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Princess Clara: Have you noticed we haven't been getting any screen time this week?

Toot: Well, uh, duh! That's because we've been in the basement all week making this awesome potato gun!
Drawn Together, "Captain Hero's Marriage Pact"

So you're watching your favorite show, and it has Loads and Loads of Characters. This particular week's focus is on the Beta Couple, lower decks, an icosahedron, or even the West Coast Avengers. In any event, some people we haven't seen much of or in a while are taking center stage... but what's this? Why are some of the main characters completely absent? Did their actor get sick? Pregnant? Sacked?

For some reason, we have an Absentee Actor for a character (main or bit) whose presence would be either plot-relevant or at least plausible in the episode, and is completely absent for the episode. They don't even get a non-speaking cameo even though they should be involved with the plot at hand, or at least present in the location. It stretches belief for Bob and Alice to have a long chat in Mary's Bar and there be no Mary in sight (especially since it turns out she and Alice were just revealed to be fraternal twins separated at birth last episode).

The reason usually has something to do with Real Life. Maybe the actor is sick or otherwise unavailable -- but not so unavailable that the writers have to drop a bridge on them or put them on a round trip bus. Maybe the producers need to save money and can't afford to pay them for the episode (hey, every penny saved goes to pay for that big CGI-laden Season Finale!) - in fact, some actors' contracts restrict them to appearing in only a certainly number of episodes each season. Maybe there was just nothing for the character to do that episode. If explanations for the absence are given in show, it's usually way too flimsy to explain a total absence -- just how unavailable can Captain Picard be if he's at the hair salon for this week's crisis?

See also Fake Shemp. Compare Written in Absence, where they at least write in a (flimsy) reason for the character not to be there.

Examples of Absentee Actor include:


Anime

  • Digimon Xros Wars can be pretty bad at this at times. Especially with Beelzebumon, who despite stating that he'll always be somewhere near Taiki to help out if he ever needs him, still has a tendency to be completely absent for several episodes straight with no explaination given. Gets even weirder when one considers that his voice actor Daisuke Kishio voiced at least two other recurring characters in the show, and even in episodes where Beelzebumon didn't appear, one of his other roles would often be there anyway.


Fan Fic


Film

  • Throughout the Harry Potter films, the teachers present at the staff table in the Great Hall correspond curiously with the teachers who have scenes elsewhere in that particular installment. So you'll only see Professor Trelawney at the staff table in the third and fifth films because they aren't going to hire Emma Thompson unless they have a real scene, however brief, for her to do. In that case, however, it was stated in the third book that Trelawney joining the other Professors at the staff table is a rare thing to happen anyway. The remaining seats are filled by random extras who don't talk and even they change with each movie. The same goes for any scene which supposedly or should logically include "all" the teachers in the school.
    • Also, the actor who portrayed Vincent Crabbe in the movies wasn't available for the last movie, so Gregory Goyle replaced Crabbe as the one to die from his own Fiendfyre and Blaise Zabini replaced Goyle as the Slytherin student other than Draco Malfoy who almost died from that.
      • A similar thing happened in the third movie, as a Slytherin boy theorized to be Theodore Nott replaces Goyle in two action scenes that Goyle's actor wouldn't be able to perform due to injuring his arm.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:

