Long Runner Cast Turnover
Hail to the Long Runner
, the show that stands the test of time. But not all Long Runners pass that test unscathed. Actors die
, or get fired
, or lose a contract dispute
, or retire, or simply don't want to play the same role for the rest of their foreseeable career. But creators and executives don't want to let their Cash Cow Franchise
or treasured premise go so easily. Alternately, often the inverse is true, and shows often become Long Runners due to allowing cast turn over. So the show continues with replacement cast members...and so occasionally you get shows where the show's main cast hardly resembles the original. Nearly all of the above can apply to characters in Literature and other works without human actors, if the series spans enough time In-Universe
and/or has a high turnover
To qualify for this, a significant percentage of the work's main cast
, including recurring, named supporting cast, has to change. Red Shirts
, extras and guest stars don't count. A one man show only needs the one person to change, but that won't cut it for an Ensemble Cast
. Essentially, either Suspiciously Similar Substitute
or The Other Darrin
, en masse
. (Though it can
be spread out over time.)
Having a lot of turnover is by itself a neutral phenomenon
, but for many people, it's a cause to believe a show has Jumped the Shark
, is Ruined Forever
or is a Franchise Zombie
, especially if the departing cast were a main reason for the show's appeal to them. Conversely, the incoming cast may find themselves working for only one season anyway
- Since the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation premiered in 2000, its later seasons have seen the departure of three of its leads (Grissom, retired, and Catherine, new job, and Ray Langston (who replaced Grissom), forcibly resigned), two of its secondary leads (Sara, quit from PTSD but now Commuting On A Bus, and Warrick, Killed Off for Real) and a number of its recurring supporting roles (Wendy, Sofia, and the very short tenure of Riley, meant to replace Sara). Most of the departures were of the "actor wanting to move on" variety, but contract disputes and in Warrik's case, personal problems, also factored.
- In Degrassi, the cast has changed once since the show started in 2001 (not including Archie "Snake" Simpson):
- Season 5 had the first block of characters graduate from the school, but maintained most of the cast in college. Season 7 had the second half of the initial cast graduate, and they cut down a lot of the older cast leaving four.
- By Season 10 the entire original cast (save Snake) was gone, leaving Chantay as longest time on set (starting in Season 4).
- Clare (introduced in Season 6, made a regular in Season 8) has been on the show longest right now, her class will Graduate from the Story in either Season 13 or 14 depending on how they manage the flow of time, marking the second full cast cycle.
- Doctor Who of course invented The Nth Doctor in order to survive 40-plus years but also rotates though a long list of the Doctor's companions; the show's time travel premise makes it fairly easy to write old companions out and new ones in.
- The longest-lasting regular cast members have been Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor (seven seasons), Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor (five seasons), and Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith, who coincidentally appeared with both of the previous two (three and a bit seasons).
- A special mention for Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, who started in Season 5 and continued with his role into Spin-Off Sarah Jane adventures. Meaning he started his roll in 1968, and last played the character in 2008 40 years after he was first cast.
- ER transplanted most of its original cast over the fifteen seasons; while some (Susan Lewis) came back and then went away again, and some of the characters came back in the final season, the final cast was composed of none of the members of the original cast. This even gets lampshaded in the final season. One of the new characters meets one of the original characters and they realize that the staff of the hospital changed so much over the years that they have no common acquaintances. All the people who worked in the hospital when the original character left already stopped working there by the time the new character arrived.
- The Gungan Council: The only consistent character for 12 years is having a fat Gungan spamming the forums.
- The cast of Kids Incorporated, which ran from 1984-1993, changed almost every season, and had at least one member drop out with new replacements every season.
- Law & Order ended with a completely different cast than when it started. The series lost its last original cast member at the end of its tenth season, when Steven Hill's Adam Schiff retired. So half of its run was done with no one from the first season cast. The Other Wiki has an entire section dedicated to the cast/character changes and overlaps.
- M*A*S*H had a significant cast turnover during its eleven seasons. Alan Alda (Hawkeye), Loretta Swit (Margaret), and William Christopher (Father Mulcahy) were the only main cast present for the entire run (although only Alda and Swit were in both the first and last episodes, and Alda was the only one to be in every single episode). Jamie Farr (Klinger) was also present for the entire run of the show, but he started off as an extra. The military hospital setting made it easy to write characters in and out with the excuse of them getting drafted, transferred, and discharged.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 lasted long enough to see every actor walk away for personal reasons. It began as a Mad Scientist and his assistant tormenting a janitor and his robots, but eventually ended as a megalomaniacal woman, a Doctor Zaius expy, and a brain guy tormenting an erstwhile temp worker and... well, the same robots, but with different voices. Joel, the creator and main host character, left the show to Mike in the middle of season five, neatly dividing the series (and fans) into two eras. Both hosts went on to start their own movie-mocking franchises in Cinematic Titanic and RiffTrax. Both of those shows feature a mutually exclusive subset of MST3K's cast (except for Mary Jo Pehl, who has appeared in both series).
- Only three regulars of Night Court made it all the way through the show's nine-year run: Harry Anderson as Judge Harry Stone, Richard Moll as Bull the bailiff, and John Larroquette as prosecutor Dan Fielding. Three different actresses filled the role of the second bailiff (as different characters). Karen Austin, who played the court clerk and was Judge Stone's original love interest, left before the first season was over and was eventually replaced by Charles Robinson as Mac. Four different actresses played public defenders—Gail Strickland in the pilot, Paula Kelly for the rest of Season 1, Ellen Foley for Season 2, and Markie Post for Seasons 3-9.
