11 of the most shocking character replacements on TV

Things were never the same after these actors took over.

Image: Sony Pictures Television

More often than not, characters come and go from our favorite TV shows. This happens for so many reasons, whether an actor wants to work on better roles, the producers want to boost ratings, or the writers phase out a certain character. 

While some characters are written out, others are replaced. This leaves us with the challenge of watching the same character with an entirely different presence and appearance. A good replacement can help a show out, but a bad one can ruin it. Here are 11 of the biggest character replacements in TV history, for better and for worse.

1. Darrin Stephens - Bewitched

Perhaps the biggest character replacement in TV history, Dick York (left) left the show in 1969 because he suffered from back problems and was unable to film full-time. When the show replaced York with Dick Sargent (right), the ratings took a dive and never recovered. 

Image: Sony Pictures Television

2. Becky Conner - Roseanne

This might be the most confusing character replacement of all time. When Lecy Goranson (left) decided to attend Vassar College, she was replaced by Sarah Chalke (right). In the eighth season, Goranson returned and alternated episodes with Chalke. But when Roseanne was picked up for a ninth season, Chalke resumed the role of Becky Conner full-time. 

Image: SFM Entertainment

3. Chris Partridge - The Partridge Family

Brian Forster (right) replaced Jeremy Gelbwaks (left) after the first season when his family moved away from Los Angeles. But his departure was a welcome one, with David Cassidy saying Gelbwaks "had a personality conflict with every person in the cast and the producers." That's a lot of drama for such a small kid!

Image: Sony Pictures Television

4. Alice Kramden - The Honeymooners

Pert Kelton (left) originally portrayed Alice Kramden in The Honeymooners skits. However, she was replaced by Audrey Meadows (right) after being blacklisted from Hollywood. When Jackie Gleason revived the characters in color in the late 1960s, Sheila MacRae stepped into the role.

Image: Wikipedia

5. Leonard Unger - The Odd Couple

Before they were teen heartthrobs, Willie Aames (left) and Leif Garrett (right) shared the role of Leonard Unger on The Odd Couple. 

6. Miss Ellie Ewing - Dallas

Barbara Bel Geddes (left) originated the role of Miss Ellie Ewing in 1978 and played her until her departure in 1984. That's when veteran actress Donna Reed (right) took over, but only for one year. When Bel Geddes returned, Reed sued for breach of contract and settled for seven figures. 

Image: Warner Brothers Television

7. Gladys Kravitz - Bewitched

The popular Alice Pearson (left) won an Emmy for her portrayal of Gladys Kravitz. Unfortunately, she died of ovarion cancer during the second season. Producers decided to replace her with Sandra Gould (right), who held her own for the rest of the series.

Image: Sony Pictures Television

8. Marilyn Munster - The Munsters

The details are a little murky as to why the show replaced Beverly Owen (left) with Pat Priest (right) after 14 episodes. But if you never noticed the difference, you're not alone. Both actresses looked so similar, many viewers didn't notice the change. 

Image: NBCUniversal

9. Catwoman - Batman

Despite only lasting three seasons, Batman had two different (and distinct) cat-women. Julie Newmar (left) portrayed the villain for the first two seasons, but was replaced by Eartha Kitt (right) in season three when she was unavailable to film. 

10. Lionel Jefferson - The Jeffersons

Just like Becky Conners on Roseanne, two actors took turns portraying this role. Mike Evans (left) originated the character of Lionel Jefferson, but was replaced by Damon Evans (right, no relation) during the second season. Damon stayed until the forth season, when Mike took over the recurring role.

Image: Sony Pictures Television

11. Jenna Wade - Dallas

Jenna Wade appeared sporadically on the first few seasons of Dallas, first played by Morgan Fairchild (left) and then by Francine Tacker. It wasn't until 1983 that the role became more prominent, thanks to Priscilla Presley (right). 

Image: Warner Brothers Television

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RedSamRackham 24 months ago
* Alice PEARCE (Not Pearson) was the original Gladys Kravitz! ☺
PGB 24 months ago
In all of these cases, I prefer the. replacement except for Gladys Kravitz (Alice Pearson was far better), the two switches in Dallas (I didn't watch it but I felt sorry for TV legend Donna Reed as they did her seriously wrong), and Lionel in the Jeffersons (Mike Evans was far better)
Trifleman 24 months ago
In January 1968, 16 years after she originated the role of Alice Kramden, Pert Kelton returned to The Honeymooners to play the mother of Sheila McRae's Alice. Kelton died in October 1968 at the age of 62.
grade1teacher 24 months ago
John Boy Walton was played by Richard Thomas in Seasons 1-5. Robert Wightman took over the role in Seasons 8-9.
eurogenes grade1teacher 24 months ago
That was terrible casting. That show should have cut at season 6. IMO
RedSamRackham 35 months ago
* How about Penny Parker replacing Sherry Jackson as Terry on Danny Thomas Show? * I do remember gals liking the new Darrin on Bewitched although Dick York indeed defined the role. * BTW although dropped from Honeymooners due to HUAC blacklisting Pert Kelton made a grand 1962 comeback as Mrs. Paroo, the mom of Shirley Jones and Ron Howard in The Music Man and in later Honeymooners color episodes with Sheila MacRae as Alice Pert appeared as Ralph's dear old mother-in-law. * ☺
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