Many people feel serious connections to the characters on their favorite TV shows — smiling and celebrating when something good happens, getting anxious when something scary happens, and crying when something sad happens. And it makes sense why viewers can feel so strongly about fictional characters. In fact, it’s so common that there’s a name for the bond people form with characters: a parasocial relationship. “[With] someone who you’ve followed over a career or long periods of your life, you do feel like you know them,” Karen-Dill-Shackleford, a media psychologist, told Refinery29. “You see them in these intimate situations and they’re probably already a beautiful person because they’re an actor, and they’re compelling.” In other words, it’s really easy to get attached to a character after spending an hour or two (or more!) every night with them after work.
Which is why it also makes sense that fans often get seriously sad and even angry when a beloved character doesn’t make an appearance in a show’s finale. One small consolation? There’s usually a reason why — and we finally know why these stars weren’t in their series’ finales.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas wasn't in the Home Improvement finale because of costar drama
Jonathan Taylor Thomas warmed hearts as Randy Taylor on the sitcom “Home Improvement” for eight years, appearing in over 180 episodes, as per his IMDb page. But the young star chose to exit the show before filming the eighth and final season. “I’d been going nonstop since I was 8 years old,” Thomas told People in 2013. “I wanted to go to school, to travel and have a bit of a break.” And take a break he did! But not before he squeezed in a few more movies — much to the chagrin of his on-screen dad, Tim Allen. “He said it was about going to school, but then he did some films,” Allen told TV Guide about Thomas’ exit from “Home Improvement” (via E!). “Did he want to do films? Did he want to go to school?”
According to E!, Allen expressed his confusion and disappointment to JTT when they were filming the show’s 1998 Christmas special. This confrontation is thought to have caused enough tension that Thomas chose not to come back for the show’s finale.
In order to stay true to her character, Lisa Edelstein wasn't in the series finale of House
While “House,” a medical-mystery drama, was full of fascinating twists and dark humor, it’s safe to say that fans loved the dynamic between Dr. House and his boss, Dr. Cuddy, best. Their relationship was all sarcasm and sexual tension, creating a seasons-long will-they, won’t-they arch that was simply addicting. That’s why fans were stunned when Lisa Edelstein, the actress who played Cuddy, decided to leave the show after its seventh season. “It was very sad and very disappointing and a really difficult decision to make,” Edelstein revealed to TVLine. “But ultimately I felt like it was the best thing for me to do for myself and for my business.”
As the actress departed the show on good terms, why didn’t she make an appearance in its finale? Edelstein wanted to be true to her character. “If someone drives a car through your living room [as House did on the show] you should do what I did and get the f**k out of town,” she joked to TVLine. “You file a police report and you leave — and you don’t come back for the f**king [series] finale.”
Cindy Williams never returned to Laverne & Shirley because of a feud with the showrunners
“Laverne & Shirley” was a popular show on TV in the late 1970s and early ’80s. The sitcom starred Penny Marshall as Laverne and Cindy Williams as Shirley, two wise-cracking best friends. Since the show relied heavily on Marshall and Williams’ connection, fans were absolutely shocked when Williams didn’t appear in its last season, or even its final episode. But she had good reason.
Williams became pregnant with her first child before shooting the show’s last season and was planning on coming back to film using old Hollywood tricks to hide her baby bump from the cameras. “When it came time for me to sign my contract for that season, they had me working on my due date to have my baby,” the actress told Today. “And I said, ‘You know, I can’t sign this.’ And it went back and forth and back and forth and it just never got worked out.” According to Marley Brant’s book “Happier Days: Paramount’s Classic Television Sitcoms, 1974-1984,” this contract dispute ended with Williams walking off the “Laverne & Shirley” set and filing a $20 million lawsuit against the producers.
Charlie Sheen didn't want to be the butt of a joke in the Two and a Half Men finale
As per IMDb, Sheen played Charlie Harper, a single jingle writer whose life is suddenly turned upside down when his brother and nephew move in with him, on the sitcom “Two and a Half Men.” And he played Harper well, reportedly raking in $1.8 million per episode, according to Entertainment Tonight. Everything began to fall apart when, as reported by The Week, Sheen started down a dark path full of rehab stays, rude public statements, and lots of tabloid covers. We learned a lot of disturbing truths about Charlie Sheen and all of this led to him being fired from the show.
Despite the drama, Sheen was supposed to return for the sitcom’s finale episode. “Our idea was to have him walk up to the front door in the last scene, ring the doorbell, then turn, look directly into the camera and go off on a maniacal rant about the dangers of drug abuse,” Chuck Lorre, the show’s creator, wrote in a vanity card, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He then planned on having Sheen claim that this only happened to “average people” but he was “a ninja warrior from Mars” and “was invincible.” After that? Lorre shared, “And then we would drop a piano on him. We thought it was funny. He didn’t.” So, Sheen, who reportedly wanted to participate in a scene that could lead to a spinoff, said no.
