On September 19, Ashton Kutcher debuts in the sitcom, playing an Internet billionaire. The final nail in Charlie Sheen’s coffin? The first episode reportedly opens at his character’s funeral—after he was hit and killed by a train.Ouch!
Luckily, when Farrah Fawcett's character, Jill Munroe, decided to leave and become a racecar driver, she had an equally blonde and beautiful sister to fill her shoes. Cheryl Ladd took over as the third Angel, playing younger sis Kris Munroe for the remaining four seasons of Charlie's Angels.
Sarah Chalke (later of Scrubs fame) stepped into Becky Connor's shoes for seasons six and seven of Roseanne. When Lecy Goranson’s schedule allowed her to return to the show for season eight, the cast handled her reappearance with typical humor. During the first episode Goranson was back, her character was repeatedly asked, “Where the hell have you been?” by the rest of the Connor clan.
Starting in the third season of Batman, the sultry Eartha Kitt stepped into Catwoman's paws. On the big screen, Lee Meriwether, Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry have all portrayed the famous feline. Next to slip into the catsuit? Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises.
The Tonight Show, which debuted in 1954, has naturally changed hosts over the years (from Steve Allen to Jack Paar to Johnny Carson). But the most controversial—and ultimately disastrous—transition came in 2009, when Conan O’Brien inherited the show from Jay Leno. After a ratings dip, NBC proposed moving the show to 12:05 a.m. and bumping Leno’s poorly rated Jay Leno Show to the earlier slot.
How do you capitalize on a beloved show after it’s canceled? For The Brady Bunch, the answer was The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, which debuted in 1976 and featured the original cast singing, dancing and appearing in comedy sketches. The only problem? Eve Plumb, who played attention-starved middle daughter Jan Brady, refused to participate in the new show.
Courtesy of Barry Williams/thegregbradyproject.com
The Brady Bunch Variety Hour: After
Geri Reischl slipped into Jan Brady's groovy clothes, playing her on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. Dubbed “Fake Jan” by rabid Brady fans, Reischl and the rest of the cast were put out of their misery when the variety show ended after one year in 1977. Reischl has a sense of humor about the switch: She hosts a "Fake Jan" site and even celebrates an annual "Fake Jan Day"—when people dress as their favorite fakes—with fans.
This 1986 sitcom was created (and named) for Valerie Harper, who starred as Valerie Hogan, a mom raising three sons and working while her husband, an airline pilot, was away. But Harper left her own hit show after the second season following arguments with producers.
Proving the show can go on with or without its namesake, the sitcom was simply retitled The Hogan Family. Actress Sandy Duncan took Valerie Harper’s place, playing the kids’ aunt, who steps in to care for them after their mom dies in a car crash—yikes!
When The Partridge Family began in 1970, Jeremy Gelbwaks played the role of Chris Partridge, the family's adorable drummer. But Gelbwak's tenure hit a sour note when his family decided to leave Los Angeles, where the show was filmed.
Diehard fans of the Partridges had a hard time getting happy when the show's second season opened with a new Chris Partridge. But actor Brian Forster remained in place until The Partridge Family ended in 1974.
This 1990–96 sitcom is best remembered for launching Will Smith’s career, but not without some upheaval along the way. Janet Hubert-Whitten, who played Smith’s Aunt Viv, was replaced after the third season. But she didn't go quietly. In her memoir, Perfection Is Not a Sitcom Mom, she blamed Smith for sabotaging her career, saying he “had people around him who made sure no one outshone him.”
Shelley Long won an Emmy and two Golden Globes for her role as feisty Diane Chambers—the waitress who gave bartender Sam Malone (Ted Danson) a run for his money—on Cheers, which premiered in 1982. But Long left the hit comedy after its fifth season.
After battles with the cast and producers, resident bad girl Shannen Doherty departed the hit series after its fourth season (her character, Brenda Walsh, was said to have moved to London to study acting).
After Shannen Doherty left, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen moved into the 90210 zip code as troublemaker Valerie Malone—even moving into Brenda Walsh's old bedroom and dating her former love, Dylan McKay (Luke Perry).
When Barbara Walters launched her morning gabfest in 1997, she was joined by Meredith Vieira, Star Jones and Debbie Matenopoulos. But Matenopoulos, a twentysomething who had previously worked at MTV, was consistently called out by critics as having no news experience. On Saturday Night Live, Claire Danes and Cameron Diaz were among the actresses who spoofed Matenopoulos, playing her as an uniformed flake.
It was no surprise when Lisa Ling was brought in to replace the much-lampooned Debbie Matenopoulos in 1999. When Ling left in 2002, Elisabeth Hasselbeck joined The View's roundtable and has remained ever since. Ling now hosts the documentary show Our America on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
The smash reality show faced an identity crisis when sharp-tongued Brit Simon Cowell departed in 2010 to develop his own show. Original judge Paula Abdul had already left Idol after contract negotiations failed.
Idol proved indestructible: Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler joined Randy Jackson on the judging panel for Season 10 and viewership increased. As for Simon Cowell, he’ll reunite with fellow former Idol judge Paula Abdul when his new show, The X Factor, debuts on September 21.
What a way to go! Edie Britt, Nicollette Sheridan's troublemaking character on Desperate Housewives, drove into a pole and was electrocuted in 2008 after the show's fifth season. Sheridan later filed suit against the show's creator, Marc Cherry, and ABC, claiming wrongful termination.
For 15 years, viewers of the morning talk show tuned in to hear Kathie Lee Gifford's signature shout of "Reeege!" Fans were shocked in 2000, when Gifford annouced she was leaving to pursue a singing career.
In 2001, soap star Kelly Ripa took over as co-host and the show was renamed Live with Regis and Kelly. Since then, ratings have reportedly gone up. But Live faces a bigger challenge now: Regis Philbin is scheduled to retire in November 2011.