When someone signs up for a TV show, we as viewers expect them to be there until the end — provided their character isn’t killed off or forced to go on a long research trip in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, things don’t work out that way with some actors and actresses deciding to leave their television shows or prematurely.
Some stars decide that they need a change while others decide that they want to “pursue new projects” instead of the successful one they’re on. In some cases, the characters are randomly recast and the producers try to pretend like it never happened. Other times, the characters aren’t recast and the OG actors decide to make a few quick appearances throughout the rest of the show’s duration. Or, they give us a really big surprise when they’re MIA since they announce their departure, but show up for the finale.
20. Ashton Kutcher, That ’70S Show
There were a lot of changes following the seventh season of That ’70s Show. A few of the main actors decided to leave to focus on other projects (see below), with Ashton Kutcher being one of them. Luckily, we did get to see his beautiful-but-dim character Michael Kelso appear a few times throughout the final season. Most importantly, he returned to the 2006 finale of the FOX show.
19. Topher Grace, That ’70s Show
That ’70s Show had a great cast with great story lines about each one of them, but it was still really centered around Eric Forman (Topher Grace). That’s why it was a blow to the show when the actor decided to leave at the end of season seven to pursue other projects. Unlike Ashton, Topher didn’t star in any episodes of the eighth season, except for the finale. His appearance was very memorable as it also marked the start of 1980.
18. Angus T. Jones, Two and a Half Men
We all know what happened with Charlie Sheen and Two and a Half Men. However, there was also a famous exit with Angus T. Jones, who played Jake Harper. He left shortly after Charlie’s “winning” phase, explaining that he was leaving the show due to religious reasons. The actor then surprised us in the final episode. He shocks Alan Harper (Jon Cryer) and Walden Schmidt (Ashton Kutcher) with some big news. It was revealed that he had gone to Japan, gotten hitched, had some step-children and ended up with some major gambling debts from his supposed inheritance. Oops.
17. David Boreanaz, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Everyone had all of the feels for David Boreanaz in his breakout role as Angel on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And then he had to go to and leave the show after three years so he could star in the character’s self-titled spin-off. We were glad he got his own show, but we still missed Angel in Buffy. Luckily, the character made a few brief appearances throughout the remaining four seasons, including in the finale where he and the slayer share a passionate smooch. Those two!
16. Eliza Dushku, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Faith (Eliza Dushku) may not have been as big as Angel on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it was still sad when she went MIA from the show starting in season four. In a lot of parts, we never knew whether she was dead, alive or something else, so we were happy when we got to see Faith in the series finale. It could have been a major moment because the final episode of Buffy could have led to a Faith spin-off, but Eliza reportedly turned it down to work on other projects.
15. Dylan O’Brien, Teen Wolf
There were a number of Teen Wolf changes and exits as the show went on. One example was with Dylan O’Brien who played “Stiles” Stilinski. The actor was with the show since the beginning, but it was announced that he would be missing from a number of episodes in season 6B. The actor originally wasn’t able to be a part of the last 10 episodes because of Maze Runner filming. Plus, he wasn’t contractually obligated to be in them. However, he felt it was important for the character to make a comeback and made sure to close the series memorably.
14.Tyler Hoechlin, Teen Wolf
And the Teen Wolf surprises keep going on. Tyler Hoechlin played Derek Hale as a series regular from seasons one to four. It was reported that the actor opted to say goodbye to the show so he could devote more time to movies. It was a happy day when it was revealed he was returning for the final season of the werewolf show.
13. Colton Haynes, Teen Wolf
What, you thought we were done with Teen Wolf? Nope, not yet. Colton Haynes played Jackson Whittemore on seasons one and two of the MTV hit. After the second season, it was revealed that Colton was leaving, reportedly because of a dispute between his management and the peeps at Teen Wolf. It was hinted that the actor could go back to Teen Wolf, and he did for the last few episodes. And he managed to do it while doing some Arrow stuff.
