7 TV Shows That Replaced a Lead Actor

You’d think losing its star would be a death sentence for a TV show, and a lot of times, it is. But sometimes stars get replaced when the original actor wants more money, becomes a liability, wants to move on, or dies (it’s happened). Sometimes the replacement saves the show, and sometimes the show fails immediately. Here are seven shows that replaced a lead actor.

1. House of Cards

My inspiration for writing this article was the House of Cards news. After it came out that Kevin Spacey is allegedly a molest-y pedophile, Netflix didn’t want him representing their brand anymore and shut down production on the final season of House of Cards. After a couple weeks of realizing that the whole pedophilia thing wasn’t just going to blow over, Netflix started production again, but the show won’t focus on Spacey anymore — it’ll write Spacey out and focus on Robin Wright, who plays Claire. Claire’s been on the show since the beginning (she’s Spacey’s character Frank’s wife), but Frank has always been the main character. I personally think Claire was always the more spectacular of the two, and her character development necessitates getting Frank out of the way and achieving power on her own. So hopefully this will result in an incredible final season! The more Claire Underwood Ice Queen Death Stares we get, the better.

2. Spin City

Michael J. Fox decided to retire to spend more time with his family and take care of his health on account of his Parkinson’s diagnosis. He was replaced by Charlie Sheen, who was able to keep the show going for two more seasons. Little did Charlie know, he would later be replaced himself, for far less respectable reasons.

3. Two and a Half Men

Charlie Sheen had an intensely public mental breakdown, in which he ruined the word “winning” forever. As his behavior got increasingly erratic, it became harder for his professional collaborators to stick with him. Sheen was fired from Two and a Half Men and replaced with Ashton Kutcher. This new character apparently didn’t work at all and caused the show to end after one more season. I have no idea what drop in quality occurred, as I’m not sure why anyone watched the show in the first place.

4. The Office

After five seasons, Steve Carell had enough of Dunder Mifflin. He left The Office and was replaced with James Spader’s Robert California — a character, it turns out, that was best enjoyed in small doses. The show ended after two more seasons.

5. NYPD Blue

NYPD Blue star David Caruso was replaced by Jimmy Smits after one season and multiple contract disputes. This became one of the rare situations where replacing the lead actor resulted in higher ratings and greater success for the show, and Jimmy would headline NYPD Blue for another four seasons. Not a surprise, though — who doesn’t love Jimmy Smits? There’s barely any show that couldn’t be improved by making Jimmy Smits the lead. NCIS? Of course. Grey’s Anatomy? Checks out. Real Housewives? Would be incredible.

6. Charlie’s Angels

Farrah Fawcett is the iconic angel, but she was actually only on the show for one season! Fawcett wanted more character development outside of chasing bad guys in cute outfits, and the showrunners said, “No, all your character does is chase bad guys in cute outfits.” So despite the show becoming a hit, Fawcett left. Cheryl Ladd stepped in as a new angel and the show remained popular for four more seasons.

7. Beverly Hills 90210

After four seasons, Beverly Hills 90210 star Shannen Doherty was replaced with Tiffani-Amber Thiessen. Doherty was famous for her bad behavior on set, and she probably thought the show couldn’t go on without her. She was wrong, though — Beverly Hills 90210 continued for another SIX seasons as the characters went into their second decade of high school.

Are there any shows that replaced lead actors that I missed? Tweet at me and let me know @erikaheidewald!