It's pretty safe to say that having the right actors is something that makes or breaks a TV show. You can have the best idea in the world, a great script and an amazing director, but if your actors are terrible, your show is going to fail. However, despite their crucial role in the success of their show, even the most popular actors don't have total job security. Their character might get killed off in a horrific way (Game of Thrones, we're looking at you). Audiences might get bored with the same-old-same-old leading to a new set of stars being drafted in. The actor themselves might choose to leave the show to seek greater success in pastures new. All good things must come to an end, even when it means an iconic actor leaving a fan-favorite role.
Sometimes, though, an actor doesn't leave their current role of their own volition. They don't get a free pass to act however they please. If a star's behavior starts to become unreasonable either on or off-set, they run a real risk of getting fired. Making the bold choice to fire a star isn't an easy one for a show to make. While some shows have recovered from such a shake-up, others have found that firing a major actor was the beginning of the end of their run. Here are ten shows that suffered after firing an actor, and ten more that actually got better after cutting their dead weight.
20 Two and A Half Men Was Doomed Once Charlie Sheen Got Fired
To be honest, Charlie Sheen getting fired from Two And A Half Men back in 2011 wasn't exactly a surprise. The sacking came midway through Sheen's infamous meltdown. While Two and a Half's showrunners had been incredibly lenient with Sheen, pausing production of its eighth season a number of times so that the actor could attend rehab, the final straw came in March 2011. Sheen made a number of very public disparaging remarks about co-star Jon Cryer and executive producer Chuck Lorre. He'd gone too far, and he was consequently dismissed with immediate effect.
While Two and a Half tied to fill the void left by Sheen with Ashton Kutcher, the show was never quite the same without its leading man. For all of his faults, Sheen's character was pretty hilarious and was the source of much of the show's comedy. While Two and a Half clung on for four more seasons following Sheen's dismissal, its quality declined and its cancellation was inevitable.
19 Grey's Anatomy's Success Has Gone On Without Isaiah Washington
Until his 2007 firing from Grey's Anatomy, Isiah Washington portrayed one of the medical drama's best-loved characters. Preston Burke was a gifted surgeon whose relationship with Cristina Yang was one of the cutest pairings in Grey's history. Unfortunately, the character's run on the show came to a pretty premature end due to his actor's less-than-acceptable behavior off-screen. Washington was dismissed after three seasons on the show for allegedly using a homophobic slur to insult co-star T.R., Knight. While fans were sad to see the character go, gay rights groups stated that the correct decision had been made.
While Washington's firing was controversial at the time, it doesn't seem to have affected the popularity of Grey's. The show has lived on for over a decade since the incident and doesn't look to be leaving our screens any time soon. It's still one of the most popular dramas on TV and it has a passionate and dedicated fanbase. The show didn't need Dr. Burke to stay in order to succeed.
18 Anger Management Went From Millions of Viewers to Just A Few Thousand After Selma Blair Was Sacked
In the wake of his Two and A Half Men sacking, Charlie Sheen tried to revitalize his career by starring in the new sitcom Anger Management. He once again played a philandering guy called Charlie, this time with Selma Blair portraying his love interest. However, it was clear that there was trouble in paradise pretty much from the moment the show started filming. Blair apparently found Sheen difficult to handle, with his erratic behavior making it impossible for her to work. Sheen got wind of Blair's complaints and insisted that producers sack her. Blair was fired, her character was written out of the show, and Sheen carried on behaving pretty badly on and off-screen.
With hindsight, Anger Management's producers probably regret ceding to Sheen's wishes. The already divisive show plummeted in popularity after Blair left, going from having millions of viewers to just a few thousand by its final few episodes. The show was canceled just a year after Blair's dismissal.
17 Criminal Minds Has Survived The Thomas Gibson 'Altercation' Scandal
Just like Grey's Anatomy back in 2005, Criminal Minds hit the headlines in 2016 due to the bad behavior of one of its stars. Lead actor Thomas Gibson was sacked from the show after an on-set 'altercation' with a producer. Rumor has it he kicked the crew member in question before storming off the set. Just a day after the news broke, Gibson's contract with the show was permanently terminated after a twelve-season run. Many fans couldn't imagine the show without his character Aaron Hotchner, although they understood why the decision had been made.
Criminal Minds' first full season since the Gibson incident is currently airing, and the show doesn't seem to have been impacted too negatively. Its ratings are still high and fans seemed to be happy with the storyline that wrote Gibson's character out. Luckily, the show has enough talented stars to make the loss of one actor practically negligible.
16 Even Columbus Short Thought That His Firing From Scandal Was For The Best
A real-life scandal in actor Columbus Short's personal life led to his firing from Scandal back in 2014. While at the time his exit from the show was simply put down to "personal reasons", it later emerged that Short was suffering from substance abuse and other issues. He was also charged with domestic battery after admitting to throwing a punch at one of his in-laws and abusing both his wife and his child. Short's Scandal character, Harrison Wright, was killed off, and the show moved on.
