'NYPD,' listen up: How shows have written off departed actors @

October 12, 1994|By Mark de la Vina | Mark de la Vina,Knight-Ridder News Service

While everyone else focuses on what's going to happen to actor David Caruso, the producers of the television show "NYPD Blue" have to figure out what to do with Det. John Kelly.

They could get Hong Kong action director John Woo to work the season's fourth episode and have him die in a maelstrom of shrapnel while trying to stop the Zodiac killer.

Or, if Steve Bochco and his writers need more inspiration, they could look at how past shows have handled the departure of important cast members:

* Shannen Doherty, "Beverly Hills, 90210." Brenda left town last season to study theater in England. Ms. Doherty left, as they say in publicityspeak, to pursue other interests.

* John Amos, "Good Times." In 1976, his character, James Evans, died in a car crash.

* Michael Douglas, "The Streets of San Francisco." Mr. Douglas was Inspector Steve Keller until 1976, when the character left "to enter teaching."

* Valerie Harper, "Valerie." The actress walked off the show in 1987 in a dispute with producers, who renamed the show "Valerie's Family" and finally "The Hogan Family." Ms. Harper's character was killed off.

* Ron Howard, "Happy Days." Mr. Howard left the series to direct in 1980. Richie Cunningham went into the Army and was posted to Greenland. Richie was unseen but not unheard-from: He corresponded with his girlfriend, Lori Beth, married her over the telephone, and somehow managed to father a child.

* Will Lee, "Sesame Street." When the actor who played Mr. Hooper died in 1983, the producers also killed Hooper, and the program addressed the issue of death.

* Jean Stapleton, "All in the Family." By 1980, the actress felt that she had exhausted the dingbat possibilities. Edith Bunker died of a stroke.

* McLean Stevenson, "M*A*S*H." After three seasons, Mr. Stevenson left the show in 1975 to sign a megacontract with NBC. His character, Lt. Col. Henry Blake, was discharged. He was on his way home when he died in a plane crash in the Sea of Japan.

* Shelley Long, "Cheers." In 1987, Ms. Long bailed out to pursue a film career that went nowhere. Diane Chambers abandoned the bar biz to write a novel.

* Pernell Roberts, "Bonanza." In the words of the Cartwright clan, eldest son Adam had "gone East" in 1965. The program continued for eight years, remaining at No. 1 through 1967. Mr. Roberts' post-"Bonanza" career peaked with the "Magic of Lassie" and "Trapper John, M.D."

* William Frawley, "My Three Sons." Better known as Fred Mertz on "I Love Lucy," Mr. Frawley also was housekeeper Bub O'Casey from 1960 to 1964. "Three Sons' " writers had O'Casey leave the household for Iceland after the actor died during production.

* Freddie Prinze, "Chico and the Man." When Prinze committed suicide in 1977, the writers had his character go into business with his father, played by Cesar Romero. The "Chico" slot was filled in by 12-year-old Gabriel Melgar.

* Andy Griffith, "The Andy Griffith Show." After eight seasons, the star decided to call it quits, so his character married longtime girlfriend Helen Crump. He left Mayberry and actor Ken Berry filled in the void and the show was renamed "Mayberry R.F.D."

* Lisa Bonet, "The Cosby Show." After rattling fans with her highly sexualized character in "Angel Heart," Ms. Bonet's Denise Huxtable left for college in 1987. Her extracurricular exploits were the focus of the spinoff sitcom "A Different World."

* Jimmy Smits, "L.A. Law." Victor Sifuentes left the law firm, and Mr. Smits never panned out as a movie star. Now he moves into the "NYPD Blue" slot created by Mr. Caruso's departure.

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