15 TV Characters That Disappeared Without Explanation

Written by sloshspot

It is not common for a television character to mysteriously disappear, never to be heard from again. We’re not talking about characters being written out of shows like 87 cast members from “ER” or even when Jonathan Taylor Thomas left “Home Improvement” to travel abroad. What we are talking about are the mysterious disappearances that are never really referenced again. Additionally there are situations where actors are swapped as if the viewers wouldn’t notice that the character has a different face. The following is a list of some of the more memorable television disappearances by characters or the actors playing them:

Happy Days



In the first season of happy days the lovable and adorable Ritchie had a brother named Chuck. He wasn’t really a part of the integral cast like the “Fonz” or Ralph Malph, but hey he was definitely there. One episode he went to his room and apparently never came out. Interestingly enough this phenomenon of disappearing cast members has come to be known as “Chuck Cunningham Syndrome”.

Family Matters



Judy Winslow on “Family Matters” was the adorable little sister who’s departure from this prime time show was never mentioned by its cast. The writers could have at least told us that she got hit by a car, or that she joined a traveling circus, but her mysterious disappearance has always left viewers dumbfounded. This is perhaps exacerbated by the fact that her father (Carl) was a cop, and should have had the resources available to find a missing adolescent. By the way, Jaime Foxworth (Judy) has since went into making adult films under the stage name CRAVE.

Boy Meets World



“Boy Meets World” is another show with more than one disappearance. Most notable is the not-so-lovable nerd, Minkus. He was an integral part of the first seasons of the show, but once Cory got to high school he simply vanished into thin air. Also disappearing was Morgan who was Cory’s little sister. She left sometime in season 2 and mysteriously reappeared in season 3 played by a different actress. The writers did give her a nod by her saying, “…that’s the longest time out I ever had”. Slow clap, brilliant explanation.

Saved By The Bell



“Saved by the Bell” might have been one of the worst offenders for this sort of thing. Apparently the turnover rate at Bayside was so fast that they were only able to hang onto students and teachers for several days at a time. But, somehow the same six were the only regulars. Notable is Max from The Max, the gang’s local hang out. Early on he gave advice and performed magic tricks for the kids, but suddenly Max was gone (insert making himself disappear joke). Additionally, Tori Spelling showed up a few times as a nerdy character only to vanish without explanation.

That 70’s Show



On “That 70’s Show”, you may remember Eric Foreman had a sister named “Laurie” who was originally on the show quite a bit. Eventually she was re-cast with a different actress and slowly lost all of her camera time. This is too bad, because her ditzy character really was Fez’s only chance at getting a dumb girl drunk enough to get laid.




In season 3 of “LOST” a character only known as “The Sheriff” is brought onto the show. She is only on one episode, and is never heard from or seen again. LOST is notorious for creating characters out of thin air, but she should at least be given some type of gory death, before excusing her from the show without explanation. Damon Lindeloff, one of the show’s creators was asked about her, he simply said “she died”. Oh okay, thanks.

The Simpsons



Waylon Smithers on “The Simpsons” hasn’t disappeared, but on the first incantation of the show he appears to be black, or brown, or something – at least not yellow like most of the characters. Who knows why they changed it, maybe the nation just wasn’t ready for a black, closeted homosexual character. But with the recent election proving the US to be more progressive than the world thought, maybe Smithers can un-Michael Jackson himself and go back to his true ROOTS.

Step By Step



While this examples is one everyone can be thankful for, but whatever happened to Cody on “Step By Step”? One day he was a fun-loving adorable goofy character who was dumber than a brick. Basically he was Joey Lawrence’s character from “Blossom”, but with a flat top. Eventually Sasha Mitchell beat up some girl in real life, and was unceremoniously kicked off the show. The show then replaced him with a campy hairdresser played by Brosnan Pinchot (Balki), for no apparent reason.




“Friends” is unashamedly guilty of trying to pull the wool over the viewers eyes. You may remember Giovanni Ribisi as Phoebe’s crazy half-stupid brother – not that far of a stretch really. Well, the crazy thing was that he was on the show a few seasons earlier, and played a weird teenager that left a condom in her guitar case. Wouldn’t she recognize her own brother, I guess not. Also what is Foreman’s mom doing there?

Fresh Prince of Bel Air





Another move that shows are guilty of is replacing actors without any explanation. “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” had aunt Vivian’s character replaced after only the second season. Apparently the original actress violated her contract by getting pregnant in real life. To whoever she is, “it’s the only paying acting job you’ll probably ever have, and it’s in YOUR CONTRACT. Have the dude slip on a rubber or get on the pill. Whoops, now you’re in the unemployment line. Congrats.” In the end, uncle Phil got the good end of that deal, the old Vivian kind of looked like Scottie Pippen.




