How Did These 8 TV Shows Stay Great After Losing a Major Character?
How Did These 8 TV Shows Stay Great After Losing a Major Character?
Kartik Chainani
Kartik Chainani
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
It can be hard to say goodbye, especially to a beloved TV character. When a lead actor or actress decides to leave a TV show before it's over, it can put the show at risk of losing its steam. The storylines all have to switch gears, different characters have to carry the show and many fans are likely to stop watching. Keeping a show interesting after losing a fan-favorite character is a big challenge, and some shows are able to do it seamlessly while others really struggle to stay fresh. Let's look back at some shows that have stayed interesting despite losing a major character.

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Criminal Minds

Hotch and Morgan Leave Criminal Minds.jpg This procedural drama knows a thing or two about losing big-time characters. Its first big challenge in this department was when actor Shemar Moore decided to leave the show after 11 seasons. The actor's decision to leave was tough on fans, but they at least got a heartfelt and emotional goodbye episode for the character of Derek Morgan. After surviving a harrowing kidnapping, the character retired from the BAU to spend more time with his family. The show definitely lost a huge piece of its charm when Moore left, but it at least had time to revamp. 

Unfortunately, the same can't really be said about the loss of Thomas Gibson. Gibson was fired suddenly from the show after a physical altercation with a producer just a season after Moore quit. While the actor may have his own issues, his character Hotchner was widely popular among fans, so much so that a social media movement called #NoHotchNoWatch grew after he left. The impact of losing both Moore and Gibson is still felt on the show now.

One Tree Hill

Lucas Peyton leave OTH.jpg Chad Michael Murray was the center of this CW drama for six seasons. The show centered on his journey to find himself through basketball and literature in a town where his half-brother was the star. When he and his co-star (and TV wife) Hilarie Burton both decided to leave the show and not return for season 6, the show's focal point completely switched. It became entirely focused on his brother Nathan and his wife, Hayley, and introduced a few new characters around the couple. 

The show wrote Lucas and Peyton (Murray and Burton) off in sort of an unexplained way. We saw them driving off into the distance with their newborn, but without much explanation. Only in the season 7 opener did we get some sort of story. Hayley was writing a letter to Lucas in which she explained to the audience that they had moved away, but without a real reason. While the show was never the same without them, OTH was still an enthralling show during its final two seasons because of how fleshed out all of the side characters managed to be.


Weatherly leaves NCIS.jpg The eye candy and comic relief of this procedural, Michael Weatherly, unfortunately decided to throw in the towel after 13 seasons. In a lot of ways, his character Tony DiNozzo was really the heart of NCIS, and managed to make light out of a lot of the darker cases we saw on the show. Losing a constant like that, on a show that has stuck to a specific formula for over a decade, is challenging. Still, NCIS carries on and Weatherly's charm has been replaced by Wilmer Valderamma. It's hardly the same effect, but Valderamma manages to a do a good job of holding the same charisma the show's always had, but also bringing in something fresh.

The Office

Steve Carell leaves the office.jpg When you think of The Office, you think of Michael Scott. Steve Carell did such a wonderful job with this character and made him one of the most entertaining bosses to ever cross our television screens. When he announced that he was leaving the show, it was hard to imagine how the show would function without him. Every character was well established by season 7, but Carell was really the biggest draw. The show had the eccentrically romantic Michael Scott finally find love. In doing so, he grew up and figured out what was most important in his life. It was a truly touching end to his character's story. 

When he left, the characters became sort of caricatures of their funniest qualities and Ed Helms' Andy Bernard attempted to fill the void left by the Michael Scott character. Surprisingly, it worked out pretty smoothly. Carell was missed, but the show actually didn't lose any of its charm in its final two seasons.

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The Vampire Diaries

Nina Dobrev leaves TVD.jpg It was an enormous risk for TVD to continue when Nina Dobrev decided to leave. The story was almost completely centered around her character. Still, while the biggest draw of The Vampire Diaries for a long time was the relationships of its central character, Elena Gilbert, the show is still just as good without her. The reason for this might be that by losing out on Elena, the show was forced to shift focus to her counterparts, the Salvatore brothers. At the end of the day, their story was really the most fascinating. With Elena out of the picture, both Stefan and Damon are much more fleshed out than before. The show has gone back to telling mythical vampire stories and spending less time on fruity love triangles.

Parks and Recreation

Lowe and Jones leave Parks and Rec.jpg Though Rob Lowe's character Chris Traeger was only introduced in season 3, he "lit-rally" became iconic in Parks and Rec. Rashida Jones' Ann Perkins had been around since the pilot episode, so the two of them leaving in season 6 was definitely a scary moment for the show. Nonetheless, they didn't take the hilarity of this show with them when they left. When a show has Chris Pratt and Amy Poehler sharing the screen, there really doesn't need to be anyone else anyway. Chris and Ann were written off in a beautiful way for their characters, ending up together as many fans hoped they would. By season 6, many had lost interest in their story as it was, and the focus had always been more on Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler)'s career anyway.

Teen Wolf

Crystal Reed leaves Teen Wolf.jpg As much as we loved Crystal Reed's character Allison Argent on Teen Wolf, her loss didn't have too big an impact on the show moving forward. Yes, her death was tragic and not surely not something fans wanted, but at that point, we had really gotten all we needed from the character. Even if you didn't want to see her go, having Allison die in season 3 did a lot for the story. Both Scott and Isaac had to deal with this tragedy and grow from it in different ways. In a sense, it brought something real to Teen Wolf and the show might actually be better for it.


Rosenbaum leaves Smallville.jpg While Smallville was mainly about young Clark Kent growing up to become Superman, the character of Lex Luthor became just as (if not even more) captivating in this drama. This was because of everything that Michael Rosenbaum brought to the role. We were just as addicted to watching him struggle with the good and evil inside him as we were to seeing Clark discover a new power. When Rosenbaum left in season 7, the smart move Smallville made was to leave Lex open-ended. We know that Lex becomes Superman's arch-nemesis, so he can't completely disappear. Clark was spending most of his time in Metropolis by this point in the show anyway, so Rosenbaum's departure actually gave more room for the show to play with other well-known DC Comics villains. Still, his return in the series finale was one of the most exciting moments.

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Which show do you think did the best job of handling losing a major character? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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(Images courtesy of CBS, The CW, MTV and NBC)