10 Former Stars Who Never Should Have Left Television

Sep 21st, 2011

When a TV star makes it big, it’s normal that they would start dreaming of a career in movies. Who wouldn’t want to see their face 1,000 times larger than life on the big screen? Other TV actors end a show and just try to find anything to do with their careers. But the entertainment business isn’t as fabulous as it seems (well, besides the limousines and entourages). If you stop showing up in people’s living rooms once a week, they sometimes forget about you. Here are 10 former TV stars who found that out the hard way.

  1. Shelley Long

    Everyone knows your name at Cheers, but everyone in the world knew Shelley Long’s name from her time on the hit show. Her character, Diane Chambers, was loved as the beautiful but stuck-up Cheers waitress and had a sexual chemistry with bartender Sam Malone that the audience ate up. She is often considered one of the best TV characters of all time and was on the show for five seasons before Long decided to pursue a film career. Since she had won two Golden Globes and an Emmy for her work on Cheers, Long probably thought she would find similar success on the big screen, but the closest she came was Troop Beverly Hills. She also appeared in the Brady Bunch parodies, which cemented her place as a washed-up actress.

  2. Jason Alexander

    Seinfeld was one of the most successful sitcoms of all time, an amazing feat for any show but especially for a show about nothing. Jason Alexander as tactless slacker George Costanza helped the show skyrocket to never-before-seen levels of awkwardness and viewership. But the cast of Seinfeld was rumored to suffer from the Seinfeld curse after the show ended in 1998 after nine seasons. Alexander was definitely a victim of this curse. He tried two other sitcoms, Bob Patterson and Listen Up!, but they failed and now he does a lot of stage acting. Alexander may not have chosen to leave television, but we wish he could’ve stayed on as George Costanza forever.

  3. Joe Piscopo

    In the early ’80s when people worried that Saturday Night Live would die after the original cast left, a few comedians resurrected the sketch comedy show. Standing beside Eddie Murphy, funny man Joe Piscopo brought memorable characters and laughs to the show’s set. The two of them left SNL in 1984 to pursue careers in the movie business, and one of them made it. Hint: it wasn’t Piscopo. Piscopo acted in a couple of terrible films, like Johnny Dangerously and Sidekicks, before becoming nothing more than a punchline because of his alleged steroid addiction. You’re more likely to hear his name in a Simpsons joke today than see it in the credits of a movie.

  4. Danica McKellar

    As Kevin Arnold’s love interest in The Wonder Years, Danica McKellar was everyone’s favorite girl next-door. Her character, Winnie Cooper, and Kevin spent six seasons trying to figure out love and growing up, and when the show ended, Americans everywhere felt like their childhood had just ended, too. But after the show, McKellar had a tough time landing any good roles. She filmed some Lifetime movies, which were obviously awful, and appeared in lingerie in Stuff magazine. Most recently, she’s had some guest appearances on TV shows and a made-for-TV movie called Inspector Mom, but she’s best known for her bestselling books that encourage girls that math is cool. That’s a far cry from the Winnie Cooper we knew.

  5. Jennifer Aniston

    Though Jennifer Aniston may still be considered a huge star, her life definitely started to go downhill after Friends ended in 2004. As Rachel on Friends, she ended up with the man she was meant to be with, a successful career, and a family. In reality, she became the topic of tabloids when she divorced Brad Pitt in 2005 and still appears on covers every time she starts or ends a relationship. Her acting career hasn’t dropped to the level of made-for-TV movies, but most people will agree that the movies she’s starred in haven’t lived up to her Friends hype. Her best works seem to be the ones where she takes a supporting or minor role in a film or guest stars on a sitcom, a sad step down from her Mrs. Pitt and Friends days.

  6. Jonathan Taylor Thomas

    As far as ’90s icons go, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, or JTT for those in the know, was the cream of the crop. As the smart-mouthed Randy Taylor on Home Improvement, Thomas won the hearts of girls across America and we all thought he’d go on to do spectacular things in the movie business. He left the show a year before it ended in order to focus on academics, but didn’t graduate from Columbia University until 2010. In the meantime, he took on various roles in pretty disappointing movies, like I’ll Be Home For Christmas, Speedway Junkie, and Walking Across Egypt, which you’ve probably never heard of. If he could find a spot on TV again, there are probably plenty of women who would watch just to remember his glory days.

  7. Dave Coulier

    Almost as famous for being Alanis Morissette’s ex-boyfriend as he is for playing Uncle Joey on Full House, Dave Coulier disappeared from our lives after he left our TV sets. He played the jokester best friend to a widowed dad who talked in funny voices and took care of the Olsen twins just because he was a nice guy. But when the show ended in 1995 (and he broke Morissette’s heart and was immortalized in "You Oughta Know"), Coulier’s career never really recovered. He has appeared in some Disney movies, done some voice work, and hosted a few cheesy comedy shows, but worst of all, he was on The Surreal Life and Skating With Celebrities. You’re better than that, Dave. As Uncle Joey would say, cut it out.

  8. Jessica Biel

    Jessica Biel got her big break in the long-running family show 7th Heaven, which dragged on for 11 seasons. In 2003, when Biel realized she was more attractive than the rest of her co-stars, physically and to directors, she jumped ship to pursue a movie career. She’s been mildly successful and appeared in a number of wide-release films, like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and The A-Team, but she’s still as forgettable as ever. At least when she was on 7th Heaven, she stood out as the star. Now she fades into the background whenever she’s on screen with another actor. Her biggest recent success was dating musician-turned-actor Justin Timberlake, and even that is apparently over now.

  9. Ben Savage

    He was never exactly a teenage heartthrob but Ben Savage and his character Cory Matthews on Boy Meets World grew up with a generation. The show ran from 1993 to 2000, and Savage seemed to have mountains of star potential. Maybe the show went on a little too long or Savage stopped being cute after puberty, but after Boy Meets World finally went off the air, Savage was basically out of starring roles. His mistake wasn’t necessarily leaving television on purpose, but holding onto one role so long that he couldn’t find any others. He’s had some guest spots on prominent shows and found his way into some made-for-TV movies, but nothing he can do will ever top Cory Matthews.

  10. Kelsey Grammer

    After 20 years of playing the same character, it’s not surprising that Kelsey Grammer has had a hard time doing anything else. The celebrity known for playing Dr. Frasier Crane on Cheers and its spin-off Frasier was finally done with that role (except the occasional reprisal for a commercial) in 2004. Since then, Grammer has attempted to find his way back into television through some directing, producing, and then acting again, but his shows have been canceled after a season or less. His latest contribution to the entertainment world has been his ex-wife, who stars on the reality show Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Grammer will be making his return to TV in October in a new show, Boss, and let’s hope that works out because he says his next move will be politics.