Bad Career Decisions - Shelley Long, Pernell Roberts ...

There have been cast members that have left successful TV shows and achieved less fame and money than they ever had with the original show. A few examples:

Shelley Long - “Cheers”
Pernell Roberts - “Bonanza”
David Caruso - “NYPD Blue”
Jeff Conaway - “Taxi”
MacLean Stevenson and Larry Linville - “MASH”
Henry Gibson and Arte Johnson - “Laugh-IN”

So, can you think of any others? It doesn’t have to be a TV show either. How about rock groups, movie series, etc ?
Also, firings don’t count. It must be a conscious decision made by the person who quit.
Cancellations don’t count either. For example, many people who stayed with MASH’s entire run had little success after the show ended.

Okay, so now it’s time to play:
From Relative Obscurity To Total Oblivion"

Marginal examples

David Lee Roth and Ven Halen

Peter Gabriel and Genesis (although a successful solo artist I think the Genesis cash flow was pretty strong after his departure and he might have done better financially had he stayed)

Ike - Ike and Tina (but did he quit or was he fired since it was HIS group)

Kenny - Southpark (I’m glad he’s back. What a great actor)

Rob Lowe left The West Wing for the 5 episode (I think) flop “The Lyon’s Den”

Pretty much every SNL alum who left (with a few notable exceptions).

Most of the ER cast except George Clooney.

Hmmm…it might be more difficult to name a TV star who went on to a bigger career in movies or whatever.

For musicians, Mick Taylor, who quit the Rolling Stones in the mid 1970s to do… um…
Movies George Lazenby (if his version of the story, that it was his decision not to do any more 007 films, is true).
TV - Denise Crosby leaving Star Trek: The Next Generation.
What’s-hername that played Kes leaving Voyager
David Duchovney didn’t exactly set the box office on fire after leaving The X Files

With Ike & Tina Turner, it was Tina who left and went on to far greater success. Right now, I’d say Ike Turner ranks somewhere below O.J. Simpson on the Celebrity Pariah List.

True. Of course, if you really want to make it difficult, just try to name the actresses who made it big on TV and then went on to a successful movie career.

Valerie Harper - Left a series with her name on the title. The series went on for a couple more years.

Patrick Duffy - Left Dallas for a season. They begged him to come back, but he didn’t exactly set the world on fire while he was gone.

Suzanne Sommers, Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson - a lot of turnover in those late '70s ABC shows.

Jean Hagen - Actually owned points in the Danny Thomas Show, but got tired of playing second-fiddle to the kid actors. She really fell off the map.

Jack Paar - Although he may have truly retired after the prime time version of his show ended.

James Drury - Anyone ever hear from him after he left The Virginian?

I could even make the argument that Mary Tyler Moore’s career fizzled out after she made the decision to end her series.

And while jk1245 blanket-named almost everyone who left Saturday Night Live, let’s give special recognition to. . . Chevy Chase.

Conversely, you have to applaud the guys who stayed with their TV shows to the bitter end, even though they had loads of movie offers. Henry Winkler and Michael J. Fox come to mind. They were EXTREMELY popular, for a time, and both made several movies (in Fox’s case, some hit movies)… but both were smart enough to see the benefits of a steady gig on a hit sitcom.

Pernell Roberts? After leaving Bonanza, he starred in his own extremely successful series, Trapper John, M.D., which ran for seven years on CBS. I don’t have salary figures, but I can’t imagine he didn’t make a ton more money for a show in which he played the title character than he did being one of four main characters. And while obviously Bonanza is remembered because it’s an iconic, long-running show, Pernell himself is at least equally famous for Trapper John. Hardly “total oblivion.”

And David Caruso? Since when is starring in a T.V. series consistently in the top 20 oblivion? Admittedly, his movie career didn’t go the way he expected, but he certainly has more money and more fame now than he did from his one season on NYPD Blue.

I’m not arguing with your premise, just that some of your choices don’t seem to fit at all. There’s nothing noble about sticking with a role until the bitter end if you want to move on. And just because you don’t see certain actors on a regular basis doesn’t mean they aren’t raking in the money. One of the most lucrative areas of acting right now is T.V. movies. The top stars, people like Tori Spelling, and in the past Valerie Bertinelli and all of the former Charlie’s Angels, can make as much money doing a few T.V. movies a year as they did appearing in a series.

Penny Marshall

I’ve always had regret for the decision of Rob Morrow to leave Northern Exposure for movies. He killed both the show and his career.

No comfort, but I’m pretty sure he regrets it, too.

More actresses who went from a successful T.V. career to big screen success: Goldie Hawn, Mia Farrow, Helen Hunt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sally Field…does Cher count?

Actors: Pierce Brosnan, Clint Eastwood (“move 'em up, head 'em out, Rawhide!”), Denzel Washington, George Clooney, Ryan O’Neal, Danny DeVito, Tom Hanks…

I know as soon as I post this I’ll think of a bunch more.

More actors who successfully moved from TV to movies: John Travolta, Steve McQueen, and Eddie Murphy.

I wouldn’t say Cher counts because she first shot to fame as a singer and then moved on to TV. I think this thread is mainly about those whose first made names for themselves on TV.

Anyway, if we’re going to count “Laugh-In” cast members who went on some movie success why not include Lily Tomlin?

No, this thread is about people who made bad career decisions, but why quibble? :wink:

There and back again, since she’s now a member of the cast of The West Wing.

Another actor who left TV to make it big: Jim Carrey

Peter Wolf’s career tanked after leaving The J. Geils Band. His first solo album was fairly successful. Of course, the band crashed and burned afterwards as well.

Pernell Roberts left Bonanza in 1965 and Trapper John started in 1979. That’s quite a time gap.

Rob Lowe didn’t leave “West Wing”, he was forced out. Sure, the producers can say “We offered him a twinkie and two cool looking rocks, but he turned it down. Not our fault.” People in the know see it otherwise.

There’s been a lot of force-outs on network TV lately. When a show is a success, the salaries rise, then the ratings start to sag and it’s no longer profitable to air the show unless some cost cutting is done. In some cases, the producers are not willing to make the cost cutting and the show is canned, sometimes in not so obvious ways. “You’re moving my show to when???”

For all practical purposes, “Frasier” is no longer profitable and “Friends” was getting close to it. So they’re smoke. “We all thought it was a good time to wrap it up.” Yeah, right.

As to successful actors who started in TV, that applies to almost all of them. I think Meg Ryan’s post-“As The World Turns” career isn’t too bad.

I dunno 'bout that. His career fizzled later, but he certainly had a string of hits right after he left SNL - Caddyshack, Fletch, Vacation, plus his cutesy hits with Goldie hawn - Foul Play, Seems Like Old Times - hell, even Spies Like Us and Three Amigos were hits.

Others who went on to better Movie careers after TV: Morgan Freeman, Robin Williams, Ron Howard, Bruce Willis anyone?

As to the OP: Law & Order has had mixed results:

No: Richard Brooks, Carey Lowell, Angie Harmon

Yes: Jill Hennessey, Benjamin Bratt, Chris Noth


Jeff Conway, of Taxi & the movie Grease, has always reminded me of him being Keith Richards love child.

That’s all.
Can I ask one question, Steve Gutenburg had the world by the balls for a couple of years with those dingy police academy movies and a host of other fun little forgettable films. Except for the Simpson references, he seems to have dropped off the map.