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Temporary Substitute

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So, you're shooting a weekly TV series, but one of your actors can't make it that week because of illness/rehab/a lengthy film shoot and the scripts are already written with a big role for their character? What do you do? Call in a Temporary Substitute, of course!

Similar, but not identical, to a Suspiciously Similar Substitute. This is where a script has clearly been hastily rewritten to give one character the plot that would have been given to the character who can't make it that week. That it may involve someone being Not Himself for the week is often unavoidable. A Suspiciously Similar Substitute is permanent, a Temporary Substitute is (hopefully) temporary; the lines blur, of course, when you're not sure if the original character is going to come back.


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    Live-Action TV 
  • In the first season of 30 Rock, Jonathan disappeared for two episodes. A character called Matt filled in as Jack's assistant until Jonathan's return.
  • On Angel, Wesley was absent for "Destiny", because Alexis Denisof was on his honeymoon with Alyson Hannigan. He was replaced for the episode by another expert on occult lore, with the explanation that Wesley was taking some well-deserved time off after killing a robot that he'd believed to be his father. This one is unusual in that Joss Whedon probably knew about this months in advance, enough time to not only set up the reason for Wesley's absence, but write an episode that would not have worked if Wesley had been present - a major plot point was that the Substitute Expert was evil, and deliberately mistranslated a text, where Wesley would have given a faithful translation.
  • One episode of Battlestar Galactica involved a debate over whether it was justifiable to infect the Cylons with a deadly disease. The script called for someone to push very strongly in favor of it. Normally this would be established Cylon-hater Colonel Tigh, but due to another storyline Tigh was currently Achilles in His Tent. So the writers pressed Lee Adama into service to clumsily understudy for him.
  • CSI:
    • The episode "Gum Drops" was originally going to have Gil Grissom thinking a missing child was still alive. When a death in the family took William Petersen out of town, Nick Stokes became the lead investigator on the case.
    • The episode "Genetic Disorder" originally had Nick as the lead, but had to be hastily rewritten with Greg Sanders as the lead as George Eads was attending the funeral of his father.
  • During its early years, the Mexican sitcom El Chavo del ocho was incredibly nonchalant about using act-alike, dress-alike characters with different names whenever one of the regulars was unavailable. Don Ramón, for example, was replaced for a single episode by his "cousin, Don Román" who did everything Don Ramón would ordinarily do, including freely enter and exit Don Ramón's apartment. Another time, Doña Clotilde was replaced for a couple of episodes by a new neighbor named Doña Eduviges, who apparently moved away again as soon as Doña Clotilda came back.
  • When JJ Jareau (and her actress A.J. Cook) took maternity leave on Criminal Minds, she picked Jordan Todd (played by actress Meta Golding) to fill in for her.
    • An interesting case, this one. Since everyone had lots and lots of prior notice about AJ Cook's leave (her pregnancy storyline started the season before), Todd's role is not just a re-writing of scripts written for JJ: she has her own character, arc, and thematics, all of which are very different from JJ's. At the same time, she fills the same role in the team bureaucracy that JJ does.
    • Tara Lewis (played by Aisha Tyler) fills in for JJ in season 11 when she goes on maternity leave. Unlike Todd, she joins the BAU full time after JJ returns; she was originally planned to be Kate's temporary substitute, but Jennifer Love Hewitt decided to leave the show instead of returning in season 12. So Lewis gets a Promotion to Opening Titles in said season, after being the Fake Guest Star for all but four episodes of season 11.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Dalek Invasion of Earth: William Hartnell was injured in an action scene in part four, so in the next episode, the Doctor is knocked out in an injury (played by a double), and his lines (and technical skills) are given to a freedom-fighter character from the story. (Hartnell was back in the next episode.)
    • Hartnell sits out the third episode of The Tenth Planet due to illness. As a result, his lines were assigned to Ben and other characters (aware of how ill Hartnell was, the scripts had been written with the possibility of this happening in mind, so it is not as noticeable as it might sound).
