As reported in my post laws week Chevy Chase has finally left the TV show Community mid-way through its fourth season. Now this was not really a shock to anyone who had been keeping up with the turmoil surrounding his relationship with the show, but it will change the dynamic of the show somewhat, particularly if they bring in a replacement.
So today is all about my favourite characters to have left a TV show and the (often failed) attempts to replace them.
The Office (US)
The American version of The Office was something I only got into earlier in the year, yet quickly found myself burning through it due to its comedy brilliance. Having seen all of them in such a short time-frame I am amazed at how consistently brilliant it is, even right up to the present day when it is in its ninth season. I have never seen any show create so many episodes and run for so long, yet not suffer a dip in quality, even when the main character left.
Few shows manage to pull this off, yet The Office did it with aplomb, bringing in a series of replacements (including Will Ferrell and Kathy Bates), before finally settling on Andy Bernard (played by Ed Helms). They brought in a couple of new characters which freshened the show and gave a whole new avenue for comedy.
Even today, the storylines don’t feel contrived or desperate and when the show ends after this season it will be going out on top, Michael Scott or no.
The problem when you create an “odd couple” scenario is that it requires both of them for the show to work. So when believer David Duchonvy (who played FBI Agent Fox Mulder) decided to leave the show after seven series, it left a weird void, which was somewhat bizarrely, though inevitably filled by Gillian Anderson (who played a not-so-sceptic Dana Scully). So her role was then taken by a no-nonsense FBI agent John Doggett (played by Robert Patrick. But with a show focused so primarily on two characters, the new balance felt awkward and somewhat forced, particularly with the introduction of a FBI agent Anabeth Gish (played by Monica Reyes) to try and recreate the tension that existed between Mulder and Scully. Yet remarkably the show ran for two further seasons after this change, though with each episode it sank further into the realms of the contrived and the impenetrably confusing conspiracy, so long the shows trademark.
A UK TV classic. Having recorded series VI in a terrible rush, Chris Barrie (who played hologram Arnold Rimmer) was reluctant to sign on for the whole eight(!) episodes of series VII so was replaced by Kristine Kochanski (played by Chloe Annett) for some of them. Never before has such a show seen such a backlash by its fans, who criticised the move for changing the whole dynamic. Not only that, but changes to the writing staff resulted in the show being far less funny and the switch from straight out comedy to a more drama-orientated comedy made things far worse. It would be well over a decade, plus another series, a three-part special and the return of Barrie (as well as the removal on Annett) before fans even thought of forgiving the show.
Sometimes a show has to change things up to keep it fresh. So was it with Weeds. Only, this show decided to do it after two seasons (of eight) and literally burnt down the entire community where the show was based. The main family then spent the new few years travelling round like hobos looking for somewhere they could settle and adding an entirely new supporting cast every year or so. It defiantly jumped the shark, but as long as you accepted the now ridiculous premise, it was still an enjoyable show to watch. From time to time old regulars would show up, but quite frankly it was far better once all ties to the past were severed. It wasn’t totally successful, but it wasn’t the worst decision in the world. But you still have to respect the writers for making such a massive commitment to changing a pretty successful formula.