Tv major cast changes from best to worst.

Kendall Rivers
9 min readNov 11, 2020
David Garrison, Amanda Bearse and Ted McGinley of Married with Children fame.

It’s quite normal for big television shows to go through cast changes. Actors move on, the show needs to take things in a different direction or the previous actors were just plain unhappy and that killed their enthusiasm for the show and they bolted so the producers scrambled for a replacement blah, blah, blah. Whatever the case some of these changes helped improve a show and others help tanked the show if not killing them literally at least creatively. These are what I consider the best and worst examples of replacing major characters on classic hit Tv series. This is completely opinion based and no specific order, fair warning.

The Best:

  1. From Steve Rhodes to Jefferson Darcy From Married with Children.

After David Garrison’s Steve Rhodes was written out of Married with Children near the end of the fourth season the producers wrote Steve off the show by his becoming a park ranger and divorcing Marcy:

They tried having Marcy being single for the rest of that season but realized that it didn’t work and sought out a new husband for Marcy, enter Jefferson D’arcy played by the legendary Ted McGinley:

Marcy went from geeky, uptight hen pecked banker Steve Rhodes to the male model looking, chiseled jawed, pretty boy gigolo Jefferson D’arcy whom she married after a drunken fling.

It took fans a little while to move on from Steve since he was a very popular character on the show but after a while Jefferson became just as if not more of a fan favorite and fit so perfectly in the show as a best friend\sidekick for Al and a perfect comic foil for Marcy (who became Marcy D’arcy) that he even outshined David Garrison’s Steve for many MWC fans. How can you not love this guy?

Jefferson got even more interesting when it was discovered that he was a former CIA spy:

Jefferson D’arcy is a great example of perfect casting change and although McGinley was known as the television patron of shark jumping, Married with Children went seven more successful years after his debut so clearly this was just the perfect part and show for him. And that, as they say, is history.

2. From The Ropers to Ralph Furley From Three’s Company.

Don Knotts, Audra Lindley and Norman Fell

Three’s Company, the classic 70’s and 80’s sitcom was a huge success with the Ropers, Stanley and Helen, the bickering landlords but when they got spun off for their own show Don Knotts was brought in to replace them as the landlord of Jack, Janet and Chrissy. The Ropers were a tough act to follow since they were such popular and beloved characters but thanks to the ingenious casting of comedy legend Don Knotts the change worked very well for Three’s Company for another four years.

3. From Mike Evans to Damon Evans as Lionel Jefferson from The Jeffersons.

Mike Evans and Damon Evans

Mike Evans started off on the classic series All in The Family playing Lionel Jefferson, a sharp young black friend of Mike and Gloria’s from school who got along with Archie Bunker and knew how to mess with him when it came to his racist attitudes:

After the first season of The Jeffersons Mike Evans left the show to focus on writing Good Times which was spun off of Maude. Evans co created that series with Cooley High writer Eric Monte. After that Damon Evans (No relation) ended up cast in the role of Lionel and did a fine job from 1975 to 1978. Mike returned to the role in 1979 and appeared regularly for two more seasons. His last appearance as Lionel was in the 1985 episode Sayonara.

Damon Evans was a bit more preppy than Mike’s interpretation of Lionel but he worked perfectly well and jived well with the cast. This was a pretty good casting change and the best part is that because Lionel was a more laid back character it didn’t really matter who played him as long as the character served its function as the voice of reason to George and love interest of Jenny.

Mike Evans and Berlinda Tolbert

4. From Diane Chambers to Rebecca Howe from Cheers.

Shelley Long and Kirstie Alley from Cheers

Cheers went through a bit of hell recasting after Shelley Long left the series after 5 seasons but they hit the jackpot when they got Kirstie Alley to play Rebecca Howe, the new Bar Manager of Cheers after Sam sold the bar and went on sabbatical on his new boat out at sea. After Sam goes broke and loses his boat he comes back to Cheers looking for work and Rebecca takes pity and hires him as a bartender. It’s a debate amongst the fanbase about which one was better but for me it’s no contest. While I enjoyed Diane and enjoyed her off again\on again relationship with Sam, I much preferred the more multi dimensional relationship Rebecca had with Sam which grew from his hitting on her and her rejecting him to a genuine friendship with two gold digging, shallow people who found a kinship with each other. Rebecca was also quite relatable as a person with such strong insecurities and as Diane put it “A woman with the emotional maturity of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.”

5. From Kate Todd to Ziva David from NCIS.

Sasha Alexander and Cote De Pablo

After NCIS killed off Agent Kate Todd the show went a new direction and cast Cote De Pablo as the gorgeous and lethal, badass and highly intelligent Mossad officer turned Liaison Ziva David. While Kate was a perfectly fine character, it wasn’t until Ziva was added that NCIS was on it’s way to becoming a giant success and the character of Ziva had a huge hand in that with her character having several interesting stories dedicated to her as well as her will they\won’t they dynamic with Michael Weatherly’s Tony Dinozzo.

