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TV 101: Some of TV's Most Memorable Departures

by Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously), posted May 5th 2011 3:00PM
Steve Carell, 'The Office'If I learned anything from Bon Jovi in the '80s it was that an object's slipperiness had a direct correlation with that same object's relative wetness. But more importantly, I learned that we should never say goodbye.

However, following through with such a sentiment -- never say goodbye -- is much more difficult than scrawling it across your bulging crotch on an 8-by-10 -inch glossy for a hysterical groupie.

The truth is, we have to say goodbye -- especially in television -- no matter how complicated, emotional or difficult that might be. Some say goodbye too soon, some hang on far too long, and some depart at just the right time. It's our job to make peace with those goodbyes.

With the recent departure of Michael Scott from 'The Office,' I started to ponder other televisual vacancies and the interesting circumstances surrounding them.



Adrianna La Cerva, 'The Sopranos' | played by Drea de Matteo
On a show known for the unceremonious departure of characters for whatever reason, Adrianna's had the biggest impact on me, even bigger than Big Pussy. The show was about variations on the notion of family, and Adrianna was at the intersection of several of those variations. The whole setup by Tony and Christopher leading to Adrianna crawling through the muck as Silvio snuffs her out is as chilling as any sequence ever filmed, proving the point that sometimes you have to say goodbye.

Craig Kilborn, 'The Daily Show'
Craig Kilborn was one of the original 'SportsCenter' anchors that ruined sports reporting for years to come with his cheeky catchphrases and arrogant style that gave way to a generation of far lesser talents (Stuart Scott, John Buccigross, Trey Wingo, Van Earl Wright). It was awesome when Kilborn, Dan Patrick, and Keith Olbermann -- yes, that Keith Olbermann -- were doing it. It was new and irreverent. Now it's mostly lame and contrived ... more and more mutated as we get further and further from the original.

Riding the success wave of 'SportsCenter,' Kilborn became the original host of 'The Daily Show,' but after three years, he decided to move on to the greener pastures -- literally and figuratively -- of network late night. That changed what was a silly hour-long talk show conflated into 30 minutes into the pinnacle of social, cultural and political satire. Kilborn's departure is made significant by the emergence of his replacement, Jon Stewart.


Puck, 'Real World: San Francisco' | played by David Rainey
No, that is not a misprint. I am implying that a 'Real World' cast member was not, in fact, "real," but was rather playing the role of mid-'90s douchebag in order to achieve fame and recognition for being ... a mid-'90s douchebag. During a time when the term "alternative" was still being defined, Puck sought to end the debate definitively. "Alternative" was pretty much being a nonstop a-hole, and Puck turned that into getting kicked off the show altogether. His departure was only made more significant because it came primarily thorough ignorant clashes with fellow cast member and AIDS crusader, Pedro Zamora.

Johnny Carson, 'The Tonight Show'
Without Carson, there would be no Letterman, Leno, Conan, Fallon, Ferguson, Kimmel, Arsenio Hall, Carson Daly, George Lopez. This is not necessarily a good thing in some cases (Ferguson, Daly), but for the most part, late-night television as we know it would not exist without Johnny Carson. You could also make a case that comedy as a concept would be a completely different animal without him, one far more docile and lethargic than the ferocious beast we see today. Carson's final episode is still one of the most memorable in TV history. We throw the term "icon" around today like a a football at a Giants tailgate, but Carson is one who actually deserves it.

Chef, 'South Park' | voiced by Isaac Hayes
It was sad to see Chef go, but the circumstances under which he left made it even more frustrating. For a show that is primarily interested in stirring the cultural pot -- by tearing down those institutions and mentalities that purport themselves to be something they're not -- to be castigated by one (Isaac Hayes) so complicit in the very practice of pot-stirring just seems irrational if not hypocritical. I know, the "Trapped in the Closet" Scientology episode hit too close to home for Chef, but goodbyes should never be bitter, especially goodbyes that never should have happened in the first place.


Susan Ross, 'Seinfeld' | played by Heidi Swedberg
It's not every day that a sitcom kills off a character. That's a practice usually left up to the prime-time soaps of 'Falcon Crest' and 'Dynasty' fame. Susan's death was just so unbelievably macabre and unnecessary, and executed so perfectly from a comedic standpoint -- with George's innate stupidity and frugality behind it all -- that her leaving the show is one of the most memorable of all. We can only shudder to think how the series might have unfolded if George and Susan eventually wed. I feel like George would have ended up killing himself by accident ... but probably not with cheap envelope glue.

Judy Winslow, 'Family Matters' | played by Jaimee Foxworth, kind of
Judy was the youngest of the Winslow clan, and her departure from the show is made memorable by how not memorable it was. You probably didn't even know it happened until years later, after the Internet was invented, when your drunken friend said, "Wasn't there another Winslow kid on 'Family Matters' -- Julie or something?" and you proceeded to spend the rest of the night scouring cyberspace for anything you could find. You might be finding out about it right now as you read this article. She simply disappeared with no explanation, never to return or even be mentioned again. The truth is, once people got a load of Urkel, there wasn't much need for another annoying kid. Although, that doesn't account for the later addition of uber-annoying, jheri-curled Richie.

If nothing else, Judy Winslow is a cautionary tale -- one that shows us what happens if we "never say goodbye." She never said goodbye, and look what happened. People forgot she ever existed. So, by all means folks, say goodbye! Say it early and often.

Michael Scott tried to avoid saying goodbye, but don't you think he's much happier since Pam caught him at the airport?




What's your favorite TV departure?


Dr. Vaughan teaches English/media/humor courses at Binghamton University in upstate New York, and he loves scrapbooking. You can also check out his blog or find him on Facebook.

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SwagMasterJ

Shane Walsh's death on The Walking Dead....he went out with a bang yo and he was the most interesting characters I have ever seen in a TV show plus Jon Bernthal really did an amazing job as Shane he will be missed in the show

March 28 2012 at 6:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
skelmorales@gmail.com

can't believe steve carrel left the office without steve they should cancel the show.:(

May 12 2011 at 6:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Timoteo Roberto

Bodie getting shot on The Wire; yeah it was sad, but it was very symbolic.

May 06 2011 at 1:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sarah Furlong

A part of me died when Michael Scott left Dunder Mifflin

May 06 2011 at 12:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Zog Wee

Wow, that was a real trip down memory lane. Amazing.

www.anon-toolz.at.tc

May 06 2011 at 12:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Eric

Just shows how different peoples tastes are. I think Ferguson is the best host on late night TV right now.

May 06 2011 at 11:34 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Brandon

How can we take your list seriously when you left Henry Blake (MASH), Diane Chambers(Cheers), & Omar Little (The Wire) off of it? And what's with the Craig Ferguson bashing? Who wrote this? How old are you? Know your craft. And seriously....Is there really anything memorable about Family Matters?
To quote Norm Macdonad, "What The H?"

May 06 2011 at 8:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
couponsnfreebies

If you're going to go the whole "never say goodbye" route, shouldn't you mention the original- Richie and Joanie's older brother Chuck from Happy Days??? Also, I agree with the above posters tha Colonel Henry Blake's departure from M*A*S*H was very memorable.

May 06 2011 at 4:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
noseless_wonder

How is this called a "Most Memorable" article if you include an entry like Judy Winslow, where even you state, "You probably didn't even know it happened until years later...?"

I'm not of the right generation to have enjoyed MASH as much as others, but I do agree that there were far better departures to list in this article than Puck, Judy Winslow, and a secondary Seinfeld character that most people hated.

May 05 2011 at 10:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sean

H

May 05 2011 at 8:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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