Five Sitcoms Where the Main Character Mysteriously Went Missing

Remember those episodes of ‘Sanford and Son’ that were just ‘and Son’?
Five Sitcoms Where the Main Character Mysteriously Went Missing

Being part of a sitcom, particularly in the days when the major networks still ruled the day, required a pretty demanding schedule. There was a table read, rehearsals and a taping with a live studio audience. And unlike most cable and streaming shows today, episode orders usually exceeded 20 per season. It was a lot to keep up with, and often, life got in the way.

Sometimes people got pregnant or had some other health-related issue, and sometimes they got into contract disputes with the network. Yet the show still rolled along without them — even if it was the star who had gone missing. 

Here are five times a main character disappeared from a classic sitcom, and what exactly caused their disappearance…

Alyson Hannigan, ‘How I Met Your Mother’

How I Met Your Mother used a hilariously thin reason to write Hannigan’s character Lily out of the show for four episodes. Neil Patrick Harris’ Barney tells her a dirty joke that she is so offended by that she gets up from the table and decides not to be friends with him anymore. Eventually, she came around to the joke, admitting it was funny. In real life, Hannigan was on maternity leave.

Tracy Morgan, ‘30 Rock’

Morgan needed an emergency kidney transplant during the fifth season of 30 Rock, so Tina Fey and the rest of the writers had to get creative about what to do with his character, Tracy Jordan. They decided that Tracy was in Africa, until it was revealed, four episodes later, that he was in New York City the whole time. 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards and Jason Alexander, ‘Seinfeld’

Aside from Jerry Seinfeld, each of Seinfeld’s main cast members were missing from at least one episode. Richards’ Kramer missed out twice. The first time was “The Chinese Restaurant” in Season Two because, at that point in the series, Kramer was a shut-in, confined to scenes in the apartment building. Then, Season Three’s “The Pen,” didn’t feature Kramer or Alexander’s George, as it focused on Jerry and Elaine visiting Jerry’s parents in Florida. Alexander was so offended by not being included that he told Seinfeld he’d leave the show if it happened again. After that, no character was left out of an episode save for when Louis-Dreyus went on maternity leave for two episodes at the beginning of Season Four (Elaine was said to be away in Europe). For the record, Elaine also wasn’t in the show’s pilot, but that’s because she didn’t exist yet.

Zooey Deschanel, ‘New Girl’

There were six episodes of New Girl that should have been called No Girl. During the show’s fourth season, Deschanel got pregnant. To plan around her pregnancy, production of Season Five began immediately after Season Four wrapped and a story was conceived where Deschanel’s character, Jess, would have extended jury duty. After starring in the first three episodes of the season, Jess was sequestered and Deschanel went on maternity leave. Deschanel then returned in what was billed as the 100th episode, but what was actually the 104th (close enough, I guess).

Redd Foxx, ‘Sanford and Son’

Halfway through the third season of Sanford and Son, Foxx walked off his own show demanding a better contract. Perhaps trying to call his bluff, NBC kept on taping with Demond Wilson, who played Foxx’s son, and Whitman Mayo, who played Foxx’s friend Grady

Within the context of the show, Fred Sanford was away at a funeral, but behind the scenes, Foxx stood his ground until he received 25 percent of the profits from the show and the same salary as All in the Family star, Carroll O’Connor ($25,000 per episode). Foxx finally got what he wanted and returned four episodes into Season Four. Absurdly, nobody learned their lesson from the incident because Foxx would be lured away by ABC a couple of years later to host a short-lived variety show, while a disastrous Foxx-less Sanford and Son spin-off, Sanford Arms, lasted just eight episodes on NBC. 

Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?