In last week’s post, the three main stars were definitely considered the anchor of the show they had starred in. However, for many ensemble shows, which feature a cast of six or seven, finding a “main” character falls, typically, to the leader of the group. But when the “leader” of the group leaves, the dynamic of the group changes forever, as the new leader takes over. Here are three more examples of a show which continued after the main star left [Spoilers]:
In 1994, ER premiered on NBC and became of their biggest hits. The original cast included Anthony Edwards as Dr. Mark Greene, the Chief Resident and later Attending Physician of County General Hospital in Chicago. He was often seen as mediator and leader within the hospital and was considered the main character of the ensemble for the first eight seasons. In the eighth season, Anthony Edwards wanted to branch off into directing and decided to leave at the end of the eighth season. Dr. Mark Green was discovered to have an operable brain tumor and died at the end of season eight. Noah Wyle, who played John Carter since the beginning of the show, was made the main character and took the position of Attending Physician. ER’s staying power enabled the ensemble show to undergo many cast changes, lasting a total of fifteen seasons; ending seven seasons after Anthony Edwards left ER.
C.S.I. Crime Scene Investigation premiered in 2001 and became a huge hit for CBS like ER was for NBC. William Petersen played the main character for C.S.I., Gil Grissom, a CSI Level III Supervisor, the leader of a Crime Scene Investigation group in Las Vegas. He played the lead role in the ensemble for the first eight seasons of C.S.I. In the tenth episode of the ninth season, Peterson left the series to pursue more stage acting opportunities, while his character put off his retirement until a serial killer was brought to justice, but once that was done; he made his goodbyes to all the main characters. Once he left, Lawrence Fishburne became Raymond Langston, the new lead character at the CSI. Like ER, CSI’s popularity enabled it to survive Petersen’s departure. C.S.I. Crime Scene Investigation lasted a total of fifteen seasons, ending six seasons after Peterson left the show.
Criminal Minds premiered in 2005 on CBS, one of the many “dark crime shows” to follow in CSI’s footsteps. In the show, Mandy Patinkin played FBI Senior Supervisory Special Agent Jason Gideon, as part of the BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit). However, at the beginning of the third season, Mandy Patinkin abruptly decided to quit Criminal Minds, leaving in the second episode of the third season in 2007. Patinkin later stated in 2012 he left because the toll of dealing with stories of women being raped and murdered every episode proved to be too much to handle: “It was very destructive to my soul and my personality” (http://www.tvguide.com/news/mandy-patinkin-regrets-criminal-minds-1053095/). His character Jason Gideon leaves after his girlfriend Sarah is murdered and his co-worker Aaron Hotchner is suspended, finding the emotional turmoil too much. Patinkin was replaced by Joe Mantegna, who played David Rossi, whose character returned to the FBI after being semi-retired. Criminal Minds is starting its thirteenth season in the Fall of 2017, ten total seasons after Patinkin left at the beginning of the third season.
While Anthony Edwards and William Peterson had long established runs as the leader, nevertheless the show was able to survive, thanks to Noah Wyle being promoted and Lawrence Fishburne cast in both respective shows. Mandy Patinkin left after only two full seasons and two episodes in the third season, but Joe Mantegna was able to fill in the lead role and has been there ever since. While the leader of the ensemble is important, each of these shows weathered the cast change of the main star and went on for several more seasons, continuing to entertain fans of the show.