    • The Mind Robber: Frazer Hines got chicken pox during filming. A scene was quickly inserted where the Doctor has to reassemble Jamie (it really does make sense in context) and accidentally used Hamish Wilson's face. Later in the episode, a second put-Jamie-back-together brought Hines back once he got better.
    • The Sea Devils: The Royal Navy fill the role usually occupied by UNIT, with Captain Hart substituting for the Brigadier.
    • Richard Franklin was unable to appear in The Three Doctors, so Captain Yates' role was given to Sgt. Benton, whose role was assigned to a new character, Corpoal Palmer.
    • The Ogrons' role in Frontier in Space was originally going to be filled by the Cybermen, in what would have been their only proper appearance in the Third Doctor era.
    • The Green Death has a case with the guest cast, Tony Adams, the actor playing Elgin fell ill between recording sessions, so in episode 5 a Mr James appears instead. This leads to a bizarre situation of a character being set up to betray the bad guys - then someone else turns up out of nowhere to do it instead.
      • Even weirder because they could have easily explained his replacement, but didn't. Elgin was subjected to a mind control technique, which had caused another character it was used on to commit suicide earlier in the story. So they could have justified Elgin's replacement by having it explained that he took his life, or by shooting a suicide scene with a stunt man.
    • Nicholas Courtney was unavailable for The Android Invasion, so the usual role of the highest-ranking UNIT officer was filled by Colonel Faraday, played by Patrick Newell.
    • The main villain of The Talons of Weng Chiang was originally going to be the Master, as the story originally followed up on his escape in The Deadly Assassin. Remnants of that idea include both being hammy, vampiric serial killers on the run with a time machine, dying and desperately looking for a way to cheat death. Magnus even talks about regeneration a few times.
    • Nicola Bryant missed out on "A Fix with the Sontarans" as she was on holiday, so Peri's role was given to Tegan.
    • Kate Stewart and UNIT don't appear in "The Pyramid at the End of the World", even though theoretically they would be better equipped to handle the threat of the Monks than Earth's conventional military forces. They had to be written out because Jemma Redgrave was unable to take part due to a scheduling conflict with her role in Holby City.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard:
    • Tom Wopat and John Schneider quit the show after four seasons over a pay disupute, so season five featured their identical cousins Coy and Vance, with Bo and Luke explained as having joined NASCAR.
    • When James Best boycotted part of the second season, citing unsafe dressing-room conditions, Roscoe was temporarily replaced by several "one-off" sheriffs, the longest standing being Dick Sergeant's Sheriff Grady Bird, who appeared in two episodes.
    • Ben Jones temporarily quit the show during the second season over a dispute over whether Cooter should have a beard or not. In his absence, Cooter's place was filled by several of Cooter's supposed cousins who were never mentioned before or since.
  • After Edward Woodward suffered a heart attack that forced him to cut down on his acting for awhile, The Equalizer role was temporarily shared with Richard Jordan and Robert Mitchum (also playing former members of the Agency).
  • Variation on Forever Knight: Some of the scripts originally written with Captain Stonetree in season 1 were stashed away and used with Captain Reese in season 3. The two captains even both have the first name "Joe."
  • Frasier has done this once, in the episode "Head Game". Originally written for Frasier, it was rewritten for Niles due to Kelsey Grammer being in rehab. The opening scene featuring Frasier that explained his absence was filmed many weeks later.
  • Domink Diamond quit GamesMaster after the first two seasons due the McDonalds sponsorship for season three. Dexter Fletcher took over as host for that season and following the overwhelmingly negative reaction, Dominik returned.
  • Get Smart has "Ice Station Siegfried," where Don Adams' Maxwell Smart is replaced by Bill Dana's CIA Agent Quigley for an episode.
  • With Mary Jo Pehl busy in Los Angeles filming scenes with Leonard Maltin for the Gorgo episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, she was unable to play the role of Pearl in the The Touch of Satan episode. Hence, it was explained that Pearl went on vacation and hired a babysitter to watch over Prof. Bobo and the Observer while also informing Mike and the 'Bots about the film they were going to watch.