Becky on the white trash sitcom “Rosanne” also went through an interesting switch, which in a way was referred to on the show. The family is sitting around watching “Bewitched” and Rosanne makes a comment about it being crappy when shows change actors. They then zoom out to reveal a new Becky. But wow what an upgrade, the old one was beat up from the feet up, but the new one was at least an 8.5. Later in the series, the old Becky would return for the rest of the show’s run. And when she first appears on-screen, Rosanne simply says, “Where the hell have you been?”

Arrested Development



It was always a mystery how GOB got Marta. This actress was absolutely beautiful, and many were happy the have this Latin beautyas part of the show. Then all of the sudden, they replace her with two different actresses who were – while not ugly by any means – not as attractive as that first Marta. What did ever happen to her. Cue daydream…




It is not commonly known that Jerry Stiller was not the original Frank Costanza. But the episode with the original actor aired only once. Interestingly, the character that played Morty Seinfeld was different in the show’s second episode than from rest of the shows where this character was featured, played by Barney Martin.




Now most will not remember the very forgettable show Ghostwriter on PBS. But they pulled the old actor swap in a very strange way. Gabby’s little sister Alex originally was very pesky and annoying, but as the actress went through a growth spurtthey made her character more mature and a bigger part of the cast. She was then recast with a younger actress at which point the character became the pesky younger sister again. This example is only used as a vehicle for some people to remember this show. If you were poor and didn’t have cable this was the only thing to watch on Sunday afternoons. It was terrible (kids solving crimes with the help of a ghost and a library card), but at least it was better than watching golf.

Back To The Future



This last one is just plain weird, and proves a suitable end to the list. Eric Stoltz was originally cast for the role of Marty McFly in “Back to The Future”. In fact they shot for several weeks and with Stoltz before deciding that he was miscast. Director Robert Zemeckis finally was able to convince Michael J. Fox into doing the movie, and they worked on the film at nights and during the weekends, because of Fox’s obligations to “Family Ties”. Interestingly, you can see Eric driving the car in a few scenes if you keep your eyes peeled.

14 thoughts on “15 TV Characters That Disappeared Without Explanation

  1. Jonah

    That 70’s Show also lost Tina, who was referenced (maybe seen?) as Donna’s sister a few times very early on.

  2. tvlover

    You forgot “Bewitched”! Not only did they have 2 Darrins (Dick York/Dick Sargent), but there were 2 Mrs. Kravitzes and 2 Mrs. Tates!

  3. Christine

    Actually, in Friends, Phoebe didn’t know who her brother was when she met him, so she wouldn’t have known WHO the guy was who put the condom in her case.

  4. switchkosterice

    A more recent example would be House. The PI, Lucas, just disappeared when Wilson and House became friends again in the 5th season. Seeing as House and Lucas were really getting along, more of an explanation would be called for.

  5. Free web page design

    Yes, I do think TV portrays teenagers as looking and acting older than real teenagers do, but there’s also a practical reason. There are child labor laws even in Hollywood, and it’s a pain to deal with the restrictions that are put on a 15-year-old actor if you can hire one who’s 17 or, even better, 18 or older.

  6. russ

    On WKRP in Cincinnati, Mother Carlson is played by one woman (who looked remarkably like Cincinnati’s own Marge Schott) and then was replaced by Carol Bruce. In later clip shows, the scene in the first episode where Mr. Carlson confronts his Mom about Garry Sandy staying, they re-shot the scene with Bruce in place of the original.

  7. LI_Mom

    You have 2 separate topics…. characters who suddenly disappeared AND then the ‘not so rare’: characters who were played by more than one actor.

    Another character who disappeared without explanation: Tiger from the Brady Bunch. Poor dog wasn’t even missed by any of the kids.

  8. Fester500

    Marta was only replaced once, not twice like the article says. Marta (I) was played by Leonor Varela and replaced by Patricia Velazquez (Marta II).

  9. friendsgeek

    there's so much wrong with the info in these write ups I don't even know where to begin, So I'll just say the most obvious one.

    The reason Phoebe didn't recognize her brother as the guy who left a condom in her case. Is because she didn't know he was her brother yet. She never knew she had a brother until she managed to track down her father.

  10. Ian



    WHO CAN FORGET DYNASTY?? Dynasty is THE WORST offender. Lots of people vanish, Lots of people get recast especially Amanda played by the beautiful Catherine Oxenberg, only to be replaced by some ugly witch!

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