Character deaths on sitcoms (open spoilers inside)

Sitcoms generally shy away from really serious topics like death, but some will take a chance.

I just got the Soap season 2 DVD set. Early in the season Elaine (Danny’s wife) is kidnapped. She manages to escape, but is shot in the back while running away. She makes it home only to collapse in Danny’s arms. Unfortunately, she dies. This is one of the saddest scenes I’ve ever watched on a TV show. According to most TV trivia sources, this is the first sitcom character to die on camera.

Is this true?

I can think of a few other deaths that were described, but not seen:

Chuckles the Clown on the Mary Tyler Moore Show
Edith Bunker on Archie Bunker’s Place

There was the Asian cop on Barney Miller. I forget how the character died, but he had to be written out after the actor playing him suffered a fatal heart attack.

I think Phil Hartman’s character was killed (heart attack?) in NewsRadio after Hartman was murdered by his wife.

There was a pretty famous episode of Family Ties where one of Alex’s friends dies, and the whole episode was done in a very stagey kind of manner. Can’t remember if the friend had been a reoccuring character, or had been invented just so they could have a “very special episode.”

In MASH*, Henry Blake’s plane home got shot down over the sea of Japan when MacLean Stevenson started agitating for more money/screentime/whatever and pissed off the show’s writers.

If you consider The Simpsons to be a sitcom, there’s Maude Flanders (on camera), Bleeding Gums Murphy (off camera), and Dr. Marvin Monroe (obliquly referenced).

Alex’s friend was invented for the episode. It was interesting to see him so upset over someone he was supposedly so close to but never deigned to mention.

There was an episode of Growing Pains where Carol and her boyfriend (played by a pre-Chandler Bing Matthew Perry) go out and get drunk, get in a car accident and he dies.
Definitely Very Special Episode stuff.

Now that I look back at it, Tim’s mother dies several episodes before Elaine, but it’s one minute she’s alive, the next she’s dead.

You don’t actually see her die, though. She was insulting Corrine and the camera cuts away. When they return to her, Corrine notices she’s dead.

Mr Blue Sky’s post reminds me of a Saved by the Bell: The College Years (I was 12! And in love with Tiffani Amber Thiessen!) episode where one of the professors dies on their dorm room couch off camera. He was there for a birthday party or some other sort of celebration and when the camera panned back towards him after everyone was finished throwing the confetti, he was dead.

Valerie, anyone? The one where they killed off the titular character? :eek:

I guess when issues of salary or creative control come up behind the scenes, anyone can “die” at any time. Just like Joe Bob Briggs said.
(Heh-heh…“Titular.” Heh-heh-heh…)

Back when I was still kind-of watching ER they rather shockingly got rid of Dr. Carter’s love interest for a couple of seasons (Kellie Martin) by having some knife wielding lunatic violently stab her and Dr. Carter. It was actually a really well-done scene - they’re at some party in the E.R. and suddenly the man comes up to Dr. Carter from behind and stabs him - you don’t see what’s happening to him, just that he’s got a puzzled look on his face while you hear a thudding sound. After he falls to the ground, you see that his love interest was also stabbed b/c she’s looking right at him, laying on the floor.

All of this while that Lo Fidelity All-Stars is blaring in the background. (From the party).

Then the jerk doctor (from Robocop) tries to save her but she gets a pulmonary embolism and dies shortly thereafter, on his operating table. She’s alert and realizes she’s going to die when they tell her she’s got a P.E. Rough stuff.

Hmmm, now that I think about it maybe I stopped kind-of watching after that…:slight_smile:

There was an All in the Family ep where a Jewish Defense League rep left the Bunker home, got into his car, and it blew up. This was around 1974… Off-camera, but the Bunkers and Stiviks were watching in horror.

On MASH, various characters–including Henry Blake–died in the course of storylines, usually off-camera (although the baby in the last episode might have been on-camera).

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartmen had a scene where a character’s death was played for laughs. He died at the dinner table while Mary kept talking to him and ladling soup into his bowl.

There was at least one on-camera death on WKRP, a hospital scene where Johnny is talking to an old lady in her hospital room about his hipster vision of heaven. During his spiel, she dies.