  • Paul Merton left Have I Got News for You during season eleven, feeling that it had "got stuck in a rut". He served as Ian Hislop's teammate for the first episode and the series carried on with different panelists before he returned.
  • Hogan's Heroes had at various times temporary replacements for Carter and Newkirk. Kinchloe was replaced by a Suspiciously Similar Substitute in the last season.
  • Adrian Lester was unable to appear in season four of Hustle, so Mickey Bricks is said to be in Australia pulling off the ultimate con - selling the Sydney Opera House. Meanwhile, his role in the team was filled by Ashley Walters' Billy Blue. Lester returned for the remaining seasons.
  • Kamen Rider is a rather famous example; star Hiroshi Fujioka was injured in a stunt gone wrong, which forced the writers to create a second Kamen Rider (Hayato Ichimonji) while the original (Takeshi Hongo) was fighting off-screen enemies. Fujioka eventually returned and took the reins back, but some episodes featured both Riders joining forces, and both heroes are viewed as equally iconic and popular by the franchise's fanbase.
  • Law & Order:
    • With Jesse L. Martin committed to the filming of RENT in 2005, his character Ed Green on Law & Order was shot late in the season and spent the remaining four episodes recovering in the hospital. Michael Imperioli took over as Fontana's temporary partner Nick Falco for the duration. Falco made an additional appearance the next season in a non-substitute capacity.
    • A rather unique example, also from Law & Order: When Jill Hennessey's character Claire Kincaid made a crossover appearance on Homicide: Life on the Street, conflicting and overlapping production schedules forced producers to recruit Jill's identical twin sister Jacqueline (a host and occasional actress on Canadian TV) to double for her sister in a few courtroom scenes. This unusual substitution, in the episode "Corpus Delicti," is not credited on-screen.
    • Connie Nielsen, as Detective Dani Beck, replaced Olivia Benson for eight episodes on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit while Mariska Hargitay was on maternity leave.
    • When Kathryn Erbe got pregnant during Season 3 of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, the character of G. Lynn Bishop was brought in as a replacement. Unlike most examples, this was actually written into the show well in advance of Bishop's arrival, with the explanation that Erbe's character Eames was acting as a surrogate for her sister and would need a temporary replacement in the later stages of the pregnancy. Eames is still seen in several of the Bishop episodes, but she stays behind a desk. In fact, the empty desk in the episode where Eames gives birth is a plot point - her absence helps Goren figure out the perp's motive.
  • Leverage introduced new grifter, Tara Cole, whom Sophie recruited as her own temporary replacement when she left to "find herself" while her actor, Gina Bellman, was on maternity leave for the last half of Season 2.
  • When Lynda Day George became pregnant at the end of season six of Mission: Impossible, ex-con Mimi Davis was written in for a handful of episodes the following season.
  • One episode of Monk featured only Tony Shalhoub and none of the other regular cast members, as due to some trouble behind the scenes it was essentially written that way by the crew as a warning that they could still do the show without them. Since this meant Monk's regular assistant Sharona was absent, recurring character Kevin Dorfman served her usual role instead.
  • On Mythbusters, Kari Byron went on maternity leave, and was replaced by Jessi Combs for a few months.
  • New Girl: During season five, Zooey Deschanel was pregnant so Jess was temporarily written off as being sequestered while on Jury Duty. Megan Fox's character, Regan, rents out of her room in the loft and takes her place in the cast as the beleaguered "minder" of her roommates while she's gone.
  • Our Miss Brooks: In a few episodes (e.g. "Wild Goose"), Mrs. Davis' sister Angela substitutes as Miss Brooks' landlady. Angela was said to be watching over things while Mrs. Davis visited relatives. Jane Morgan, the actress who played Mrs. Davis, suffered a stroke. Fortunately, she made a complete recovery and returned within a few weeks' time.