Emmy Rossum couldn't make it to the Shameless set because of COVID-19
Emmy Rossum played the hard-drinking and hard-talking — but ever-loyal — Fiona Gallagher on Showtime’s “Shameless” for nine seasons, as per IMDb. Though she’d been in successful projects before the dramedy, some might argue that “Shameless” is what really put Rossum and her serious acting chops on the map. That’s why fans were stunned when she announced she was departing the show at the end of its ninth season. The actress did leave on good terms though, as showrunner John Wells told Entertainment Weekly, “It is always bittersweet when an ensemble member decides to move out of the proverbial house, but our door will always remain open for Fiona to return home for a visit, or to move back in.”
But Fiona didn’t return home. Not even for the series finale. “We were trying to get Emmy — and Emmy wanted to come back … but the quarantines went back into effect between New York [where Rossum resides] and Los Angeles [where ‘Shameless’ films] and it was impossible to figure out how to get her back,” Wells revealed to The Hollywood Reporter. “A very minor but sad result of everything that’s happened in the pandemic.”
Donald Glover never went back to Community simply because he likes endings
It’s hard to remember a time when Donald Glover wasn’t a massive star. Though he’d had a few roles before starring in “Community,” many would argue that it was that off-beat comedy that put him on the map. But all good things must come to an end — a saying Glover thoroughly believes in. The actor left “Community” in the middle of Season 5 because, according to a letter to fans (via Hypable), “I wanted to be on my own. I’ve been sick this year. I’ve seen a bunch of people die this year. This is the first time I’ve felt helpless.”
Though Glover did seem to be in a better place when “Community” wrapped for good, he didn’t want to make a special appearance in the finale. Why? “I just like endings,” he revealed at a Television Critics Association event (via IGN), noting, “It’s important that things end.” Glover has found even more fame since “Community” — he’s come out with hit songs under his stage name Childish Gambino, starred in hits like “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” and created “Atlanta,” as per his IMDb page.
Why Nicolette Sheridan wasn't in the Desperate Housewives series finale
“Desperate Housewives” had almost every kind of drama possible, from steamy affairs to dark murders. It also had the buxom and oh-so-catty Edie Britt, played by Nicolette Sheridan. Edie was the character everyone loved to hate. She later met her fate in Season 5 when she got into a car accident and was dramatically — and fatally — electrocuted (via Today).
Since “Desperate Housewives” was full of flashbacks, it would made sense that Marc Cherry, the show’s creator and producer, would want Sheridan to reprise her role in the series finale. When asked about the request on the “Today” show (via The Hollywood Reporter), the actress replied, “I had an amazing time playing that character. I loved her dearly, but they killed her! She’s dead.” To put it simply, Sheridan said no. Her refusal might have had something to do with the fact that, according to THR, she filed a $20 million lawsuit against Cherry for wrongful termination after her character was killed off the show.
Lisa Bonet wasn't invited to film the Cosby Show series finale
Though younger generations might know Lisa Bonet as the tiny wife to hulking Jason Momoa, older fans probably still think of her as Denise Huxtable, the ultra-hip daughter of Bill Cosby on “The Cosby Show.” In fact, Denise and her sassy one-liners were so popular that she got her own spinoff in 1987 called “A Different World.” Even though Bonet left the spinoff after just one season when she became pregnant, she didn’t leave Denise. The actress returned to “The Cosby Show” in 1988 for a couple more seasons until she suddenly left again in 1991 (via IMDb).
Why did Bonet leave “The Cosby Show” a second time? According to an interview her costar Malcolm-Jamal Warner did with People, it was because she was fired for “creative differences.” And, as Warner told People, she wasn’t invited to come back for the series finale.
Fans speculated about Hilarie Burton's absence from the One Tree Hill series finale
“One Tree Hill” was a massive hit for many young millennials, and Hilarie Burton, who played angsty cheerleader and artist Peyton Sawyer, often stole the show with her big eyes and dramatic plot lines. Burton told Peyton’s story for six seasons until it ended with her and Lucas, played by Chad Michael Murray, driving off into the sunset with their new baby. Though fans were dismayed at her exit, Burton claims it was part of the plan all along. “There really wasn’t a lot of turmoil,” she told Entertainment Weekly of her departure. “It was a fabulous six-year run, which is how long my contract was for, and I feel really lucky to have been a part of the show.”
If there was no turmoil, why didn’t Burton come back for the “One Tree Hill” finale? Perhaps because there actually was lots of turmoil, just behind the scenes. In a 2017 interview with Variety, Burton alleged that Mark Schwahn, the show’s creator, harassed her and other cast members, verbally abusing them as well as touching and kissing them without consent.
