Every actor has regrets about a role somewhere down the line in their career – a cheesy commercial when they were first starting out or a movie that flopped pretty badly at the box office, but regretting a role in a TV series (especially if it happens to be a long-running one) is where things can get a little awkward for the star and the crew.
Not all TV shows are a guaranteed success, but comedy is an especially tough nut to crack and for some of these 20 sitcom actors, they’ve found this out the hard way. Falling out with the cast, becoming disillusioned with what the show had become or not wishing to look back on a weird time in their life – for whatever reason, some of these sitcom actors didn’t enjoy their time in certain roles as much as we might think they did.
And then there are those who couldn’t get enough of their time in the comedy spotlight. So much so that they’ll pretty much do anything to get back into the sitcom saddle – even if it means risking it all with a disastrous reunion (or writing a new show of their own). Take a look at 10 actors who are desperate to be back on our screens again (and 10 who’d sooner forget their old roles).
20 Lena Dunham, Girls (Regret)
When HBO’s show Girls first premiered in 2012, it seemed as if the creator and main star Lena Dunham had scored a home run – a primetime comedy show that finally featured not-so-perfect women being scathingly honest about twenty-something life in the big city. Towards the end of the show’s five-year run, however, the wheels came off a little when Dunham admitted that their storylines she wished had never made it to air.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Dunham spoke about her regret of certain scenes early on in the show: “There’s the stuff we did in the first season with Jessa when we were still finding her that was a little too soulless.” To make things worse, the show has also been tainted with accusations of whitewashing thrown at Dunham for creating an all-white female cast. Lena has a new project in the works, but it will always feel like the Girls controversy defined her breakout show.
19 Charlie Sheen, Two And A Half Men (Regret)
The original main star of Two and a Half Men reportedly experienced tensions with the writers from the get-go and it was this ongoing feud that eventually got Charlie Sheen fired from the show in 2011 before being replaced by Ashton Kutcher. In spite of the big TV break the sitcom had given Sheen, he was never happy to appear on it. In fact, the minute he was fired, he didn't hold back from bad-mouthing everyone involved with the show from his co-stars to the creator Chuck Lorre.
After his firing, Sheen took aim at Two and A Half Men creator Lorre by announcing his relief for never having to “put in those silly shirts for as long as this warlock exists in the terrestrial dimension” and that he’s happy he can now walk away with his “bazillions”. Classy.
18 Elle Macpherson, Friends (Regret)
Friends was one of the best sitcoms ever made, if not one of the biggest shows ever put on TV. It put its six main stars on the map and will always be remembered fondly for its great list of guest star cameos too. So why is it that supermodel Elle Macpherson regretted her brief appearance on the show?
Without going into specifics about it, the Macpherson has since revealed in a candid interview with Aussie’s TV Week that she “never would have signed up to do it if I’d known how important it was in the U.S. or how long it would be on TV.” When you consider how well-loved Friends still is, you’d assume most actors would be flattered, but during her time as Joey’s girlfriend Janine in the show’s sixth season, the Australian beauty just felt pressured and still regrets it to this day. Wow.
17 Alicia 'Lecy' Goranson, Roseanne (Return)
Alicia ‘Lecy’ Goranson originally starred as the eldest daughter Becky on the hit family comedy show Roseanne and her appearances on the show yo-yod so much that it was often hard to keep track of who the real Becky was on the show. Goranson had the role of Becky Conner for the show’s first five seasons but was replaced by Sarah Chalke of Scrubs fame while Goranson went off to college.
After that, Gornaosn made reappearances every few years as the same character when it suited her schedule and things got pretty confusing. She made her last recurrence as Becky up until season eight, when Chalke played Becky for the duration. That is...until 2018. The once popular 80’s family sitcom has since had a reboot (and has not had the warmest of fan receptions), so we guess Lecy isn't the only cast member desperate for more airtime.