Scandal did just fine without Short: it ran for four more highly successful seasons after his sacking. Short himself has now admitted that being dismissed from the show was for the best, both for Scandal and for himself. His personal issues were interfering with his work too much, and his sacking was the shock he needed to finally address the damage he was doing to himself and his family.
15 Shannen Doherty Leaving Charmed Was The Best Thing For The Show - And For Alyssa Milano
Shannen Doherty has a long and chequered history when it comes to getting fired from shows. She was fired from Beverley Hills, 90210 at the behest of co-star Tori Spelling and is notorious for causing trouble on-set. However, her most memorable run-in has to be her sacking from Charmed. Doherty portrayed Prue, the oldest of the three witchy Halliwell sisters, for the first three seasons of the show. However, she got the axe thanks to a much-publicised feud with co-star Alyssa Milano. Milano apparently hated Doherty so much that she threated to leave Charmed unless her rival was sacked. Producers sided with Milano, and Doherty was left out in the cold.
Despite the bad press that this drama created, Charmed did pretty well after Doherty's departure. She was replaced by Rose McGowan, whose character Paige quickly became popular. The show ran for eight seasons in total and is still a much-loved classic. Alyssa Milano benefited from the incident too: she got to keep her job, after all!
14 Ally McBeal Firing Robert Downey Jr. Was The Catalyst For Its Cancellation
If you were to pinpoint the exact moment that Ally McBeal shot itself in the foot, it would be the firing of Robert Downey Jr. To be fair, the show's producers didn't really have a choice: the actor's issues with addiction were becoming too difficult to handle. He'd been given chances to get clean time and time again, but he'd failed to do so. However, firing Downey Jr. when they did really made things tricky for the showrunners - and especially for the writers.
Shortly before RDJ got the sack, it'd been decided that his character would marry Ally McBeal. The entirety of the next season was supposed to be an exploration of the pair's married life. This obviously had to be totally rewritten, and the result of a season with very little flair or direction. The show's ratings plummeted, and it was quickly canceled. This final run was also the only season that didn't gain Ally McBeal any Emmy or Golden Globe Awards. Oh dear.
13 Nicolette Sheridan's Firing Is Still Causing Issues For The Desperate Housewives Team
Nicolette Sheridan's firing from Desperate Housewives not only left a void in the show but also caused a lot of issues for everyone involved. Sheridan portrayed promiscuous divorcee Edie Britt, a villainess who everyone loved to hate. Fans were distraught when Edie was killed off in the show's fifth season and became even more upset when the reason for Sheridan's exit was revealed. It was initially suggested that she was fired from the show essentially as a cost-cutting measure, an insulting move in itself. However, the plot thickened when Sheridan brought a lawsuit against series creator Marc Cherry for both wrongful dismissal and assault and battery. Sheridan ultimately lost in court, but still claims that her firing was both unlawful and violent.
While Desperate Housewives continued for three more seasons after Sheridan's departure, it was never quite the same. No matter how hard the writers tried, no other character could fill the boots of Edie Britt.
12 The Fresh Prince of Bel Air Made Janet Hubert's Sacking Into A Hilarious Plot Device
Unfortunately for actress Janet Hubert, she was pretty much the only person who was upset by her firing from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Hubert originated the role of Aunt Vivienne, the matriarch in Will Smith's adopted family. However, she was sacked after three seasons and replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid. The move didn't negatively affect the show's popularity at all: in fact, it made a recurring joke out of the fact that Aunt Viv now looked a bit different. Viewers responded well to Maxwell Reid and Fresh Prince ran for three more successful seasons. It's still a cult favorite to this day, and pretty much everyone can still recite its theme song.
As you'd imagine, Hubert was less than pleased about her dismissal. She claims she was fired because Will Smith had a personal vendetta against her, although this has never been confirmed. Whatever the case, Hubert still seems to be bitter about her Fresh Prince experience and regularly criticizes the show and its cast. Oh dear.
11 Kevin Can Wait's Ratings Didn't Benefit From Erinn Hayes Getting Fired
Sitcom Kevin Can Wait has never been a huge hit. While it brings in moderately successful viewer numbers, it's often compared unfavorably to star Kevin James' previous show King of Queens. Things got even worse for the show at the end of its first season, when lead actress Erinn Haynes was fired in favor of James' former King of Queens co-star Leah Remini. The move was controversial from the outset, with critics immediately pointing out that this casting choice was a blatant attempt to copy King of Queens and boost ratings. If this was the producers' intention, their plan didn't work: Kevin Can Wait is still decidedly mediocre.