  • Power Rangers:
    • During Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Valerie Vernon (Kendrix) was diagnosed with lukemia and had to be written out of the series. When her character was killed off, the plan was to have Cassie Chen from Power Rangers Turbo and Power Rangers in Space take her role. Patricia Ja Lee filmed at least one episode before quitting due to a contract dispute. As a result, Karone, aka the previous Big Bad Astronoma, became the new pink ranger. Thankfully, Vernon made a full recovery and Kendrix was resurrected at the end of the series.
    • When Jason David Frank took time off to visit his family in Texas, the producers of the New Zealand-filmed Power Rangers: Dino Thunder were forced to first trap his character, Tommy Oliver, in Ranger form, and later, render him invisible for two episodes. Since Tommy is a high school science teacher by this point in the franchise, they also had to grab several Substitute Teachers. To make things significantly more interesting, one of the substitutes was the human form of the Big Bad.
    • Ollie Akana in Power Rangers Cosmic Fury had to be benched for most of the season due to actor Kainalu Moya's schedule. The writing team accomplished this by having the villains put him under mind control. Luckily for the rest of the Cosmic Rangers, there's another smart-guy Blue Ranger with triceratops powers around who can help them until they bring Ollie back to his senses: David Yost returns to play Billy Cranston, who fills Ollie's role as the group's strategist and tech genius.
  • In The Prisoner (1967) episode "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling" had Number Six's mind swapped into another man (played by Nigel Stock), since Patrick McGoohan was off filming Ice Station Zebra at the time.
  • In the older Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) series, there's one episode, "The House on Haunted Hill" in which Jeannie does not appear. Her sister Jenny had appeared in an earlier episode, so the characters mention right at the beginning that Jenny is filling in for Jeannie at the office, and then act exactly as usual for the rest of the episode.
  • The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes dealt with the illness of Jeremy Brett by invoking both Watson and Mycroft as Temporary Substitutes. This gave Watson back some of the competence his traditional portrayals had lacked, and made Mycroft a lot more active than he ever was in the canon.
    • To be clear, Mycroft was really only involved in "The Mazarin Stone," as Jeremy Brett was (to put it bluntly) dying. In other episodes, Watson does have more of a role, and even some of Holmes' lines (such as "The Solitary Cyclist") - this was not done for Brett's health, but to even the relationship and make it clear Watson wasn't the bumbling idiot that popular opinion holds so dear.
  • The first five episodes of Stargate SG-1's ninth season lacked Samantha Carter because Amanda Tapping was nine months pregnant at the time of filming. As a result, all of the "sciency" dialogue was given to a recurring, relatively unimportant, base scientist.
  • In the pilot episode of Stargate Atlantis, there was going to be a scientist by the name of Dr. Ingram, whose actor backed out late in the game. Reaching back into SG1 Recurring Character Land, they found Rodney McKay, called up David Hewlett, and gave him all of Ingram's lines.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • Sulu doesn't appear in "Space Seed". He was replaced by Makee K. Blaisdell as Lt. Spinelli.
    • Scotty and Sulu are absent from "The Alternative Factor". For unknown reasons they were substituted in the roles of engineer and helmsman by Charlene Masters and Leslie, respectively.
    • During filming of the episode "The Gamesters of Triskelion," George Takei was busy filming The Green Berets. Chekov took his place in the script, with a barroom brawling style in the episode's fight scenes taking the place of the martial arts scenes planned for Sulu.
    • Ditto "The Trouble with Tribbles"; Chekov's instant recognition of quadro-triticale makes more sense knowing that the script was originally written for Sulu, as Sulu had an established background in botany.
    • Uhura doesn't appear in "The Doomsday Machine", her duties assumed by Lt. Palmer, played by Elizabeth Rogers.
    • For "Turnabout Intruder", the final episode, Uhura takes the day off and is replaced by a Lieutenant Lisa. (Nichelle Nichols had a singing engagement that conflicted with the shooting schedule.)