12. Taylor Momsen, Gossip Girl
Jenny Humphrey (Taylor Momsen) may not have been in the same grade as Serena Van der Woodsen (Blake Lively) and Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), but she was so much more than Dan’s (Penn Badgley) little sister. However, she ended up leaving the show to focus on her music with her band, Pretty Reckless. But there were also reports that her ~pretty reckless~ behavior on set lead to the exit. Either way, Little J did come back for the final episode and to see her on-screen big bro revealed to be cyber stalker, Gossip Girl. xoxo
11. Jason Priestly, Beverly Hills, 90210
Jason Priestly was the 1990’s heartthrob as Brandon Walsh on Beverly Hills, 90210. Our hearts broke slightly when the character made a pivotal choice in season nine which saw him going away. The actor was on the show for eight years so it hit us pretty hard. He might talk about regretting the decision to leave now, but the character did have a small-but-great part in the final episode of the OG 90210.
10. Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Josh Charles starred as Will Gardner on The Good Wife. That was until *spoiler alert* the character was killed from gun violence. Thus, the actor left the show after four and a half seasons. In a big plot twist, the character returned as a ghost to help Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) through the final episode. Was it random? Yup. Did it work? Most people thought so.
9. Gabrielle Carteris, Beverly Hills, 90210
Are you noticing a pattern in shows that have multiple people leaving, but return for the finale? Another Beverly Hills, 90210 alum who left, but came back for the final episode was Gabrielle Carteris. There was a bit of drama from the beginning considering Gabrielle was 29 when she was cast as 16-year-old Andrea Zuckerman. When the actress got pregnant during season five, writers made changes to the script to accommodate it before the character was eventually written out. But, she did come back for one last moment.
8. Shelley Long, Cheers
Shelley Long was another actress who found huge success on TV but couldn’t resist the allure of film. She starred as waitress Diane Chambers on Cheers for five seasons before deciding that she wanted to break into film. It was also reported that she wanted to leave the show to spend more time with her young daughter. No matter the reason(s), she did come back for the last episode in 1993.
7. Dana Delany, Desperate Housewives
There were a number of casting switcheroos in the later seasons of Desperate Housewives, making it hard for people to catch up. Dana Delany was not an OG housewife; she came onto the show as Katherine Mayfair in season four. She may have been the focus of some major plot lines, but she said bye-bye to Wisteria Lane after season six. Proving she didn’t want to be excluded from the drama, the character popped up in the last episode.
6. Scott Weinger, Full House
Who could forget Steve Hale (Scott Weinger) on Full House and his relationship with D.J. Tanner (Candace Cameron Bure)? Scott was a regular on the show until the end of season seven, when the characters’ breakup happened. We were in for a treat when Scott showed up in the final episode and helped save the day by being D.J’s prom date. Things got better when Scott returned to the role for the Fuller House reboot alongside Candace.
5. William Petersen, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
If you need a refresher, a lot of the old gang got together for the final episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. William Petersen, who played, Gil Grissom, joined Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) and Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox) to, you know, do the usual CSI stuff. It was a surprise considering William left the show in 2009 and the finale aired in 2015.
4. Steve Carrell, The Office
It was a sad day for The Office fans when it was revealed that Steve Carrell wasn’t going to be returning to the show after playing Dunder-Mifflin’s Michael Scott for seven seasons. We were treated to a very happy final episode when Michael made a surprise appearance at Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) and Angela Martin‘s (Angela Kinsey) wedding. The final episode had all of the emotion.
3. Jennifer Morrison, House
Jennifer Morrison played Allison Cameron, a member of Gregory House‘s (Hugh Laurie) diagnostic team. She was a main character on the show for six seasons before she left to do other projects. i.e. star as Emma Swan on Once Upon a Time. As much as we loved Emma on OUAT, it was still hard to see Dr. Cameron exit. That’s why we were happy to see Jennifer come back to the show in season eight for the final episode. Cameron appears as a vision to guide House in his time of need.
2. Nina Dobrev, The Vampire Diaries
When you lose the star of a show, it normally marks the beginning of the show’s end. The Vampire Diaries was about Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) and the whole love triangle with Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley), and Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder). It branched out to other stories, but it was still sad when Nina announced she was leaving the show after the sixth season. Happily, she returns for the final episode which was just basically an emotional rollercoaster for all the viewers.
1. Allan Arbus, M*A*S*H
Allan Arbus was cast as psychiatrist Major Sidney Freedman on M*A*S*H. It was reported that the actor didn’t want to become a regular on the series, even though he had the opportunity, so he remained as a guest star with random appearances. The actor did show up on the final episode, where he repeated his famous line, “Pull down your pants and slide on the ice.”