Some shows leave us too soon, others overstay their welcome. In the golden age of reboots, nothing stays dead for too long, regardless of why a show went off the air in the first place. While the reasons behind the endings of beloved shows are usually ratings-centric, occasionally, a long-lasting series will only call it a day once its star gives it no choice.
Though series like Scrubs or The Office clung to life after a main character's departure and others including NYPD Blue and Criminal Minds thrived, some showrunners decided that a series regular's departure is a good excuse to end a series that could reasonably go on forever. If this sounds like Grey's Anatomy's future fate to you, you're probably right. Until Ellen Pompeo fulfills that prophecy, these are the 25 long-running television series that ended because an actor quit the show.
The Big Bang Theory ran for over a decade before Jim Parsons decided it was time for Dr. Sheldon Cooper to take his final bow. Although Entertainment Weekly reported that CBS was willing to give Jim over $50 million over the course of two years if he agreed to stay, the actor left The Big Bang Theory and ended the longest-running multi-camera television show in history.
“It’s both as complex and as simple as it just felt innately that it was time,” Jim explained. “It feels like we’ve really gotten to chew all the meat off this bone, as it were.”
Parks And Recreation should have gotten twenty seasons and a trio of feature-length films. It was that good. Instead, Parks and Rec ended after seven seasons because of a joint decision by star Amy Poehler, who also served as a producer, and creator Michael Schur. Mike and Amy told Entertainment Weekly they agreed that they wanted to "be the people who ended the show when we wanted to end it," and the seventh season seemed like the right time in their guts. They pitched their ideal ending to the network, and NBC agreed on their vision of a shortened final season.
Sarah Michelle-Gellar left Buffy The Vampire Slayer by simply stating that "Buffy, in this incarnation, is over." After seven years on the series, the actress was clearly emotional about exiting the iconic supernatural series, crying through the first of many exit interviews with Entertainment Weekly. Although a multitude of new slayers were introduced in the final season, to showrunner Joss Whedon, "no matter what, [Sarah] was the other half of Buffy." Joss said that he couldn't overemphasize how valuable Sarah was to Buffy, so clearly continuing without her wasn't in the cards.
The Secret World of Alex Mack was a beloved Nickelodeon show that replaced Clarissa Explains It All on the network. It ran from '94 until '98, and ended before Y2K because the titular Alex Mack, Larisa Oleynik opted to leave the show. She was allegedly offered a ton of money for the fifth season AND a spin-off movie deal, but she declined. She went on to a stint on 3rd Rock from the Sun and left her SNICK show behind.
We weren't the only ones wondering why Cheers was canceled nearly thirty years ago. TV Guide answered a question submitted to that effect by explaining that Ted Danson wanted to leave the decade-long series to pursue other opportunities, and the executive producer and co-creator Les Charles would not do the show without him. Everyone but Ted wanted to make a final season, so he often tried to deny taking full responsibility in the press. Now, if he ever tries to pull that same move with The Good Place, we're going to have a serious problem.
Although its never been confirmed, rumors have been floating around for years that the ridiculously successful sitcom Friends ended (at least in part) because of Jennifer Aniston's desire to do more work in film. Other cast members shared her sentiments, so they decided that it was time for the series to gracefully bow out. Jen also wanted more time to start a family with Brad Pitt, but we all know that didn't exactly go according to plan. Luckily, her movie career worked out better than her marriage.
One Day At A Time is no longer primarily remembered for its original incarnation with Bonnie Franklin and Mackenzie Phillips in the mid-1970s and 1980s. The 2017 Latinx remake that was cruelly axed by Netflix made waves first for its rare portrayal of a Hispanic family, then for the lack of representation caused by its loss. The original series, however, was not without its own drama. Bonnie and co-star Valerie Bertinelli agreed to renew their contracts for a ninth and final season, rejecting the network's offer of a tenth season because they wanted to move on with their lives.
