5 actors who left their shows after five seasons
Some left a hole that was hard to fill, others were quickly replaced.
Any classic show that ran for more than three seasons likely faced some cast turnover. In fact, it was rare for a long-running series to not make at least one change, let alone a few. The important part was how the show dealt with the departure.
Losing a vital and beloved member of the cast didn’t mean the end of a popular program. Some shows just brought in a different but similar character and went on to many more years of ratings success! Others struggled to fill the large shoes left behind by a star.
Here are five different actors who left their shows after five seasons.
1. Don Knotts – The Andy Griffith Show
Don Knotts is still considered by many to be one of the best comedic actors of all time. He embodied Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show so well that his departure at the end of season five left an unfillable hole in the show. Luckily, Barney’s last episode as a regular character wasn’t his final appearance on the iconic sitcom. Don Knotts came back as a guest star for five more episodes in seasons six through eight.
2. Richard Thomas – The Waltons
John-Boy Walton was the central character for the first five seasons of The Waltons. After all, each episode was narrated by Earl Hamner Jr. playing an older version of Richard Thomas’ character. There were episodes focused on different family members, but the oldest son was undoubtedly the lead. Nevertheless, after Thomas left, there were still plenty of Waltons stories to tell. The beloved series ran for another four seasons, giving the other six children their times to shine. John-Boy did return in the end, but played by Robert Wightman in the final two seasons.
3. Larry Linville – M*A*S*H
The exit of prickly Major Frank Burns wasn’t nearly as heartbreaking or meaningful as the departure of other M*A*S*H characters, but it was a loss nonetheless. Larry Linville played Burns as the perfect foil for Alan Alda’s Hawkeye and fans loved to hate the stubborn know-it-all. Linville left after season five, which means he got to spar with both Trapper John and B.J. as well as Col. Blake and Col. Potter.
4. Ivan Dixon – Hogan’s Heroes
Ivan Dixon, who began his career blazing a trail as a popular guest star in shows like Have Gun – Will Travel and Perry Mason, starred in five out of six seasons of Hogan’s Heroes. He played Sergeant Kinchloe, a radio technician whose skills often came in handy when carrying out Hogan’s schemes. Dixon also had one of the best mustaches on Sixties TV.
5. Robert Horton – Wagon Train
Flint McCollough helped settle disputes, protect passengers and scout ahead in Wagon Train from the show’s very first episode. Actor Robert Horton was a fan favorite on the series, the young, square-jawed hero next to grizzled wagon masters Seth Adams (Ward Bond) and Christopher Hale (John McIntire) and goofy cook Charlie Wooster (Frank McGrath). After Horton’s departure, the show experimented with different cast members and formats, including adding a kid named Barnaby West to the crew and trying 90-minute episodes in color.
Honorable Mention: Tim Considine – My Three Sons
There were technically four sons on My Three Sons because oldest son, Mike, played by Tim Considine, grew up and left halfway through. He was replaced by adopted son Ernie, who was played by Barry Livingston, the real-life brother of Stanley Livingston, who played youngest Douglas son, Chip. Got all that? Considine is only an honorable mention on this list because his departure episode was actually the season six premiere, not the season five finale. But he essentially only stayed on the show for five seasons.