The Worst:

  1. From Janet Hubert Whitten to Daphne Maxwell Reid as Aunt Viv from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

This one is tricky because while Daphne did a pretty decent job as Aunt Viv, nobody could truly top what Janet did in the role. But, that being said it didn’t exactly kill the show since the show went on three more years and could’ve gone more if Will Smith didn’t decide for the show to end. Also, while Janet Hubert Whitten had a very antagonistic relationship with Will Smith and other cast members, Daphne seemed to fit in much better with the cast and with that more comfortable and non toxic environment the seasons with Daphne seemed to have a really strong and fun energy to them, and some of the best episodes were in the last three seasons including “I, Whoop There it Is, Will is From Mars, Eye Tooth, Philadelphia Story, Fresh Prince The Movie, the classic series finale episodes I Done and possibly the most memorable episode of the entire series: Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse. So this is more about a personal preference about who did Aunt Viv better so in that case I’d say the casting of Daphne as Aunt Viv didn’t measure up.

2. From Sharona Fleming to Natalie Teeger from Monk.

Bitty Schram and Traylor Howard

I have to admit this is purely bias. While Traylor Howard did a perfectly fine job as Natalie, OCD detective Monk’s second assistant and she did keep the show going after Bitty Schram left after the middle of the third season, It just never was the same without the tough, sassy but also patient and loving nurse, assistant, partner and good friend of Adrian Monk. She was the Watson to his Sherlock Holmes and didn’t enable him like Natalie often did. She was always pushing Monk outside his comfort zone which is what someone like him needed.

3. From Lecy Goranson to Sarah Chalke as Becky Conner from Roseanne.

Lecy and Sarah as Becky

Roseanne had a lot of turmoil near the end of its run but one of the absolute worst sins was replacing Lecy Goranson as Becky with an inexperienced Sarah Chalke. We all know Sarah became a wonderful comic actress, especially on Scrubs, but, here she was quite new to acting and it showed. The character of Becky lost her bite and wit and became passive and frankly bland with Sarah in the role. The later seasons seemed to only spark when Goranson would occasionally return to swap out with Chalke and reprise Becky again for a few episodes.

4. From Dick York to Dick Sargent as Darrin from Bewitched.

York and Sargent

After five successful seasons playing Samantha Stephen’s husband Darrin, due to horrible health issues Dick York was forced to leave the successful 60’s sitcom Bewitched and was replaced by Dick Sargent who was competent in the role but lacked the strong chemistry York had with Elizabeth Montgomery. The show ran another few seasons but the spark of the show left with York.

5. From Charlie Harper to Walden Schmidt from Two and a Half Men.

Charlie Sheen and Ashton Kutcher

After the nationwide known meltdown of Charlie Sheen after the eighth season of Two and a Half Men, Sheen was replaced by Ashton Kutcher as Walden Schimdt, a heartbroken billionaire who stumbles upon Charlie’s brother Alan at Charlie’s beach house and not only buys the house but lets Alan and Jake, two perfect strangers stay there with him….?????????? Just the ridiculousness in a totally unfunny way of this premise was enough to kill the show’s shred of credibility that it was always hanging onto from day one but also the show was clearly desperate to stay on to spite Sheen so it dragged and dragged for another four years with one stupid plot after another including the two heterosexual Walden and Alan getting “married” to adopt a random kid. Guess Charlie ended up “winning” after all.

6. From Jo Marie Payton to Judyann Elder as Harriet Winslow from Family Matters.

Jo Marie and Judyann

Jo Marie Payton played the character of Harriet Winslow on Perfect Strangers then on Family Matters. She’s one of the ultimate Tv mothers of all time so it was a travesty(like with Aunt Viv) when she was replaced, especially right in the middle of the final season. It would’ve been great if she at least got to reprise the role for the last episode but alas it didn’t happen. Personally, It would’ve made much more sense to have just write Harriet Winslow out for the remainder of the ninth and final season and perhaps beg Jo Marie to make one appearance for the series ender rather than recast her with a capable actress but one who didn’t have the spark needed for the role of Harriet Winslow and who certainly lacked the chemistry that was there with Jo Marie and Reginald Vel Johnson.

There you have it, folks. Again, this is all opinion based and biased so if you disagree feel free to share what casting changes you loved or loathed. ’Til next time!



Kendall Rivers

Kendall is a screenwriter who’s a huge fan of classic tv and movies. He enjoys creating good stories and characters.