Kevin James left King Of Queens for a not-so-good reason. Leah Remini revealed in her 2015 autobiography Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology that Kevin wanted to end the series before it could be canceled because he didn't want to risk being involved in an axed show while his movie career was developing. His next foray into sitcoms, Kevin Can Wait ended up being canceled after two seasons and a boatload of negative reviews, rendering his logic for leaving King Of Queens fairly moot.
Sonny With a Chance star Demi Lovato hasn't made it a secret that her time working for Disney Channel was far from easy. As she struggled with an eating disorder and drug dependency, she ultimately felt it was her best interest to leave The Mouse and quit the show that made her famous. Instead of continuing the show without its star, Disney started production on a spin-off sketch show So Random!.
It's hard to say how much of the salacious 2012 tell-all Twitch Upon A Star: The Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery by Herbie Pilato was true, but pop culture historians can agree that Elizabeth Montgomery chose to leave Bewitched with two years left on her contract. The book claims that her desire to leave was partly because of boredom, her then-husband and Bewitched producer Bill Asher's affairs, and her own flirtation with one of the series' married directors.
While few places on the deep dark interwebs remember why Walker, Texas Ranger ended, a 2001 Los Angeles Times article announcing the eight-year-long series' ending reminded us that Chuck Norris just wanted to "quit as a winner." Chuck fully admits that ending the series was his idea because he wanted to have time to have a life. Chuck Norris may have built the hospital he was born in, but even the only man to ever defeat a brick wall in a game of tennis had trouble balancing an executive producer role with his duties as an actor.
The Jim Gaffigan Show only filmed for two years, but the creative forces behind the series had been working tirelessly on the series for at least five years when it ended in 2016. The show's star, Jim Gaffigan and his wife Jeannie Gaffigan, wanted to end the show because they had five kids. With both parents working tirelessly on the series, there wasn't much time for either of them to actually parent their kids. The couple had a long discussion with the AV Club that made it clear the choice to end after only two seasons was theirs.
You couldn't really have Lizzie McGuire without Lizzie McGuire, so the show and movie sequel were abandoned when Hilary Duff walked away from her character after Hilary's mom and Disney execs couldn't agree on a salary for the teen actress. There's been talk of a revival for years now that Hilary's in charge of her own contracts, but she's a little busy with Younger at the moment.
Series star Kiefer Sutherland and executive producer and showrunner Howard Gordon came to a mutual agreement that 24's eighth season would be its last. Kiefer and Howard wanted the show to end on a high note and knew they'd have the opportunity to create a 24 feature film in the future, so they were confident it was the right time to pull the plug. Ironically, that film never came to fruition and languished in development for over five years before being (presumably) indefinitely shelved. Instead, the original show returned as a limited series in 2013, and a few spin-offs have been developed as well.
Beatrice Arthur aka the inimitable Dorothy Petrillo Zbornak Hollingsworth left the series after the seventh season fell out of the top ten for the first time in the series' run, landing at number thirty. Bea's character marries Blanche's uncle Lucas and moves to Georgia, setting the stage for the Golden Girls spin-off The Golden Palace, which followed the three remaining girls Blanche, Rose, and Sophia running a hotel. That series only lasted one season, although the other Golden Girls spin-off Empty Nest did quite well during its seven-season run.
Supernatural aired on The CW for fifteen seasons before the series' leads Jensen Ackles and Jared Padelecki walked away from the hit series. There was really no way for Supernatural to continue without the Winchester brothers, even if characters like Castiel had become breakout hits on their own merit. Jensen told Entertainment Weekly that the decision came after "months and months, if not years, of discussion" between him and Jared that included the rest of the crew. In an attempt to go out on top, the Supernatural team agreed with Jared and Jensen that this was the right time to say goodbye.
During the same week that The CW announced Supernatural's final season, Stephen Amell took to Twitter to break the news of Arrow's shortened final season.
"Playing Oliver Queen has been the greatest professional experience of my life... but you can’t be a vigilante forever," Stephen wrote. "Arrow will return for a final run of 10 episodes this fall. There’s so much to say... for now I just want to say thank you."
