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TV Deaths That Happened Because The Actor Really Died


Passing: an unfortunate, inescapable part
of life, and it’ll eventually come for everyone – even the famous. So, when actors in the
middle of filming a hit TV series pass away, the cast, crew, and even audience are frequently
left with friend-shaped hole in their hearts. But the show must go on, right? Here are some
of TV’s most memorable characters who were written off after the actors playing them
passed away. Beware of spoilers, and probably a couple of tears. Mister Hooper “Hahaha! My little beauty, I’ve found you
at last! Mwah.” If you grew up in the ’70s, chances are the
quality of your childhood was directly proportionate to your familiarity with Mister Hooper. Here’s a refresher: Mister Hooper was the
proprietor of Hooper’s Store, the preferred corner store and eatery for the denizens of
Sesame Street. Here, they congregated, shared meals, and discussed which letters and numbers
the show was being brought to you by. Will Lee, the actor who played Mister Hooper,
suffered a fatal heart attack in 1982. The producers considered writing Hooper out, sending
the character off to Florida to retire. But instead, they acknowledged that their audience
was mature enough to understand mortality and made a whole episode about his passing. Mr. Hooper passed, Will Lee, and Dulcy Singer
thought ‘Why shortchange the kids now?'” “Big bird, don’t you remember we told you?
Mr. Hooper passed. He’s dead.” “Oh yeah, I remember.” It was a bold move by a children’s show, and
the episode won a Peabody for that season. Coach As Sam’s old baseball coach, Ernie “Coach”
Pantusso could have easily fallen into the role of father figure for the Cheers protagonist.
But instead, he was written as an almost childlike character. He was warm and universally beloved,
and the part garnered actor Nicholas Colasanto three Emmy nominations. “But Ernie, you’re all confused… ” “My god! How did he find the doorbell?” Unfortunately, Colasanto passed of a heart
condition at age 61 before the show started filming its fourth season. The producers had
no intention of recasting the role, but they needed another character to fill in the gap
he’d left. It was explained that Coach had passed, but not a lot of details were given. “Howdy. I’m a friend of Coach’s, is he around?” “I’m sorry, I guess you haven’t heard. Coach passed away a couple months ago. But
yeah, I’d like to think he’s still around.” He was replaced by Woody Harrelson’s character
Woody, Coach’s old “pen pal,” with whom he used to exchange pens in the mail. If you’re looking fo r a few extra tears,
check out the portrait of Geronimo that Sam straightens in the series finale. It belonged
to Colasanto and used to hang in his dressing room. Bill McNeal “I’m your host, Bill McNeal, and you’re probably
wondering exactly what is the real deal today?” “Hey, good question!” Phil Hartman was an American treasure on the
same scale as Yosemite, even if he was technically born in Canada. Over a career spanning decades,
Hartman played dozens of roles, including Ranger John “Vicky” Johnson in So I Married
An Axe Murderer, Pee-wee’s Playhouse’s Captain Carl, and countless characters on SNL. During the last few years of his life, Hartman
played NewsRadio’s Bill McNeal, egotistical co-anchor of the show’s WNYX newscast. In
1998, Hartman was fatally shot by his wife, who then turned her gun on herself. Phil Hartman’s tragic passin g was addressed
by NewsRadio in a beautifully balanced manner. His character was laid to rest offscreen after
having a heart attack, and the show managed to keep a sense of humor about his loss without
being cruel. The next week, Bill McNeal’s role was filled in by Max Louis, played by
Hartman’s fellow SNL alum Jon Lovitz. John Ritter John Ritter was a beloved television icon
by the time he was 29 thanks to his role as Jack Tripper on the classic TV sitcom Three’s
Company. Small film parts and television appearances followed, but his real return to the spotlight
came in 2002 with the premiere of his hit show 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage
Daughter. Based on the book of the same name, the show focused on Ritter’s character Paul
Hennessy [HEN-eh-see] and his attempts to maintain control over his daughters’ dating
lives. “Just so you know, Kyle, if you ever pull
into my driveway and honk, you’d better be delivering a package because you’re sure as
hell not picking anything up.” The world was shocked by the sudden passing
of John Ritter in 2003. He suffered an aortic dissection, a rare condition in which blood
forces the layers of the aorta apart. Ritter had already finished shooting three episodes
of the show’s third season when he passed, and they were shown after his passing before
the series went on hiatus. When it returned, Hennessy’s passing was addressed, the program
