The Quick Report

10 Shows That Got Cancelled After Recasting the Leads

Sometimes a star becomes so iconic as a lead character in a role they become impossible to replace. That’s the case for these 10 TV shows that fans lost interest in and were canceled when the main actor was gone.

10. 8 Simple Rules


The original title is 8 Simple Rules…for Dating My Teenage Daughter, and the show had a stellar cast of comedic talent including John Ritter, Katie Sagal, and Kaley Cuoco.

John Ritter makes our list twice, although in this case, it’s for a very sad reason. Ritter’s unexpected death during season two in 2003 halted production. After a brief hiatus, the show returned, writing the star’s death into the script. David Spade and James Garner joined but the show was never the same.

9. Spin City


Set in a fictionalized version of the New York City mayor’s office, Michael J. Fox played Mike Flaherty, the Deputy Mayor of New York. The show debuted in 1996. Fox won 3 Golden Globes and Charlie Sheen received one from Spin City‘s nine nominations. Fox also won one Primetime Emmy out of the show’s four nominations.

In 1998, Fox left the show due to his battle with Parkinson’s disease. Charlie Sheen took over in the lead role. The show carried on for two seasons. Fox returned for three episodes in the final season.

8. House of Cards


This Netflix series starred Kevin Spacey as an amoral politician, who with his conniving wife, sought to exact revenge on the people who betrayed him. House of Cards ran from 2013-2018 and was nominated for 56 Primetime Emmys, 8 Golden Globes, and 11 Screen Actors Guild awards.

In the Fall of 2017, House of Cards took a major hit when Spacey was accused by several men of sexual harassment and assault. Eight employees on the Netflix series also accused Spacey of sexual misconduct. Robin Wright, who played Spacey’s wife, took over as the show’s lead. But losing the main star was the death nail, and the series ended in 2018.

7. Scrubs


The sitcom Scrubs focused on the lives of employees at a fictional teaching hospital, with most of the main characters as medical interns. The popular show received 17 Emmy nominations.


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The show’s creator thought the seventh season would be its last, but ABC picked up the show from NBC. Then, after the eighth season, Scrubs was renewed for a ninth. But the problem was, everyone thought it was going to be over and main actor Zach Braff and most of the main cast weren’t returning. The show tried to carry on with new interns but it wasn’t the same. ABC canceled Scrubs after its 10th season.

6. That ’70s Show


Ashton Kutcher first came to fame on the Fox sitcom That ’70s Show (1998–2006). The series focused on the lives of six teenage friends. Topher Grace played Eric Forman.

After a successful seven seasons, Ashton Kutcher and Topher Grace decided they wanted to move on to different projects. The show tried to carry on focusing on Kutcher’s departure and a new relationship for Donna. It only lasted one more season without its lead, although Kutcher and Topher returned for the finale.

5. Charlie’s Angels


This series was a massive hit when it premiered in 1976 starring Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson, and Jaclyn Smith as Charlie’s Angels. Audiences were captivated by its three beautiful stars. But the show was lambasted by some critics as being “jiggle TV,” focusing on its braless stars — something Fawcett, reportedly, wasn’t happy about.

Farrah Fawcett, in addition to her role in the show earning her a Golden Globe award, was photographed wearing a one-piece red bathing suit which became the best-selling poster in history. She quit the show after just one season and the series was never quite the same.

4. Three’s Company


Three’s Company debuted in 1976 and was an immediate smash hit, starring John Ritter, Suzanne Somers, and Joyce DeWitt. It followed the misadventures of two women and one man sharing an apartment. Noted for its sexual innuendos, it was criticized as “jiggle TV” for highlighting the sensuality of its female stars.

Suzanne Somers earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best TV Actress in a Comedy for her role. Following Season 4, Somers asked for a raise equal to the pay of Ritter. Instead, ABC offered Somers a paltry 15% raise and limited her role for Season 5, then fired her at the end of the season. The audience never quite bonded with the two actresses who tried to replace Somers.

3. The Office


Mockumentary sitcom The Office follows the work lives of employees at a fictional paper company. The series had mixed reviews at first but won many awards during its run. It can hardly be argued that the show’s success owes much to the performances of Steve Carell in the lead role.

When Carell departed in its seventh season, The Office tried to remain afloat with Will Ferrell and James Spader. But most people felt what gave the show its appeal was Carell’s charm and humor. The series dragged on but its ratings fell.

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2. Two and a Half Men


Two and a Half Men follows the freewheeling life of a hedonistic jingle writer and his uptight brother. The show starred Charlie Sheen. The first five seasons followed his character’s sexual misadventures. In 2010, Sheen entered drug rehab and the show went on hiatus. In January 2011, Sheen voluntarily entered rehab for the third time in 12 months. 

By February 2011, Sheen lashed out against creator Chuck Lorre in interviews. In March, Sheen was fired. His character was killed off and he was replaced by Ashton Kutcher as a young Steve Jobs type. However, the new character and alterations to the premise of the show never quite caught on with some fans. Sheen’s career took a major hit as well.

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1. Roseanne


Named after its star (comedienne Roseanne Barr) the TV series Roseanne was beloved for its realistic portrayal of the working-class American family. In its first two seasons, Roseanne was ranked #1. It remained in the top four for the majority of its initial run. The series was nominated for 27 Emmy awards.

After being rebooted for an eleventh season in 2018, Barr posted a scandalous Twitter remark aimed at Obama official Valerie Jarrett. She was promptly fired. With the show Roseanne being #3 at the time, ABC rebranded it as The Connors and carried on without Barr.

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