When it comes to the fickle world of television, characters come and go all of the time. But more often than not, they’re either replaced (here’s looking at you, Charlie Sheen), or written off the show entirely with some sort of a fanfare episode (we miss you dearly, Cristina Yang).
Sometimes though, writers decide there’s no point in actually writing off a character at all. Instead, they opt to ignore their absence all together, or pretend they’re away at college, a retreat, or wherever else makes sense for them to be frolicking at that given time in the storyline.
Here are 10 classic examples.
10 TV characters they forgot to write off the show
Chuck Cunningham, Happy DaysGavan O'Herlihy and Randolph Roberts both played Richie and Joanie's older brother for two seasons of the show. Then, he disappeared sans explanation, starting a trend of actors disappearing without a trace. It's also known as Chuck Cunningham Syndrome.Getty
Cody Lambert, Step By StepSasha Mitchell played Patrick Duffy's surfer dude nephew on the TGIF series until legal troubles got in the way (he once left jail for the day to shoot a scene) and he was replaced by a character named Flash, and then Jean-Luc.Getty
Denise Huxtable, The Cosby ShowLisa Bonet was an early fan favourite on the series. Behind-the-scenes, however, she was reportedly difficult to work with, showing up late and arguing. When Cosby decided to spin her off into A Different World, Bonet ended that plan by announcing her pregnancy and engagement to Lenny Kravitz. Denise was sent to Africa.Viacom
Dr. Erica Hahn, Grey's AnatomyBrooke Smith was one of the most integral characters when it came to exploring Callie's sexuality (and forgetting George). Sadly, audiences just didn't respond to her, and after getting into her car one day she left the show, never to be seen or heard from again. ABC
Judy Winslow, Family MattersFor five seasons Jaimee Foxworth played the youngest daughter Judy. But she never quite got the laughs the other characters did, and one day she suddenly vanished from the screen all together. Getty
Laurie Forman, That '70s ShowLisa Robin Kelly played Eric's aloof but hot older sister on the show for three seasons, before she left to go to beauty school. She returned for four episodes later on, only to be replaced. Behind-the-scenes, alcoholism led to an arrest and a very dark time for the actress indeed. Fox
Max, Saved By the BellIn the show's early days, the Bayside kids would head to the popular diner and Max would offer them advice. Later on in the series the kids still hung out there, but Ed Alonzo was no where to be seen. Getty
Morgan, Boy Meets WorldLily Nicksay played Cory and Eric's youngest sibling when the show premiered, but after two seasons suddenly disappeared. A year later she mysteriously returned, this time played by Lily Nicksay and Lindsay Ridgeway.Disney
Tommy Walker, Brothers and SistersWhen Balthazar Getty began causing problems behind-the-scenes of this family friendly series, his character responded by mysteriously going on the lam in Mexico and was never heard from again. ABC
Detective Kate Lockley, AngelWhen Angel first spun off from Buffy, the show was more of a detective drama. As such, Elisabeth Röhm was there to help solve the case -- until the writers decided they wanted to be more serialized. Following a suicide attempt, Kate suddenly disappeared from the show altogether without a trace. The WB