was retitled as just 8 Simple Rules, and the paternal void left by Ritter was filled in
by James Garner, who came on board as the grandfather of Ritter’s kids. Leo McGarry Depending who you ask, the entire ending of
The West Wing was completely changed by the passing of John Spencer. For six seasons, Spencer played Leo McGarry,
beloved chief of staff and later counselor to the president for the Bartlett administration.
His character was so well received, Clinton-era Chief of Staff Leon Panetta once told Spencer: “Any government would be lucky with Leo as
chief of staff.” In Season 7, McGarry ran for vice president
alongside Jimmy Smits’ Congressman Santos. Sadly, John Spencer passed away as the result
of a heart attack on December 16, 2005, and the series’ creators were forced to figure
out a way to resolve his story. According to executive producer Lawrence O’Donnell,
the writers had planned for Santos and McGarry to lose the election, but felt that writing
in the passing of a beloved character and the loss of the White House was too much for
the viewers to take. “Hey.” “He passed, Josh.” Instead, they rewrote the ending with McGarry
passing on election night and Santos becoming president. Showrunner John Wells has contradicted
O’Donnell’s claims, but one thing they agree on is this: They couldn’t keep doing the show
without Spencer. Owen Granger Miguel Ferrer had a long career, starting
out as a TV actor before breaking into the public eye with his role as the ill -fated
vice president of OCP in 1987’s RoboCop. He found success both in front of the camera,
as shown by his six-year run on Crossing Jordan, and as a voice actor, playing everything from
villain Shan Yu in Disney’s Mulan to passing on Adventure Time. “What are you doing?” ‘Kiss of passing, baby.” Ferrer had been playing Assistant Director
Owen Granger on NCIS: Los Angeles for five years when he passed away due to throat cancer
in 2017. “A big loss for the CBS family.” “Yes. Miguel Ferrer who starred on NCIS: Los
Angeles, passed today of throat cancer at the age of 61.” Within the show, it had already been revealed
that his character was passing, potentially as a result of exposure to Agent Orange. Initially,
his character was written out as having left the country to deal with unfinished business.
However, later in the series, viewers were told that Granger had passed away, having
passed peacefully under a tree after leaving to try to atone for his many missteps raising
his daughter. Finn Hudson Cory Monteith’s brief but astonishing career
as an actor saw him appearing in shows like Supernatural before really hitting it big
on Glee. There, he played Finn Hudson, the star athlete who joined the glee club and
did a whole heap of singing. “Didn’t see you at Glee Club today.” “Is that still happening?” “I’ve taken over.” “Oh.” Monteith’s life was far more troubled than
that of his beloved character. He had already checked into rehab by the time he was 19,
and his struggles with chemical dependency were documented well before that. “You look, you see this young, all-American
quarterback-looking dude on the show, and you make assumptions. And I think people really
started identifying me with those assumptions.” Then, in July 2013, Monteith was found dead
in a Vancouver hotel room. An autopsy later revealed that the 31-year-old actor had passed
away after overdosing on alcohol and heroin. After Monteith’s passing, Finn Hudson was
memorialized in the Season 5 episode “The Quarterback,” which paid tribute to the character
without ever spelling out the circumstances surrounding his passing. Debbie Wolowitz “Mrs. Wolowitz, are you OK?” “Don’t mind me, I just cry when I’m lonely
and have nothing to live for.” Fans of CBS’s The Big Bang Theory might not
have been familiar with Carol Ann Susi’s face, but they definitely know her voice: “You’re gonna have to play outside. I’m not
dressed to receive!” She played Debbie Wolowitz, the unseen but
oft-heard mother of Howard. While this was probably Susi’s most prolific role, she had
a long, fascinating career as a television and movie actress, starting with a recurring
role on Kolchak: The Night Stalker all the way back in 1974. And if you haven’t watched
Kolchak … you’ve gotta watch Kolchak. It’s some weird business. Sadly, in November 2014, Carol Ann Susi passed
away at age 62 after a battle with cancer. Mrs. Wolowitz passed away in her sleep during
the episode “The Comic Book Store Regeneration,” and several episodes were written around the
character’s passing. “My mom passed.” “What?” “That was my aunt. Ma took a nap, and she
never woke up.” A funeral was held, her urn was lost in airline
luggage, and the gang had one more of her enormous meals thanks to a freezer full of
leftovers. Thanks for watching! Click the Grunge icon
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100 Comments

