40 TV Shows That Handled the Death of a Cast Member

Courtesy of TheStir.CafeMom.com |By Samantha Sutton | Orignally Published 03.08.2019 | Posted 06.24.2019

When it comes to our list of must-watch shows, we feel pretty connected to the main characters, especially if we can relate to them. 

When someone’s heart gets broken? We want to scream and shout and hope that the couple ends up getting back together. When a friend commits the ultimate act of betrayal? We’re angry — maybe a little more than we should be (this isn’t real life, after all). And when a character we love passes away? We pray that someone made a mistake and that they’ll somehow return from the dead a few episodes down the road, despite how silly that would be.Still, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, deaths are written into shows because the actor who played them really did die. It’s morbid and sad to think about, but that’s the business these people are and were in. The show must go on (although, in some cases, it doesn’t).

After all of the news about Luke Perry’s untimely passing at the young age of 52, we’re not only thinking about the actor’s family, friends, and cast mates, but about the character he played on Riverdale, Fred Andrews. It’s too soon to tell what will happen to everyone’s favorite TV dad (he’s the least violent and evil of all of them), but it doesn’t hurt to see how other series handled similar situations.

Sadly, this has happened plenty of times before — sometimes, we didn’t even realize what went on behind the scenes. We put together a list of 41 times a show had to deal with the death of a cast member, and how they handled it afterward.

‘The Beast’


Patrick Swayze in The Beast
A&E Television Networks

Losing Patrick Swayze to pancreatic cancer was a tough blow. He was a heartthrob who had a long list of memorable roles over the decades. The actor received his pancreatic cancer diagnosis around the start of the show, and with less than stellar ratings and his health in question, The Beast got canceled after the first season, with Patrick passing on.

So sad.



Luke Perry on Riverdale photo

The CW

After Luke Perry suffered a stroke and died, the cast and crew immediately went on a hiatus from filming, giving everyone some time to mourn. But considering that Fred Andrews was alive and well, with no plans of him exiting the show (the guy had even survived a gunshot wound), we’ll be curious to see what happens to Luke Perry‘s character.



Cory Monteith on Glee photo

Adam Rose/Fox

One of the most tragic deaths on and off screen in (fairly) recent years has to be Glee‘s Cory Monteith. The actor was just 31 when he died from a drug overdose, following a long battle with addiction. The death of his character, Finn Hudson, was written into the show, and although the cause was never revealed, the song-filled tribute to him was very emotional.

‘Training Day’


Bill Paxton, Justin Cornwell in Training Day show photo


When Bill Paxton died in 2017 at 61, the world was shocked. We later found out the actor had been undergoing a heart procedure, suffered complications, and later died from a stroke. While he had already filled all the episodes for his show, Training Day, it was ultimately canceled after that first season.

‘Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown’


Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown photo


Perhaps because Anthony Bourdain has already starred on so many reality and travel shows where he talked to his viewers, the chef and host’s death hit people pretty hard. Following his suicide, the final episodes of his show continued to air since Anthony had already filmed a large chunk of the show. But they were a bit different since he hadn’t recorded his voiceover parts.

‘8 Simple Rules’


John Ritter, Katey Sagal in 8 Simple Rules photo

ABC/Buena Vista Television

At the time of his sudden death from aortic dissection, John Ritter was playing the dad Paul Hennessy on 8 Simple Rules. Production immediately came to a halt, and the show went on hiatus for multiple weeks. In season four, Paul suddenly passed away while shopping. The whole theme of the show changed from focusing on a strict dad and his daughters to how they dealt with his passing, and David Spade and James Garner joined the cast to fill the void that John left.

‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’


Clifford PBS


What many people might not realize is that John Ritter also voiced the large, lovable pup, Clifford the Big Red Dog back in the day, so his death affected that show, too. It was ultimately canceled, but came with a silver lining: The PBS show prequel known as Clifford’s Puppy Days was already scheduled to air.

‘The Big Bang Theory’


Carol Ann Susi in The Big Bang Theory photo

CBSSure, we never saw Howard’s mother on The Big Bang Theory, but the character was a key part of the show — always yelling at her son from off screen. When the actress who voiced Debbie Wolowitz, Carol Ann Susi, passed away in real life at 62, she couldn’t be replaced. 

So, the writers had the character die while on vacation in Florida.

‘Chico and the Man’


Jack Albertson, Freddie Prinze in Chico and the Man photo

NBC/Warner Bros. Television

When Freddie Prinze, who played Chico — one half of the show’s main duo — died by suicide in 1977, his absence was explained by saying that his character had left to go work with his father. Later, it was revealed to Raul, who had essentially become the new “Chico” on the show, that Chico had somehow died, but how he died was never explained.

‘Rizzoli & Isles’


Lee Thompson Young Rizzoli & Isles photo


Lee Thompson Young had a pretty great career, starring in Disney Channel‘s The Famous Jett Jackson to the movie version of Friday Night Lights. However, while he was on Rizzoli & Isles as Boston police detective Barry Frost, he died by suicide. His death was written into the show as a car accident, and there was a funeral for his character.

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