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
Elizabeth Perkins didn't come back for the Weeds series finale for this reason
Elizabeth Perkins wasn’t just good in “Weeds;” she was great. As per Entertainment Tonight, the actress gathered three Emmy and two Golden Globe nominations for portraying Celia Hodes, the lead character’s nosy and downright rude neighbor. Despite her laudable success, Perkins departed “Weeds” after the end of Season 5, leaving Celia’s story quite open-ended. “We never really knew what happened to her,” Perkins told ET. “She didn’t die; she wasn’t killed. Personally, I think they should’ve pushed her off a cliff. That would’ve been, like, a proper goodbye to Celia Hodes. So she could be out there lurking somewhere — that makes sense to me.”
If Celia was lurking, couldn’t she have made an appearance in the series finale? She could have, but Perkins didn’t want her to. “They asked me to come back for the final episode, but it was, I think, just to sort of stand around at the bar mitzvah. I just felt like, no, Celia should die,” the actress admitted to Yahoo! Entertainment. “It just seemed like Celia deserved a better send-off.”
Shannen Doherty didn't appear in the Charmed finale because it wasn't 'true to the character'
“Charmed,” a primetime drama about witches that come into their magic and fight against the powers of evil, was centered around the three Halliwell sisters, initially including Prue, played by Shannen Doherty. Despite the show’s popularity, Doherty left “Charmed” at the end of Season 3 because of serious drama on set with her costar Alyssa Milano. “I think it’s hard when you put … two very different people together,” Milano said of Doherty in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “I’m very laid-back and passive. … [Shannen’s] got a lot of energy, she’s very headstrong, she wants to get the job done.”
Even though Doherty left “Charmed” early on, the show’s creators did ask if she would make an appearance in its series finale, as per an interview the actress did at a convention. But Doherty said no. Her explanation? “The way that they, sort of, wanted to bring Prue back into it was just not authentic,” Doherty revealed. “There was nothing interesting and good, and it wasn’t true to the character.”
Terry Farrell didn't give Star Trek: Deep Space Nine permission to use her image
Terry Farrell played Jadzia Dax on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” for six seasons. As one of the show’s main characters, Dax’s storyline had lots of twists and turns — the most surprising of which was when she was murdered in the Season 6 finale, as noted by Screen Rant. But for Farrell, Dax’s death wasn’t a surprise. The actress wanted out of the show because of issues with co-creator and producer Rick Berman. “In my opinion, he’s just very misogynistic. He’d comment on your bra size not being voluptuous,” Farrel said in the book “The Fifty Year Mission.” She noted, “I finally did have a conversation with him and asked to cut down my number of episodes or just let me out.”
As to why Farrell didn’t come back for the “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” finale? According to an interview with Ira Steven Behr, an executive producer, it was because she said no. “We had planned to see Terry Farrell in the flashbacks,” Behr told Startrek.com, “but she refused to let us use any of her clips.”
Lost couldn't afford to hire Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje for the series finale
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje brought Mr. Eko to life on “Lost” for just 28 episodes, as per IMDb. Despite his short run, his character had a memorable story: he pretended to be a priest to smuggle drugs while traveling. Which is why viewers were shocked and confused when, as reported by E!, Eko was killed by the Smoke Monster. Akinnuoye-Agbaje left because he felt “the character was complete” after a flashback episode revealed his true past and the reasoning behind his actions. “It was such a well-written episode that I knew I would be able to sew him up in a season,” he revealed to Entertainment Weekly.
When it came to the series finale, Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s reason for not coming back was simple: He wanted more money. According to E!, he asked for five times the salary that the show’s producers originally offered him — and they said no.
Robert Reed wasn't in The Brady Bunch finale because he had problems with the script
“The Brady Bunch” told the story of Mike and Carol Brady, a new couple whose children from previous marriages are suddenly blended into one big family. Robert Reed, who played Mike Brady, was famous for being an iconic father. However, as per ShowBiz CheatSheet, he was well known on set for being a huge pain — and it was this bad behavior that kept him from appearing in “The Brady Bunch” finale.
According to IMDb, the series finale centered around Bobby, one of the sons, accidentally dying his older brother’s hair bright orange with a bad hair tonic. Seems funny, right? As per the book “Brady, Brady, Brady: The Complete Story of the Brady Bunch” (via CheatSheet), Reed took issue with the script because he felt that plotline was implausible, even going so far as to not show up to set. Rather than deal with Reed, the producers decided to write him out of the episode. “We didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the last episode that ‘The Brady Bunch’ ever filmed,” the show’s producer Lloyd Schwartz wrote in his book, “and Mike Brady wasn’t in it.”
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