16 Chevy Chase, Community (Regret)
The hit NBC sitcom Community was well-liked among viewers, but somewhat of a dark cloud began to hover over the show after one its stars Chevy Chase left. When Chase made the snap decision to leave the show shortly before its fourth season was due to air back in 2012, his reasons became unwanted public knowledge after an embarrassing audio tape leaked of Chase yelling at the show’s creator Dan Harmon.
For those who might have missed Chevy Chase’s ranty voicemail message, the comedic actor didn't hold back from laying into the show, branding it “a big mistake” and a “mediocre sitcom”. Ouch. Despite appearing in almost 4 seasons of the show, rows with the show’s creators about his character obviously touched a nerve or two because Chase couldn't help himself from describing the show as “the lowest form of entertainment.” Coming from Chevy Chase, that’s bad.
15 Zach Braff, Scrubs (Return)
Zach Braff who played the dorky but lovable J.D. in the zany medical comedy has excited Scrubs fans everywhere by suggesting that the gang could get together for a reunion show. The show might have been off the air for more than 8 years now but the main star has revealed that he’d still be willing to give the show one last hurrah (or two) in the form of a TV movie.
Braff first floated the idea of a Scrubs reunion movie while promoting his upcoming ABC sitcom Alex Inc, so he obviously can’t help looking back. Speaking to TV Guide, Braff remarked: “Because everyone is all over the place, I think it would be more realistic to do a two-hour movie” Since Alex Inc hasn't received the greatest of ratings in its first season, maybe a Scrubs reunion film is exactly what Braff needs to fall back on let’s just hope it doesn’t flop like so many others have!
14 Shelley Long, Cheers (Return)
In the early seasons of the popular 80’s sitcom Cheers, Shelley Long’s character Diane was the main focus of the show along with her on-screen boyfriend Sam (played by Ted Danson). Initially, things were going great and the show pulled in viewers by the millions every night, but Long quickly fell out of love with the show and her character and left her big breakout role to pursue movie roles instead.
Once she left, however, Kirstie Alley stepped in to replace her and soon became the Boston bar worker everyone knew and loved. Shelley sensed she’s made a mistake and agreed to appear in the show’s season finale as Sam’s love interest (which had mixed reactions from fans). Making three appearances as Diane in the Cheers spinoff Frasier later on also proved Shelley Long couldn’t quite let go.
13 Debra Messing, Will & Grace (Return)
With the comeback of Roseanne and a hint towards Scrubs making some kind of a revival, there seems to be something in the air with returning 90’s and early 00’s sitcoms. Most of the time, these sitcom retries are spurred on by a love of nostalgia and not much else, but in the case of Will & Grace returning to our screens, its main star Debra Messing (who played Grace on the beloved show) was desperate to come back for the sake of the present, not the past.
At first, die-hard Will & Grace fans were nervous about the sitcom returning after a 10-year hiatus, but what began to look like a desperate attempt to recapture the magic was actually a huge success. Desperate to come back for all the right reasons, Messing and her co-stars wanted to give LGBT characters a voice again on primetime. Whether or not the latest revival of the show lasts, this was a pretty smart move as sitcom reunions go.
12 Josh McDermitt, Retired at 35 (Regret)
Most young stars would be grateful towards the show that gave them their big break on TV, no matter how bad the show. But as it turns out, not even struggling actors are all that happy about their time on screen sometimes. Especially if you’ve recently hit it big with a well-known TV show. If you’re not familiar with the name Josh McDermitt than you’ll probably know him as Eugene on The Walking Dead.
Speaking of things you definitely don’t want to come back from the dead, McDermott starred in a rather cringey sitcom before hitting the big time with AMC’s hit zombie series. In a short-lived comedy show named Retired at 35, McDermitt was unrecognizable as a smiley blonde-haired character who moves back in with his parents. Let’s just say he’s not so pleased with how it panned out.
11 Matt LeBlanc, Friends (Return)
It’s probably obvious to most of us that out of all the Friends cast, Matt LeBlanc (who played Joey Tribbiani on the series), has always been the one with the biggest desire to carry on. Within months of the classic sitcom airing its final episode, LeBlanc clearly didn't want to let things go because he reprised his role as the dim, but lovable struggling actor Joey in the not-so-successful spin-off series Joey in 2004.
