The Top 10 Sitcom Characters Who Suddenly Changed Faces

February 26, 2010

TV shows being what they are, it’s almost inevitable that sometimes, actors have to leave their roles.  But you can't just kill some characters.  No, you’ve got to keep them around.  So, just like everybody knows Darrin from Bewitched switched around, here are 10 TV shows where the actors were suddenly…a little different.

Source: ABC

By Dan Seitz

10. Roseanne's Infamous Two Beckys

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Photo: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Roseanne was an unusual sitcom in a lot of ways; it was about a working-class family, it confronted serious issues in a serious way, and really only asked us to suspend our disbelief when it came to the idea that John Goodman couldn’t do better than freakin’ Roseanne.

Then Alicia Goranson, who’d been playing Becky for a couple of years, decided she might actually want to do something with her life that didn’t involve shrieking fat people, and went to college.  So they hired Sarah Chalke, better known as the hot blonde with the gender-confusing name on Scrubs…and the show went to town.

Any possible way they could beat this into the ground, they did it.  References to Bewitched?  Check.  Characters noticing the actress was different?  Check.  When Chalke came back to finish off the series, they literally had the family freeze frame, Chalke walk in, and an announcer state that she’d be playing Becky for the rest of the series.


9. Chris From The Partridge Family Had an Anti-Stage Dad


Photo: ABC

Jeremy Gelbwaks has the kind of luck most child actors can only dream of.  He was a player on The Partridge Family, a surprise hit about a bunch of saccharine pop singers.

Then he lost his role on TV because...his dad moved, taking the whole family with him and losing poor Jeremy his entire career; Gelbwaks hasn't worked since, at least not in material the IMDb lists.

And just to add insult to injury, a producer claims nobody even noticed the switch.  No wonder he got a business degree.

8. The Brady Household Might as Well Have a Revolving Door


Photo: ABC

The Brady Bunch is, of course, a paragon of beloved TV that everybody grew up with, designed to have all the edge of a cue ball, but we've got to ask: what's with all the nostalgia programming that doesn't even feature the original actors?

Okay, Cindy we get, she was, what, eight, although sadly the porn star thing is just a rumor. But Jan Brady? Marcia? Isn't the entire idea of the last thirty years of cashing in on the manufactured nostalgia of this terrible TV show seeing the original actors back?  What, was Eve Plumb busy?  Did Maureen McCormack's country career really take up that much time? Apparently so, because each of their roles was played by no less than four separate actors in the numerous reunion specials.

7. Terence Steadman on Prison Break Gets his Face Changed


Photo: John M. Heller/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Photo: ABC

Considering Prison Break stopped making sense right after it didn't end after the first season, we guess they could just pass off the man the hero's brother didn't actually kill as having plastic surgery or something.

But we've got to wonder if John Billingsley, the original Steadman, has a thing for gimmick shows or something, because he couldn't show up because he was part of The Nine, which is basically thirteen hours dedicated to one bank robbery.  On the other hand, at least he didn't fall victim to the fate of Jeff Perry, his replacement: that poor guy went to the actor's hell us mere mortals know as...Grey's Anatomy.

6. Don't Cross The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air


Source: NBC

Janet Hubert, who you know better as Aunt Vivian, had one problem on the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air: The Fresh Prince himself.

The IMDB doesn't go into a whole lot of details, although we assume it's something along the lines of TV parents just not understanding Will.  Hubert left and was replaced by the presumably more jiggy Daphne Maxwell Reid.


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5. Laurie Becomes a Moonie or Something on That '70s Show


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Remember That '70s Show?  You know, the show that inflicted Ashton Kutcher on us all?  Yeah, we're trying to forget it too.  But bring back the repressed memories long enough to remember Laurie.

Basically, Laurie was an incredibly popular character that one day the writers decided to disappear for no apparent reason (although drug problems have been rumored). Whatever happened, the actress, Lisa Robin Kelly, came back before getting replaced by Christina Moore...and then the character disappeared again.

We're guessing it was because she escaped Fez's basement and he recaptured her.  That vacant stare, that latent homosexuality, that empty smile...something about that guy just tells us he's a serial killer.  

4. Everybody Loves Raymond Thinks Pee Wee Herman and Cabin Boy Are One and the Same


Photo: Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage/Getty Images

Photo: Bobby Bank/WireImage/Getty Images

Everybody Loves Raymond, early on, had a one-off comic shop character, Russell, and because they had the taste, class, and willingness to break stereotypes Raymond was known for, they hired frightening man-child Paul Reubens, who you know better as Pee Wee Herman, to portray him (and maybe snack on a bit of your soul while he was there).

A couple of seasons later, they wanted to bring the character back...except they changed his name to Peter, suddenly he was Ray's brother-in-law, he was played by Hollywood's other go-to man-child, Chris Elliot, and for some reason they decided to keep the comic shop thing even though it made no sense.

In other words, the writing staff was out to prove there was more reason to hate this show than launching the career of Kevin James.

3. Family Matters Dumped the Actress That the Show Was Spun Off For



You kind of have to feel bad for JoMarie Payton. Accomplished singer and actress, she’d put in 33 episodes on Perfect Strangers before finally getting the lead in her own show with the cop from Die Hard.  And what happens?  The entire show gets hijacked by a nerd character who was only supposed to show up, be a dweeb and leave.

When the show got cancelled from ABC, Payton probably thought she was finally free of “Did I Do That?”, much like the rest of America.  Then CBS swooped in and renewed, so she split for a better career as a guest star in just about everything under the sun, while Judyann Elder got stuck with having to put up with Urkel for another year.

2. Pam's Mom Switches From Creepy Lady to Matlock's Daughter


Photo: Ryan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Photo: Amanda Edwards/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

We expect sitcoms like According to Jim to be sloppy and lame, but not The Office, so it was weird when Pam's mom switched from being the scary woman in The Ring to the girlfriend of several Happy Days characters.
Turns out that creepy lady, a.k.a. Sharon Cochran, was on stage and couldn't get out of her contract, so they hired Linda Purl to fill in.  

Or maybe it was a curse fulfilling itself: Linda Purl was a lead on Matlock and had to bow out after a season herself.  We're mourning the missed opportunity here: Michael Scott could watch the cursed video and then Matlock could come and investigate the murder.  NBC, you missed out on a chance to create pop culture brilliance.

1. Gary from Cheers Switches Between Two Faces On a Regular Basis



Cheers is probably America’s best loved sitcom about alcoholism, broken relationships, and futility.  That last was best symbolized by Sam constantly losing out, almost every year, to Gary, who somehow manages to be the single most obnoxious bar owner in Boston despite not being anywhere near the Fenway.

But what was weird about Gary is that he was first played by Joel Polis, who you probably know better as Fuchs from The Thing, and then by Robert Desiderio…and then by Polis again…and then by Desiderio…and so on.

Yep, you read that right: Polis and Desiderio actually took turns playing Gary.  The research team spent an entire hour looking around for any reason these two guys took turns playing the same character, and the best we can figure is that they were setting up some sort of epic mind screw where the two Garys suddenly appear and break what’s left of Ted Danson’s sanity after Kristie Alley and Shelley Long got done wrecking it.


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