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • After Gates McFadden quit the show after the first season, Dr. Pulaski took over as the Chief Medical Officer of the Enterprise, with Dr. Crusher being explained as being transferred to a space station. Following the poor reception to Pulaski, McFadden was convinced to return.
    • The final script draft for "Haven" contained several lines for Worf and Wesley that were either cut or reassigned to other characters.
    • Geordi only appears via Stock Footage in "Suddenly Human". LeVar Burton had surgery shortly before filming began on "The Best of Both Worlds (Part 2)" so his scenes for that episode were shot in post-production, and many of his lines were given to O'Brien. "Suddenly Human" was the first episode filmed after "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II", but was switched in order and aired after "Family" and "Brothers".
  • At the end of the fifth season of Step by Step, the actor who played Cody was unavailable to shoot the two-part Disney World episode—quite a loss, since the episode revolved largely around Cody's effort to go on every ride in the park in record time. Instead, a new character named Flash (apparently Uncle Frank's employee) shows up unannounced and proceeds to do everything Cody was intended to do, making him the effective star of the show for these two episodes. He made one last appearance in the season finale which actually had him moving into the Foster/Lambert household, setting him up as a full-fledged Suspiciously Similar Substitute, before being scrapped in favor of Bronson Pinchot as zany Frenchman Jean-Luc and Jason Marsden as J.T.'s friend Rich as new regulars. Cody was explained as having boarded a bus for Russia, but he would return for a final season episode.
  • An unusual example affected the first season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The showrunners always wanted Cromartie, the main Terminator on the Connors' trail, to be played by Garret Dillahunt, but Dillahunt had a scheduling conflict for the pilot. As a result, Owain Yeoman was cast as Cromartie in the pilot, and a multi-episode plot arc was created for the early part of the first season in which Cromartie was reduced to his metal skeleton by an explosion, and had to create a new flesh covering for himself.
  • The Wild Wild West:
    • When Artie is temporarily assigned to Washington (to cover for Ross Martin's absence while he recovered from a heart attack), Jim gets a new partner, Jeremy Pike, who also happens to be a Master of Disguise and a dab hand with gadgets.
    • Pike was himself briefly replaced by Frank Harper, who was basically Jeremy Pike with a different actor.
  • On Wiseguy, during the second season Garment Industry story arc, when Vinnie got roughed up by a loan shark and was replaced by retired agent John Henry Raglin. In reality, actor Ken Wahl broke his ankle doing a stunt on the show and needed time to recover.
  • When Lucy Lawless was injured doing a stunt for The Tonight Show, a single episode of Xena: Warrior Princess where Xena and Callisto changed bodies became a two-episode-arc with Hudson Leick playing Xena (trapped in Callisto's body).

  • The Beach Boys: In January 1965, Glen Campbell filled in for Brian Wilson when he dropped out of a tour due to a nervous breakdown, playing bass guitar and singing falsetto harmonies. He was then replaced by Bruce Johnston.
  • The Beatles:
    • In June 1964, before the band were scheduled to tour Denmark, the Netherlands, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Ringo Starr was stricken with a high-grade fever, pharyngitis and tonsillitis, and briefly stayed in a local hospital, followed by several days of recuperation at home. He was temporarily replaced for five concerts by 24-year-old session drummer Jimmie Nicol. Ringo was discharged from the hospital and rejoined the band in Melbourne.
    • "Back in the U.S.S.R." and "Dear Prudence" on The White Album had Paul McCartney playing drums after Ringo temporarily quit the band.
    • There's a debate over whether George Harrison played bass on "She Said She Said" on Revolver because Paul left the studio after an argument with the band during the session (it's also been claimed that they finished the rhythm track before the argument, so it is Paul on bass after all).
  • Oscar Humlebo has been The Cardigans' regular live lead guitarist since 2011, but he is still officially a temporary substitute. Peter Svensson remains, and most likely will always remain, their official lead guitarist even though he no longer performs with them.
