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The show doesn't always go on
What happens when the star of a TV show dies?


John Ritter

The comedic actor complained of severe chest pains while on set of "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" on Sept. 11, 2003. He was immediately rushed to a hospital where he died later that day from complications of a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect. His death left fans and co-workers shocked since he was only 54 years old.

The show tried to go on without him and was renamed "8 Simple Rules." David Spade and James Garner were added to the cast as the story line followed the character's grieving over the sudden loss of the family patriarch. A year and a half later the show was canceled.

Check out how other shows have handled the tragic loss of one of their stars.



Alice Pearce

Alice played neighbor Gladys Kravitz on "Bewitched" in the '60s. Before even taking on the role, however, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She succumbed to the disease during the second season of the show when she was just 48. 

Sandra Gould took over the part for the remainder of the series. 



Jerry Orbach

The legendary actor began appearing in "Law & Order" in 1991 and a season 14 episode was the last one fans would see him on. He died on Dec. 28, 2004 after battling with prostate cancer for over a decade. 

The show obviously went on and continues airing today. Executive Producer Rene Balcer was later quoted in the Wall Street Journal on May 21, 2010 saying, "I always think about the show as before Jerry and after Jerry...You saw the weariness of 25 years of crime-fighting in New York written on his face."



John Spencer

"The West Wing" actor died of a heart attack on Dec. 16, 2005 before filming the last episode of the show. He was 58 years old. His death was then written into the show's seventh and final season by saying that his character died of a heart attack on election night.



Nancy Marchand

After over five decades in the industry Nancy redefined herself when she played Livia Soprano on "The Sopranos." The actress died on June 18, 2000 after complications from lung cancer, but the mob drama had to go on and her character's death was written into the third season of the show. 



Freddie Prinze

The star of "Chico and the Man" was young and on a hit show in 1977 but suffered from severe depression after his marriage deteriorated. He sadly took his own life on Jan. 28, 1977. After his death producers debated canceling the show, but instead wrote in that his character had gone away to visit his father. 



Phil Hartman

The "News Radio" star was murdered by his wife, who then took her own life, before the show's fifth season began filming. In the first episode of the season his character was believed to have died of a heart attack and Hartman's good friend Jon Lovitz stepped in to lead the show in it's final season.



Jim Davis

Jim starred as Jock Ewing on CBS' "Dallas." While filming the fourth season he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and underwent chemotherapy, which forced him to wear a wig for filming. 

He died of complications from his illness while season four was being aired. He was 71.

The writers initially didn't know whether to replace him or address the issue and they waited until the end of season five to write in his character's death. 



Diana Hyland

The actress was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977 while filming "Eight is Enough" and underwent a mastectomy but her cancer continued to spread and she died on March 27, 1977. 

Diana was only in four episodes before falling ill so she was written out of the remainder of the first season and died nearly two weeks after the first episode aired. The second season revealed that Tom (Dick Van Patten) had become a widower.



Nicholas Colasanto

Nicolas played Coach Ernie Pantusso on "Cheers" in the early seasons of the hit show. The actor suffered from heart disease and ultimately died of a heart attack on Feb. 12, 1985. At first the writing staff on the show didn't know how to address the death but they ultimately opened the fourth season with "Birth, Death, Love and Rice," which dealt with Coach's untimely death. Woody Harrelson was introduced in that episode as his replacement. 


The show doesn't always go on

What happens when the star of a TV show dies?

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