TODAY   |  March 29, 2014

Gone too soon? When TV shows kill off favorite characters

People are incredibly passionate when, seemingly out of the blue, a show kills off one of its main characters. Critics say this is network TV’s way of keeping up with cable, but regardless of reasoning it stings when a beloved character is suddenly gone. TODAY’s Joelle Garguilo reports

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>>> back now with a look at why popular tv shows are killing off their main characters . it happened this week on "the good wife," leaving fans shocked, to say the least.

>> yes, that may be putting it mildly. joelle garguilo has more on this surprise and why other shows seem to be following suit. good morning.

>> good morning! i know! see, every time you bring up the topic, it just happened before the show, people get so incredibly passionate. some say it has to do with ratings. others think it's a way to get people hooked on watching live. regardless of the reason, we can all agree, it stings when your favorite character is all of a sudden gone. it was the shocking moment no one saw coming. attorney will gardner fatally gunned down, gone for good.

>> will!

>> reporter: immediately, the social media backlash began. fans of "the good wife" reeling, tweeting things like, "it's not supposed to happen this way!" "seriously, writers, i am sitting here stunned!" "this is officially one of the worst decisions ever in tv." but it's just the latest in a long line of series knocking off main characters . the red wedding episode of "game of thrones" was a bloody shocker, while "scandal," "persons of interest" and "homeland" left viewers outraged, sparking conversations even here at 30 rock .

>> suddenly, not even at the season finale, but midseason!

>> completely devastated.

>> i felt really betrayed by the characters.

>> reporter: even joan rivers was up in arms.

>> i finally get to like somebody and follow their lives and you kill them off?

>> maybe take you a week, it's your opportunity.

>> reporter: tony soprano may tell you that they have been killing off characters for years and "er's" mark green might agree. but as of late, it seems no lead is safe. the questions so many people want need answered.

>> why?

>> why?

>> why!

>> to break out of the clutter of tv, you've got to do something bold and there's nothing more bold than killing off somebody that the fans love. it is a calculated risk, but sometimes you've got to hurt the ones you love.

>> reporter: could the drastic move mean the demise of a series?

>> networks have to push hard to get noticed nowa day, and if it turns off a couple of fans it might bring new people back into the show.

>> reporter: or perhaps it's a tactic to get people watching television live. after all, nothing's worse than a spoiler.

>> they killed him off!

>> what?

>> just ask "homeland" fan jennifer lawrence .

>> i can't believe they did that.

>> reporter: the takeaway? you'd better catch up on your favorite shows, because you never know who could be on the chopping block next. so, we asked our "today" facebook fans which tv character's death hit them the hardest over the years. and guys, overwhelmingly, people said dr. mark green on "er." 75%! but you disagree.

>> i -- no, i think they're all good. i think -- i mean, i don't wish for death, but i think --

>> thanks for clarifying.

>> i think it keeps shows fresh. it challenges the writers. and you know what? it's drama.

>> i'm against it, personally.

>> you're against it all?

>> personal laeyz i'm against it.

>> i don't have anything against it, but it's amazing how much it's a gut reaction we all have. we feel so emotionally attached to them, it's so hard to say good-bye. but now that josh charles is free, he can hang out with us on the weekends. just saying.

>> i did watch it last weekend and was like, wow, did not see that coming.

>> joelle, thank you.