The 2000s gave sitcom fans some of the greatest of all time, with shows like The Office, The Big Bang Theory, and Community growing large fanbases. However, like any other TV program (sitcom or otherwise), they all had one thing in common: at one point or another, major characters were written out of the shows. Sometimes, this is a good thing, as characters unpopular with fans are given the boot, allowing fans the comfort of knowing they will never be heard from again. But, there is also the opposite, where fan-favorite characters go away, leaving many fans upset, angry, and demanding them back (which doesn't always work). And, even though they may return for an appearance later on, this rarely does the job of calming down fans who believed they should have never be written off, to begin with.
So, today, we would like to look at some of the most notable examples of said instance in the 2000s. For a show to qualify, it must have either began in that decade or the character who left did so during that time period. While reasons behind character exits will vary, the most common explanations are actors choosing to focus on other projects in their careers (or personal lives) or the writers wanting to focus on other characters.
So, let's revisit the characters who could have had a bit more time in the TV spotlight as we take a look at 10 2000s Sitcom Character Exits That Hurt The Series (And 10 That Saved Them).
20 Hurt: Michael Scott (The Office)
Steve Carell is one of the biggest names in comedy today, and a big part of this is thanks to his Golden Globe-winning lead role in NBC's The Office. For seven seasons, the employees at Dunder Mifflin Paper Company worked under Carell's Michael Scott, a manager of questionable productivity whose inappropriate actions often made everyone around him uncomfortable or angry, which, in turn, made audiences laugh.
Because of this, viewers were upset when it was announced Carell would not return for the eighth season, and the show clearly suffered due to his absence. Ratings declined and critical reviews were divided, (something the show hadn't experienced since its first season). Thus, it made sense why the show only lasted an additional season.
Thankfully, fans hadn't seen the last of Scott, as Carell returned to the show for its series finale.
19 Hurt: Charlie Harper (Two And A Half Men)
Yes, Charlie Sheen's meltdown was intense, and we don't blame Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre for firing him. However, this doesn't change his character's importance to the show (he was one-third of the 'Men,' after all).
For eight seasons, Charlie Harper did...pretty much all the crazy things Sheen did in real life, and audiences loved it, never getting enough of Sheen's carnal pursuits and comedic talent. Unfortunately, Lorre eventually had enough of him and brought in Ashton Kutcher to replace him as "Walden Schmidt," a billionaire who purchases Harper's home after his supposed demise
Though Kutcher kept fans' attention initially, the end was inevitable, and the show only lasted four more seasons. To make matters worse, Sheen's character was revealed to be alive in the finale, only to get one of the worst endings a sitcom character has ever received.
18 Saved: Leslie Winkle (The Big Bang Theory)
Chuck Lorre's mega-hit The Big Bang Theory may have ended earlier this year, but its 12-year run will not be forgotten anytime soon, mostly thanks to its loveable collection of characters. Unfortunately, not every major character has stuck around so long, one, in particular, being Leslie Winkle.
Played by The Talk's Sara Gilbert, Winkle served as Leonard Hofstadter's female counterpart. However, their shift from lab co-workers to being in a relationship was short-lived, as Gilbert's starring status in the second season was changed to 'recurring' for season three before her character was written off. Reportedly, this was due to the writers being unable to come up with an additional story for her, and, frankly, we don't blame them. Since the show focuses heavily on Leonard and Penny's relationship, Winkle would've been nothing more than a third wheel in later seasons (though, she did return in the 200th episode).
17 Hurt: Chef (South Park)
It's no obscure fact that South Park makes fun of everything, particularly religions. So, when a particular faith was targeted, the result was the loss of a fan-favorite character.
Voiced by singer Isaac Hayes, Chef worked at the elementary school cafeteria, often giving the main boys wisdom (and catchy songs) to remember. However, since Hayes was of a certain faith, the religion's representation in the 2005 controversial episode "Trapped in the Closet" reportedly affected him personally, and he exited the show the following year. And how did the creators write off such a major character? By having him return (via archive recordings) as a brainwashed criminal before meeting his demise in an intense fashion, and then being resurrected as a Darth Vader-style robot...before never being seen again.
