History of TV character deaths

There was a surprise death of a major character on the season premiere of a U.S. prime time show yesterday and it got me to wondering:

For both comedy and drama what were the first TV shows to

  1. Say a character had died because the actor died?

  2. Say a character had died because the actor left the show?

  3. Give a departing actor a death scene?

I think (2) was Henry Blake on MASH***. At least, it was a very big deal at the time.

Yes it was. I watched it live. I was too young to realize they could really do that on TV. I thought it was a joke and he was going to show back up. I remember my parents were stunned.

I thought Henry Blake would be answer to (2) for a comedy, but what about for a drama?

Did they ever explain Bub’s disappearance on My Three Sons, or was his death just assumed/implied?

According to Wiki, William Frawley was dropped from the series because the studio could no longer get insurance for him, and he died a year or two later.

For 1, it was probably Cheers with the death of Coach.

Two come to mind, though pretty late in the game: Joe Coffey on Hill Street Blues and Zito on Miami Vice.

According to Wikipedia, the first TV character to die was Margaret Williams, the mother in Make Room for Daddy in 1956. Jean Hagen, the actress who played her, had left the show.

Could you spoiler it for me, please?

I think Hoss Cartwright on Bonanza, was the first character to die due to the death of the actor playing him - in this case, Dan Blocker.

Also for (1): Chief Kanisky on Gimme a Break! in 1985, and both Selma and Florence on Night Court (in '85 and '86).

I don’t know who the character was but Bones, Grey’s Anatomy, Parenthood, and Scandal had their season premieres yesterday.

Just Google it. “Season premier, death, major character, surprise.”

Holy fuck!

Sweets is dead! But on the plus side, does this mean Zack can come back now?

Mr. Hooper? (first kids show)

Bruce Wayne’s father hardly ought to be a surprise at this point…


Seconded here:

I was going to say this.

Big Bird was worried about not seeing Mr. Hooper, then it was explained to him that Mr Hooper had died. The writers, producers and cast of Sesame Street did an extraordinary job IMO explaining death in a gentle but respectful way to Big Bird to help kids understand such a difficult concept as death.

Jean Stapleton left ***All in the Family ***at the end of the 1979-80 season. In the first episode of the 1980-81 season, Archie tries to talk to Edith, and says something like, “Aw, Edith, I was supposed to die first.”

Jack Soo of*** Barney Miller ***died in 1979, and his character, Nick Yemana, “died” too. One of the running gags on that show was that Nick made horrible coffee. In a tribute episode, all the detectives “toast” Yemana with a cup of coffee.

IIRC, (3) would apply to Dinah Mahoff’s character on Soap.