8 classic TV characters who were recast in reunion movies

Hey… that's not the real Ginger!

Images: The Everett Collection

We love a good reunion movie. Catching up with old friends, even imaginary ones from the TV screen, is a heartwarming experience. But sometimes, watching these made-for-TV specials will make you do a double take. And we're not just talking about grown-up Greg Brady's thick mustache in A Very Brady Christmas.

No, these reunions often try to pull a fast one on us and recast a familiar character. Some nostalgic comeback flicks, like the several Gunsmoke films, are wise enough to not replace deceased actors. In other cases, contract disputes or just general disinterest keep original cast members away from the reunion.

The following examples, however, all found ringers to fill the shoes of beloved characters. Did you watch any of these small-screen specials?

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1. Ginger


Rescue from Gilligan's Island (1978), The Castaways on Gilligan's Island (1979)

Tina Louise perfectly portrayed the bombshell starlet, though she was not exactly enamored with the role. In subsequent spin-offs and sequels, other actresses stepped in to play Ginger. After Louise stepped away from the island forever, she was replaced in later TV movies by Judith Baldwin, seen here, (Rescue from Gilligan's Island, The Castaways on Gilligan's Island) and Constance Forslund (The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island). Six women in total have played the character! Kit Smythe was in the pilot, when Ginger was a secretary. In the 1974 animated series The New Adventures of Gilligan, Jane Webb voiced Ginger, while in the 1982 cartoon Gilligan's Planet, Dawn Wells handled both Mary Ann and Ginger!

Image: The Everett Collection

2. Jan Brady


The Brady Bunch Hour (1976–77)

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia… may have always been played by Maureen McCormick, but the other Brady girls went through more changes than Peter's voice. When the gang first got back together, it was not for a TV movie. No, it was a 60-minute special called The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, which in turn led to a full series of The Brady Bunch Hour. But we had to include it here. Eve Plumb famously did not reprise her role of Jan, though she was not against the idea. She agreed to do the Variety Hour special, but balked at the commitment to a full season. She was up for a few episodes, but when the network presented her with an all-or-nothing contract, she walked. Enter Geri Reischl, pictured in the center here.

Image: The Everett Collection

3. Cindy Brady


A Very Brady Christmas (1988)

In 1981, the Brady girls got married in… well, The Brady Girls Get Married. McCormick, Plumb and Susan Olsen were all back in the fold for that one. Later in the decade, the decor was not the only thing with an '80s makeover in the Brady home. Jennifer Runyon, who had been on Charles in Charge, stepped in for Olsen, portraying Cindy as a hip college kid.

4. Aunt Bee


Return to Mayberry (1986)

Early in the touching reunion, Andy goes to visit Aunt Bee's grave. Frances Bavier was not dead at the time, but she had retired from acting after Mayberry R.F.D. However, the voice of Aunt Bee is heard in a voice over during Return to Mayberry. It's not Bavier. Janet Waldo, an ace voice-over veteran of countless cartoons, did the lines. You know her as Judy Jetson and Josie of Josie and the Pussycats.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. Tony Nelson


I Dream of Jeannie... Fifteen Years Later (1985)

This clunkily titled comeback was not able to secure the talents of Larry Hagman, the original Tony Nelson. He was too tied up filming Dallas. Instead, Wayne Rogers, best known as Trapper John on M*A*S*H, slipped on the uniform. In 1991, Hagman skipped out on I Still Dream of Jeannie, preferring a vacation instead. In that one, however, the producers simply wrote off the character, explaining he was away on a "top-secret space mission for NASA."

Image: The Everett Collection

6. Eddie Munster


The Munsters' Revenge (1981)

When the Munsters returned in 1981, Butch Patrick, who originally played Eddie, was in his late 20s. Producers seemingly wanted to keep the kid a kid and recast the role. K.C. Martel played the werewolf boy instead. You might remember him as one of Elliott's bike-riding friends, the one with the headphones, in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Image: The Everett Collection

7. Gloria Unger


The Odd Couple: Together Again (1993)

As the opening credits explained over and over, "on November 13, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence." Felix did not remain a bachelor forever. Late in the series, he wins back his love, Gloria, and the couple remarries in the end. Janis Hansen played the role in a dozen episodes. Barbara Barrie, who had once memorably played a blind woman on Route 66, stepped in to play Tony Randall's spouse.

Image: The Everett Collection

8. Jethro Bodine


The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies (1981)

There were a lot of shoes to fill. Irene Ryan, best known as "Granny," had died in 1973. Raymond Bailey, a.k.a. Mrs. Drysdale, passed seven years later. Meanwhile, Max Baer, Jr., who brought Jethro to life on the original series, simply said, "No." Nevertheless, this production pushed forward. Imogene Coca was cast to play "Granny's Ma," who must have been about 115, despite being six years younger than Irene Ryan. The relatively unknown Ray Young replaced Baer. Werner Klemperer of Hogan's Heroes was added to the fold for some star power, at least.

Image: CBS



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rycki1138 45 months ago
Maureen McCormick didn't always play Marcia. In the 90s drama series The Bradys McCormick didn't want to return so they recast her.
DaveGold 64 months ago
Let's not forget Connie Stevens, who played the role of "Thalia Mennenger" in the Dobie Gillis reunion movie when Tuesday Weld wasn't available.
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