To add insult to injury, Hayes passed away in 2008, having never returned to South Park.
16 Hurt: Eric Forman (That '70s Show)
Ah, the '70s. A time when friends hung out together in a basement, lighting "incense" and having laughs. Or are we just thinking of That '70s Show? Regardless, the basement of local nerd Eric Forman was a popular hangout for this group of teens, but it wasn't near as fun without star Topher Grace as Forman. He may have been a smart-aleck, but on the inside, we all knew he was a nice guy just trying to impress his parents and have a good time.
Unfortunately, Grace departed the show after seven seasons alongside Ashton Kutcher, and the show only lasted for an additional season. While it was nice to see Forman travel to Africa to pursue teaching, it was even nicer to see him (and Kutcher) return for the series finale to ring in the '80s.
15 Saved: Pierce Hawthorne (Community)
Some sitcom characters are hard to like, and Pierce Hawthorne is a prime example. While he could've been just another old man stereotype, Hawthorne took it several steps farther by making numerous remarks and acted disconnected from reality to the point of annoyance. Top this off with actor Chevy Chase's issues with creator Dan Harmon and not even a number of admittedly-funny lines could save Hawthorne from becoming one of the most unlikeable characters on Community.
Due to Chase leaving the show during production of the fourth season, Hawthorne was absent from two episodes. And, just to ensure he wouldn't be coming back, the show revealed his demise in the fifth season, following Chase's final appearance as a holographic message in the season premiere.
14 Hurt: Troy Barnes (Community)
While seeing Pierce Hawthorne off delighted some Community fans, he wasn't going down without bringing another lead character with him.
Donald Glover's Troy Barnes was not only Abed's other half (on their morning show) but also a role model for athletes who harbor a secret nerdy side. Unfortunately, after Pierce's passing, it was revealed that he left Troy his remaining shares of his moist towelette company, valued around $14 million, on the condition that he sail around the world (a dream he never got to achieve himself). So, in the fifth season episode "Geothermal Escapism," fans had to witness Troy's permanent departure from the series. However, it wasn't all bad, as Troy finally conquered his fears of speaking to his idol, actor LeVar Burton, and brought him along on his journey.
13 Hurt: Mike Flaherty (Spin City)
The world was shocked in 1998 when actor Michael J. Fox announced he had Parkinson's disease, and many pondered his future career, particularly his starring role on ABC's Spin City. While fans are happy that Fox continues to act, they were upset to learn of his departure following the fourth season.
In the series, it was explained that New York Deputy Mayor Mike Flaherty (Fox's character) took the blame for a mob connection the mayor had. For the final two seasons, Charlie Sheen took the lead as Charlie Crawford, and, while he did win a Golden Globe for the role, Sheen paled in comparison to Fox (who had won three).
Thankfully, fans got to see Fox revisit the role for a few episodes in the last season, reassuring them that he still had a long life and career ahead of him.
12 Saved: Mark Brendanawicz (Parks And Recreation)
In a show with as many colorful characters as Parks and Recreation, there was bound to be at least one who got the short end of the stick, and that one was Paul Schneider's Mark Brendanawicz. Initially envisioned as a character who would leave and return multiple times throughout the show by co-creator Michael Schur, Schneider ended up not returning at all following the second season.
While his job as Pawnee's city planner was important, his damaged relationship with government processes wouldn't have made him the best fit for a show centered around...well, government. At least fans got to see the character evolve through his relationship with Ann (even if it didn't end the way he wanted it to) and share one final goodbye with Leslie.