  • During Oasis' 1995 tour of America, Paul "Guigsy" McGuigan briefly left the band, citing nervous exhaustion. He was replaced by Scott McLeod, formerly of the Ya Ya's, who was featured on some of the tour dates as well as in the "Wonderwall" video before leaving abruptly while on tour in the US. McLeod contacted Noel Gallagher, claiming he felt he had made the wrong decision. Gallagher replied: "I think you have too. Good luck signing on". Guigsy was persuaded to return to the band to complete the tour.
  • After Marky Ramone was kicked out of The Ramones for his alcholism, Richie Ramone took over as the drummer. He lasted from 1983 until 1987, when he quit the band when Johnny refused to give him a cut of the t-shirt sales. Clem Burke of Blondie then took over, but was fired after playing two disastrous shows. Marky, having gotten sober, rejoined the band.

    Visual Novels 
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Ema Skye.The game was originally released with 4 cases, 3 of which had Maya as the player's sidekick, helping with investigations and providing funny interactions. Maya leaves for her spiritual training at the end of the 4th case, so when a 5th case was added in the DS re-release she couldn't return as sidekick. Instead, your client is Ema, who takes on the same role, is just 1 year younger than Maya, and has similar animations and facial expressions. Phoenix lampshades the similarities between her and Maya both having older sisters, and Lana happened to know Mia. Ema resembling Maya is even part of the reason why he took the case. In later games, Maya returns as the sidekick.

    Web Original 
  • Game Grumps: Throughout September 2013, Arin temporarily replaced Dan on Steam Train. This was reflected in the intro by having Dan shot in the head by Arin (ending the song abruptly), who then threatens Ross at gunpoint to finish the song. This happened again during the holiday season in the same year, when Steam Train was renamed to Steam Sleigh and the usual intro song was changed to Jingle Bells with more appropriate lyrics.
  • Amandine Train, Saphir's actrice, was pregnant during the filming of Season 5 of Noob. However, Saphir also had the important task of getting Omega Zell ready for high-level play during that portion of the story. One episode filmed during the last months of her pregnancy had her use and avatar looking just like Gaea, which made Gaea's actress play in the in-game scenes while some of her dialog had the camera do Split Screen between the avatar and her player in front of the computer with only her face visible. Later episodes outright had Saphir need to complete an urgent quest off-screen and call in her sister to take care of her everyday work, including the stuff happening onscreen. The sister in question is also briefly seen in Noob: Le Conseil des Trois Factions.

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy:
    • When Cleveland left the show to get his own series, his role in Peter's group of friends was filled by Jerome Black. When The Cleveland Show was cancelled, Cleveland returned.
    • The dog Vinnie is a wise guy (well, wise dog) with an Italian accent and a streetwise attitude whom the Griffins take in after Brian's death. Well, until he helps Stewie go back in time to save Brian's life.
  • In Kim Possible A Sitch In Time, after Ron and his family move to Norway (due to a job transfer on his mom's part), Kim gets Monique (her closest friend outside of Ron) to substitute for Ron on missions.
  • In Season 2 of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, Marcie (better known as "Hot Dog Water") replaces Daphne in the Mystery Inc. Gang for a few episodes. She's also in the altered opening credits (for the US episodes).
  • South Park:
    • In season six, after Kenny died "for reals this time", his spot as the fourth friend was filled by Butters. This is lampshaded as the other boys attempt to manipulate him by telling him that "Kenny would do" whatever crazy scheme they have in mind that week, going so far as to call him "Not-Kenny" when he resists. Butters is eventually "fired" as the fourth friend and the boys actually hold try-outs to fill the position. It is briefly filled by Tweek until Kenny eventually shows up (sans explanation) to reclaim his old spot. Indeed, he merely walks up to the boys from just offscreen, and announces that he was "hanging out", just after the boys have returned from Iraq after trying to give it Christmas.
    • The show also lampshaded this with Chef's temporary replacement Mr. Derp in "Succubus".