As one of the big networks on television, NBC has always packed its programming lineup with plenty of great shows. From Cheers to Law & Order to Seinfeld to The Office, NBC has pumped out hit after hit. While the shows don't always do that well in the Nielsen ratings (which is more of a current trend), they are often hugely popular with viewers who love to spend some time with their favorite characters every week. Viewers form real emotional attachments to these characters, and it really affects them when the characters go through huge life changes.
However, that also means that when a character leaves a show, it is actually a huge deal. Viewers start to realize that they may never see their favorite characters ever again unless there is a rare instance of them coming back to the show after a season or two. The show starts to feel different without those characters, and viewers can be put off by it. There are some cases, however, where a character exiting the show is actually beneficial. While it's never easy to watch someone leave a beloved program, it can be easier when people realize that maybe they were the weak link all along.
20 Hurt: Michael Scott (The Office)
The Office is basically the quintessential 2000s sitcom. After the departure of Friends, Frasier, and Seinfeld, NBC needed another hit. They might not even have known just how incredibly popular this adapted-from-BBC-show could be.
Part of what made the show so popular and memorable was Steve Carell's role as Michael Scott. He was a huge part of what made a lot of the stories in the show work, and people could relate to his overzealous management style. When he left the show in the seventh season, it was basically the final straw for a show that was already on its last legs.
19 Saved: Mark Brendanawicz (Parks and Recreation)
Parks And Recreation got off to a really rocky start. That might surprise some people, considering how great of an ensemble show it became in its later years. Considering its all-star cast, it's hard to imagine that this show ever could have stumbled at any point. However, as the first season proves, sometimes a great show needs time to mature.
One of the biggest problems with the first and second seasons of the show was Mark Brendanawicz (played by Paul Schneider). Mark was supposed to be the audience surrogate surrounded by weirdos. However, it turned out that the other characters were far more appealing, and Mark just wasn't all that interesting. His departure cleared the path for better castmembers and better stories.
18 Hurt: Troy Barnes (Community)
If there's a show that owes a lot to television history, it's Community. Created by Dan Harmon, Community was about a gang of misfits attending Greendale Community College and forming a study group.
Troy Barnes (played by Donald Glover) was by far one of the most comedic characters on the show, and his chemistry with Abed (Danny Pudi) was one of the most endearing parts. When Glover left the show, it left a huge gap that couldn't be filled, and suddenly the group dynamic was totally thrown off.
17 Saved: Pierce Hawthorne (Community)
On the other hand, not all of the character departures from Community actually hurt the show. Pierce Hawthorne (played by Chevy Chase) started out as a simple character, an old man who felt out of touch with the modern world. As time went on, though, he revealed a more emotionally complex side.
As time went on further, though, Pierce became the show's de facto villain, constantly saying mean things and generally putting the study group through the wringer. Once Chase departed the show, something he had wanted to do for a while due to behind-the-scenes difficulties, it took on a slightly more relaxed atmosphere.
16 Hurt: John Dorian (Scrubs)
Scrubs was by no means a perfect show, and it struggled to hit the right tone at times. However, what made the show as good as it could have been was its core cast of characters. At the center of it all was John Dorian (played by Zach Braff), the young resident who ended the series as a full-fledged physician.
Now, to be fair, JD didn't actually leave the show, but he did hand the reins over to a new batch of characters in the ninth season, which was conceived as a sort of reboot for the series. While he may have remained on the show, he was no longer the main character, and Scrubs just wasn't the same without the character's signature point of view.
15 Saved: Doug Ross (ER)
ER was the first major medical drama, and for 15 seasons, it dominated NBC's drama line up. One of the big draws of the show was its huge cast of talented actors, which included a young, pre-fame George Clooney as Dr. Doug Ross. Doug was essentially one of the main characters of the show, and obviously a big part of its story.