Live Action TV

  • The IT Crowd gave the minor character Richmond scurvy when Noel Fielding was unavailable for filming due to the tour schedule with The Mighty Boosh.
  • Prison Break did this to John Abuzzi who got his throat cut and disappeared for a while; the actor who portrays him, Peter Stormare, was contractually obliged to go and film some bizarre Volkswagen commercials. He came back 6 episodes later with a haircut.
  • The new Battlestar Galactica has the Cylons, robots who after rebelling designed twelve "models" of mass produced Artificial Human bodies to infiltrate colonial society. A big part of the series' appeal was the the notion that anyone can be a Cylon, even main characters thanks to Fake Memories and sleeper personalities. However, the writers hadn't decided who all was going to be a Cylon from the get go, [1] so in scenes where the Cylons are away from humans and planning the downfall of humanity, or on Cylon occupied Caprica, several of the twelve models would be completely absent. For a long time in the first and second season, the only models shown in pow-wows would be those previously revealed[2], usually a 6 and 8 with maybe a 2, 4 or 5 brought in for variety. There was also a monetary factor, several of the cylons were expensive-ish Special Guest Stars[3] in addition to being extras, so showing them all would run up costs. This is why the 1s and 3s are almost completely absent except for a handful of episodes or as out of focus extras.
    • Another BSG example: the "webisodes" that were produced during several of the hiatuses primarily focused on supporting/minor characters.
  • Jericho had this happen on occasion, presumably to save on cost. This got strange when Mary, owner of the local bar who did not appear to have a hired maid or waiter, would not show up in her own bar when the episode's focus characters showed up.
  • Star Trek (particularly the Next Generation era) did this on occasion, and those shows had only seven or eight characters. Most episodes could easily work in all of them, but sometimes one would go missing; we can only assume they were in the toilet.
    • The worst offender was the final season of DS9, where Jake Sisko appeared in fewer than half of the episodes. Even in earlier seasons, Jake Sisko would often go missing for 4 or 5 episodes at a time. In the end, the ascended extra Morn appeared in more episodes than Jake.
      • Memory Alpha mentions in the notes for several episodes that the original, Jake-centric plot of the episode was scrapped because the actor was unavailable due to his education commitments.
    • Colm Meaney did not want to give up his film work during the filming of DS 9, so the writers allowed him to be absent for a few episodes return for a heavily character-centric "O'brian must suffer" episode each season.
    • For Star Trek Generations, they couldn't get Leonard Nimoy or DeForest Kelley (Kelley was in too poor health and he and Nimoy felt their characters had been given enough send off in the previous movie and the lines could be given to anyone else) so they got James Doohan and Walter Koenig instead. You can tell essentially no rewriting was done what with Chekov going off to Sickbay when the refugees are beamed aboard and administering a sedative to Dr. Soran. Scotty also delivered one of McCoy's lines from a previous movie: "Would you like a tranquilizer?", likely written as a Continuity Nod for DeForest Kelley.
      • Scotty also calls Kirk "Jim", something only Spock and McCoy called him.
    • On the original series, George Takei was also missing from a string of second-season episodes because he went off to film The Green Berets.
      • Though the plan coming in that season was for Takei and Koenig to alternate due to budgetary reasons; Sulu and Chekov rarely appear together until the third season.
  • Greek had an episode where the entire ZBZ sorority had to welcome back a former member to re-instate her. ZBZ member (and main character) Rebecca Logan did not appear in the episode. Nor did a few other extra ZBZ members that would've been seen in such a ceremony.
    • Also, not surprisingly in a show about fraternities and sororities, there are many episodes without Rusty's non- and anti-Greek roommate Dale.
  • Sam Puckett in ICarly during the episode iWon't Cancel The Show. It was created due to Jennette McCurdy being in the hospital for an operation.
  • In the early years of the original Doctor Who, filming went nearly year-round so characters - including the Doctor - were often written out of episodes to give the actors a vacation.
    • K9 would frequently be left out of stories in the Baker era due to lack of anything for him to do (and the cast and crew disliking the character). K9's absence in particular one story was because the writer of the script, Terry Nation (who was also the creator of the Daleks), didn't want the robot dog to go up against his most famous creations. So K9 was given "laryngitis" for an episode, and was forced to stay behind in the TARDIS. K9 was also left out sometimes because they were filming in a location the K9 prop would have great difficulty rolling over--e.g. a swamp, a rock quarry etc.
    • Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) was left out of Kinda because she was wasn't written in it and the writer did not want to change the plot to include her.
    • In one episode story "Mission to the Unknown", the Doctor and his companions are completely missing. William Hartnell is still credited, because of the terms of his contract. The actors playing Steven and Vicki, however, weren't so lucky.
