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The Green Ranger's Popularity Caused Jason David Frank's Exit From VR Troopers

"Power Rangers" fans and '90s kids everywhere recently learned of the devastating death of Jason David Frank, the longest-serving Power Ranger of all time. He was only 49 years old (per TMZ). 

Produced by Saban Entertainment, "Power Rangers" is a long-running franchise featuring young adults or teenagers who are granted superhuman abilities, mastery of martial arts, and control of giant mechs called Zords. The show utilized heavy use of footage from a similar Japanese franchise known as the "Super Sentai" series. 

Throughout the franchise's nearly 30-year history, Frank's Tommy Oliver was a regular on four different series, playing the Green and White Ranger in "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers," the Red Zeo Ranger in "Zeo Rangers," the first Red Turbo Ranger in "Power Rangers Turbo," and the Black Dino Ranger in "Power Rangers Dino Thunder." Frank would reprise his role in video games, specials, and one-off episodes in subsequent shows. His last official appearance on-screen in a series was in "Power Rangers Ninja Steel" in 2018. 

Tommy originally debuted in a five-episode arc, entitled "Green with Evil," in which Rita Repulsa (voiced by Barbara Goodson, played by Machiko Soga), the Rangers' big bad, chooses him as her personal evil Ranger. Eventually, the good guys free him from Rita's spell and he joins the Rangers to fight alongside them. In a future episode, his powers were temporarily returned to him to help the Rangers. In a bid to save them, Tommy sacrifices his hold on his powers, leaving him with a limited supply that will eventually wear off. Once completely de-powered, Tommy leaves the team.

Though Frank will always be remembered as a Power Ranger, it seems that he almost played an entirely different hero in a short-lived series of a similar nature.

Jason David Frank almost played another hero in a show similar to the Power Rangers

With Tommy out of the series, Jason David Frank was cast in a Saban-produced pilot called "Cybertron" — the series' name was changed to "VR Troopers" –- as Adam Steele, the leader of the titular team of superheroes. In the series, the Troopers must defend the world from mutants that live in a different dimension, accessible through virtual reality technology. The series eventually went to air without Frank. According to the Chicago Tribune, the show took advantage of the growing virtual reality fad. Similar to "Power Rangers," the series relied heavily on Japanese footage. After two seasons, "VR Troopers" was canceled. 

In 2017, That Hashtag Show sat down with Frank to discuss his career. In the interview, the actor was asked about "Cybertron." Accordingly, after shooting the pilot for the show, Frank received communications from Saban about the Green Ranger's popularity. Apparently, kids began staging informal protests after he left the series, which pushed parents to petition Saban to bring him back. Unfortunately, since footage of the Green Ranger was exhausted, producers brought him back as the White Ranger, using footage from another season of the "Super Sentai" series. 

"So what happened was the Green Ranger was super popular." Frank explained. "...They said, 'we have an issue', and I said 'what's the issue?' You lost your powers from the show, kids around the world, parents, and everyone are calling and saying hey, my kid's not going to eat, they're not going to school, so Saban and FOX freaked out and brought me back on the show as the White Ranger. That's a true story, they had a petition around petitioning 'we need to bring the Green Ranger back.'" 

And the rest, as they say, is history.