As hard as it is to break up with a beloved TV series, we’ve had to do it over and over again in recent years — and not because the content of the shows in question had changed but because backstage scandals had made it impossible to tune in any longer without feeling grossed out, guilty or both.
Will you ever again be able to watch Cliff Huxtable dispense fatherly advice on The Cosby Show without remembering that Bill Cosby was found guilty of sexual assault? Has knowing the exact details of Joss Whedon’s “hostile and toxic work environments” forever changed the way you watch Buffy and Angel? Where do you draw the line when it comes to separating art from artist?
Sometimes a series is able to distance itself from its scandal and soldier on (a la Two and a Half Men, after it exchanged a “dangerously self-destructive” Charlie Sheen for Ashton Kutcher). But, once cast, the shadow of wrongdoing never goes away, not completely. Take it from any of the series included in the list below. In the wake of behind-the-scenes scandals, their once-golden legacies have been forever tarnished.
Review the shows and the litany of sins that wrecked them below, then hit the comments: Do you still enjoy any of these series the way you used to?
THE COSBY SHOW
After the NBC sitcom’s star was accused of sexual assault by more than 60 women, we couldn’t look at a Cosby sweater, much less a Cosby episode. Not that they were easy to find then, anyway, since reruns were yanked years before the disgraced TV legend was finally found guilty on three counts in 2018.
TWO AND A HALF MEN
After CBS shut down production on Season 8 in 2011 so that Charlie Sheen could go through at-home rehab, the troubled “warlock” turned up the heat on his very public meltdown and assured his subsequent firing by calling series creator Chuck Lorre “a contaminated little maggot” — for starters!
Actor Jeff Garlin abruptly left the long-running ABC sitcom (on which he’d starred since the pilot) at the end of 2021, following a human resources investigation stemming from several complaints about his on-set behavior, including alleged lewd language and unwarranted touching. The show has since employed a body double for the actor in order to film his incomplete scenes, but the shoddy post-production effects are just a reminder of his abrupt exit and the disappointing circumstances behind it.
In 2019, Empire actor Jussie Smollett claimed he had been beaten up by two men who hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him. He alleged that his attackers tied a rope around his neck, doused him with “unknown substance” and warned him that he was in “MAGA country.” The actor was later found guilty on five of six felony charges stemming from what turned out to be a totally false police report. Smollett, who played Lucious’ musician son Jamal on the series, was written out of the final episodes of Season 5 following the headline-grabbing brush with the law.
Though the ABC comedy’s revival was a hit, Roseanne Barr made its first season back its last by sending out a racist tweet in which she described former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett as a combination of the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes. Afterwards, the show was cancelled (then rejiggered without its leading lady as The Conners), and even classic episodes were pulled from many schedules.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (and ANGEL)
Buffyverse alumna Charisma Carpenter penned a series of Instagram posts in February 2021 elaborating on claims she had made over the years that creator and showrunner Joss Whedon had a “history of being casually cruel,” which fueled the creation of “hostile and toxic work environments.” It didn’t take long for other Buffy and Angel cast members like Amber Benson, Michelle Trachtenberg and Sarah Michelle Gellar to chime in and share their stories and support for their fellow costar.
The last thing we — or anybody — wanted once Louis C.K. confirmed in 2017 that he had indeed masturbated (and then some) in front of five unfortunate women was to see him play a version of himself. So FX axed his namesake series and, while it was at it, axed the comedian from the other shows that he’d co-created, too.
Actress Allison Mack — who played one of Clark Kent’s best friends Chloe Sullivan — pleaded guilty in 2018 to manipulating women into becoming sex slaves via the “self-improvement” cult NXIVM. She was sentenced to three years in prison after being charged with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy.
Accused of sexual harassment by former assistant Van Barnes and castmate Trace Lysette, Jeffrey Tambor wondered in 2017 how he could possibly return to the Amazon drama, “given the politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set.” He needn’t have wondered: He was let go ahead of a Maura-less Season 5.
Tambor’s star was already falling in the wake of accusations of sexual misconduct on the Transparent set when his Arrested Development wife Jessica Walter tearfully revealed to the New York Times that he’d (non-sexually) harassed her.
Gossip Girl alum Ed Westwick was accused of raping two women: actress Kristina Cohen, who in a 2017 Facebook post claimed that the actor forced himself on her while attending a house party at his residence in 2014, and former actress Aurélie Wynn, whose alleged assault is said to occur at Westwick’s home that same year. As a result, the BBC announced it wouldn’t air its adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel Ordeal by Innocence. However, the role was eventually recast and reshot.
SEX AND THE CITY
Big, Big, Big… we wanted to properly mourn Carrie Bradshaw’s dearly departed love, but after three women came forward with allegations of sexual assault against the Sex and the City star, we were more than happy his character had already bit the big one. Noth was then fired from The Equalizer, and his cameo in the And Just Like That… finale was scrapped.
THAT '70S SHOW (and THE RANCH)
Danny Masterson, who played anti-establishment stoner Steven Hyde, was formally charged in 2020 with raping three women in separate incidents that occurred between 2001 and 2003. He awaits a criminal trial that has been set for August 29, 2022, and if convicted, faces a maximum sentence of 45 years to life in prison. Following the initial accusations, the actor was fired from Netflix’s The Ranch in Dec. 2017. His character, Rooster Bennett, was later killed off in a freak motorcycle accident.
Nope. Without saying, “Ew, no, no, no!” there just wasn’t any way to sit through a scene in which Stephen Collins’ Reverend Eric Camden interacted with kids on the WB/CW’s formerly-feel-good family drama — not after a tape of the actor admitting to molesting several children was made public in 2014.
ONE TREE HILL
The WB/CW soap’s most disturbing storylines apparently took place off camera. In 2017, Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz and a host of female cast and crew members released a joint statement in support of staff writer Audrey Wauchope after she leveled accusations of sexual harassment against (unnamed) series creator Mark Schwahn.
HOUSE OF CARDS
In 2017, Star Trek: Discovery’s Anthony Rapp opened the floodgates on a series of accusations of sexual harassment and assault against the Netflix drama’s leading man, Kevin Spacey. By the time Season 6 dropped, Frank Underwood was as dead as the Oscar winner’s career.
There’s been no musical number peppy enough to make us want to rewatch Fox’s Glee since Mark Salling, who played Puck, pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography in 2017. And that was before the troubled actor committed suicide while awaiting sentencing.