  • Stargate SG-1 tended to do this a lot in its later seasons. Hell, Jack O'Neill did this for almost the entirety of the eighth season.
    • And then there was one episode 'Nemesis', where Daniel Jackson has only a minor part in the beginning, when he was out of action due to appendicitis. The real Michael Shanks had been unable to feature in this episode for the same reason, so they added that first scene in later while he was still recovering.
      • Notably, as of season six, only one main cast member didn't miss an episode: Christopher Judge. He missed his first one that season, but he's still the SG-1 member with the most episodes under his belt.
    • Aside from a brief video appearance, Amanda Tapping was absent for the opening five episodes of Season 9 due to being in the final stages of pregnancy at the time. In order to avoid carrying an all-male cast for that stretch, they reintroduced Claudia Black's guest character, Vala Mal Doran, from Season 8 for those episodes, who eventually also then became a series regular for Season 10.
  • Dana Scully's actor got pregnant in The X Files, inspiring the famous UFO abduction plot.
    • Quite a few episodes in Seasons 4-7 were light on one or both characters. The ones in Season 5 are explained because of the filming of the first movie. Reasons varied on the other the other three, but included commitments to unrelated projects, contractual disagreements (mainly Duchovny,) and that when one of the lead actors directed and/or wrote an episode they almost invariably focused entirely on their own character, leaving the partner character either barely there or literally absent.
      • Not to mention that Mulder disappears for an ENTIRE season.
  • So frequent on Babylon 5, that wikis note which regulars appear in each episode, instead of which ones are missing as usual. It wasn't until a couple of seasons in that a normal episode featured every regular.
  • The final seasons of The West Wing rotated the cast on a frequent basis to save on costs, to the point where all the main cast appearing in the credits of an episode (for Leo McGarry's funeral episode) was something of a noteworthy event.
  • Only the first season of Lost featured any actors that were in every episode. From season 2 on, each actor misses at least one episode, if not more. Sometimes it's explained...but usually not. Worse than Miles's fate being left in the air after getting a grenade stuck in his mouth for half the season, Jin holds the record for missing episodes-he's gone in six episodes in a row in season 3, not appearing even after his wife Sun begins to again.
    • Even worse with fan favorite Richard Alpert, who appears greatly in season 3 and then drops off the face of the Earth (or the island) in season 4. The reason? Nestor Carbonell became a regular on a competing TV series, Cane. Luckily, the writer's guild strike cancelled Cane and Richard was able to return.
    • Claire Littleton was the first main character to miss an episode and appeared much less often than the other original characters and rarely had much to do when she did. She missed season 5 entirely before returning in season six.
    • Desmond in season 5 beats Jin's; he's prominent in the first half of the season, then only appears in two more episodes...both brief, and both with almost no lines. Irritating, since while the series juggled the 1977 and 2007 Island plotlines rather well, he's just left there. In fact, he's in less episodes than guest stars Richard & Phil and ties with Ilana and Radzinsky (...all four of which received more screen time than him).
      • Henry Ian Cusick is listed in the credits on every episode of season six. He appeared in about 30 seconds of the premiere, reappears in episode ten, and appears in a grand six more episodes, some of them only as his flash-sideways counterpart.
    • Ilana was made a regular, but only appears roughly every other episode until she's unceremoniously blown up. One cameo after that, and she vanishes; not even in the finale. This is due to her entire storyline becoming an Aborted Arc due to a lack of time.
  • Anna in Chuck is increasingly absent from episodes she has no large role in.
    • In Season 3 Julia Ling, who plays Anna, has left the cast, turning this into a very drawn out version of Put on a Bus
    • Due to budget cuts for season 3, the only characters that will appear in all episodes are Chuck, Sarah and Casey. So there are episodes where Awesome, Ellie, Morgan, Buymorians and even the special guest star played by Brandon Routh are conspicuously absent. The one that disappeared the most seems to be Big Mike, who would sometimes vanish even when lots of action took place in the Buy More or all the other Buy More people appeared.
  • On Get Smart Don Adams was unavailable for the episode "Ice Station Sigfried" so Maxwell Smart's place was taken by a CIA agent named Quigly, played by Adams' friend Bill Dana. You can tell that very little rewriting was done to the script, and the writers simply gave Maxwell Smart's lines to Quigly.
  • On The Young And The Restless, there was a big storyline involving Drucilla learning that her daughter Lily was not fathered by her husband Neil, but her brother-in-law Malcolm whom she mistook for Neil due to being doped up on cough medicine. However, by the time this storyline kicked into high gear, the actor playing Malcolm left the show and they never recast the character.
