When Jack Soo (far right), who played Detective Nick Yemana, died of esophageal cancer in January 1979, midway through Season 5, the police comedy ended that season with a special tribute episode in which the cast "broke the fourth wall" and remembered their colleague. (Later, it was implied that Nick died, too.)
After being felled by complications from heart disease in February 1985, Nicholas Colasanto made his final appearance as "Coach" in the Season 3 finale. The following season's premiere established Coach's death, while introducing his pen pal Woody/new cast member Woody Harrelson.
Chico and the Man
Freddie Prinze committed suicide in January 1977, at age 22 and midway through Season 3 of this urban sitcom. At first, the show sent the titular Chico off-screen to visit his father in Mexico, then filled his place on the canvas with a young orphan named Raul. Toward the end of the series' fourth and final season, when Jack Albertson's Ed ("The Man") had a breakdown, it was revealed that Chico had at some point died.
Jim Davis played family patriarch Jock Ewing through much of Season 4, until he died of
multiple myeloma in April 1981. Miss Ellie's husband was kept off screen for the next 13 episodes, and ultimately killed in a helicopter crash during Season 5.
Larry Hagman reprised his iconic role as J.R. Ewing right up until he succumbed to
myeloid leukemia in November 2012, early into production of Season 2 of the TNT drama. J.R. appeared in several episodes of Season 2, then became the target of a murder mystery, in part thanks to some computer trickery using existing Hagman scenes.
Lynne Thigpen's run as Washington D.C. police chief aide Ella Farmer ended in spring 2003, when the actress (bottom left) suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Ella, in turn, died suddenly in a late Season 3 episode.
8 Simple Rules
After John Ritter died as the result of an undiagnosed aortic dissection in September 2003, Season 2 of the ABC sitcom took a two-month hiatus, ultimately returning with a special "goodbye" episode tributing the comedy great. James Garner (as Katey Sagal's TV dad) and David Spade (as cousin C.J.) filled the cast void, though the show would last only one more season.
Anna Lee's run as the venerable Lila Quartermaine came to an end when the veteran actress succumbed to pneumonia on May 2004; Lila herself then passed away that July. John Ingle, who had taken over as Lila's husband Edward when original portrayer David Lewis' health sidelined him, died of cancer in September 2012; Edward's own passing was written in that November.
Gimme a Break!
When Dolph Sweet died of cancer in May 1985, so did widower “Chief” Kanisky, leaving Nell Carter’s Nell to run the household for two more seasons.
Hill Street Blues
Sergeant Esterhaus urged the boys in blue to "be careful out there" until midway through Season 4, when Michael Conrad died of urethral cancer in November 1983. Esterhaus himself was killed off in that season's Episode 14, replaced by Robert Prosky's Sergeant Stan Jablonski.
When Stanley Kamel died of a heart attack in April 2008, Monk's shrink, Dr. Charles Kroger, himself suffered the same fate during Season 7, in an episode dedicated to the late actor.
Phil Hartman was tragically shot to death by his wife in May 1998, after production on Season 4 of the NBC workplace sitcom had wrapped. In the Season 5 opener, it was revealed that his Bill McNeal had died of a heart attack.
This NBC comedy bid adieu to two successive bailiffs when Selma Diamond (who played Selma Hacker) and Florence Halop (as Florence Kleiner) each died of lung cancer, in May 1985 and July 1986, respectively. Marsha Warfield followed as bailiff Roz Russell, for Seasons 4 through 9.
All My Children
After a battle with lung cancer, Frances Heflin died in June 1994; Erica Kane's mother Mona died peacefully in her sleep that August.
David Bailey was just a few months into the role of evil Alistair Crane when the actor drowned in November 2004. Daytime vet John Reilly took over the role.
The Royal Family
Redd Foxx's big comeback vehicle came to a halt when the Sanford & Sons alum died of a very real heart attack in October 1991, early into the sitcom's freshman run. A "reboot" of sorts, introducing 227's Jackee Harry as an outrageous relative of Della Reese's now-widowed character, quickly proved unsuccessful.
The iconic children's program faced an adult dilemma when Will Lee, who had long played Mr. Hooper, died of a heart attack in December 1982. A teaching moment emerged via the
“Farewell, Mr. Hooper” episode that aired in November 1983, in which the characters acknowledged the storekeeper's death.
A storyline in which Livia Soprano would testify against her son Tony was scrapped when Nancy Marchand was felled by lung cancer and emphysema in June 2000. After appearing in one final scene, thanks to computer trickery, Livia herself suddenly died, leaving Tony with so many unresolved feelings for his combatant creator.
After David Strickland, who played music reporter Todd, killed himself in March 1999, the sitcom paid special tribute to the actor in an episode that deftly established that Todd had died, too.
When respiratory failure claimed the life of veteran actor Will Geer in April 1978, Grandpa Walton himself died later that spring, in the Season 6 finale.
The West Wing
During the acclaimed drama's seventh and final season, White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry died of a heart attack – the same sad fate met by portrayer John Spencer in December 2005.
The Bold and the Beautiful
Though Darlene Conley passed away in January 2007 amid reports of a battle with stomach cancer, the larger-than-life Sally Spectra lives on, off-screen, as she has since her portrayer's death.
The Young and the Restless
Jeanne Cooper's May 2013 passing was addressed in a special tribute special that aired on May 28 and featured many cast members remembering the daytime icon. UPdate: Katherine Chancellor herself will be memorialized in two episodes airing in early September.