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Estranged Soap Family

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In Soap Operas and long running serial dramas, characters who leave usually fail to come back, even for events which they would never miss in real life, such as funerals or weddings of close relatives. This is often for a Doylist reason, namely, the actor not being available for the event, but one has to wonder about the Watsonian side of things.

Compare Chuck Cunningham Syndrome.


  • Coronation Street has had a few instances of family members coming back. Steve McDonald's brother Andy reappeared for Steve's wedding to Karen, and Ashley Peacock's mum has made it to most family occasions.
    • Even though the writers had been so stupid about Maria's parents who had been written out and forgotten, that when Maria's husband Liam was murdered, and they turned up for his funeral, there was a heap of angsting about the fact that they'd never even met Liam, and Maria's mother was heaped with blame for the fact that she insisted she and her husband go on a cruise instead of attending Maria's wedding. (The current Coro writers don't like mothers.)
  • John Paul from Hollyoaks returned from Dublin just in time to see his estranged brother murder his sister.
    • Played straight in the fact that he failed to attend any of Mercedes' weddings.
    • Hannah Ashworth was absent from her cousin Rhys's funeral, but they did at least explain this as her being too ill to attend.
  • EastEnders has also had a few instances, such as Peggy Mitchell returning for daughter Sam's wedding to Andy, and Pegg's sister "Aunt Sal" usually appears at all Mitchell family occasions.
    • Shabnam Masood didn't return for her brother's wedding. This was lampshaded though.
  • When Dr. Mark Greene died on ''ER"", a number of former actors from the show turned up for his funeral, including Dr. Benton and Dr. Finch. Notably absent were arguably his two closest friends, Doug Ross and Carol Hathaway.
  • In the Grand Finale of Third Watch, Carlos Nieto and Holly Levine get married. Their former co-workers Jimmy Doherty and Kim Zambrano return for the wedding - both are seen congratulating the happy couple. Neither has any lines, but they're there.
  • Neighbours seems to try to avert this where possible. The Rebecchi family reappear for most major family events, like weddings, funerals, shootings, etc. However some characters have disappeared, never to be seen again, even if a return is often threatened (Billy Kennedy being one of the best examples).
    • One of the worst examples of this trope was Madge's funeral, which neither of her children, played by Craig MacLachlan and Kylie Minogue, turned up for.
  • When Mr. Drummond got remarried on Diff'rent Strokes, his sister Sophia and former housekeepers Mrs. Garrett and Adelaide returned for the wedding.

Straight examples:

