These Three Classic TV Staples All Left Their Shows After 5 Seasons

by Craig Garrett

Some classic tv shows are hard to imagine without certain iconic characters, but here are 3 examples that went on for years after they left. Shows that run for more than a few seasons tend to experience cast turnover. Indeed, cast shake-ups are pretty common. Even recent shows like The Office saw series lead Steve Carrell exit only to keep the show going for years more. The most important aspect was how the program handled the exit.

Having a fan favorite central character leave a classic tv show doesn’t always mean the end of a successful run. Some shows simply recast, others replace the character altogether and last for many seasons. Meanwhile, some shows struggled to fill a star but push forward anyways.

Perhaps the most memorable cast exit was Don Knotts from The Andy Griffith Show. Many people still regard Don Knotts as one of the finest comedic actors in classic tv history. Don Knotts left to pursue film roles like the 1966 hit The Ghost and Mr.Chicken. Deputy Barney Fife was a break-out character, and Knotts’ chemistry was Griffith was lightning in a bottle. Jack Burns was cast as a replacement for Knotts, playing Deputy Warren Ferguson. However, Deputy Ferguson only lasted for eleven episodes before disappearing without explanation.

After this departure, Andy Griffith had no one to play off. Knotts was so good as Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show that his departure at the conclusion of season five left an impossible void. Fortunately, Barney’s last appearance as a regular character on the classic tv series wasn’t his final one. In seasons six through eight, however, he returned as a guest star for another five episodes.

Other examples of vital cast members leaving classic tv shows

From the first episode of The Waltons until the fifth season, John-Boy Walton was the main protagonist. After all, each episode was narrated by Earl Hamner Jr., who played an older version of Richard Thomas’ character in the classic tv series. There were various members of the family represented, but the eldest son was unquestionably the star. Nonetheless, the Waltons’ stories were only just beginning after Thomas departed. The iconic series went on for another four seasons, allowing the other six kids to have the spotlight. In the end, however, John-Boy did return in the form of Robert Wightman for the last two seasons.

Although the exit of prickly Major Frank Burns was not nearly as devastating or significant as the exits of other M*A*S*H characters, it was still a loss. Burns was played by Larry Linville as the ideal opponent for Alan Alda’s Hawkeye on the classic tv show. Fans loved to see the bullheaded character spar with Hawkeye. Linville left after season five to pursue other roles. He felt he had taken the character as far as he could, especially as the show grew more serious. However, staying that long meant he got the opportunity to argue with Trapper John and B.J. as well as Col. Blake and Col. Potter.