Growing up during the (late) ’80s and ’90s, I was a big sitcom fan.
The theme song would hit, and we’d all sing along as we knew that good, albeit predictable, laughs, stories, and life lessons would be coming our way. A safe, family-friendly half-hour of entertainment made for the comfort food of television as we grew up.
I’ll admit, these days, I don’t really watch sitcoms. I find today’s offerings to be bland and boring. Maybe I’m older and a little more cynical now, or network television has become too… safe? You certainly can’t imagine a show like “All in the Family” or even “Seinfeld” being produced today.
One of the biggest differences I find in today’s sitcoms is you’d be hard-pressed to find one today that in 20 or 30 years would be considered a classic. Take sitcoms of the ’80s and ’90s with shows like “The Golden Girls,” “Seinfeld,” or “Friends.” Today’s shows can’t hold a candle to them in terms of longevity or rewatchability. If you go back even further, there is an endless stream of classics like “I Love Lucy,” “Taxi,” or “Newhart” that established the genre and set the bar quite high. These shows were groundbreaking in their day and still have very active fan bases, in some cases 60 years later.
As a real youngster, my Dad got me hooked on Nick-at-Nite. You can read about that HERE. As I got older, programming blocks like ABC’s “TGIF,” NBC’s “Must See TV,” and ABC’s programming like Home Improvement or Roseanne became mainstays on my television.
Over the years, I began to notice sitcom characters that came and went. Sometimes, the characters disappeared without a trace.
Here are ten of the most memorable instances of sitcom characters that just disappeared. Did you miss any of these characters when they left? Did you even notice?
Here’s a list of ten, in no particular order.
1. Coco – “The Golden Girls”
You may have blinked and missed this character! Coco, played by Charles Levin, was an over-the-top live-in housekeeper and butler for “The Girls.” The role was championed, in large part by Bea Arthur herself, as a groundbreaking gay character on prime-time television. Unfortunately for Coco, he was upstaged during the pilot episode. Sophia was meant to be only a recurring guest character but, Estelle Getty’s portrayal was so well-liked that she was made one of the main characters. Unfortunately, that meant someone had to go, and Coco was never seen or mentioned again after the pilot episode.
2. Sara Spooner – “King of Queens:
During the early part of Season One of “King of Queens,” Carrie’s sister Sara was a recurring character played by Lisa Rieffel. Sara was the younger, irresponsible sister and aspiring-actress type and was often a cause for conflict between Doug and Carrie. In the pilot episode, she even moved in with The Heffernan’s, but after 5 episodes, she was never seen or heard from again. As a matter of fact, throughout the series, Carrie and her father Arthur often refer to Carrie as an only child. Like many sitcom characters that disappear, Sara vanishing early on enabled the show to focus on the basics, which on “King of Queens” involved Doug, Carrie, and Arthur… and not the little sister.
3. Nebula Lawrence – “Boy Meets World”
Nebula Lawrence is (or was) a peace-love-and-hugs hippie and the older sister of Topanga in “Boy Meets World.” She appears only in the Season One episode “She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not” and is never seen or mentioned again. Throughout the rest of the series, Topanga is referred to as an only child, and it’s as if Nebula was only a figment of our imagination. The actress who played the one-and-done Nebula, Krystee Clark, makes another appearance on the show later on in a late Season Two episode titled “Wrong Side of the Tracks.” This time she’s not playing Topanga’s sister, but a figure skater whom Corey’s older brother Eric goes on a date with.
4. Brendan Lambert- “Step by Step”
The youngest of Frank’s 3 children, Brendan, was portrayed by Josh Byrne when the show began in 1991. When the newest member of the family, Lilly, was introduced in Season Four, the Brendan character began to appear less and less. When the show moved from ABC to CBS for its final season, Brendan was nowhere to be found. From what network representatives claim in a TV Guide interview back in 1997, it appears to have been more a creative decision than a contractual or cost-cutting measure. Brendan’s name was never mentioned during the final 20 episodes, but the show often referred to Frank and Carol’s “seven children.” However, if you counted the ones on screen, you’d only come up with six.