11 Hurt: Hilda And Zelda Spellman (Sabrina The Teenage Witch)
A magical teenager may have been the star of this show, but, without the help of her witch aunts Hilda and Zelda, she would never have become the powerful witch we came to know over seven years. Besides actresses Caroline Rhea and Beth Broderick having great chemistry, their opposing personalities were often hilarious highlights of the show.
The sixth season saw Hilda meet her true love. Sounds good, right? Well, after Zelda and Sabrina break them up, she turns to stone. To fix this, Sabrina sacrifices her love life, and, to save her, Zelda gave up her adult years, getting transformed into a child. The sisters then made their way to the Other Realm.
While they returned in the series finale (albeit with Zelda in candle form), we would've loved to see them in more than guest appearances.
10 Hurt: Carla Espinosa (Scrubs)
When a popular sitcom holds the same main cast for eight seasons, fans will understandably be upset when it shifts focus to new characters and pushes the old ones into the background. Such was the case in 2009 for the award-winning medical comedy-drama Scrubs, which unfortunately led to any ideas of a tenth season being demolished. However, we'd like to focus on one major character who didn't return at all: Carla Espinosa.
Played by the talented Judy Reyes, Espinosa worked as Sacred Heart Hospital's head nurse, holding a sassy attitude while remaining loyal to her job (since Reyes hardly missed any episodes). And, while we were happy to see her give birth to two daughters, this resulted in her becoming a stay-at-home mother and absent from the final season, according to actor Donald Faison.
9 Saved: Jonathan Weed (Family Guy)
As several Family Guy fans will remember, before Peter Griffin worked at Pawtucket Brewery, he had a job at the Happy Go Lucky Toy Factory under the supervision of Jonathan Weed (voiced primarily by voice actor Carlos Alazraqui). However, while his Spanish accent and effeminate personality were memorable, his character (like Peter's job) was not long for the world.
In the third season episode "Mr. Saturday Knight," Weed is invited over to the Griffins' home for dinner, where he surprisingly promoted Peter to head of toy development...before choking on a dinner roll soon after. Following his demise, the factory was demolished to make way for a children's hospital, and Peter was left unemployed.
Thankfully, he later found work at the brewery under Angela (voiced by the late Carrie Fisher), whom fans quickly took a liking to.
8 Hurt: Paul Hennessy (8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter)
Comedian and actor John Ritter began a new sitcom in 2002 titled 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, where he portrayed protective father Paul Hennessy. Unfortunately, after completing only three episodes of the second season, Ritter suffered an aortic dissection (a rare heart injury) and passed away at the age of 54. In memory of him, the show had his character undergo the same fate, and subsequent episodes centered on the family dealing with his passing (the title was also shortened to 8 Simple Rules).
It was bad enough for the main character to be gone, but the producers brought in David Spade and James Garner as Cate Hennessey's father and nephew to try and fill the void. Needless to say, it didn't work, and the show's declining ratings resulted in its cancellation after the third season.
7 Hurt: Chase Matthews (Zoey 101)
For fans of Nickelodeon sitcoms, one of the most frustrating waits for two characters to become a couple was for Chase Matthews and Zoey Brooks in Zoey 101. Though Chase's crush on her was pretty obvious, fans weren't quite sure how Zoey felt about him. That all changed in the third season finale, when Zoey learned of his feelings for him and returned to Pacific Coast Academy to be with him...only to find out Chase had traveled to London (where she was considering moving to) and had to stay there for one semester.
Because of this, the final seasons dragged on, with fans forced to watch new character James Garrett begin a relationship with Zoey. Thankfully, she broke up with him in the series finale, just in time for Chase to return for the kiss everyone had been waiting for.
6 Saved: Robert California (The Office)
Remember when we discussed The Office ailing due to Michael Scott's absence? This is because Carell was irreplaceable as Dunder Mifflin's regional manager. However, while he was replaced by other characters (particularly Ed Helms' Andy Bernard), we're just glad we never had to see Robert California sitting behind Michael's desk.