  1. Raymond Craig Author

    So why is the word "died" replaced with "passed" in the subtitles? Don't they think we're mature enough to handle the use of the word? Apparently not.

    Reply
  2. Brandon Page Author

    How in the hell could you guys completely leave out the tragic passing of Dolph Sweet, on Gimme A Break??? Especially since, like the other deaths mentioned here, his character of Carl Kininski died on the show, as well??

    Reply
  3. richard alvarado Author

    Lee Thompson Young ( Det Barry Frost ) on Rizzoli & Isles committed suicide and the show went downhill after his death too. In the show they said his character died in a auto accident.

    Reply
  4. Only1Shonre Author

    John Ritter's passing really surprised me. Also Lynne Thigpen who played in "Lean on Me" and "Carmen Sandiego", She passed away during the third season of "The District."

    Reply
  5. The Green Pill Mindset Author

    miguel ferrer looks like a dog.
    My family always called him "Dog Head."
    Dog Head's death went unnoticed by me. I thought he was still alive before watching this.
    I can still see him barking and woofing at Bridgette Fonda in Point of No Return.
    rest in piss doggy

    Reply
  6. Alberta Rose Author

    Ouch. Did not realize they’d do “Leo”. Damn that was a tough story arc. West Wing was a great show. Big Bang Theory “Debbie Wolowitz” death was well handled.

    Reply
  7. Kevin Nelson Author

    Selma Diamond and Florence Halop(Night Court), Diana Hyland(Eight Is Enough), Dan Blocker(Bonanza),and Freddie Prinze(Chico and the Man) also come to mind. There was an episode of Chico and the Man where Ed Brown tells Raul that Chico had died.

    Reply
  8. Kevin Nelson Author

    Michael Conrad's Phil Esterhaus("Hey, Let's be careful out there"). Phil was written out after Conrad's death after having passed away from a heart attack while having sex with his wife.

    Reply
  9. Cooldude Awesome Author

    I don't like soap operas but my mom used to watch days of our lives and the grand father died in real life and in the show the had him to die and that was in the 90,s

    Reply
  10. Eunae Kim Author

    I am glad you put Mr Hooper on this list. He is often overlooked in lists of TV characters who have died, but he deserves recognition, as he was one of the most famous human characters in the show!

    Reply
  11. John w Author

    I'm guessing they don't know about the old actor who played a character named CD on "Walker Texas Ranger." Died of a heart attack while they were filming, i think. They did an episode that mentioned his death, and the emotions the other actors showed were real.

    Reply
  12. Gapp Kidd Author

    Death is a disease and we should not aknowledge it. Sesame street should not have done that with Mr Hooper as many shows right them off and replace them with no explanations whatsoever and kids don 't  want or need to be traumatised in our life! Now new technology on websites tells us we can achieve immortality on many ways! Sesame street should have sent Mr Hooper to Florida for retirement and leave it to that!

    Reply
  13. Sharika Jeter Author

    Phil Hartman: Thought NewsRadio did a nice tribute to his character Bill McNeal. I stopped watching the show, after that episode.

    Audra Lindley: Most remember her as Mrs. Roper on Three's Company, but she had a recurring role as Cybil Sheppard 's mother on Cybil. Thought the show did a nice tribute to her, when she passed away.

    It has to be difficult to decide what to do with the show, when one of the actors passes away. If it's the star of the show who dies, don't think the show should continue. When Redd Foxx and Freddie Prinze died, their shows The Royal Family and Chico & the Man should not had tried to continue. It was short lived but still. The syndicated show Too Close For Comfort later called the Ted Knight Show discontinued after the death of Ted Knight. I remember his TV wife Nancy Dussault came on and announced his passing.

    When Dolph Sweet passed away, I thought Gimme A Break did a nice tribute to him. The show continued and was revamped with Nell Carter's character moving east. She was no longer taking care of her former boss' kids.

    I'm sure Riverdale is still deciding how to move on, following Luke Perry's death.

    Reply
  14. Foxy the Gachatuber Author

    Hey you forgot SELENA (yes I know she did not go on tv show but she was still the greatest Mexican American singer ever!)

    Reply
  15. Arsenal Emirates Author

    I know John Ritter died but as I'm a Brit I never grew up with sesame Street so I didn't know any of the presenters on American programmes

    Reply
  16. The Blue Morpho Author

    I was on my way to be in a wedding at The Biltmore Inn, in Asheville, NC when the news about John Ritter came over the radio. The wedding cost 60,000 dollars. The marriage lasted six months. $10,000 per month.

    Reply
  17. UserAJO1 Author

    You Forgot Dr. Charles Kroger (Stanley Kamel) from Series Monk who last appeared on the show in "Mr. Monk Paints His Masterpiece" (Season 6, episode 14) and had his death mentioned in episode "Mr Monk Buys a House" (Season 7, episode 1) shortly before Monk goes to see his new "Shrink" later in the episode "Dr. Neven Bell" (Hector Elizondo) a colleague and friend in the show of the deceased character, and it should be note that just like the actor "Dr. Kroger" dies of a Heart attach and the episode was dedicated to his memory at the end of the episode.

