No one likes to tune in to their favorite show to find that one of their favorite characters has been replaced. But it happens all the time. One day Aunt Viv is there and the next day she’s gone. But she’s not the only switch up TV execs pulled on us. Here are some of the most surprising surprise cast member changes on TV.
Stacey Dash’s attitude got her kicked out of her starring role on Single Ladies. But not everyone knew what was going on behind the scenes. When fans turned in to season two, suddenly Denise Vasi was playing lead as Raquel and the old Val just “wasn’t coming back from Milan.” The show’s still on, but it’s not the same without Stacey.
ER’s Entire Cast
ER made it into character switch history by shaking up pretty much the entire cast. First George Clooney left and when things didn’t fall apart, they got bolder with the character changes. George was followed by almost the entire cast who left one by one. At the end of the show’s 15-year run, the cast was almost entirely different.
Jazz Raycole was the first Claire Kyle on My Wife and Kids. But the middle Kyle sister was pulled in the first season and replaced by Jennifer Freeman.
The rumor mill speculated that it was because she was too dark. But the real reason was the show’s story lines. Jazz’s mother disapproved of the teen pregnancy story that opened the second season.
Jazz was gone and Jennifer Freeman took her place in the second season. Fans were confused. But when Jennifer first popped on set, Michael joked “I don’t know what it is, but you look like a whole new person.” It was the only time they acknowledged the switch.
When Charlie Sheen started to act a fool on set, Chuck Lorre did the unthinkable and replaced the show’s star with Ashton Kutcher. The show was already on it’s last leg, but we think Chuck wanted to show Charlie they didn’t need him. Two and a Half Men continues to get worse, but they refuse to put it out of its misery.
That 70’s Show is another show that should have ended when it’s lead character left. But when Topher Grace left the show after seven years to be Spider Man, they couldn’t let it go. They brought in Josh Meyers to play Randy Pearson, a record store clerk who was invited into the gang. But viewers never really took to him and That 70’s Show barely managed to limp through two more seasons.
Robert “Bobby” Draper
You can get away with a lot when it comes to swapping out child actors. Little Bobby on Mad Men has been played by four different actors: Maxwell Huckabee, Aaron Hart, Jared Gilmore and Mason Vale Cotton. Most of us didn’t notice these swaps either.
This was one of the first times TV execs tried to switch things up on their viewers. Darrin Stephens was the co-lead on Bewitched, and then one day, in the middle of the fifth season, they replaced Dick York with Dick Sargeant — with no explanation. Maybe they thought that since they had the same name, no one would notice.
Roseanne wins the award for Most Outrageous Character Replacement. First, Lecy Goranson left the show after five seasons to go to college. So they replaced her with Sarah Chalke. No problem, it had been done before.
I was just a kid when this switch happened, but I remember being scandalized. One day Aunt Viv was just somebody else. Later, Fresh Prince fans were scandalized again when they found out that Janet Hubert disappeared because Will smith had her fired. Hubert was replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid in the fifth season, but it just wasn’t the same.
The Daily Show’s Host
Not all switches are bad. Few people had heard of The Daily Show when Craig Kilborn was the host. So they brought in Jon Stewart and the rest was history. Jon brought his dry humor to the show and made it something we all love to watch.
The Charmed Sister
Charmed had one of the most successful switches. When Shannon Doherty left the show after three seasons, they killed her character off and replaced her with Rose McGowan. Rose was so charming as the new Charmed sister that no one really seemed to mind. The show ran for five more seasons.
For the first five seasons of That 70’s Show, Laurie was played by Lisa Robin Kelly. Then in the 6th season, she was replaced by another blonde woman: Christina Moore. They tried to seamlessly swap the characters without mentioning the switch but fans noticed. Little did they know at the time, the original Laurie had to leave the show because of a pretty serious addiction to meth.