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Explainer: 5 TV series that lost their leads

  • Image: Charlie Sheen
    Greg Gayne  /  Warner Bros.
    Charlie Sheen may be a huge draw for "Two and a Half Men," but that doesn't mean the show can't do without him of they find the right replacement.

    Charlie Sheen seemingly has his boot on the neck of CBS and Warner Brothers. He can misbehave with porn stars and cocaine all he wants, but he makes so much money for the companies that they can't afford to fire the "Two and a Half Men" star. Right?

    Wrong. It doesn't always work, but as "Charmed," "8 Simple Rules" and other shows demonstrate, some series can afford the departure of their stars provided they find the right replacement.

    More from TheWrap: Charlie Sheen joins Twitter

    It's a lesson Sheen should know well. After all he once served replacement duty himself, stepping in for Michael J. Fox in "Spin City."

  • '8 Simple Rules'

    Image: "Eight Simple Rules"
    CARIN BAER  /  AP
    "8 Simple Rules" lost lead John Ritter, right.

    John Ritter's tragic death in 2003 from an aortic dissection forced the producers of the ABC sitcom to scramble to replace its charismatic star. Instead of just replacing Ritter, they opted to go for two for the price of one, enlisting ...

    David Spade and James Garner. The pair joined the series in the wake of Ritter's death. Garner played the deceased actor's father-in-law, while Spade came on board later as a misbehaving nephew. The show though only managed to make it through one and half more seasons.

  • 'The X-Files'

    Image: Duchovny and Anderson in X-Files
    20th Century Fox
    David Duchovny left the show after season seven.

    For seven seasons, the dry wisecracks of Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) were considered an essential part of the supernatural Fox thriller's success. However, Duchovny's burgeoning movie career made the actor restless. Hence Agent Mulder's abduction by aliens after season seven and his replacement by...

    Robert Patrick. As Agent Doggett, Patrick faced the unenviable task of assuming the badge of a fanboy favorite. Sure, he had an impressive sci-fi resume having appeared in "Terminator 2," but the ratings took a dive and the show only soldiered on for two more seasons. Tellingly, Doggett wasn't featured in the "X-Files" 2008 sequel "I Want to Believe."

  • 'Charmed'

    Image: Charmed
    Warner Bros.
    Shannen Doherty, center, starred on "Charmed" alongside Holly Marie Combs, left, and Alyssa Milano for three seasons.

    After a messy split with "Beverly Hills 90210" producer Aaron Spelling on the hit nineties era drama, Shannen Doherty's casting as the top witch in a sisterly coven was seen as the ultimate hatchet burying. Alas, twas not to be. Doherty left the series after the third season for undisclosed reasons. Flying in on a broomstick to replace her...

    Rose McGowan. The "Scream" star stands as one of the most successful replacements in TV history. Thanks to her macabre sex appeal, "Charmed" was able to cast a spell over viewers for five more seasons.

  • 'NewsRadio'

    Image: Newsradio
    Sony

    Phil Hartman's shocking 1998 murder at the hands of wife Brynn, left NBC's sitcom without its funniest supporting character. Nobody could ever replace the stentorian absurdity Hartman brought to the show, but try the network did, tapping...

    Jon Lovitz. Hartman's fellow "SNL" alum tried to fill his vainglorious shoes as radio host Max Louis. The show plunged from 62 to 77 in the ratings and was cancelled a year later.

  • 'Spin City'

    Image: Charlie Sheen
    Getty Images  /  Getty Images
    Charlie Sheen, center, joined "Spin City" after Michael J. Fox stepped down.

    Critics and audiences loved Michael J. Fox's return to sitcom nearly a decade after "Family Ties" ended. However, Fox's battle with Parkinson's Disease forced the actor to step down from his role as Deputy Mayor Mike Flaherty. To replace the irreplaceable Fox, ABC enlisted...

    Charlie Sheen. Indeed, the "Two and a Half Men" star should know better than anyone that finding a new star can inject fresh life into even the most successful shows. "Spin City" may not have matched the ratings highs of the Fox years, but it brought Sheen a Golden Globe award and the series stuck around to provide Richard Kind with two additional seasons of employment.

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