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Characters leave TV shows all of the time. Sometimes the writers make the tough choice, giving audiences shocking deaths and exits. Sometimes the actor or actress themselves makes the tough choice, either because they've grown bored or popular enough to pursue new opportunities. In those cases, word usually sneaks out ahead of time about the plans. This season, there are an awful lot of those types of exits coming up, and there are rumors swirling around quite a few more.
We've compiled a list of the 10 most likely shows to lose a major character. You can flip through the choices, below.
CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationWho Is Leaving: Nick Stokes, played by George Eads
Status: Confirmed. Several months ago, Eads’ exit was announced and then during the Season 15 finale, longtime character Nick Stokes opted to take a crime lab position in San Diego. He will not be returning for Season 16, that is, if there ends up being a 16th season of the long-running series.
Why It Matters: Several actors have stuck around since the beginning of the series, but George Eads was by far the most prominent of those characters. The show will have a large gap to fill in his absence.
Grey’s AnatomyWho Is Leaving: Dr. Derek Shepherd, played by Patrick Dempsey
Status: Questionable. In the fall, Dempsey said he was leaving the show soon. For all intents and purposes, this winter he has left Seattle, taking a job in Washington D.C. The show has continued to tie in with his relationship with Meredith, but his future is looking pretty dim.
Why It Matters: It’s always tough to see a fan-favorite move on, and Dr. Derek Shepherd is another huge character to leave the series. His absence on the show has already been felt. If he decides to return for good, the show will doubtless go on, but without the ties between Meredith and Derek it won’t be the same medical series, at all.
The Daily ShowWho Is Leaving: Jon Stewart
Status: Confirmed. Jon Stewart’s Daily Show contract is up in 2015, and this winter he and Comedy Central announced that The Daily Show will need to find a new host.
Why It Matters: Comedy Central has already had to deal with replacing Stephen Colbert. In fact, Larry Wilmore barely had a chance to get out of the gate before Stewart announced he was leaving, too. The cable network is going to have to do a lot of rebuilding over the next couple of years.
The Good WifeWho Is Leaving: Kalinda Sharma, played by Archie Panjabi
Status: Confirmed. We’ve known Kalinda would be leaving since October, when the actress announced she was developing another series with CBS. The savvy investigator will be exiting The Good Wife this spring so she can headline her own series.
Why It Matters: Kalinda was sidelined for a while on The Good Wife when the show added another investigator, Erin, to the mix. However, she’s been more prominent this season and it’ll be extremely difficult to part with another of the show’s most popular characters. It’s no shock that she would want to take a lead role, though.
Saturday Night LiveWho Is Leaving: Kenan Thompson
Status: Rumored. Those who don’t get fired from SNL tend to stick around for varying lengths of time. Kenan Thompson has appeared on the series since 2003, and rumors indicate he will be moving on, but SNL has not made an official announcement, yet.
Why It Matters: Kenan leaving would be the end of an era. The comedian was part of the cast that included Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Jason Sudeikis and many, many more. It’s nice that he stayed long enough for the newer cast to begin to be recognized, but I'll still be sorry to see the actor go.
Downton AbbeyWho Is Leaving: Violet, the Dowager Countess Of Grantham, played by Maggie Smith
Status: Rumored. Maggie Smith is definitely signed on for Season 6, so we will be seeing her next season. However, the actress recently stated she “can’t keep going” on the series. Later reports clarified that no decision has been made, yet.
Why It Matters: The way Smith’s quote was worded, it seems like she actually thinks the series will end after Season 6, which would obviously have an even higher impact than the Dowager Countess leaving the drama. At least we know one more season is on the way.
New GirlWho Is Leaving: Coach, played by Damon Wayans, Jr.
Status: Confirmed. Coach will appear until the end of Season 4. The character already had to leave the show once when Happy Endings earned a surprise renewal, but this time the leaving will be long-term. He will exit in a way that should allow for guest appearances, should the show want him back.
Why It Matters: Bringing Coach back was always a bit weird for the dynamics on the series, and Daman Wayans, Jr. is almost too big of an actor to have taken a medium-sized role on a modestly-rated Fox comedy. He’s fielding pilots for this season, and he will hopefully land a leading role.
ArrowWho Is Leaving: Ray Palmer/ Atom, played by Brandon Routh
Status: Pretty Positive. Routh is set to star in the CW’s new combination spinoff of Arrow and The Flash characters. While the project has not moved forward to series, yet, the drama is pretty high profile. There’s a good chance we’ll see Atom on the CW next season—just on another night.
Why It Matters: Atom has been a big part of Arrow’s third season. He’s also been a pretty exciting character this season, and I’m not shocked he might get a spinoff. But Arrow itself might lose a little luster (and will lose some romantic spark) once Ray Palmer is out of the picture. Luckily, there are always crossovers and guest appearances.
The Late Show With David LettermanWho Is Leaving: David Letterman
Status: Confirmed. David Letterman announced his retirement last spring and will be leaving The Late Show with David Letterman at the end of the season. Stephen Colbert will be taking over the late night series next season.
Why It Matters: Letterman has been a mainstay on late night TV for decades. It’s nice that someone else will be getting a voice, but it is certainly the end of an era for late night television. David Letterman’s quick wit and knack for interviews will be missed.
CommunityWho Is Leaving: Shirley Bennett, played by Yvette Nicole Brown
Status: Confirmed. While Community has earned a second life thanks to Yahoo TV, Shirley will not be a part of the new season. She announced she was leaving last September and currently appears on The Odd Couple.
Why It Matters: The gang is a whole lot smaller at this point. Pierce is dead, Troy is no longer on the series, and Shirley’s absence will basically cut the group’s size in half. We’ll miss you, Shirley.
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