While all fans want their main star to continue throughout the entire show, sometimes things just don’t work out. Thus, the producers are faced with continuing a hit show without the main stars, instead of ending the show. Here are three more examples of television shows where the main star left.
For six seasons, Nina Dobrev was the lead on the Vampire Dairies, a series on the CW about teen Elena Gilbert (Dobrev), who lives in a supernatural town, where she is torn between two vampire brothers, Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder), and had best friend witch Bonnie (Kat Graham). During the sixth season, Dobrev announced she was leaving the show. Her character, Elena was put under a spell to be in continual sleep, as long as Bonnie was awake. Damon put her in a coffin, in order to wait for Elena to wake up again, 60 years later. After Dobrev left, the focus of the show shifted to Stefan and Damon. When the show was renewed for the eighth season, it was announced as the shows’ last. Dobrev retuned in the final episode to wrap up her story arc. The Vampire Diaries went for a total of eight seasons, two without its main star.
Chad Michael Murray starred as Lucas Scott, one of two half-brothers who starred in the show One Tree Hill. Lucas and his brother Nathan (James Lafferty) were half-brothers who, at the start, both wanted the same basketball position on their high school team, but slowly grew to bond together. For the first six seasons, Murray played the lead role of Lucas. However, contract negotiations fell apart for season seven, and Murray and costar Hilary Burton, who played his newlywed pregnant wife Payton. Both stars left the show, with their characters riding off into the sunset with their newborn daughter, Sawyer. The main focus of the show shifted to Nathan and his wife and family in the seventh season. Like the Vampire Diaries, when the show was renewed for its ninth season, it was announced as the series’ final season. Chad Michael Murray returned for a guest role in the seventh episode of the ninth season, his final appearance as the character. One Tree Hill went for a total of nine seasons, three without its main star.
Ron Howard, now better known as a director, was given the lead role of Richie Cunningham in Happy Days, a wholesome boy who was always trying to pick up girls. Henry Winkler was introduced in season one as Fonzie and became the series’ breakout star in the second season. While Ron Howard was still the billed lead, Fonzie was getting the majority of stories and focus. At the end of the seventh season Ron Howard left Happy Days, and in the following years focused more and more on directing. The show did not have a story at the end of the seventh season for Richie’s departure, but the beginning of the seventh season the characters were dealing with Richie and Ralph going to the U.S. Army to be stationed in Greenland. Winkler continued to portray Fonzie for the next four seasons. Ron Howard would return for three episodes in season eleven, including the filmed series finale (several new episodes, however, were aired after the series finale in the summer). Happy Days went for a total of eleven seasons, four without its main star.
While all of the actors left for various reasons, they all had something in common: they returned during the final season to give their character a proper farewell. The actors’ return shows that they loved their show and their fans of the show. While the final season of any show is bittersweet, one thing that makes it better is the main star returning for one final visit, one last hurrah.