Stephen has since made it clear that even though Arrow is ending, fans haven't seen the last of the masked archer. Stephen is willing to return to the role within the expanded Arrowverse.
This Australian show captured the hearts of tweens locally and abroad, so H2O fans were bummed when the mermaid program went off air. It was canceled for a declining ratings — but also because the three actresses at the helm of the show outgrew their roles and started to take on various other roles. Claire Holt, who played Emma, quit to do more with her acting career, as did Angus McLaren, who played Cleo's love interest Lewis. Instead of trying to save ratings without two fan-favorite characters, Network Ten gave the show the boot.
It would be fair to assume that Gilmore Girls's season seven showrunner change is what did the series in, and it's very likely that the loss of Amy Sherman-Palladino contributed to Alexis Bledel and Lauren Graham's decisions to say goodbye. The CW was originally considering a thirteen-episode final season, but Alexis and Lauren would only come back with a slightly lighter schedule. Because of the nature of Gilmore Girls's dialogue, that proved impossible and the girls decided to end the series with season seven, Lauren explained to TV Guide.
Dave Chappelle turned down $50 million to continue his Comedy Central series The Chappelle Show, which clearly could not have gone on without him. Dave infamously left the series in the middle of filming the third season, and he told David Letterman that the difference between the $10 million he had without the series and the $50 million he would have with it was such a minuscule change in lifestyle, he has no qualms about leaving because he was afraid of the fame. An extra $40 million sounds like a great way to buy a yacht or add a helipad to your mansion, but you do you, my dude.
MacGyver is one of an insane amount of series to receive the reboot treatment, but the making of the original series doesn't sound like the best time for its star, Richard Dean Anderson, who regularly complained that ABC wasn't marketing the show by the time the fourth season came around. The seventh season was then shortened, but Richard made it clear the decision was his and that his co-stars shared his desire to quit.
"The only reason it went off the air was that everybody was ready to move on," He told TV Guide. "I was physically exhausted and had no life."
Shockingly, The Vampire Diaries didn't end when the series' lead Nina Dobrev called it quits during season six. Two years later, though, when both Kat Graham and Ian Somerhalder decided that season eight would be their last, The CW finally pulled the plug. It's not confirmed that the loss of two more beloved characters was the reason for the series' demise, but with two successful spin-offs and plenty of crossover possibilities, it's not like they were losing that much with the parent series gone.
Girls was an interesting series. It suffered from what should be known as the Smash effect — a pilot episode so fantastic that the rest of the series could never live up to its promise. (That being said, #BringBackSmash). Lena Dunham's various publicity nightmares and the series' blatant whiteness got rid of any chance Girls had of claiming what many thought would become its rightful place in the zeitgeist (which Broad City now occupies instead), and Lena eventually chose to end the series because the leads had aged out of its niche. A show about 30-somethings making these girls' mistakes wouldn't be a comedy, it would be a Greek tragedy.
So many kids' shows got canceled when the lead actor or actress decided that they had outgrown their role, and that's what happened with Hannah Montana. Miley Cyrus has been critical of Disney Channel ever since she left, which was reportedly because she felt she was too old to be playing a character for Mickey. She went through the run-of-the-mill Disney star rebellious period and recently put her wig back on to make former HM fans (now full adults) lose their sh*t.
Like Hilary Duff, Nat Wolff and brother Alex Wolff had to walk away from their show because their parents couldn't make a deal with the network execs about the future of the show and their sons' involvement. Basically, the initial deal was that Nat and Alex would film short, 12-episode seasons so they wouldn't have to miss out on a normal school experience. Then, after the success of the first three seasons, Nick apparently decided that they wanted to film 60 episodes a year (!) instead of the standard 12. The Wolff parents walked away with their star sons and the show was ripped from the air. No big deal for Nat or Alex though, who have both gone on to star in some pretty high-profile movies since.