  • Beverly Hills, 90210: Done frequently. David's mother and grandmother are absent from his wedding at the end of the original series. Dylan's mother also doesn't appear at his wedding in season 6, either. The group's college graduation has this en masse; Brandon's parents, Valerie's mom, Steve's mom, and David's mother are absent.
    • In the sequel series, Annie and Dixon's dad and grandmother are absent from their graduation ceremony.
  • On The Bold and the Beautiful, Ronn Moss left the show after a much-publicized contract dispute, meaning that his character Ridge wasn't around for the death and funeral of his beloved mother Stephanie.
  • The Brittas Empire: Gordon's brother and father are absent during Brittas' funeral in "The Last Day".
  • On Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Buffy's father failed to show up for his ex-wife's funeral, or to take care of his now-abandoned daughter(s).
    • Cordelia's parents were an even worse case. Apparently their economic problems, which forced Cordelia to move to Los Angeles at the start of Angel, were so severe they couldn't even afford a phonecall when their daughter was reported missing.
  • Charmed (1998) has an odd example. After Prue is Mc Leaned, she never shows up again. Granted, death is usually a pretty good excuse for that, but in this show, ghosts are easy to summon—the sisters' dead mom and grandma are recurring characters, and even gain the ability to turn corporeal (somehow). Originally it was explained that Prue wasn't allowed to come so soon, to give Piper and Phoebe time to accept her death...but then years pass, and summoning Prue is never even mentioned. The comic continuation eventually makes a story arc that brings Prue back, explaining that her soul hadn't been in the afterlife anyway.
  • Cheers: A season 2 episode establishes Carla has a little sister, but despite a few appearances from Carla's family, her sister never reappears or is even mentioned ever again, despite being played by the same actress as Carla.
  • On Degrassi, Spinner had a sister named Kendra in the early seasons, but she vanished after season 3 and didn't even come to her brother's wedding.
    • Many seasons later, brother and sister Sav and his younger sister Alli attended school together, but Sav wasn't seen after he graduated, even in situations when it would've made logical sense.
  • On Downton Abbey, Rosamund, Lord Grantham's nosy sister, misses the weddings of his daughters Mary and Edith because the actress who plays her was busy.
  • Michelle Fowler, of EastEnders, is a particularly extreme example. After leaving the soap, she failed to return for her father's funeral, her brother's wedding, her other brother's wedding, the first brother's funeral, her mother's wedding and her mother's funeral. That her mother Pauline kept going on about her "fammm-lee" made this more notable.
    • This one is actually on her actress Susan Tully, who retired in 1999 to focus on directing, and has turned down several offers for a guest spot. The show does at least give a throwaway line about a character not attending family weddings and funerals if necessary. For instance, in 2014 mentioning that Michelle's own daughter Vicki wouldn't be able to get travel from Australia to attend Sharon's wedding.
  • Family Matters had Aunt Rachel and her son Richie. Aunt Rachel left the show but somehow, Richie stayed around which meant that his mother was still around somewhere. She apparently was unable to make it to a number of important events.
  • Likewise, very few of the parents on Glee show up to watch their kids, and even some of the ones who have been established to support the club are absent during important performances. In addition it is notable that Quinn fails to reappear after Finn's death despite the fact that characters with less of a connection to him appeared, there wasn't even an explanation for her absence.
  • Ridiculously common on The Golden Girls:
    • Neither of Dorothy's children (Michael and Kate) or her sister Gloria appeared at her wedding on the final episode of The Golden Girls. They also didn't show up when she and her ex-husband Stan tried to remarry in season 6, or at their uncle/brother Phil's funeral.
    • In addition, none of Blanche's family members showed up for Dorothy's wedding, even though she was marrying Blanche's Uncle Lucas.
    • Surprisingly averted when Blanche's long-absent sister Virginia (last seen in season 1note ) reappears for Big Daddy's funeral, but neither of their other two siblings — sister Charmaine and brother Clayton — are seen, and nor are any of Blanche's children seen attending their grandfather's funeral. Clayton's absence at least could be explained by him coming out of the closet the previous season.
  • On Hey Arnold!, the first episode with Coach Wittenberg actually focuses on his son, Tucker. He never shows up again in the show, even when his father remarries Tish (who may or may not be Tucker's mother). He does have a cameo with them in Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie.
  • On One Tree Hill, Haley is said to have three sisters and three brothers. Early in the series, Lucas' mom says Haley hangs out at Lucas' house because he is an only child and she likes the quietness of his house versus the constant noise of her own packed home. When Haley graduates her parents buy an RV saying she was the last to move out and they now want to travel to see the other kids. The brothers are never named on screen during the series' nine year run and don't even show up for their mother's on funeral in season 7 without any mention of why they wouldn't come to such a momentous event, for which the ever-fighting sisters are able to temporarily put aside their conflict.
  • On Reba, Scarlett Pomers missed the second half of the fifth season while she received treatment for an eating disorder. Unfortunately, this left her character Kyra missing from Van and Cheyenne's renewal of their wedding vows and suspiciously absent when her mother was hospitalized.
  • The parents on Saved by the Bell rarely showed up but when the gang graduated, went to college, got married, etc. they were never around.
  • On Soap eldest daughter Corinne doesn't come back nor is she even mentioned when her sister gets married, her father gets remarried, or her mother gets kidnapped by Central American freedom fighters.
  • On Dallas, Gary never turned up for major family events at Southfork after Bobby's death in the Dream Season - and seldom did beforehand. His absence from said events was never explained. Similarly, on the spin-off Knots Landing, the Texas Ewings never showed up for the major events of Gary's life and none of them even appeared on the series after its fourth season.
  • This also happened within Knots Landing itself:
    • Between her departure in the Season Six episode "Calculated Risks" and her return in three episodes of Season Fourteen, Diana is seldom mentioned, even when Karen is talking about her experiences raising Eric and Michael. She is absent from numerous major events in her family's lives such as Eric being hospitalised after contracting arsenic poisoning in Season Seven, Karen being kidnapped in Season Eight (she does speak to Eric over the phone after Karen is rescued in "Slow Burn" but he seems desperate to get her off the phone before Karen arrives home) and Karen and Mack adopting Meg in Season Nine. Her return in Season Fourteen only served to highlight the odd situation as "The Way Things Were" was implied to be the first time that she had ever met Meg.
    • Due to Steve Shaw's tragic death, Eric is never mentioned after the Season Thirteen episode "House of Cards" (which aired almost a year after he died). As such, Eric's absence from Karen and Mack's 15th anniversary party in Back to the Cul-de-Sac is not explained.
  • Amen. Neither Thelma's maternal grandfather nor Reuben's mother show up at their wedding. Quite glaring considering that Ernie, Thelma's father, reconciled with his former father-in-law (he cut his daughter off when she defied him to marry Ernie) and explicitly invited him to the wedding, and Reuben's mother had appeared in the previous episode and tried to take over the wedding planning.
  • Sisters: Fourth sister Frankie moves to Japan for business, missing second sister Teddy's wedding. She's also not there when Teddy is shot and ends up in a coma. Her daughter Cat is absent from the wedding too, although it's explained that she's off on a training exercise (the actress was on maternity leave).
  • On When Calls the Heart, Brooke Shields guest stars as Jack's mother Charlotte in Season 3. However, the character never returns - not for her son's wedding, the birth of his child or even his funeral. And despite Elizabeth's visiting her family in Hamilton numerous times over the years, we never see her family after her wedding.