Of course, Clooney would find his way to bigger, better things than a TV drama, and he left the show in 1999. However, far from his departure taking the show down a notch in quality, it actually allowed the other characters to flourish, and ER was able to build on its great ensemble cast.
14 Hurt: Connor Rhodes (Chicago Med)
The thing about all of the current Chicago shows on NBC is that as much as they are built on the pressure and tense storylines of working in emergency services, they are also built on strong connections between their characters, and how they handle each situation differently.
That's why it's a shame that Connor Rhodes (played by Colin Donnell) will no longer be a part of Chicago Med after its fourth season. Donnell apparently decided to leave the show due to creative differences, and it's a real shame to see one of the core cast members leave the show for good.
13 Saved: Gina Linetti (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine may have only just become an NBC show, but it still counts! While the entire ensemble cast of the show is great, Chelsea Peretti's performance as Gina Linetti often stood out as being fun, grounded (yet over-the-top) and unfortunately, entirely unnecessary.
While there are plenty of Gina fans out there who were sad that Peretti was leaving, the fact of the matter is that there just wasn't much for Gina to do in a show that was about the lives of NYPD detectives. Sure, she injected a lot of fun and lighthearted ribbing into the series, but ultimately, it seemed like the writers didn't know what to do with her.
12 Hurt: Bill McNeal (NewsRadio)
NewsRadio is probably one of the most underrated sitcoms in television history. It was doing theme episodes years before Community, and its stellar cast (which included Dave Foley, Joe Rogan, and Stephen Root) was perfect on practically every level. However, the shining star of NewsRadio was Phil Hartman, hilariously playing the smarmy newsman Bill McNeal.
Of course, any fan of Phil Hartman knows about how his life tragically ended when he was shot by his wife, Brynn. This terrible event occurred during NewsRadio's run, and it was an absolutely heartbreaking moment for the cast. The Bill McNeal character was written to have passed away as well, allowing the cast and crew to make an episode where they could memorialize their friend.
11 Saved: Sam Seaborn (The West Wing)
The West Wing is another one of NBC's most celebrated dramas. Created by screenwriting powerhouse Aaron Sorkin, the show followed the lives and work of the staff working in the White House. At the beginning, that included White House Communications Director Sam Seaborn, portrayed by Rob Lowe.
Initially, Sam was going to be the main character of the show, with much of its story taking place through his point of view. However, as the focus moved off of Sam and expanded in scope to include more in-depth storytelling about the struggles of governing, Lowe left the show.
10 Hurt: Diane Chambers (Cheers)
Cheers was a special kind of show, with an ensemble cast that would set the standard for years to come. At the heart of the show was Sam Malone (played by Ted Danson) and Diane Chambers (played by Shelley Long). The term "Sam and Diane" came to define any long-gestating relationship on a TV show, particularly sitcoms.
However, Long famously left Cheers after five seasons to pursue other work in the entertainment industry. She was subsequently replaced by Kirstie Alley as Rebecca Howe. Unfortunately, the chemistry between Sam and Rebecca never felt as natural as it did with Diane.
9 Saved: Elliott Stabler (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit)
Law and Order: Special Victims Unit is currently the longest-running iteration of the Law & Order franchise, spanning twenty seasons (with a twenty-first ordered by the network in 2019). While the entire cast is great, Chris Meloni brought something special to the show with his role as Detective Elliott Stabler.
Meloni left the show after 12 seasons, and while fans were disappointed, his departure, much like Doug Ross from ER, allowed the rest of the cast to really shine.
8 Hurt: Lennie Briscoe (Law & Order)
Speaking of Law & Order, Dick Wolf's massive television franchise all started with the original back in 1990. Although the cast changed over the years, one of the most popular characters in the series was Lennie Brisco, played by Jerry Orbach.
Lennie was the heart and soul of the "law" side of Law & Order, and Orbach received several nominations for his portrayal. He played the role from 1992 to 2004, when he had to leave the series due to prostate cancer treatment. Orbach passed away shortly after leaving Law & Order, and the show never quite found its footing after that tragic loss.
