We’ve all had the experience of watching a television show when we realize that, out of nowhere, a character goes missing. It’s been a while since we’ve heard from them or seen them. There was no big announcement. There’s been no mention of them from other characters either. We’re sure the show will get around to it at some point. They’re probably just waiting for a big moment like the season/series finale and the character will come back in a big twist. We keep waiting, but that magical moment never comes. What the hell happened?
Over the years, this type of disappearance has happened countless times. Sometimes, the actor moved on or the writers felt the character was expendable. The reasons for this event are many. Some of the earliest and most iconic examples of a character disappearing have become immortalized through TV lingo. We’ll cover the big ones up front, so we can see how other shows responded to these monumental moments. We’re going to focus mainly on the examples where a character leaves and is never mentioned again, though several of the shows that are guilty of these disappearing acts sometimes mention characters briefly or even reintroduce them later on to try and make up for past mistakes. Some shows even include a joke or two at their own expense to satisfy fans. This doesn’t get them totally off the hook, so we’ll include a couple of these in the list as well. Here are 15 Popular Characters that TV Shows Totally Forgot About.
15. Bobby Martin – All My Children
Way back 1970 on All My Children, one of the show’s greatest mysteries got started. Bobby Martin, the youngest son of Dr. Joe Martin, went upstairs to the attic to get his skis and never came back down. Now, apparently, the writers felt that the Martin family had too many kids, so they just hoped fans would forget all about this little rascal. Well, the fans didn’t forget. For over 20 years, Bobby was lost. Then, in the ’90s, Opal Cortlandt found herself locked in that same attic when she spotted a skeleton with some skis in hand. There, on this skeleton, was a nametag with “Bobby” written on it. Later, Jake Martin was asked about a skeleton he was using as a Halloween decoration to which he responded, “He’s just another one of my older brothers,” clearly referencing the long gone Bobby. The boy that was forgotten.
14. Cousin Oliver – The Brady Bunch
Technically, Cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch was never forgotten about, but we wanted to include him on this list to show the opposite end of the spectrum, a character who was introduced inexplicably. If The Brady Bunch would have continued beyond season five, you can bet that Oliver would have not been in it. Ever since Oliver was brought on to the show as the mysterious and never-before-mentioned cousin, we’ve had the “Cousin Oliver Syndrome,” an easy way of discussing a show’s tendency to introduce a random character that fails miserably. Even though The Brady Bunch‘s ratings were dropping prior to his appearance, many fans still blame Oliver for the show going off the air. Oliver was introduced into the show with 6 episodes left and he was reviled. Plenty of other shows have tried doing the same thing, introduce a new character to appeal to a specific demographic (usually kids). This almost never works. It’s in fear of what Oliver did to The Brady Bunch that shows are quick to axe unlikable or unnecessary characters.
13. Chuck Cunningham – Happy Days
The most famous case of disappearing characters comes from Happy Days and gave rise to the term “Chuck Cunningham Syndrome,” a way of explaining how shows make characters disappear and then later pretend they never existed in the first place. Chuck was Ritchie’s older brother in the show and had a recurring role during season one. Then, as Peter Griffin would say on Family Guy when setting up the Church of the Fonz, Chuck “ascended the stairs with his basketball in season one, and never came down again.” In the later seasons, the Cunningham parents would only ever mention two children, erasing the memory of Chuck from the show completely. This became the most popular reference to erasing characters.