    Reply
  18. Melissa Maylath Author

    This is sad & touching. I remember watching John Ritter on three's company. And in the films stay tuned & the original version of the movie IT . Phil Hartman on SNL , news radio. In the flim the 3 amigos. He had a brief cameo in the movie. but he was lol as always. So many of these celbs are gone but definitely not forgotten. 🌹 R.I.P

    Reply
  19. JOYOUSONEX Author

    I still can't get over that John Ritter died in 2005 !! It seems like just a couple of years ago. Time flies when you get old like me.
    It is also sad that so many young actors never become old actors due to drugs etc.

    Reply
  20. Add E Author

    I think Mr. Hooper should have been number 1. It was awfully ballsy of them to do that, considering that the general rule in children's programming is to never even mention the word death. That's why cartoon villains always want to destroy their enemies, not kill them. It's why Hey, Arnolds parents were living in a jungle, and why so many mothers are just missing. Sesame Street is obviously a very different medium, but they could well have been signing themselves off the air for good. And they also deserve massive amounts of respect for acknowledging their audience could handle an episode about someone dying. They didn't shy away from the fact that people die, whether a child is ready or not.

    Reply
  21. Dale Lerette Author

    I remember when Mr. Hooper passed away. I also remember when everyone thought Mr. Snuffleupagus was a figment of Big Bird's imagination.

    Reply
  22. Jim Davis Author

    It sure is a sad time when actors or actresses pass the end of an era, but ones I remember were Jim Davis(Jock Ewing) the show had him die in South America in a helicopter accident and Will Geer (Zeb Walton) just pass away playing the Grandpa.         Jim Davis from Dallas and Will Geer from the Waltons both were patriarchs in there shows

    Reply
  23. The Riff Repeater Jr. Author

    Something confuses me, you said death is part of life which is true but it confuses me because if you're dead it's after life

    Reply
  24. Nan Fagan Author

    They left out Bea Benaderet of Petticoat Junction. She died of lung cancer on October 13, 1968. She was 62 when she died.

    During the 1967-68 season, she had undergone treatment for the cancer, and she missed several episodes. They explained her absence by saying that her character on the show, Kate Bradley, had gone out of town. She later returned to the show, but not for too long.

    After Bea Benaderet passed away, no other actress took her place as Kate Bradley. June Lockhart was added to the cast as Dr. Janet Craig, who set up a medical practice there at the Shady Rest Hotel. And she became a motherly figure to Kate Bradley's three daughters, Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo, and Betty Jo.

    When they filmed the episode where Betty Jo gave birth to little Kathy Jo, Bea Benaderet's voice was recorded during that episode. Another actress was filmed with her back to the camera as Kate Bradley hurried to the hospital for the baby's delivery. That episode originally aired on October 26; just 13 days after Bea Benaderet had passed away. Sadly, the show's ratings had declined and it was cancelled in 1970; a year before CBS' infamous Rural Purge.

    May they rest in peace. Amen.

    Reply
  25. Colin Faragher Author

    The UK equivalent to Mr Hooper was Inigo Pipkin, an elderly puppet maker, played by George Woodbridge . He died suddenly from a heart attack in March 1973, while recording the second series. In 1974, in a first for children's television, the death of Inigo Pipkin was worked into the programme, predating the Mr Hooper episode on Sesame Street by nine years.

    Reply
  26. Varian Schirmer Author

    Ralph Waite (Cliffhanger)
    His death affected Bones (Boothe's grandfather) & NCIS (Gibbs's father)

    Ritter's death affected Scrubs as well as 8 Simple Rules.

    Night Court lost 2 cast members in 3 years. Selma & her replacement. Most shows barely survive 1 death.

    Reply
  27. Varian Schirmer Author

    Don Davis was written out of the series StarGate SG-1 due to his declining health.

    Jerry Orbach moved out of Law & Order for the same reason.

    Adam West, reduced to voice over work, left a void on Family Guy.

    Reply
  28. Bonita Wauls Author

    Loved Mr Hooper! Was a chance to teach children what life and death is, gently. Parents don't discuss it. Sesame Street helped millions of kids, me too.

    Reply
  29. Miroslav Tomic Author

    Phil Hartman was also known for his recurring roles of Troy McClure and Lionel Hatz on The Simpsons, both of whom were also quietly dropped after his death. They can still be seen in some episodes in group shots of Springfield citizens, but their voices have never been heard since Hartman's death.

    Reply

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