5. Eric Tramer (Jessie’s Stepbrother) – “Saved by the Bell”
In the episode “My Wicked Stepbrother,” Jessie returns from New York following her Mother’s wedding. The newly remarried couple move back to Bayside and bring Jessie’s new stepbrother Eric (Joshua Hoffman) with them. Eric immediately causes problems for the kids at Bayside High, either from mean-spirited pranks or just rubbing people the wrong way with his up-front New York attitude. After this two-part storyline ends with Jessie and Eric (and the gang, of course) making up, Eric is never seen or mentioned again. Part Two ends with Eric deciding to stay in Bayside, so one would think he’d have been seen again, but his character was quickly forgotten in the depths of sitcom history.
6. Seven – “Married with Children”
In Season 7, the writers of “Married with Children,” like many sitcom writers on long-running shows, came to the decision the show needed a new character to freshen things up. The producers and writers decided to introduce a new child named… Seven. Seven, played by Shane Sweet, was literally dropped off at The Bundys’ house by Peg’s cousins. The Bundy family informally adopts him, and he becomes a part of the family. The show went through the stereotypical sitcom stories and jokes one would expect involving the awkward interactions between a child and dysfunctional adults, but it quickly grew old for viewers and writers alike. Suddenly, after 12 episodes, Seven disappeared and was never mentioned again. Later in Season Eight, the writers did sneak in a joke when Seven’s face appeared on a milk carton as a lost child.
6. Ben Geller – “Friends”
If you were a fan of “Friends,” you saw Ben Geller arrive in Season One as a newborn baby and watch him grow through the seasons. Then, in the middle of Season Eight, Ross’ son just… disappears. The son of Ross and Carol vanishes into thin air once his half-sister Emma is born to Ross and Rachel. He’s never seen from and only mentioned in passing once for the remainder of the show. Ross’s father is even excited that Emma would be his first grandchild, seemingly forgetting that Ben ever existed. Not all is lost; actor Cole Sprouse went on to star in CW’s “Riverdale.”
7. Judie Winslow – “Family Matters”
The world’s most famous nerd, Steve Urkel, gets the blame for Judie Winslow’s disappearance. Much like Sophia on “Golden Girls,” Urkel was only intended to be a recurring guest and not the star of the show. When the obnoxious yet loveable neighbor rocketed to worldwide popularity, producers wrote out the youngest member of the Winslow family at the end of Season Four to make room for Urkel-focused storylines. Judie appeared in 96 of the show’s 215 episodes and was never heard from again. Many years after the series ended, show producers let slip in a magazine interview that had the show’s 10th and final season had been planned out even though it was never filmed. The series would have ended with Laura and Steve’s wedding, with Judie returning. They would have explained that she had moved to Detroit to live with Aunt Rachel.
9. Tori Scott – “Saved by the Bell”
Simple logistics play a role in this disappearance, but still a disappearance nonetheless. While the gang at Bayside High filmed their graduation episode, the powers that be at NBC had other ideas. In requesting additional episodes, the show was left without two of its most popular actresses. (You can read more about that HERE.) Elizabeth Berkley (Jessie) had moved on to film “Show Girls” while Tiffani Amber Thiessen had moved on to “Beverly Hills: 90210,” and producers needed a new girl quick. Enter: Tori Scott. Tori played the role of love interest, friend, and antagonist for 8 episodes that were later fit in with the previously filmed ones to create a longer final season. So, unfortunately, when the student’s “graduated” in the final episode, Tori was nowhere to be found or mentioned. When most of the cast moved on to “The College Years,” Tori’s name didn’t come up once. Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zack Morris) has hinted on his podcast that perhaps Tori will appear in the reboot franchise on streaming Peacock.
10. Chuck Cunningham – “Happy Days”
Perhaps the most quintessential example of a character just written off, Chuck Cunningham, disappeared from the ’70s sitcom “Happy Days.” Appearing only sporadically anyway, Richie and Joannie’s older brother was left off the show and forgotten about following the first episode of the second season. Don’t forget, “The Fonz” was only a minor character until about then, quickly becoming the show’s star, and leaving no room for poor Chuck. The show explained that he left for college, but then he was quickly forgotten. At Joannie’s wedding toward the end of the series, her father Howard gave a toast stating, “Both of our children have married now.” I guess he forget that he had a third child at one time.
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