As for Erinn Haynes, the actress has been pretty quiet about her unceremonious firing. She did ask fans not to blame replacement Leah Remini, but that's about it. Fans are pretty unhappy about the fate of Haynes' character, though. Donna was hastily killed off and her death was dealt with in a pretty insensitive way. All in all, Haynes' sacking has been a major misstep that hasn't done Kevin Can Wait any favors. Its cancelation is probably imminent.
10 Valerie Got On Just Fine Without Lead Actress Valerie Harper
In the late 1980s, popular family sitcom Valerie pulled off the unthinkable. It sacked its titular star, Valerie Harper, and successfully reinvented itself as The Hogan Family. Harper starred in and produced the first two seasons of the show but became more and more difficult to work with. She apparently demanded a higher and higher salary as the show progressed, eventually requesting amounts that NBC simply couldn't accommodate. Even after the network bumped up her salary slightly, Harper wasn't satisfied and regularly refused to show up for filming. Eventually, NBC couldn't justify keeping her on the show and Harper got the sack.
While getting rid of a show's lead character is always a risky move, the gamble paid off for NBC. They hired actress Sandy Duncan to play the show's new lead and rebranded it The Hogan Family. The show ran for four more seasons in its new form and became one of the most popular sitcoms of its time.
9 CSI: Miami Became One of TV's Most Popular Shows After Firing Kim Delaney
Kim Delaney was fired so early on in CSI: Miami's ten-season run that many people forget she even starred in the show at all. However, she did indeed portray MDPD Lieutenant Megan Donner for the first ten episodes of the show's first season. Her swift exit from the police procedural drama was far from mutual: she was sacked after failing to 'click' with lead actor David Caruso. It was felt that the two simply didn't have enough chemistry, so producers decided to quietly write Delaney out of the show.
Ultimately, this early casting choice didn't do CSI: Miami any harm. It ran for a decade and achieved huge global popularity. Caruso's character Horatio Crane became one of the most popular TV detectives ever, and he was joined by various equally popular sidekicks over the years. While fans did respond well to Delaney's Megan Donner, the character was soon forgotten about.
8 Star Trek: The Next Generation Suffered So Much That It Had To Un-Fire Gates McFadden
In a case of extraordinary back-tracking, the producers of Star Trek: The Next Generation messed up so badly when firing an actress that they had to beg her to rejoin the show just a year later. Gates McFadden portrayed Dr. Beverley Crusher, the chief medical officer of the Starship Enterprise. Despite the character being hugely popular with fans, McFadden was fired after just one season and replaced by Diana Muldaur. Rumor has it that lead writer Maurice Hurley simply didn't like McFadden on a personal level and conspired to get her sacked.
This move sparked such outrage among both fans and the show's cast that Muldaur herself got the chop after a one-season stint as Dr. Katherine Pulaski. McFadden rejoined the cast for Next Generation's third season and remained with the show until its cancellation four years later. As for Maurice Hurley, he was let go at the start of Season Three just as McFadden returned. Karma is real.
7 Gossip Girl Improved After Taylor Momsen's Drama Ceased
Just as Gossip Girl had its fair share of on-screen drama over the years, things weren't always peachy behind the scenes either. Actress and rock star Taylor Momsen was often the root of the producers' frustration, with this eventually leading to her departure from the show. Momsen was dropped as a Gossip Girl regular in 2010 when her commitment to acting began to slip. Her band The Pretty Reckless was gaining traction at the time, and Momsen was putting too much energy into her music career to fully commit to her Gossip Girl role. A year later, she was fired altogether after behaving "unreliably" on the few days she actually turned up on set.
In the end, Momsen's departure from Gossip Girl didn't affect the show too much. It was still insanely popular right up until its conclusion in 2012, and Momsen's character Jenny Humphrey wasn't missed THAT much. Let's face it, the end game was all about Chuck and Blair. Who needed anyone else?
6 7th Heaven Only Lasted One More Season After Jessica Biel Left For Good
Back in the day, actress and model Jessica Biel got her big break on family drama 7th Heaven. This wholesome sitcom ran for eleven seasons from 1996 to 2007. Centering on a minister, his wife, and their seven children, the show cast Biel as eldest daughter Mary Camden. She was fourteen years old when she got the role, and her budding career progressed well for a few years. However, that all changed in 2000 when Biel posed for a risque photoshoot in men's magazine Gear. As Biel was under the age of eighteen when the pictures were published, a pretty major scandal erupted. The producers of 7th Heaven were outraged at this threat to the show's reputation and even brought legal proceedings against Gear.
For a while, it seemed like 7th Heaven's producers had forgiven Biel. While her character's role decreased following the scandal, she was kept in the show for a few more years. However, Biel was eventually fired in 2006. This move was the beginning of the end for the 7th Heaven: it was canceled the following year as ratings dipped. Biel got the last laugh: she's now a hugely successful actress who just happens to be married to Justin Timberlake!