- New Zealand-produced soap opera Shortland Street first aired in 1992, and as of 2011 only one of the original cast members remains (Dr Chris Warner).
- Spooks went through a very large number of cast changes in its run. Only one character, Harry Pearce, appears in all ten seasons and every other position in Section D had at least three different occupants over the show's run.
- Stargate SG-1, almost. Despite three members of the original Four-Man Band making it to the series cancellation (one of them having spent a year dead for tax purposes), most of the surrounding cast and all of the big bads were gone two seasons earlier. Only Walter remained unchanged.
- NBC's Late Night block has gone through this a bunch of times:
- The Tonight Show has gone through at least five different hosts, all of whom brought in their own people to run the show in a new direction. The only exception may be when Jay Leno was brought back to the show in 2010.
- Late Night has gone through a similar situation but with only three hosts - four if you count its predecessor, Tomorrow with Tom Snyder.
- Later: First it was a one on one private interview on a simple set between Bob Costas and another person. After Costas left it became Later with Greg Kinnear with a live audience. A series of rotating guest hosts each brought their own sensibilities to the show. Now it's Later with Carson Daly which is completely different than any of the others.
- Saturday Night Live's cast and crew turnover is as legendary as its peak-and-valley history. In fact, the near-constant changing of cast members and writers is the reason why this show's quality shifts, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.
- The Wake: There's been so much turnover in the cast over three years that there are only a few characters left who remember pivotal characters and events from early in the game.
- By the time The X-Files ended, only AD Skinner remained a main character. Mulder, Scully, and the Cigarette-Smoking Man were all demoted to regulars or extras.
- Several long-Running Anime suffer from a form of this as their dub casts change over the long course of production, usually by way of Channel Hop or sudden export-stoppages being overturned. Western Animation usually averts this due to usually only lasting 65 Episodes, but for those series which pass this mark or those that change channels all bets are off. Of course, with animation, The Other Darrin is more likely to be used, unless the character is so iconic that changing his or her voice would be unthinkable (see nearly everyone ever in The Simpsons.) For example, Pokemon had a production company hop leading to a total overhaul of its entire cast. Ben 10 had a Time Skip aging up the main and recurring kid characters and it was decided that Dee Bradley Baker should voice all of Ben's aliens, and then more recently decided "nah, give the guy a break." The result is many characters (and alternate forms of characters) having three actors, even when actor availability isn't an issue.
- The cast of Sesame Street started to turn over in season 38, although Bob and Susan were already appearing less frequently by then.
- Most Soap Operas are run on this trope. Since many have been running 40+ years, and people don't want to spend the entirety of their lives on one show, they tend to leave the soap after a few years to pursue alternative employment options. To replace them, either the character actors are changed or new characters are brought in. This means that the main casts of soaps tend to change drastically every few years.
- The eighth season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987 did away with Irma, Casey Jones, Mondo Gecko, the Punk Frogs, the Neutrinos, Leatherhead, Baxter, Groundchuck, and Dirtbag, in favor of new characters like Titanus. The ninth season eliminated the newbies from season 8 as well as the Rat King, replaced Shredder and Krang with Dregg, and Bebop and Rocksteady with Hi-Tech. April was replaced with Carter. IN the tenth season, April came back to replace Carter. Hi-Tech was replaced with Mung.
- The Sonic the Hedgehog series has done this a few times. The first one happened in 1998 and removed Mighty, Ray, Nack/Fang, Bean, Bark, Tails Doll, and Metal Knuckles in favor of Shadow, Blaze, and other new characters. The second was more recent and did away with unpopular characters like Big and Jet in favor of an overall smaller cast.
- The original UK version of Shameless had this in spades. Originally it centred around the Gallagher family and a few neighbours and friends, but as various cast members left, the show shifted focus towards the Maguire family starting around seasons 4-5. The two shared the central role for a few seasons before focus shifted away from a central family and more towards the ensemble cast that had gathered over time. For the final season, only two Gallaghers remain (one of whom wasn't even born until season five) and only three of the original Maguire family. The US version has almost completely averted this so far, in part because of its much more serialised approach to storytelling.
- Often with sport teams:
- The Boston Celtics from 1957 to 1976. Bill Russell was the only player to win all eleven titles. Havelchek was a member for the latter half of the 60s and the two titles from the 70s. (Nobody from the 1981 Champion Roster was a member back in 1976, making the '80s at [[Reboot]].)
- The Chicago Bulls under Phil Jackson saw the entire roster (aside from Scottie Pippen) turnover. No player from the 1st three peat besides Pippen and Jordan was a member of the second three-peat, and Michael himself spent 18 months away from the NBA.
- The Houston Rockets had a long-runner cast turnover from 1981 to 1995. (During their four final appearances.) Robert Reid was the only player to play for the Rockets in 1981 and 1986 Finals. Olajuwon was the only player from the 1986 Roster to win the 1993-1994 title with the Rockets.
- The Los Angeles Lakers had a turnover beginning with the 1979-1980 title. A.C. Green was the only player from the '80s to win a Lakers title in the next three-peat.