Guest Post: TV Show Fails and Wins – Replacement actors who made or broke their shows


Hi everyone! Taking a bit of a break from movies, today we have a special TV-related guest post from Lindsay Mcmahon. Her interests are entertainment, television, parenting and health but she is constantly extending her field of view to incorporate interesting news suggested to her by her readers. Her favorite flick is ‘Fight Club’, a great classic combining action and philosophy. When it comes to TV, she’s an absolute Fantasy freak, having ‘Game of Thrones’ sitting at the top. She currently works for Direct2TV.com.


TV shows have the unique problem of cast retention. Unlike most industries, once a TV character is signed onto a show, they are almost required to remain for the entire run of the show. If they do not, or are unable to for some reason, then the TV network must scramble to replace that character. Sometimes, the replacement is able to keep the fans of the show, but in most cases, the show soon ends after the cast replacement.

KutcherThreeAndaHalfMenAshton Kutcher in Two and a Half Men

The most famous replacement in recent years is the replacement of Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men. Two and a Half Men is currently in its 10th season, after starting in 2003. The show followed two brothers, one rich and single, one divorced and with a kid. The series focused on the romantic pursuits of the brothers.

Over the years, Charlie Sheen fell deeper into drug addiction, which eventually led to his being fired from the show at the end of season 8. His replacement was Ashton Kutcher. The show has continued for two years after Charlie Sheen left, and has been able to hold its viewer ratings.

DIckSargentBewitchedDick Sargent in Bewitched

Bewitched is famous for its switch of Samantha’s husband halfway through the series. After the 5th season, Dick York quit the show to pursue other interests. The replacement was Dick Sargent.

Surprisingly enough, the show made no mention of the fact that the husband was now a completely different man. While this bothered many viewers, the show continued to run for an additional 3 years, giving the show a total run-time length of 8 years.

CharlieSheenSpinCityCharlie Sheen in Spin City

Charlie Sheen has had many different projects over the years, and one of them was a replacement for Michael J. Fox on Spin City. It was a show about the mayor’s office in New York, featuring the relationships of the various employees- and specifically Fox’s character.

When Fox started exhibiting severe signs of Parkinson’s disease, he had to leave the show. The series made it look like a regular job switch, and replaced Fox with Sheen. The show ran for a total of 6 years, 4 with Fox and 2 with Sheen. The ratings fell dramatically during the last two seasons.

KristieAlleyCheersKristie Alley in Cheers

Cheers featured a fun cast of several characters who own the bar or visit regularly. The show ran for a total of 11 seasons, and was one of the highest rated shows in the 1980s. During the first 5 seasons, Shelly Long played a waitress at the bar. She left after season 5 and was replaced by Kristie Alley. Alley’s forceful personality and charm gave the show new life, and it was able to continue for 6 additional seasons until 1992.

All of these shows had replacement actors with varying success. The shows that did the best were the ones that replaced characters in a logical way with an actor that had an extremely likable personality. The shows that did worst tried to ignore the difference or replaced the original actor with someone who was much less likable.


Thoughts about TV’s cast retention dilemma? Are you a fan of any of the shows and/or actors?

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23 thoughts on “Guest Post: TV Show Fails and Wins – Replacement actors who made or broke their shows

  1. Good topic Lindsay and welcome to FlixxChatter. I don’t like to admit to many people but I’m a huge fan of Two and Half Men, the show’s not as funny now with Ashton but he’s doing okay. The reason show works when Charlie was the lead was because of the constant bickering between him and his brother Allen and their luck with their female counterparts. I was never a big fan of Spin City but used to watch it once in a while, when Michael J. Fox left show, I though it wasn’t as funny with Charlie Sheen. Sheen just looked unfortable doing TV since he’s mostly been starring in films up until then.

    As for Cheers, I love Kristie Alley’s character. I didn’t care for Shelly Long’s character and her constant love affair with Sam annoyed the heck out of me. The show got funnier when Kristie came on board.

    • I agree Ted, Long annoyed me too but Alley is hilarious as she’s so self-deprecating. The way she always bickers with Carla is a hoot!