5 Firing Lisa Bonet Was A Big Mistake For The Cosby Show
Lisa Bonet's time on The Cosby Show and its spin-off A Different World was full of conflict and controversy. The actress portrayed high school student Denise Huxtable in the original show and was expected to keep a squeaky-clean image to fit with that of her character. Unfortunately, this was compromised in 1987 when Bonet starred in raunchy movie Angel Heart alongside Mickey Rourke. The movie got an R rating, something which majorly upset The Cosby Show's producers. To make matters worse, in the same year Bonet posed topless in Interview magazine. So much for squeaky-clean!
Once the initial furor over Bonet's scandalous career choices had died down, The Cosby Show's producers gave her another chance. She appeared briefly in spin-off A Different World as a college-age Denise before returning to The Cosby Show itself. However, she was fired for good in 1991 over "creative differences" with the show's producers. This firing was ultimately the death knell for the show: it was canceled less than a year later.
4 Julie McCullough Was Fired From Growing Pains After Just Eight Episodes, And It Became A Hit Without Her
Julie McCullough barely got a chance to make her mark on 1980s sitcom Growing Pains before her controversial firing. McCullough portrayed nanny Julie Costello for just eight episodes in the show's fourth and fifth seasons before she was given the boot. The exact circumstances surrounding the actress' departure are unclear. Some have speculated that co-star Kirk Cameron requested that producers fire McCullough after his conversion to evangelical Christianity. The newly-pious Cameron apparently took issue with the fact that his co-star had once modeled for Playboy and demanded that her role be cut. While Cameron apparently apologized to many of his co-stars for his behavior around the time of McCullough's firing, he's never actually reconciled with the actress herself. Oh dear.
Still, this whole sorry episode didn't affect Growing Pains' success too much. It ran for a couple more seasons after McCullough's exit and is still a pretty beloved show. Poor Julie Costello was quickly forgotten about.
3 Naya Rivera's Firing Made Glee's Final Season Lackluster
Fox's hit musical comedy show Glee had been going downhill for years prior to its eventual cancelation in 2015. It had lost the sparkle that made its initial seasons so popular, and the tragic death of lead actor Cory Monteith left a void that simply couldn't be filled. Still, the show's decline was only accelerated by the firing of Santana Lopez actress Naya Rivera towards the end of Glee's penultimate season. Rivera apparently caused a lot of friction with leading lady Lea Michele, culminating in a big argument between the two on-set. Rivera was blamed for the incident and refused to apologize so was written out of Season Five's finale. Her role was massively reduced in Season Six, despite Santana being part of an important gay marriage storyline. In the series finale, Rivera was spotted only briefly at the very end of the episode.
Cutting out a popular character did Glee no favors as it came to a close. The fact that producers eventually had to bring Rivera back said it all: fans wanted closure for her character. The brief Season Six Santana scenes that they eventually got weren't really enough.
2 Degrassi: The Next Generation's Popularity Didn't Fall After The Producers Fired Drake
Yep, that's really rapper and singer Drake starring in classic teen show Degrassi: The Next Generation. Before he struck the big time in his music career, Drake - then going by his real name, Aubrey Graham - pursued a career in acting. He portrayed Jimmy Brooks, a physically disabled basketball player, for the first eight seasons of the show. However, things went downhill for the young star when he began to neglect his acting job for his musical talents. When producers discovered Drake making music on-set - something they'd asked him not to do - they gave him an ultimatum: he either quit music or quit the show. Drake chose the latter option and went on to become a huge star.
As for Degrassi, the show survived pretty well after Drake left. He only portrayed a minor character in the grand scheme of things, so storylines were tweaked and Jimmy was soon forgotten. The show ran for a grand total of fourteen seasons before finally meeting its end in 2015.
1 Once Upon A Time Firing Most Of Its Cast Has Led To Its Cancellation
Once Upon A Time's producers clearly saw shows firing an actor or two and decided that they needed to go one better. At the end of the show's sixth season, the majority of the cast either left of their own accord or were forced out. Once's showrunners claimed that they had always planned to do a 'soft reboot' at this point in the show's life. Whether that's true is beside the point: firing almost all of the cast was a huge mistake. Fans were confused and upset, the actors themselves were somewhat taken aback, and critics were dubious.
When the show's 'rebooted' seventh season began, things didn't look too bad at first. Some firm fan favorites were still around - notably Lana Parrilla's Regina Mills - and the new plotline was intriguing at first. However, it quickly became clear that this new storyline would be nowhere near as good as the show's first incarnation. Fans' worst fears were confirmed when Once was finally canceled a couple of weeks ago. Firing so many cast members was just too big of a change for the show to survive intact.