Stars who left hit TV shows are a common sight in Hollywood — but you usually don’t see them on another hit show! That still doesn’t keep demanding actors and actresses from taking a risk on future fame, or just walking away over creative issues. John Travolta stayed a movie star after fleeing “Welcome Back Kotter,” and Ashton Kutcher enjoyed a decent career after “That ’70s Show” — but then are other cautionary tales…
DAVID CARUSO became an industry joke after quickly leaving “NYPD Blue” to pursue film roles. His first flop, “Kiss of Death,” had him overshadowed by Nicolas Cage, and the erotic thriller “Jade” was mocked as a pale copy of “Basic Instinct.” He later complained: “Because I was perceived as a bad guy for leaving the show, I think people were rooting against the movies.” By the time of his “CSI: Miami” comeback, though, Caruso said: “For somebody who fell to the place that I fell in terms of unemployment and a damaged reputation, the fact that this town was willing to give me another chance is incredible.”
CHEVY CHASE was a breakout star alongside John Belushi on “Saturday Night Live,” but left the show after just one season to marry his second wife. “I was a young fellow who was infatuated with the wrong person,” Chase later recalled. “Everybody there knew it except me. [A woman] who would not move to New York and insisted that I come there. It was all nuts, looking back on it. But I did regret it.” Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad, authors of the “Saturday Night: A Backstage History of ‘Saturday Night Live,'” still claimed that Chevy also had problems after he “lost control on booze and cocaine” after moving to Hollywood.
SUZANNE SOMERS insists that she was fired from “Three’s Company,” but she also refused to film episodes while asking for a raise from $30,000 to $150,000 an episode — which was what John Ritter was making. Her character was written off the show right after she bombed with a starring role in the 1980 comedy “Nothing Personal.” Somers didn’t speak to her co-stars for years, but Joyce DeWitt later agreed: “If you looked in the dictionary under ‘chauvinist,’ you would probably see the three little heads of our producers!”
DENISE CROSBY was part of “Star Trek” history as Security Chief Tasha Yar on 1987’s “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” but admitted: “I was miserable. I couldn’t wait to get off that show.” Crosby insists, however, that “there was no animosity” when her character was soon killed by an alien — and she even made a few “TNG” guest appearances afterwards. Crosby still allegedly walked off the stage at a 2010 sci-fi convention when co-star Jonathan Frakes mocked her “brilliant career move,” reportedly claiming she went to show creator Gene Roddenberry “and said to either write more stuff for you, or write you off the show.”
McLEAN STEVENSON left “M*A*S*H” in 1975 after just three seasons as Col. Henry Blake — and went on to a series of TV bombs. “I probably got too big for my britches,” he later admitted. “When I left the show, the mistake was not in leaving. The mistake was that I thought everybody in America loved McLean Stevenson. That was not the case. It was Henry Blake that people loved. So when I went out and did ‘The McLean Stevenson Show,’ nobody gave a damn.”
WAYNE ROGERS had better luck leaving “M*A*S*H ” in 1975, but not because of his acting career. Unhappy in his role of “Trapper John” McIntyre alongside Alan Alda, he moved on to a short-lived detective series. “M*A*S*H” producers later discovered they couldn’t sue the actor for breach of contract because he never signed the documents. Rogers would use that same business savvy to build a $75 million fortune as a top investment manager. The money-minded star still once said: “If I had known the show was gonna run that long, I probably would have kept my mouth shut and stayed put.”
BRIAN DUNKLEMAN left Ryan Seacrest to host “American Idol” alone after the first season to concentrate on a career in comedy. That also left Simon Cowell free to call that “the biggest mistake in the history of show business.” By 2009, Dunkleman asked fans to help him launch “a new TV comedy series called ‘American Dunkleman.’ The show is based on how every day of my life I’m reminded of the biggest mistake I’ve ever made – leaving ‘Idol’ – and how I can’t go anywhere without being reminded of that career decision.”
MISCHA BARTON quickly stole the spotlight on the teen show “The OC” as rich kid Marissa Cooper, but the writers seemed happy to kill her off as she left the show after just three seasons. Mischa also didn’t make friends with quotes like: “It kind of irritates me that I’m seen as this pretty face. People also say I’m too thin. The truth is, pretty people aren’t as accepted as other people.” Mischa’s film career never took off, and the troubled actress endured some embarrassing public displays before the broke celeb ended up on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2016.
LISA BONET made a stormy exit from “The Cosby Show” in 1988 after filming her last episode before having her real-life baby. She reportedly stomped off the set when Bill Cosby asked her to take off her wedding band because her character, Denise Huxtable, wasn’t married. Her publicist insisted: “As I understand it, she’ll return to ‘A Different World’ after the birth.” Bonet was soon gone from both shows — briefly returning to “Cosby,” but later blasting her TV dad for having a “type of sinister, shadow energy.”
FARRAH FAWCETT left her hit ’70s series for film roles, insisting: “I didn’t start out making ‘Charlie’s Angels’ and then decide I was sick of it and must look around for something more serious. I’ve always been serious.” An ABC exec still went to the trade papers to say her replacement “must, of course, be another well-stacked blonde with great looking legs who can wear a t-shirt well and read four lines of dialogue off an idiot card.” After three flop movies, Farrah got serious about rebuilding her career with non-glamorous roles — but still faced a troubled private life!