12. Violet And Tori – Saved By The Bell
Over the show’s run, Saved by the Bell had a few different characters vanish from the set. Max stopped doing magic tricks and some of the lesser seen characters stopped going to class. But there are a couple of characters whose absences were impossible not to notice. Violet, for example, Screech’s one-time girlfriend played by Tori Spelling, vanished just when it seemed like her character was about to pick up steam. She was there for a few episodes, and then she was there no more. For whatever reason, Saved by the Bell got away with these types of things. What about Tori? Tori was the leather-jacket-wearing female version of the Fonz who showed up to be a girl that was apparently resistant to Zack Morris’ charms. In the end, she wasn’t resistant at all and the two dated. Whatever happened to her? Well, what really happened was that Tori was brought on to replace Kelly and Jessie, who had left the show before the end. Luckily, they had already filmed many of the episodes for the final season, so they just filmed some new ones with Tori and the rest of the gang and scattered those episodes throughout the season. They would then play the previously filmed episodes with Jessie and Kelly intermittently and Tori would disappear. That’s why they never mentioned her in the episodes with Kelly and Jessie. That’s why Tori wasn’t at graduation. Still, it was weird at the time. It was kind of like Tori was Polkaroo or there was a parallel dimension.
11. Stuart Minkus – Boy Meets World
In season one of Boy Meets World, Stuart Minkus was one of the main players. If that’s all you ever watched of the show, you would probably be shocked to learn that Minkus disappeared after season one. Well, it’s true. A few characters went missing during Boy Meets World‘s run, including the awesome Mr. Turner. In season five’s episode, “Graduation,” Minkus returned for a quick minute and told the gang that he was simply on the other end of the school, which sounded a lot like a metaphor for heaven. He even explains that he was with Mr. Turner, which explains two mysteries. For anyone who’s not caught up on Girl Meets World, Minkus appeared in a few episodes in the first two seasons of that spin-off, so don’t worry. We know he’s not dead. The writers just didn’t like Minkus anymore, so they cut his part from the show.
10. Cody And Jean Luc – Step By Step
Cody was the stoner (who we actually never saw get high) that lived in the driveway at the Lambert’s house in Step by Step. In 1996, news broke that the actor who played Cody, Sasha Mitchell, was being charged with assault. The show quickly cut bait and dumped Mitchell. It turns out, the poor guy was innocent the whole time. It was actually his wife who was abusive. Cody was then replaced by the hairdresser Jean-Luc (Bronson Pinchot), but then, he vanished as well. Truthfully, we weren’t too upset that either character disappeared…Cody, especially. This guy used to hit on Dana constantly, and Dana was his cousin. In every episode, we were confronted with this really disturbing image. Now, they weren’t blood-related, but still, they were in name. Besides, if it felt wrong to Dana, it felt wrong to us.
9. Judy Winslow – Family Matters
Most of us only now remember Judy Winslow from Family Matters as the one that got away, or better yet, the one that just disappeared one day. In the beginning, Judy was a precocious nine-year-old, the youngest of the Winslow children. She was never really a major character, but it wasn’t like they kept her hidden. For four seasons, Judy was on the show. Then, at age 13, the character completely vanished without a trace. The last time we saw her, Judy was the flower girl at her grandmother’s wedding. After that episode, “Mama’s Wedding,” it was as if she never existed. Her name was never mentioned again and the Winslows acted as if they only had two children. The writers did say that if the show got the 10 seasons it had planned, Judy would have been reintroduced. It would have been explained that she was living with her aunt, Rachel. Since we never got that explanation, let’s just keep assuming she was left at the church.
8. Laurie Forman And Tina Pinciotti – That 70s Show
For six seasons, Laurie Forman was a recurring character on That 70s Show. As Eric’s older and one of the most promiscuous women in existence, Laurie’s storylines were actually pretty good. In season five, Laurie and Fez get married and she appeared poised for a much larger role. This storyline continued into season six and her appearances were increased, but then we never saw her again. Over the next two seasons, Laurie was referenced a few times, but there was a run of 43 episodes in which she never came up. This wasn’t the only character That 70s Show erased, however, as Tina Pinciotti, Donna’s younger sister was treated even worse. After appearing in season one and being briefly mentioned in season two, Tina was completely cut from the show. For the rest of the show, Donna was considered an only child.
7. Nikki Faber – Spin City
Nikki Faber (Connie Britton) was the accountant for the mayor in Spin City. She was a recurring character on the show through four seasons until everything changed. Michael J. Fox left the show because of his health and was replaced by Charlie Sheen. It was at this point that many of the other characters were cut as well, including Faber. It’s unclear if the characters were eliminated to try and change it up with Fox leaving or if the actors themselves left in fear that the show wouldn’t last. All we know is that Faber and several other cat members were never seen or mentioned again over the next two seasons. The only reason we mention this is because Britton is currently the biggest star on this list to have disappeared.