“Not-so-successful” is putting it kindly. The show pretty much bombed and it was clear that viewers didn't feel like Joey’s character had a place in the world anymore. But the backlash didn't dampen LeBlanc’s spirits. In fact, he’s still determined to keep his toe in the sitcom waters. Since the Matt’s appeared in the American-British comedy series Episodes and can currently be seen presenting in Top Gear in the UK, but he’d probably ditch it all to be Joey again.
10 Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds (Regret)
In her role as the pot-selling widow on the hit Showtime sitcom Weeds, actress Mary-Louise Parker had never had a problem with any of the show’s controversial elements or challenging plot lines, but when it came to one nude scene, in particular, Parker came to regret it above everything else. In a scene where her character got nude in the bathtub, Parker admits that “it took things too far” and had numerous fights with the director about it.
Speaking to More magazine, Parker revealed that while she loved the show’s more extreme sides, the nudity was unwarranted: “I didn’t think I needed to be naked. I wish I hadn’t done it, but I was goaded into it and now I’m bitter. I like the show the more extreme it is, but I don’t like it when its crass for humor's sake.”
9 Bryan Cranston, Malcolm in the Middle (Return)
Okay, so he might be more associated with hard-hitting drama Breaking Bad these days, but once upon a time, the world only ever knew Bryan ‘Heisenberg’ Cranston as the affable dad from Malcolm in the Middle. Long before Walter White, there was the goofy do-gooder sitcom dad known as Hal Wilkerson and apparently, Cranston has long been keen for a reunion show of the family sitcom.
Considering Cranston’s incredible success since leaving the show – winning multiple awards for Breaking Bad, movie roles in Godzilla and Trumbo etc – it kinda makes you wonder why he wants to go back to where it all started for him? In true Cranston style though, he mainly wants to revisit old ground simply because he “misses those people like crazy.” Aww. Shh, Walter, you'll ruin your reputation…
8 Robert Reed, The Brady Bunch (Regret)
70’s actor Robert Reed might always be affectionately known by a generation as the dad from The Brady Bunch, but the man himself would rather he was taken a little more seriously than this. Rather than appear grateful for the role of TV’s quintessential father figure Mike Brady in the beloved family sitcom, Reed actually despised the show and felt that the whole thing was “beneath him”. Yikes.
Before landing a role most TV actors would kill for, Robert Reed was a prim and proper Shakespearean actor which he apparently felt much more comfortable with. Reed would often be at loggerheads with the show’s producers over the show’s style of comedy. In the end, he only agreed to remain on the show because he had bonded with his on-screen family.
7 Ted Danson, Cheers (Return)
Cheers stalwart Ted Danson hasn’t been the only cast member with a yearning to return to the TV sitcom format. Since hanging up his Boston bar cloth on the sitcom that made him, Danson has flitted between dramatic and comedy roles on TV (always feeling more at home with the latter). In 2006, he appeared in the short-lived sitcom Help Me Help You, which was kind of like a thinly veiled attempt to recreate Frasier’s success.
He also appeared briefly in the CSI: Cyber series before ditching that after two seasons to star alongside Kristen Wig in the hit Netflix comedy The Good Place. It seems that wherever Ted Danson ends up on TV, he’ll always come back to comedy and for the meantime, this is definitely where he seems happiest.
6 Jon Lithgow, 3rd Rock From The Sun (Return)
John Lithgow's career has arguably been a mixed bag of comedic and serious roles with his funny turn as Lord Farquaad in the Shrek series as well as his scary and intimidating turn as a serial killer in Dexter. For some of us though, Lithgow will always be known as Dick Solomon in the hit 90’s sitcom 3rd Rock From The Sun.
The NBC show about a group of aliens disguised as a human family on Earth may have only had a five-season run but it was – and still is to this day – incredibly well-liked and it certainly made household names of the cast (including a teenage Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Lithgow made an attempt to return to TV comedy after appearing in the swiftly canceled 2006 show Twenty Good Years with Jeffrey Tambor, but ever since, comedy work at least has sadly all but dried up for the comic actor.
