When it comes to TV shows, casts have been getting steadily larger and larger over the past few years. However, that hasn’t always been the case and shows were able to dedicate more screen-time to their protagonists. Because of that, many of us were able to either fall in love with, or deeply hate, the central characters in TV shows.
The longer the series goes on, though, the more the actors playing those characters want to leave and pursue other endeavours. That can often leave producers and showrunners in a bit of a pickle; should they end the show with the main character that’s leaving, or soldier on without them? In the case of shows that are still popular, many have decided to soldier on without a prominent character.
That doesn’t mean that all of them have been successful, however. The departure of a main character may signal the death knell of a particular show, but some manage to continue on without them; some have had just as much success and others have been able to improve on the overall quality of the show. These are the TV shows that managed to strive after one of their main characters died.
Grey’s Anatomy was able to become one of the most popular shows of its generation, and this was partly down to its diverse and lovable cast. However, it wasn’t one to shy away from main characters potentially leaving, especially if they’re somewhat divisive. Over the course of the first few seasons, Dr. Izzy Stevens had probably become the most divisive character in the show.
Portrayed by Katherine Heigl, the character left everyone either loving her or despising her with not much room in-between. However, part-way through season 6 Ms. Heigl asked to be released from her contract because she was unhappy with several of her previous storylines. These poorly handled stories were noticed by fans who had grown sick of them, and Ms. Heigl’s character by association.
With her removal, Grey’s Anatomy was able to cut down on the amount of stories it had to tell throughout an episode; this left them better able to focus on quality rather than quantity. By getting rid of the worst part of the show, Grey’s Anatomy improved considerably afterwards.
Game Of Thrones
Game of Thrones has killed off so many characters that it’s become defined by the amount of blood that’s been spilled. However, there was a day when those being killed were just nameless henchman or other minor characters. That being said, the game managed to up the ante in season one by putting Eddard Stark on the butcher’s block.
Up until then, Game of Thrones was seen as a high-quality fantasy but with the beheading of Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark took everything up a notch. Several seasons later, the show wouldn’t have been possible without the death of Ned as it serves as the impetus behind many of the storylines that have ran throughout the show.
Because of that, it’s Ned’s death that stands out the most when it comes to making the show successful; while there have been several dozen deaths since then, it was really Sean Bean’s exit that made the show as great as it is. You still have to feel for Sean Bean, though; the poor guy can’t catch a break.
Charmed lasted a full eight seasons during its run. However, the series was bogged down near the end of season three when Shannon Doherty decided not to renew her contract beyond the third season. This left everyone in a bit of a bind, as Charmed had built up its mythos around the power of three so not only did they have to write character Prue Halliwell out but also find a way to fill the void.
This ended up working wonders for the show, however, as they introduced the main characters’ half-sister Paige Matthews which also brought in actress Rose McGowan. The personalities between the two were stark, and Ms. McGowan brought some more personality to Charmed. This allowed for a more light-hearted approach to storylines and a funner, campier overall tone.
While many people remain divided between Paige and Prue, those who loved the show noted that Paige’s introduction added a new layer to Charmed. It did go one to last another five seasons, which is longer than it was on the air with Prue.
The Walking Dead
Everyone knew that characters in The Walking Dead were going to be killed off at some point or another; that being said, many assumed that it would be the minor characters that would wind up as zombie meat. One of the few that many people didn’t assume would die was Lori Grimes. As the wife of Rick and Carl’s mother, she was part of many of The Walking Dead’s central stories, including a love affair with The Punisher’s Jon Bernthal.
This all changed when she became pregnant however; while many assumed that this made her untouchable, viewers were still beginning to dislike the character. This so-called untouchability would end up making many fans dislike her even more. However, The Walking Dead’s showrunners had a plan up their sleeves and killed off the character after she gave birth.
The way the character died also proved to be extremely shocking; however, the move added the trope of killing off major characters while removing one of the least liked features. After this was done, many felt more invested in the show and the characters knowing full well that any character can go at any time.
The central characters of Cheers are what made it so successful, second only to the extremely catchy theme song. Two of these central characters were Sam Malone and Diane Chambers who began the series with an on-again, off-again relationship that would effectively go on to inspire every other similar story in television for years.
However, five seasons into Cheers the relationship was beginning to get somewhat stale as fans were getting tired of seeing where they’d go. Diane Chambers actress Shelley Long also wanted to leave the show to focus on her family; with that, the character was written out of the show at the end of season five.
Like many other entries, this ended up getting rid of what was easily the worst part of the show in the on/off relationship between two central characters (cough, Friends, cough). This led to Kirstie Alley’s Rebecca Howe being introduced to the show, and many have seen this as one of the best things to ever happen to the show.
Cheers was already riding high in the ratings but the introduction of Rebecca let them tweak the premise of the show without having to resort to any drastic changes. Because of that, the show went on to even more success over subsequent seasons and make the show feel a lot fresher than it had been in a few years.