  2. Welcome, Lindsay:

    A well constructed piece on what for years has been called “Re-tooling” a show. Which in seven out of ten attempts fails miserably and immediately. Or is protracted and drawn out, as your choices detail.

    Ashton Kutcher is decent enough, less raunchy replacement for Sheen’s Charley. Though it’s Alan’s (Jon Cryer) choice of girlfriends and the show’s supporting cast that has been a constant draw. In a comedy where the adult leads are overgrown, hormonal teenagers.

    Can’t complain about Dick Sargent. Worked well with what he was given. While Kirstie Alley could easily hold her own in Shelly Long’s absence.

  3. I’m probably in the rare category of fans who loved Shelley Long’s character, but Kristie definitely breathed new life into it when she came along. Great pick!

  4. Cheers was my absolute favorite show… I think I’ve seen every single episode at least a dozen times. Kirsty was a great replacement for Shelly Long. And I’m totally satisfied with Ashton taking Charlie’s place in Two and a Half Men.

    • I sometimes still watch Cheers when it’s on TV, it’s just such a fun show. I much prefer Kristie to Shelley Long, she’s just as neurotic but much less annoying. I like Frasier in Cheers, so I was happy to see him got a spin-off and it still remains one of my all time fave shows.

  5. I’m fed up with all those actors leaving GoT after season 1 which led to either awful recasts (The Mountain) or total lack of the character (Greatjon) in later season.

    But in terms of replacement – no idea what the actor name is but the guy in the last season of That 70′s show was so awful it made the once hilarious show unwatchable just with his awfulness.

    • There’s an actor from That 70′s show in Game of Thrones??? Ahah, that is hilarious! I’m curious who that is now. Well, they need to cast Richard Armitage on there right Sati? ;)

      • No, no, those are two separate issues :P In GoT some actors got different jobs, I think one even got a part in The Hobbit, and the show runners were forced to recast some parts and just abandon others.

        That douche in That 70′s Show probably didn’t get another job in his whole life after he ruined that show :P

  6. The Dick Sargent for Dick York switch in Bewitched certainly stands out at the time for those of us old enough to remember. I can’t say I ever warmed up to DS. Fun look at this, Lindsay. Thanks.

  7. Hi Guys!

    Thanks for the kind words, it really makes my day!
    I agree with Charlie being better in Two and a Half Man, but to be honest, the show has been on for so long, that I think it needed a kick to remain interesting. Ashton might just be that kick, he proved himself again and again that he’s a great actor. That’s my opinion anyway.:) (Do you guys remember Butterfly Effect? One of my favorite movies from way back)
    Thanks for the comments!

  8. Hi Guys!

    Thanks for the kind words, it really makes my day!
    I agree with Charlie being better in Two and a Half Man, but to be honest, the show has been on for so long, that I think it needed a kick to remain interesting. Ashton might just be that kick, he proved himself again and again that he’s a great actor.
    That’s my opinion anyway.:)

    (Do you guys remember Butterfly Effect? One of my favorite movies from way back)

    Thanks for the comments!

  9. You know, I can’t recall any TV switches, apart from Spin City. I remember being a casual viewer of Spin City when Michael J. Fox was in it and being less than pleased when he had to make a departure. Don’t think I watched much, if any, of the show when Charlie Sheen was in.

    • I think I’ve only seen 1 episode of Spin City but Fox is way better than Sheen, he’s just more of a natural in that role. Though I remember him most from Family Ties, ahah.

  10. Sargent seems like a good replacement, but Kutcher hasn’t panned out. I’ve seen the first 3 seasons of Cheers, but I’ve never seen a complete episode with Kristie Alley. I love what I’ve seen, so I should check out the other seasons at some point.

  11. This is an interesting read, I watched two half man ages ago and it wasn’t my favorite sitcom but I didn’t know Kucher is on it now.

    I always like Kristie Alley, I saw here that sitcom about magazine or something, haven’t seen cheers yet.

    When talking about changing actors, no show has done it better than Doctor Who … after 50years, they have 11 Doctors and countless companions…and the show is still running strong ;)

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