6. Mandy Hampton – The West Wing
Like a few of the members on this list, Mandy Hampton has a word named after her…or a place, in this case, Mandyville. Mandy Hampton was the media consultant at the White House in The West Wing. After having a prominent role in the show’s first season, Mandy simply vanished and was never spoken of again. This led fans to create the mysterious land of Mandyville, a place where all characters who disappear from shows go to enjoy the last of their days. The creator of the show, Aaron Sorkin, said that they made a decision on the character because they felt it wasn’t working out. They said it was mutual. We don’t believe them.
5. Amy Jessup – Fringe
In season two of the criminally underrated Fringe, fans were introduced to a new character. Her name was Amy Jessup and she seemed pretty open to all the unnatural things the team was involved with. During her short-lived arc, Jessup was asked to investigate the crash in New York City and, in part, investigate the Fringe team. It appeared as if the show was ready to bring her on as a recurring character, but then as quickly as she came, she was gone. The last we saw of Jessup, she was matching some of the mysterious events with bible passages. That was it. We never received an explanation and never heard what became of her research. Maybe the studios didn’t like the religious angle, so the writers were forced to ditch the character.
4. Coach Ken Tanaka – Glee
After having a major role in the first season of Glee, Coach Ken Tanaka disappeared prior to the beginning of season two. His position at the school was filled and he wasn’t mentioned again until season four. In that season, the coach who took Tanaka’s spot, Shannon Beiste, was matched to him on a dating website. It was then that it was explained that he had taken a position as a driver’s education instructor in Oregon. There was talk that he left because of a nervous breakdown, but really it was because the writers had no need for his role as a love interest for Emma anymore.
3. Josh – 30 Rock
Remember Josh from 30 Rock? The tall lanky one? Josh started off as a recurring character but he was moved up to a series regular in season two. Then, in season three, his role was cut back considerably. The writers acknowledged this, even having Jack comment on it. When Liz Lemon asked if Josh might be the actor to fill the spot they needed filled, Jack said, “I forgot about that guy.” In season four, Josh quit the fictional TGS with Tracy Jordan, which would have been a suitable explanation for him leaving the show in real life. But then, a few episodes later, he was back auditioning for a role. We all expected that he would remain in some capacity, but this would be the last time we ever saw Josh. He was replaced by Danny. It’s too bad because Josh was funny and Danny was not.
2. Isaac Lahey – Teen Wolf
At the beginning of season two, fans of Teen Wolf were introduced to the new character of Isaac Lahey. For the next two seasons, Isaac was a main character and an integral member of the team. Then, out of nowhere, the show’s entire roster was mixed up. At the end of season two, Isaac left with Allison’s father, Chris Argent, and was never seen again. When Chris came back in the later seasons, we expected that Isaac would get a big welcome back as well, but Argent came back alone. Are we to assume that Isaac died? Really, the actor, Daniel Sharman, got a role on The Originals and wanted to focus his attention there. But come on, writers. Just have a character say something in passing at least.
1. Mark Brendanawicz – Parks And Recreation
Throughout the first two seasons of Parks and Recreation, Mark Brendanawicz was a central figure in the show. An ex of both Leslie and Ann, Mark’s life and career were intertwined with the rest of the gang on the show. At the end of season two, it was announced that Mark would become a less-than-regular cast member, something that the character was originally meant to be anyway. The showrunners said that he would remain in the world and appear from time to time. That was a bold-faced lie. We never heard from this guy ever again. Despite their alleged plans for Mark to return, things didn’t work out that way. In fact, while almost every single character who left returned in a cameo at some point or was at least shown in a flashback, Mark did not. The actor, Paul Schneider, even said that while he had no interested to return, he was never even asked to come back. Hmmm.
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