Sitcom Diablo, a spin-off of the legendary Plaid Stallions, recently posted pictures of several Good Times trading cards. I found myself laughing so hard I snorted hot coffee through my nose. Ouch! The thought that anyone would think that kids would want the likeness of an angry James Evans is unbelievable. What's more unbelievable is that we did want them, and bought them en masse.

Anyway, it got me thinking on a tangent of all the stars who got a sitcom expecting it to spotlight them, only to become overshadowed by an up-and-comer. John Amos had a burgeoning career that he thought would be furthered by a central role on Good Times. He was wrong. Amos didn't count on J.J. who came complete with the ultimate catch phrase - Dynomite!

Here's a list of some other actors and actresses who got upstaged unexpectedly. I'm sure there's lots more, but these are off the top of my head.

1. Mayim Bialik thought she'd continue her success after Beaches on the sitcom Blossom. She didn't count on Joey Lawrence completely trumping her. Oh, well. She's probably better for it - Bialik could've ended up just another stupid actress. Instead, she's got a PhD in neuroscience.

2. On Happy Days, Arthur Fonzarelli was initially supposed to be just a shady mechanic, rarely seen. Fast forward a couple seasons, and you may as well have just called it The Fonzie Show. Ralph, Richie, and Potsy could have been naked and painted orange, and no one would have even noticed - all eyes were on the man in the leather jacket.

3. The ultimate example has to be Webster. Susan Clark and Alex Karras actually thought the show would center around them, and was originally titled Then Came You. Ultimately, the studio execs were smart enough to realize that no one gave a giant hovering fart about the parents - they wanted the cute little black boy! Eventually, you could have replaced cardboard cut-outs for Clark and Karras, and no one would have noticed.

4. Family Ties was supposed to be about the ex-hippie parents; however, it wasn't long before it was about one thing and one thing only - Alex P. Keaton.

5. By the fifth season, Three's Company had become way too Chrissy-centered. All merchandising, promotions and plot lines started pushing Somers forward, and Ritter and DeWitt into the abyss. It went to her head and... well, you know the rest of the story. This issue of People illustrates the point perfectly - her name is big, bold and yellow. Theirs is damn near microscopic. Read the Chrissy-centric article here.

6. Family Matters was supposed to be about the Winslow family. Urkel wasn't even in the original cast. It wasn't long before, if your last name was Winslow, you didn't even need to show up - it was The Steve Urkel Show now, and he was making ABC's TGIF his bitch!

I'm sure I'm missing a painfully obvious one, but my short attention span prevents me from thinking on the subject any longer. Let me know if you've got a good one.

[For another example of a sitcom malady see a previous post: Casualties and Survivors of the Darrin Syndrome]


  1. Hey, little buddy, you missed an obvious one! GILLIGAN'S ISLAND! Both Jim Backus and Tina Louise have been quoted as saying they signed on becaue the show was originally supposed to be centered around THEIR characters!

    Also, in a non-sitcom, the wonderful Guy Williams was locked in as John Robinson long after the serious sci-fi series LOST IN SPACE became the DR. SMITH AND FRIENDS sitcom!

  2. I think that's happened so far. Great examples you posted. I think many times writers plan on focusing on one particular actor or so. Then it seems that another person will really shine on the show and the fans get behind them. Then the writers have to move the direction of the show. I would hate to have been a person who thought I was going to be the star of the show to find myself in a supporting part.

  3. Another obvious one would be Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith show. In the first season his role was sporadic and there were even episodes that he wasn't in. By season two he was getting a lot more focus and got most of the laughs. The show was lost after he left.