5 Angus T. Jones, Two And A Half Men (Regret)
Charlie Sheen wasn’t the only actor to regret appearing in Two And A Half Men. His co-star and half man Angus T. Jones (playing Jake Harper) also wish he had never signed on to do the sitcom, but Jones takes his regret a little further even than that. As his character jake grew up on screen, Jones also began to outgrow the show’s boyish and sexist humor.
At the age of 19 in 2012, Angus announced that he had found Christianity and began speaking out against the show, even going as far to tell viewers not to watch it. In his video testimonial for the Forerunner Christian Church, Jones condemned the morally objectionable script and warned viewers of the dangers of watching that kind of TV that “fills your head with filth” Yeesh.
4 Lisa Kudrow, Friends (Return)
Since Friends departed from our screens and everyone said goodbye to the lovable kook Phoebe Buffay, the woman behind her has never really left her comedy roots behind. Despite the odd appearance on the big screen in rom-coms like P.S. I Love You and Easy A, comedy icon Lisa Kudrow has always returned to sitcom territory on the small screen and in recent years, she can’t seem to stay away!
In between brief appearances in hit Netflix comedies like Grace and Frankie and in Unbreakable Schmidt, Kudrow has also kept up her own relatively successful TV sitcoms Web Therapy (which ran from 2011 to 2015) and her post Friends comeback that came back again, 2005’s The Comeback! So would Kudrow ever pick up her guitar again and return to Friends? “It would be fun” Kudrow admits, “but what would it be about?”. Who cares, as long as you’re back together again!
3 Jack Smethurst, Love Thy Neighbour (Regret)
For some comedic actors, regretting a show years later can be done to trivial feelings of embarrassment because of their early style or undeveloped acting ability, but in the case of British actor Jack Smethurst, his first real TV role was so mired in controversy that it ended up being his last. Despite his star status at the time, Smethurst’s role as a racist man belittling his black neighbors was always going to be impossible to recover from.
The show in question was the highly risque Britsih sitcom of the early 70’s Love Thy Neighbour, about a white working class man (Smethurst) whose world is turned on its head when an educated young black man moves in next door. As attitudes quickly changed, so did TV and nobody wanted to hire Smethurst since his face had become synonymous with the sitcom racist everybody loved to hate.
2 Courteney Cox, Friends (Return)
Another Friends cast member who has tried to keep afloat in the land of TV sitcoms is Courtney Cox who played clean freak Monica Geller on the well-loved 90’s show. Since the show left the air in 2004, Courtney has dabbled in drama – appearing in two short seasons of the FX show Dirt but she’s also liked to keep things a little lighter too with ABC’s sassy comedy Cougar Town.
Since then, however, Cox’s TV career floundered somewhat up until recently when she began appearing alongside her former Friends co-stars Lisa Kudrow and Matthew Perry in their respective sitcoms Web Therapy and Go On. Since her last big comedy show Cougar Town ended in 2015, Courteney is yet to pursue her own TV comedy show again though, but she wouldn’t totally rule out a Friends reunion. Watch this space, guys.
1 Andy Kaufman, Taxi (Regret)
Andy Kaufman was probably one of the zaniest and most unpredictable comedians of his time, so it shouldn’t come as much surprise that entering the formulaic world of the TV sitcom wasn’t exactly a match made in heaven for him. When Kaufman’s manager first approached him with the pitch for the sitcom Taxi (a show which would go on to earn Emmy awards and critical acclaim), Kaufman loathed the idea.
Realizing that his salary from the sitcom would allow him to pursue more zany types of comedy in the future, the iconic comedian eventually agreed to it, but sadly, Kaufman died from lung cancer within a year of the show’s final episode. If the Jim Carrey film Man on the Moon is anything to go by, Kaufman was deeply unhappy about the sitcom and incredibly erratic on set.