Franchises That Changed When Their Biggest Stars Left

When a major star decides to leave a TV show or film franchise, it leaves producers with a conundrum. They can either put an end to the show or franchise, or continue on. Occasionally, continuing on works out, even if it was a main character who left, but this is a rare occurrence. Most of the time, the show or franchise limps on, and fans want nothing more than for the creators to put the projects out of their misery. Here's a list of a few shows that did just that. For a few of them, it worked out, but most of these franchises continued far longer than they should have.

The Office - Steve Carell

As cringeworthy as many of his actions are, Steve Carell's seven-year run as Michael Scott was a big reason why viewers watched The Office week after week. It's funny because anyone who had a boss like that in real life probably wouldn't have stayed at that job at all. Strangely enough, when Carell left the show, working conditions at Dunder Mifflin improved, but the show went downhill. His replacement, Ed Helms' Andy Bernard, was an okay guy, but he was too insecure. After the episode that introduces his family, most people had to stop watching. It was just too sad for a comedy.

8 Simple Rules - John Ritter

John Ritter's untimely passing completely changed the tone of his final sitcom, 8 Simple Rules. To the producers' credit, they didn't try to replace Ritter or try some cheap ploy to keep the show going. Instead, they made his death a part of the show's plot, which is gutsy considering 8 Simple Rules was a comedy. For a few episodes, this comedy became a pretty serious drama, examining how a family carries on after a parent dies. While this was a worthwhile topic to explore, it didn't help much in the ratings department. Once the series switched gears back to being a full-on comedy, most of its audience had moved on to other shows, ultimately leading to Rules' cancellation.

The Tonight Show - Jay Leno

Jay Leno leaving The Tonight Show (twice) was the best thing to happen to this late-night television show. Don't let the ratings fool you. Under Leno, the show became a sleep-inducing snore-fest over the years. Maybe Leno got a bit too comfortable as host and just stopped caring about being funny. Under Conan O'Brien and then Jimmy Fallon, the show got a new shot of life and humor that it hasn't had since Johnny Carson was hosting.

Two And A Half Men - Charlie Sheen

Two and a Half Men only slightly improved when Charlie Sheen burned his bridges with the show after eight seasons. The show remained pretty dismal once he was gone. It still consisted of the same tired, low-brow jokes and canned laughter that originally tricked people into watching. How it stayed on the air while Sheen was still a part of it is the really confusing part.

That '70s Show - Topher Grace

Topher Grace's Eric Forman was the heart of That '70s Show. In fact, the original premise of the show was for it to be mainly about Eric Forman, according to E!. As the rest of the cast grew in popularity, it became an ensemble show. Grace's leaving in order to move forward with his career proved just how much the ensemble cast depended on him. While the crew's performances were still strong, the show itself went downhill, as the writers seemed to rely more and more on cliche gags. By the time the series ended, it only had about half of its former audience.

Batman - Michael Keaton

While Michael Keaton's two Batman movies were nowhere near as grim and gritty as Christopher Nolan's trilogy, they were way better than Joel Schumacher's sequels. No other actor who portrayed the Dark Knight matched the tortured and disturbed performance Keaton brought to the character. Once Keaton put down the cowl and Tim Burton moved on, Schumacher started directing, resulting in the franchise becoming a cartoonish satire of itself. Surprisingly, the subsequent actors' performances in the following Batman movies didn't help matters much either.

Batman - Val Kilmer

There's not much to say about Val Kilmer's performance as Batman. Despite starring in the title role of Batman Forever, he's kind of forgettable. Whatever you say about Val Kilmer's performance as Batman, however, it's light years above George Clooney's turn in the cape and cowl in Batman & Robin. Sure, Clooney looked the part of Bruce Wayne, but that's as far as his talents extend in this movie. His most egregious crime: he smiles way too much. Even while he tells Dick Grayson that Alfred is dying, he fights back a smirk. It's almost as if Clooney could foresee just how bad Batman & Robin would be. We would've gladly preferred Kilmer's return if we knew what Clooney had in store.

Mad Max - Mel Gibson

The three original Mad Max movies, Mad Max, The Road Warrior, and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, are cinematic classics. Their successes are owed to the vision of director George Miller, but just as much is due to the performances of A-list star and occasional nutjob Mel Gibson. One would think that Gibson leaving the films would mean doom for any modern sequels. Well, that is a false assumption, because Mad Max: Fury Road is just as good as the originals, if not better. It contained all the craziness of the previous films, without a crazy star in the title role—oh, what a lovely day Fury Road's opening night was.

Terminator - Linda Hamilton

Linda Hamilton's absence from the last few Terminator movies shows just how important she is to the franchise. No other actor or actress provides an emotional core to the movies like Hamilton. Each Terminator movie made without her is worse than the last, beginning with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. From there, the series never recovered, reaching its lowest point with 2015's Terminator: Genisys, which tried to reboot the storyline of the original two films, but was nowhere near as good. Knowing more sequels are planned, we'd much rather be terminated than have to watch them.

American Idol - Simon Cowell

American Idol's original success had nothing to do with watching hopeful contestants compete to ultimately become a professional singer and earn a record deal. Viewers tuned in week after week for the caustic comments original judge Simon Cowell hurled at the delusional auditioners. Once he left, the show continued for six seasons too many, losing more and more viewers each year. Let's face it, no one wants to see people succeed in a happy, healthy environment. They want to see a surly Brit belittling them. Why do you think so many people have followed Cowell to his other shows?