7 Saved: Susan Ross (Seinfeld)
Seinfeld was built on just the four main friends: Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer. However, it somehow always felt like it was filled with other characters. Despite the fact that all of the stories revolved around the core group, there were plenty of memorable side characters that often made things more interesting.
Susan Ross, however, was not one of those characters. Introduced as an NBC executive while Jerry and George pitched their show within a show, Susan eventually ended up being engaged to George. Unfortunately, things were rough behind the scenes, as the cast did not get along with actress Heidi Swedberg. In the ultimate final insult to a character, Susan met her demise by being poisoned by cheap wedding envelopes.
6 Hurt: Erin Lindsay (Chicago P.D.)
Dick Wolf is a television powerhouse, and NBC is the network that all of his best shows call home. Since moving away from the world of Law & Order, Wolf has turned his focus to a new franchise about emergency responders in Chicago, including the shows Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, and Chicago P.D.
Chicago P.D. featured Sophia Bush as Erin Lindsay, a young detective who had a rough start in life. Bush left the series after four seasons, with rumors swirling that it had to do with harassment from her co-star Jason Beghe. Since she was one of the main characters, the show never felt the same without her.
5 Saved: Coach (Cheers)
Cheers was a major hit with audiences and became a historical staple for sitcoms. Every other show that built itself on an ensemble cast had Cheers to thank for showing everyone how to make it work. Part of the show's charm early on came from one of its most beloved characters, Coach (played by Nicholas Colassanto).
Unfortunately, Colassanto passed away in 1985 from a heart attack, and subsequently, Coach passed away in the show as well. While this was an incredibly sad turn of events, it did allow the show to bring in Woody Harrelson as Woody Boyd, launching the actor into stardom and giving the gang a new character to play off of.
4 Hurt: Peter Mills (Chicago Fire)
Another Dick Wolf show, another star departure. Chicago Fire, as previously mentioned, was yet another entry in Wolf's Chicago series of TV shows. It focused on the firefighters in Chicago firehouse 51, including Peter Mills, a young firefighter played by Charlie Barnett.
Mills was part of what made the show great. Unfortunately, Mills was written out of the show and Barnett left the cast after the third season. The show never really recovered from losing one of its young stars.
3 Saved: Josh (30 Rock)
30 Rock is not a show that is known for very many character exits. In fact, the core cast of characters remained the same throughout the show's entire run. However, there were always a few characters on the fringes of storylines that never really seemed all that necessary.
Josh was one of those characters. Played by Lonny Ross, Josh was a cast member on the show-within-a-show, TGS. While he had a few storylines early on, he eventually fell by the wayside and left the show. There was even a joke about it in the fourth season, where Liz (Tina Fey) says right to Josh's face" I keep forgetting about you."
2 Hurt: Chris Traeger (Parks and Recreation)
Parks and Recreation got a big boost at the end of its second season when the characters of Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) and Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) were introduced. The pair were sent to audit the city of Pawnee, with Chris being the bright, smiling optimist and Ben being the bad news delivering pessimist.
Both characters really came into their own and became a huge part of the Parks family. Chris' optimism and propensity for seeing the bright side of everything made him a totally endearing character, and when he left the show, it made the entire thing feel just a little less cheerful.
1 Saved: Ann Perkins (Parks and Recreation)
Ann Perkins (played by Rashida Jones) had always been one of the main characters on Parks and Recreation, but much like Mark, she was a remnant of an earlier time. She never felt quite as fun, unique, or imaginative as any of the other characters, and often just served as a romantic interest for other people.
Still, she had a place on the show as Leslie Knope's level-headed best friend, and while Parks usually benefitted from the over-the-top antics of its characters, Ann helped to keep things grounded. Still, she wasn't exactly missed when she left the show with Chris, although she did reappear in the series finale.