7 TV Series That Got Better After a Main Character Left

Usually, TV shows suffer when they lose a main character. Here are the best TV shows that actually got better when a main cast member left.

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Whenever a TV series loses a principal character, it’s more often than not a death knell—an omen that the series is on a downhill trajectory due to dwindling interest from its own cast.

However, on occasion, the opposite can happen.

When a main cast member leaves a TV show, the writing team is forced to make up for it to the best of their abilities, and that can become a silver lining: an opportunity for a fresh start.

The sudden need to shift dynamics and heed new directions can be an important boost for the creative powers behind the show, providing them with new avenues for reinvention and rejuvenation.

Here are some incredible TV series that only got better after a major cast member left the show.

7. Community

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The first three seasons of Community were unrivaled in imaginative quality, able to be extraordinarily funny while sardonically mocking the overall culture of TV sitcoms.

Community’s cast did more than just represent their stereotypical characters; they upended and subverted those very same stereotypes that had existed in sitcom TV for decades. 

However, behind the scenes, Chevy Chase caused a lot of problems for Dan Harmon and the production crew. So, after four seasons, the team decided they’d had enough of his antics and came to an agreement with Chase to end his tenure on the series. 

After he left, the show brought back series creator Dan Harmon—who wasn’t involved in the fourth season—and the show never looked back. The fifth and sixth seasons brought Greendale back to its heights, with Pierce Hawthorne only a distant memory.

6. Doctor Who

After a single season as The Doctor on Doctor Who, Christopher Eccleston oddly called it quits and walked away from what would become the iconic sci-fi series.

Why? Because, officially, he didn’t want to be typecast. However, the reasons for his departure were later revealed to be much more complex, citing difficulties working with some of the team.

In his wake, BBC replaced him with the actor who came second to Eccleston during the initial casting process: David Tennant. 

Today, David Tennant is revered as the best Doctor of the Nu-Who era and one of the best actors to play The Doctor, period. Tennant walked away from Doctor Who with the ability to play a variety of other roles while enjoying eternal love from fans of the series. 

5. The Expanse

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When we first begin the journey of James Holden and the crew of The Rocinante in The Expanse, they’re joined by Josephus Miller. Memorably played by Thomas Jane, the character of Miller had top billing for the first two seasons of the show.

Josephus Miller was an epic character to watch, and he even seemed like “the main character” of the series, but his arc ended early on in the series (staying true to the books on which the series was based).

After Miller’s death, The Expanse pushed ahead with huge twists and greater narratives, becoming a masterpiece of modern TV. None of that was possible without Jane’s role in the early seasons, and it wouldn’t have been as good without his necessary departure.

4. Game of Thrones

Ned Stark was always supposed to die early. It’s his death that sets up the rest of the series, causing rival factions to descend into war and chaos for the characters left behind.

But when Game of Thrones first aired, many viewers had never read the books—and so his death came as a monumental shock. For a fantasy TV show to kill off its main character by episode nine? Unheard of.

After Ned’s death, the show opened up its narrative possibilities and reached new heights of epic TV storytelling, defining an era and inspiring many other TV shows to pursue big-budget production.

Of course, it all fell apart by the final season due to careless work from the show’s two showrunners, but the years of quality following Ned Stark’s demise will be fondly remembered.

3. Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation wasn’t a top-tier sitcom from the start, with season one widely regarded as the worst season. It had all the bones and structure in place, but something was lacking. 

Then Paul Schneider quit the series after two seasons, which presented the void needed for everything else to fall into place.

Schneider’s departure led to the casting of Rob Lowe and Adam Scott in two new leading roles as Chris Traeger and Ben Wyatt, both of whom would come to be amongst the show’s most beloved character. We pretty much forgot Schneider’s Mark the moment he left.

It’s odd to look back at the sitcom’s early seasons and see just how much was missing without Adam Scott’s Ben Wyatt or Rob Lowe’s Chris Traeger in every episode, proving how much better Parks and Recreation became when they replaced Mark Brendanawicz.

2. Peaky Blinders

It’s still unclear as to why Iddo Goldberg, who played a prominent character in the first season of Peaky Blinders, left the acclaimed show.

As Freddie Thorne, he portrayed a man who had always been close friends with leading character Tommy Shelby and the love interest of Ada Shelby, with whom he fathered a child. 

However, he was killed off by the writing team between the first and second seasons, and there’s no clear reason why.

Peaky Blinders didn’t miss Freddie, though, and his death paved the way for broader and more grandiose plots as the series left the borders of Birmingham and the UK for pastures further afield. 

1. Top Gear

The image above doesn’t look right, does it? It’s strange, as though a part of TV history were rewritten by a time traveler. 

Well, the fact is that Jeremy Clarkson’s 2002 reboot of Top Gear didn’t actually feature James May until the second season. Before May joined, Jason Dawe served as the show’s third co-host.

The first season is largely forgotten by fans, as the iconic trio of Jeremy, Richard, and James became the default for Top Gear worldwide and catapulted the show to the highest heights as one of the most watched TV shows of all time during the trio’s tenure.

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