Today, in the newest Pop Culture Theme Time, I’m asking you what you think was the strangest case of an actor getting demoted from a regular to a recurring character on a TV series.
Pop Culture Theme Time is a feature where I put a question to you to see what you think about a particular theme. I might later revisit the theme for a future Drawing Crazy Patterns or Top Five.
As you well know, TV shows, especially long-running ones, have two major problems with their casts. The first is strictly a narrative one, in that plots that worked in Season 1 might not work still in Season 7. For instance, take a show like Boy Meets World, when Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) was 12 in the first season, his parents, Alan and Amy (William Russ and Betsy Randle), were major parts of his life. When he’s in college in Season 6, not so much. The second problem is monetary. As a show gets older, it gets more expensive, and so shows tend to save money by cutting down on actor salaries. An easy way to do this is simply cut down everyone’s episodes outside of the undisputed STARS of the show. Now, for the most part, even when everyone gets episode cuts, it doesn’t knock you down from a regular to a recurring, but there ARE instances where that’s exactly what happens.
So I want to know what you think was the weirdest instance of an actor being DEMOTED to a recurring character after previously being a regular. Note that instances where the actor themself obviously no longer wants to be a regular is NOT weird at all, so I don’t think stuff like Joseph Gordon-Levitt becoming a recurring character in the final season of 3rd Rock From the Sun or Kaitlyn Dever becoming a recurring character in Season 7 of Last Man Standing (and then a guest star only in the final two seasons) would count, as obviously the reduction was the choice of the actor.
I mean instances where the SHOW decided to demote them, and you think it was an odd choice.
My pick is Stanley Livingston on My Three Sons. By the final season, Livington’s Chip Douglas was the only remaining original son still on the show, and in Season 11, he had married his college girlfriend, Polly, which you would think would open him up for some more plots, but instead, the show basically dropped Chip as a character for the final season, Season 12, featuring him in less than a third of the season’s episodes. It’s so strange to be the central plot point of Season 11 (his whirlwind romance with his college girlfriend, leading to their elopement) only to be dropped entirely the following season (and the show didn’t KNOW Season 12 was its final season, by the way).
Okay, that’s my pick! What’s yours?
Also, feel free to suggest future Pop Culture Theme Time topics to me at firstname.lastname@example.org!