Actors Leaving TV Shows

Beckett! Abbie! McDreamy! Jon! Liz! Has a Lead Character's Exit Ever Prompted You to Abandon a Show?

“I’m never watching this show again!” “If he’s out, I’m out, too!” “This had damn well better be a dream sequence!” “Bye, Felicia!”

It’s a common — and understandable — refrain among TV fans every time a beloved character gets killed off or a series lead exits a long-running show.

Heck, my own mother made a very similar declaration back on March 23, 2014 — the day The Good Wife‘s Will Gardner was gunned down in a horrific courtroom shooting.

“Oh, Mom, don’t be silly — you know you’re going to tune in next week,” I replied, but that’s because I treat most series to which I’ve become addicted the same way I treat an open, family-size bag of Doritos: I just can’t quit consuming — even when it’s reached the point of stomach cramps and self-loathing and “I really need to make better life choices.”

My mom actually did finish out Season 5, but somewhere in the midst of Season 6, episodes of CBS’ acclaimed legal drama began to pile up on her DVR. The magic, it seems, was gone — and with it, her loyalty.

I mention The Great Will Gardner Debate in the wake of a string of high-profile character deaths on popular, serialized dramas: Grey’s Anatomy‘s McDreamy, Game of Thrones‘ Jon Snow, and in just the last few weeks, The 100‘s Lexa, Sleepy Hollow‘s Abbie and (maybe) The Blacklist‘s Liz. Let’s not forget Nina Dobrev’s Elena leaving The Vampire Diaires prior to Season 7, too. When ABC announced Monday that a potential Season 9 of its procedural Castle would not include star Stana Katic, the “I’m outta here” drumbeats from the show’s fandom reached deafening levels (at least here in the TVLine comments section).

Each of the above cases — as well as the hundreds of examples that preceded it, and the hundreds that will inevitably follow — is different, of course.

Sometimes an actor wants out. Sometimes producers want an actor out. Sometimes it’s a cost-cutting measure. Sometimes it’s a way to shake up a stagnant series. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a bold/boneheaded storytelling decision.

As a viewer, I try to give writers the benefit of the doubt. Particularly in the action/sci-fi/superhero genres, where life-or-death decisions are made every episode, killing off a fan-favorite character raises the stakes and reminds us that no one is safe. On the other hand, if it’s only minor characters who wind up taking dirt naps season after season, I often find myself nodding off, as well.

Then again, if an actor or character is your main reason for watching a show in the first place, why would you want to go on without ’em — especially if there’s a lingering feeling that they were underserved on their way to the exit? Isn’t it better to pull the plug quickly and decisively than to feel your enthusiasm for a once-beloved series drain like helium from a sad balloon lingering in the corner behind the couch?

These are the greatest conundrums we face as viewers — along with the overarching horror that there is simply too much good television to consume in a 168-hour week. But in the end, isn’t it better to have lost a TV love than never to have loved at all?

On that note, I turn it over to you. Have you ever quit a beloved series after a character was killed off or an actor exited? Were there shows you stuck with despite your angst — where you wound up applauding or at least respecting the decision? Which recent TV death stung the hardest? Hit the comments with your thoughts!