunately, in 2000, Fox had to make the tough decision to leave the show and to focus more on his health. His replacement, Charlie Sheen, didn’t do the show justice.

Sheen’s role as New York City’s new mayor Charlie Crawford wasn’t working for fans, and five million viewers ditched the show within one year of Fox leaving. With that one stat, ABC had no choice but to cancel Spin City.

Chelsea Peretti Leaving Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Chelsea Peretti Leaving Brooklyn Nine-Nine
NBC
NBC

Chelsea Peretti played the quirky civilian administrator Gina Linetti in the comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The show follows the guys and gals of NYPD’s 99th Precinct and their shenanigans as they fall into a routine with a new commanding officer. And while Peretti has appeared in nearly every episode of the show, she decided to leave after the fifth season.

Since she is involved in several long-running jokes, it was hard for fans to imagine a fictional B99 world without her. Her departure showed in the series ratings, too. According to The Wrap, after Peretti left, Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s ratings slipped about 20 percent.

Erinn Hayes Leaving Kevin Can Wait Was Confusing

Erinn Hayes Leaving Kevin Can Wait
CBS
CBS

The light-hearted CBS sitcom Kevin Can Wait surprised fans when it announced the female lead, played by Erinn Hayes, was going to be killed off. According to lead actor Kevin James, they needed something to spice up the plot because, after the first season, they were literally running out of ideas.

So, they chose to kill off Kevin’s wife, Donna. The thing is, prolonging a show by killing off the main character wasn’t the smartest move. Even CBS admits the fans of the comedy weren’t happy with the move, causing them to cancel the show after only two seasons.

Suzanne Somers Leaving Three’s Company Was A Mistake

threes-company_Acy43q
ABC
ABC

Three’s Company was pretty much the “trash television” of the 70s. People tuned in to watch three housemates banter, including the clumsy Jack Tripper, the realist Janet Wood, and the stereotypical blonde played by Suzanne Sommers, Chrissy Snow. By the fourth season, the show was the second-most-watched in the country, causing Snow to ask for a much-deserved raise.

ABC didn’t give it to her. Instead, they reduced her role in the show, brought on someone to play her cousin, and then, by 1981, fired her altogether. Snow’s departure and the cast turnover caused the network to cancel the show in 1984.

No One Wanted Dick York To Leave Bewitched Behind

Dick York Leaving Bewitched
ABC
ABC

In the original Bewitched series, Dick York played Darrin Stephens, Samantha Montgomery’s husband, who asks her to give up using her powers. Of course, that pretty much fails, and they live in a constant whirlwind of adventures and mysterious things happening. Unfortunately, due to an accident on set, York had to leave the role of Darrin behind.

Dick Sargent was hired as a replacement. But fans soon realized Sargent didn’t have the same on-screen chemistry with his witchy counterpart as York. And while the show didn’t go completely downhill by York leaving, it was never the same.