I think there was a miscarriage on The Honeymooners.

The death on *Soap[/i[ may have been the forst of some specific type of death, like “on-camera of a primary character in a situation comedy,” but deaths were hardly unknown on sitcoms.

I think they mean the first character you actually see die, rather than being dead when you see them.
A miscarriage on the Honeymooners?

The last page of the script – announcing Blake’s death (most of the actors were under the impression that Blake was simply being shipped home) – was withheld from the actors until the last minute in order to get really genuine reactions. A cunning plan, but, according to site, the scene had to be done a second time because of a technical problem.

Probably most of you aren’t old enough to remember that Mash episode, but I was in college at the time, and remember that not only I, but pretty much everyone I knew, was in absolute shock at the time. I’m not sure you can imagine how much a part of our lives this character had become or how utterly unexpected it was for him to die. It’s close to thirty years later, and boy! do I remember!

Freddie Prinze (Sr., obviously) blew his brains out during the run of “Chico and the Man.”

One episode that dealt with Chico’s dad (played by Cesar “The Joker” Romero), with whom he had not had any contact since he was four, reappearing in Chico’s life. Chico’s dad had done really well for himself, and had spent many years trying to track Chico down, since every letter he had ever written back to his family had been returned unopened.

Chico’s dad wanted him to come back to Mexico with him, and work in the shrimping business with him. Chico, obviously, had to tell him, “No,” that this (Los Angeles) was his home and Ed and Louie and all the rest were his family now.

But, the others weren’t so sure about it, and Louie (Scatman Crothers) makes a comment to Ed (Jack Albertson), concerning the fact that Chico might leave with his dad to Mexico says, “We could lose him forever!”

That was the very next ep that aired after his suicide.

During the rolling credits at the end, they had dubbed a very voiceover by a cracking-voiced Jack Albertson, appreciating all the letters and condolences that the cast had received on the behalf of Prinze.

There were several eps left with Prinze still in them, and they just finished the last several without Prinze. Don’t remember if they explained it.

However, the next season, they introduced a new “Chico.” Not the same character, but as Ed says, “You’re all ‘Chico’ to me.” Later in the season, new Chico asks Ed about the “other” Chico that he keeps hearing about. Ed just tells him, “He went away.” (Although it seemed as though in an earlier ep either from the end of the previous season or the beginning of this one that Ed said that Chico had gone back to Mexico.)

We mustn’t forget Susan in Seinfeld.

Buck in Marrried With Children. Very nice sendoff episode, although the actual dog appeared (in Animal Heaven) and was given a fond farewell in the credits. He died the following year IRL :frowning:

It may have been mentioned, but during Scrubs this season, Dr Cox’s brother in law Ben played by Brendan Fraser died. It is by far my favorite sitcom death (in terms of episode quality of course). I happened to tape the episode because i worked that night and I watched it twice in a row when I got home.

I believe a few characters on Friends have died such as Monica and Ross’s aunt (I believe) plus an upstairs neighbour.

On That 70’s Show, Erics grandfather died.

And a question because I forget…how did they deal with Coach’s passing on cheers? I seem to forget that episode.

I think you’re trying to remember this episode, where Ralph thinks Alice is pregnant.

And his grandmother (Red’s mother) too. While she was in the car with Eric. Just after he told her “It wouldn’t kill you to be nicer.”

Riiiggghhhtt. I’d forgotten about that one. I miss that lady…the sequence with her and Fez was priceless.

Nicholas Colasanto died mid-season in 1985, and for the rest of the season they explained his absence with various bits of business (I remember in one episode Sam talks on the phone with Coach, who has gone to Vermont to renew his driver’s license for some reason).

Then in the first episode of the next season, Woody arrived from Indiana, saying he was a pen pal of Coach’s and would like to meet him in person. Sam tells him simply that Coach “passed away months ago.”

Seinfeld killed off several characters. In addition to Susan, there was Fulton, Jerry’s friend in the hospital who laughed himself to death, and the guy played by Jon Lovitz who pretended to have cancer, then was killed in an auto accident. I’m sure there are more.