Though actor James Spader's performance was praised in the seventh season's finale, they definitely weren't expecting to see him become the CEO of Sabre (Dunder Mifflin's owner), and quickly grew tired of the cocky, manipulating California.
The Office's decline in quality may not have been entirely due to Spader, but he certainly wasn't a positive aspect. Thankfully, he only stuck around for one season, and California said goodbye to Dunder Mifflin in the eight season finale.
5 Hurt: Muriel (The Suite Life of Zack And Cody)
Even though a sitcom character isn't in the main cast, this doesn't make them any less funny and their absence any more noticeable. Such was the case with hotel maid Muriel (played by Estelle Harris) on Disney Channel staple The Suite Life of Zack Cody, who made audiences laugh with her laziness (and especially her catchphrase, "I'm not cleaning that up."). However, despite her sluggishness, she had a good heart and never meant anyone harm, which is why it didn't make much sense for her to be written out of the show following the first season.
To be clear, the show didn't fail due to her absence, as it remained one of the channel's best-written shows. However, fans of the sarcastic maid were ecstatic when the show brought her back for the series finale.
4 Saved: Kandi (Two And A Half Men)
She may be delighting DC fans today as Rita Farr on Doom Patrol, but actress April Bowlby never made huge impressions with Two and a Half Men fans as Kandi. Though Alan had several relationships, Kandi is remembered as his second wife. Following their split, Alan is forced to pay alimony to her, making him even more dependent on Charlie. She is soon offered a TV role and ensures Alan won't get any of the royalties.
Fans thought they had seen the last of her, but she made a surprise return in the tenth season, trying to win Alan back. He rejects her, and she isn't seen again until the series finale, where Alan phones her to reveal she was his true love. While some may have found this touching, others were happy that Alan never returned to her.
3 Hurt: Reggie Kostas (Becker)
Between his iconic runs on Cheers and The Good Place, Ted Danson was starring in another hit sitcom that isn't discussed today as much as it should be. Portraying grumpy Dr. John Becker, Danson led a talented cast of characters in a show that featured surprisingly serious topics, including schizophrenia and addiction.
One of the show's most relatable characters was Reggie Kostas (played by Terry Farrell), a model-turned-diner-owner with uncertainties about her future. Some fans wondered if she and Becker would ever hook up, and they thought they were getting an answer when she kissed him in the fourth season finale. However, fans were shocked when the following season revealed Reggie departed to Europe to reassess her life.
In the end, Becker ended up with Nancy Travis' Chris, and fans ended up with an unresolved arc for Reggie.
2 Saved: Libby Chessler (Sabrina The Teenage Witch)
While it hurt fans to see Hilda and Zelda leave Sabrina the Teenage Witch, there probably weren't many who missed bully Libby Chessler after her departure in the fourth season. Constantly calling Sabrina a "freak" and accepting being deemed "pure evil" as a compliment, the snobby rich cheerleader was disliked by pretty much every fan. But, that was exactly the point, as she was clearly written as an unlikeable series antagonist.
Thankfully, she would always get what was coming to her and never managed to win the heart of Sabrina's future love, Harvey Kinkle. And, when she went off to boarding school, fans were happy to know Sabrina had one less problem to deal with.
1 Hurt: Toni Childs-Garrett (Girlfriends)
Following the friendship and drama of four black women living in Los Angeles, Girlfriends was a hit on The CW (later spawning a spin-off, The Game) due to the chemistry of its female leads. So, when actress Jill Marie Jones, who played the self-described "cute one" Toni Childs-Garrett, left the show after its sixth season, the show (and its fanbase) was understandably shaken.
While recurring character Monica Brooks-Dent (whom the girls all initially hated) was bumped up to a lead for the two remaining seasons, she never became a replacement for Toni. Thankfully, Childs-Garrett hasn't completely dropped out of the TV spotlight, as she later earned major roles on Sleepy Hollow and Ash vs. Evil Dead.