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?