There are many circumstances where a character on a TV show or movie series may leave. The reason may have to do with the needs of the story. Especially in TV shows, an actor is often cast for short time, and they are written out once their purposes are fulfilled. Other times, a character leaves the show because of real-word circumstances, such as the actor’s death, most tragically, or because the actor does not want to be involved with the show anymore. Sometimes, a character is written out of a show by being killed off; there are many reasons for killing off a show, but here, I’ll discuss two reasons: the actor is more than likely never going to return to the show, and so he or she is killed off to provide some major drama to the plot; the other reason is that the relations between the actor and the network/producers are poor, and therefore, the actor is fired, and their character is killed off in order to make certain that the actor can never return. This is known in the industry as being McLeaned.
This trope was named after the actor McLean Stevenson, who left M*A*S*H, which resulted in the death of his character Colonel Henry Blake. He was killed off because he wanted to leave the show.
Other examples include:
Valerie Harper, best known for playing Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moor Show and its spinoff Rhoda, starred in the 1980s sitcom Valerie. She constantly battled the show’s production company, Lorimar, and network, NBC, over salary disputes, and supposedly over creative control as well. Harper was fired from the show and and her character was killed off. The show then changed its title twicy, first was Valerie’s Family: The Hogans, and finally, The Hogan Family.
Another noteworthy example is Charlie Sheen in 2011. After erratic behavior and major conflicts with producer Chuck Lorre, Two-and-a-Half Men ended its season early. After more bad behavior, Sheen was fired from the show, killed off, and replaced by Ashton Kutcher.
Finally, is an example from one of my favorite shows, Desperate Housewives. In season 5, Nicollette Sheridan who played the sultry Edie Britt, was written out of the show and her character was killed off. The reason behind her dismissal was disputed by those involved. Sheridan claimed in a lawsuit that the show’s creator, Marc Cherry, slapped her in the face when she asked him to clarify a line in the script, and that she was fired when she complained about to network, ABC. Cherry countered that the alleged assault was a light tap to demonstrate her character’s actions in a specific scene, and that the decision to kill her character off was made months before the alleged assault, and was due to things such as unprofessional behavior on her part.