It’s a stubborn scourge that plagues even the best TV shows: One day, a character is a key part of a show’s ensemble, and the next, they just… vanish.
We’re not talking about characters who were killed off or written off in some other easily explainable way. No, these poor characters — whether they didn’t mesh with the rest of the cast, or the writers just got bored of them — left their shows with no grand goodbye, never returned and were barely mentioned again, as if they never existed. This phenomenon happens so often throughout TV history, there’s even a name for it: “Chuck Cunningham syndrome,” in honor of Richie’s lost brother on Happy Days.
Well, they may not have gotten the send-off they deserved at the time, but we here at TVLine are paying belated tribute to these forgotten characters, from a Friends son and a Family Matters daughter to a Grey’s Anatomy doctor and a Mindy Project BFF. Some of these stuck around for a few seasons before their unceremonious exit, while others only got a single episode before getting the boot. (Anybody else remember The Golden Girls had a gay housekeeper named Coco?)
Read on to see our list of TV characters who went missing and never came back. (We even ranked each disappearance on a scale of one to four milk cartons, based on how jarring and inexplicable the exit was.) Did we forget one of your favorites? Hit the comments below and jog our memory with your own suggestions.