It’s one thing for a show to try to add a character to a series. I can understand the need to spice things up and keep it fresh, even if it doesn’t work most of the time. Sometimes a show will also lose characters for the same reason. Maybe the actor wants to leave, or maybe the character is just getting old so they get written out. Sometimes they get a nice goodbye episode, and sometimes they get written out with just a line of dialogue. However, there is another trend in sitcoms which is kind of disturbing. When a regular character just disappears, no reason given, and everyone forgets that he or she ever existed. This is what we call the “Brother Chuck” paradox.
Happy Days-Here is the show which originated the phrase. In the first two seasons, Richie had a brother named Chuck. Played by two different actors, this character was in college so didn’t necessarily appear in every episode. However, when the creators realized they could have Fonzie be the big brother figure, they quietly made Chuck disappear. Totally forgotten. In fact in the final episode Howard makes a toast and talked about how “both their children are married now”.
Now I can understand this happening in the old days because people didn’t pay really care about these kind of things. What amazes me is that this still happens, and here are a few examples.
Benson-This show had some interesting cast changes. However, they were usually explained. Marcie moved to Baltimore, Pete and Denise moved to Atlanta. The one that never got explained is what happened to the Governor’s aide Taylor. After the first season he disappeared, I guess the governor didn’t need him anymore. An amusing removal came in the form of the annoying courier who tried to sell the governor his jokes, even though he wasn’t funny. He appeared a few times before disappearing. The actor’s name that played him? Someone named Jerry Seinfeld.
Family Matters-This is my favorite example. This wasn’t a minor character which hardly appeared in the show for a couple years. The character I am talking about of course is the second daughter, Judy. After four seasons she just up and disappeared so Steve Urkel could have more attention. Now to be fair, this was kind of useless characters that never had anything to do. But to just make her vanish without a trace was just weird. What happened to her? In the last season Christmas episode Steve gives Carl and Harriett a picture of their two kids, Laura and Eddie. I guess Judy was just a figment of our imagination. As I said in my previous post, the real odd thing is that the Winslow’s would go on to adopt a child. So, they didn’t have room for Judy but they did for 3J? Ok, if you say so.
Saved By The Bell-This is a tough one, and can be debated quite easily. When this show started it was known as Good Morning, Miss Bliss and the center was the teacher played by Hayley Mills. When the show became Saved By The Bell not only did Miss Bliss disappear, but most of the kids too. The only ones saved were Zack, Screech, and Lisa. As I said this can be argued, kids don’t usually keep the same teachers and kids often move or go off to other schools. However, NBC syndicated the Miss Bliss episodes in the Saved By The Bell package, so we get to see these stories also. It would have been nice to have a connection because if you watch this in order it just looks like everyone vanishes, except Mr.Belding who also remained.
Night Court-This show had a lot of turnover in its cast the early years. The first couple episodes featured Lana Wagner at the clerk and clear love interest for Harry. She quickly vanished to be replaced by Mac, although they had set up the fact she was getting married so you can almost explain that one off. One you can’t explain as easily is what happened to the public defender. The pilot had a woman who we never saw again, she was replaced by Liz in season one. She vanished only to be replaced by Billie who was likewise finally replaced by Christine. Billie, played by Ellen Foley, didn’t work so it made sense they replaced her. An explanation would have been nice, since Harry was falling for her through the season. The other changeover involved the Bailiffs, but Selma Diamond and Florence Halop had passed away and that was clearly explained. Finally when Marsha Warfield came they had their cast set, I guess some shows just take a bit longer to find the right chemistry.
Boy Meets World-Topanga had a sister early on who quickly disappeared and never appeared again. Also a mystery is what happened to Mr.Turner. He was Cory’s teacher and role model. His last episode had him getting into a motorcycle crash, and the he vanished off the show.
King of Queens-I became a fan of this show late, and when I first caught the pilot on a re-run I was stunned. Who was the girl also moving into Doug’s house? It seems originally Carrie’s sister Sara was also supposed to be in the house. However, after a few episodes the creators had no idea what to do with her so she just disappeared. This made the reason why Arthur was stuck in the basement make a little less sense, but the show worked hard to make it understandable. Doug’s friend Richie also vanished without a trace after a couple years, which is strange considering they were good friends. You’d think they’d put in a simple line saying that he ran off and got married or something.
Golden Girls-This one stunned me even more than the King of Queens one did. I finally caught the pilot of this show, only to learn that the girls had a flamboyantly gay, live in cook named Coco. No, seriously! I couldn’t believe it when I saw this, and he vanished right after the pilot. Gee, wonder how long it took them to figure out that was a bad idea. Ten seconds?
Seinfeld-This may not fit the criteria since they are never seen, but we get references in a few early episodes to siblings which vanish. Jerry mentions a sister in “The Chinese Restaurant” and George mentions his brother in “The Parking Space”
Life with Bonnie-This show came out a few years and actually pulled this stunt, proving the clichÃ© was alive and well. When this Bonnie Hunt show came on Bonnie had a 12 year old daughter.
However, Samantha just vanished between the first and second season, never to be heard from again.
Man, this happens a lot. I don’t think I scratched the surface. Jesse lost her father and two brothers, Sabrina lost several best friends along the way, Mad About You had Paul’s best friend Selby vanish after a handful of episodes, Step By Step had the olden son be written out, and Spin City had several cast members up and vanish.
Pets also seem to fall victim to this. Dogs up and vanished from The Brady Bunch, Whoâ€™s The Boss?, Everybody Loves Raymond, and King of Queens. Friends lost the chick and the duck (although this did get explained finally).
These are not sitcoms, but I had to mention them. In Lois & Clark the first season included the sexy reporter Cat Grant played by Traci Scoggins. I have to say, I can understand why she disappeared after season 1 ended. They gave her nothing to do aside from come in, say a couple lines, show off her body, and then leave. What I don’t understand is why they couldn’t explain her disappearance. Would a quick line about how she got another job really kill them? Also, Star Trek started with Yeoman Rand only to see her vanish after eight episodes. The reasons for this could fill an entire article, so let’s just say there were problems. Finally, in season 2 of Next Generation we are introduced to a new assistant engineer named Sonya Gomez. After two episodes she faded away even though every indication was she was going to be around for awhile.
I understand that things change and suddenly characters are written out, what bugs me is when there is no explanation for it. Some shows manage to do this; they will just throw in a line about the person suddenly moved away or whatever. To be honest, I call this lazy and kind of insulting to the fans of that character who may like to understand why they have suddenly left.
Hope you enjoyed this, and if I missed any please let me know.
Posted by Rich B