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12 times they replaced TV characters with rip-offs

Digital Spy (UK) logo Digital Spy (UK) 06/02/2018 Morgan Jeffery

What's a TV show to do when real-life distractions – contract problems, the loss of a beloved actor – prevent the return of a character who's integral to the series?

Simple: you slip in a similar substitute to keep the formula intact and hope no-one spots the difference. Call it Death In Paradise syndrome. Seriously, this happens more often than you'd think, with mixed results.

1. Dermot / Tony - Men Behaving Badly

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After just one series, Harry Enfield opted to quit MBB as Dermot Povey, the dopey best friend and flatmate of Gary (Martin Clunes) who was hopelessly in love with upstairs neighbour Deborah (Leslie Ash).

He was promptly replaced by Neil Morrissey as Tony Smart, the dopey best friend and flatmate of Gary who was hopelessly in love with upstairs neighbour Deborah.

2. Prue / Paige - Charmed

Shannen Doherty, ROSE MCGOWAN are posing for a picture © Provided by Digital Spy

The first three seasons of Charmed starred Shannon Doherty as Prue, one of three witch siblings who use their combined "Power of Three" to battle evil.

When Doherty exited the series, with her character being dramatically killed off, she was replaced by Rose McGowan as Paige, a long-lost (previously unmentioned) sibling who completed the magical trio in Prue's absence.


3. Coach / Winston - New Girl

Lamorne Morris et al. sitting at a table © Provided by Digital Spy

The pilot episode of New Girl saw kooky Jess (Zooey Deschanel) move into an all-boy loft, shared by Nick (Jake Johnson), Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Coach (Damon Wayans Jr).

When Wayans Jr's commitment to rival sitcom Happy Endings meant he couldn't continue on the series, Coach was replaced in the second episode by Winston (Lamorne Morris) – a new character who, we were assured, was the original roommate, and Nick's oldest friend.

Coach, it turns out, was just sub-letting his room... a fact that wasn't mentioned once in the pilot.

4. Harry / Jack - Silent Witness

a person standing in front of David Caves et al. looking at the camera © Provided by Digital Spy

In its 16th series, BBC One's long-running pathologists-solving-crime series swapped out Dr Harry Cunningham (Tom Ward) for Jack Hodgson (David Caves).

The former was a sharp, handsome, somewhat cocky hero who had a Will They / Won't They thing going with Nikki (Emilia Fox), while the latter is a sharp, handsome, somewhat cocky hero who has a Will They / Won't They thing going with Nikki.

Jack is also a cage-fighter in his spare time, a hobby so random it feels as though it was inserted just to help differentiate him from his predecessor.

5. Doug Ross / Luka Kovac - ER

George Clooney, Goran Visnjic are posing for a picture © Provided by Digital Spy

With George Clooney exiting ER as a regular in 1999 to pursue a movie career, producers cast Goran Visnjic to fill his impossibly handsome boots.

Not only were they both tall, dark hunks, but Doug Ross (Clooney) and Luka Kovac (Visnjic) were also brooding types, troubled by a tragic history with their respective sons.

When he first arrived at County General Hospital, Kovac even pursued Doug's old flame Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies) – though she eventually left Chicago to reignite her romance with Ross.

6. Coach / Woody - Cheers

Nicholas Colasanto, WOODY HARRELSON posing for the camera © Provided by Digital Spy

The sad passing of actor Nicholas Colasanto aged 61 saw Cheers faced with the difficult task of replacing popular character Coach (no relation to the New Girl character with the same moniker).

So the sweet-natured, dim-witted old bartender was replaced by a sweet-natured, dim-witted young bartender – Woody Boyd, played by Woody Harrelson in one of his earliest screen roles. He and Coach were old friends, apparently (not that Cheers had ever mentioned Woody before).

7. Mulder + Scully / Doggett + Reyes - The X-Files

David Duchovny et al. standing next to a person in a suit and tie © Provided by Digital Spy

With first David Duchovny and later Gillian Anderson choosing to take a step back from The X-Files in the later seasons of its original run, Mulder and Scully were replaced by FBI special agents Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Reyes (Annabeth Gish).

The twist here was that it was the new male lead who was the sceptic, while his female partner was the believer – a reversal of the old Fox and Dana dynamic.

So blatant was this particular replacement that series creator Chris Carter wrote an early scene in which Scully throws water into Doggett's face, aware that new actor Patrick would be facing opposition from Duchovny loyalists.

8. Pike / Kirk - Star Trek: The Original Series

Leonard Nimoy, WILLIAM SHATNER looking at the camera © Provided by Digital Spy

The original Star Trek pilot, 'The Cage', starred Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike, but when the sci-fi saga was picked up to series, Hunter was replaced by William Shatner as Captain James T Kirk.

Kirk was practically an exact replica of Pike in all but name, sharing not just his personality traits – both were square-jawed action heroes – but also his interpersonal relations – both shared a close friendship with the ship's doctor, and both were romantically interested in the Enterprise's female yeoman.

Pity poor Pike – 50 years on and it's Kirk who's become the television icon.

9. Jill / Kris - Charlie's Angels

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Farrah Fawcett might be forever associated with Charlie's Angels, but she actually only appeared in the first season as glamorous, kick-ass blonde Jill Munroe.

For the rest of the show's five-year run, her spot on the team was filled by Cheryl Ladd as Kris, Jill's relative who – like her cousin – also happened to be a glamorous, kick-ass blonde and a former police officer.

Lucky for Charlie that Jill's cousin wasn't a 250lb bloke called Nigel.

10. Sam / Will - The West Wing

Rob Lowe, Joshua Malina are posing for a picture © Provided by Digital Spy

In fairness, the Will Bailey character did evolve as time went on, but when Joshua Malina first joined The West Wing, his character was a clear stand-in for the departed Rob Lowe.

Will even filled the old position of Lowe's character Sam Seaborn at the White House – Deputy Communications Director – and shared similarly zippy repartee with Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff), who mentored both men.

11. Kate / Lucy - Not Going Out

Lee Mack, Lee Mack sitting on a bench © Provided by Digital Spy

Cast your minds back to the first series of BBC One sitcom Not Going Out and you'll remember that slacker Lee (Lee Mack) was in love with Kate (Megan Dodds), his flatmate who was also – rather awkwardly – the ex-girlfriend of his best pal Tim (Tim Vine).

Dodds was absent from the second series onwards, which saw Lee conveniently smitten instead with Tim's sister Lucy (Sally Bretton) – inserting a new character while still retaining the show's original tensions.

12. Kate / Ziva - NCIS

Sasha Alexander, Cote De Pablo posing for the camera © Provided by Digital Spy

Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) was recruited to NCIS in season 3 as a replacement for Kate Todd (Sasha Alexander) – a former regular who, in an interesting twist, had actually been assassinated by Ziva's half-brother Ari (Rudolf Martin).

Tony Di Nozzo (Michael Weatherly) had shared a combative but flirtatious relationship with Todd, a dynamic that was replicated by her successor until Ziva too was killed off.

Having run out of attractive partners to banter with, DiNozzo also left the series shortly afterward. 

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