    • Absenteeism is a fact of life on soaps, especially when you have octogenarian actors who have been on the show for decades. All My Children, As the World Turns, and Days of Our Lives all have actors in their late eighties who are kept on minimal contracts as a courtesy, even though they may go years--literally--between appearances.
    • This often happens on the soaps, for a variety of reasons. It is most often due to an actress' maternity leave (particularly if her pregnancy was not written into the show. It can also happen because of contract negotiations (the reason that the aforementioned Drucilla disappeared for a time), or if a late-teens actor is heading off to college, the character is sent off as well.
  • The eighth season of Scrubs did this as a cost-cutting measure, in addition to a smaller-than-usual writing team. Certain main characters such as Carla have been missing, in one instance because she was 'out of town' but in another she was mentioned several times as being there but just didn't appear on screen.
    • Every character is absent for at least one episode in the eighth season. It gets really noticeable when there are whole episodes without JD, the star of the show.
  • The 7th Season of CSI had Gil Grissom go on a four-week sabbatical because William Petersen took some time off to do theater. He was "replaced" by Michael Keppler (Liev Schreiber) during his absence.
    • There was also Gum Drops a bit earlier, which had Grissom absent due to William Petersen attending a funeral, but I don't recall his absence being explained. That said, many eps have had missing characters without much explanation.
    • More recently, Jorja Fox is the Absentee Actor quite a bit, counted as a regular but not appearing in every single ep.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer was usually very good about NOT doing this, with every regular showing up in each episode, even if it was just for a Mandatory Line. But the final season starts doing this quite a bit, with Anya being absent from several episodes, and Xander not appearing in a pivotal ep as well (after having been in every prior episode to date.) None of these absences are explained on-screen.
    • On Angel, Wesley was absent for one episode in Season Five, as Alexis Denisof was on his honeymoon. This actually played a role in the plot, as the character who replaced Wesley's skills for the episode turned out to be evil.
  • Due to the terms of his contract, Andy Kaufman (Latka) didn't appear in every episode of Taxi.
    • Judd Hirsch was also absent from an episode or two while he was filming Ordinary People.
  • There was an episode of Third Watch where a paramedic appears. Not any of the regular paramedic cast though, none of whom appear in the episode at all.
  • Pushed to extremes in season 8 of Diagnosis Murder when either Jesse, Amanda or both were absent from nearly every episode. There are only 6 episodes of the entire season where all 4 main characters appear, and Jesse isn't even in the series finale.
  • Lily was written out of four episodes of the fourth season of How I Met Your Mother to accomodate for Alyson Hannigan's maternity leave. The excuse was very clever; she got so upset at a dirty joke that Barney told that she didn't hang out with him.
    • Lampshaded as well since Future!Ted specifically states that she didn't talk to Barney for exactly four weeks when it happened.
  • On All in The Family, Norman Lear wrote the character of George Jefferson with Sherman Helmsley in mind, but when the show began in 1971 Helmsley was unavailable due to his commitment to the Broadway show Purlie. Lear promised to hold the role open for Helmsley, and got around this by a.) making George an offscreen character for the first couple of seasons and b.) creating a different character, George's brother Henry, to serve as a kind of pre-emptive Suspiciously Similar Substitute until Helmsley finally became available in season 4. (Once that happened, of course, Henry Jefferson was promptly Put on a Bus and never heard from again.)
  • Mash: Around the fifth or sixth season, Gary Burghoff had his contract changed to limit his appearances as Radar to 13 episodes of each 24-episode season. During these episodes, Radar was frequently said to be "away on R&R".
    • Pretty much everyone in the cast other than Alan Alda was missing for at least a couple of episodes.
    • After Larry Linville (Frank Burns) left the show, the episode following his departure had him going AWOL. To resolve the plot of "what happened to Frank?" Hawkeye receives a call from him and finds out that he was arrested, put in a hospital, and promoted, all without the presence of the actor.
  • Three's Company: In season 5, Suzanne Somers was involved in bitter contract negotiations with the show's producers, and was absent for the taping of numerous episodes (citing suspiciously vague health issues). Her role on the show was greatly reduced as a consequence, with her character Chrissy "moving to Fresno" and essentially reduced to a cameo appearance at the end of each episode (with Chrissy shown talking on the telephone with Jack and/or Janet). A new character, Chrissy's cousin Cindy, was brought in to serve as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute of sorts, and Somers was dropped at the end of the season.
  • Patrick McGoohan was away filming Ice Station Zebra for much of The Prisoner episode "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling". This was justified by having the mind of Number 6 being put into a new body.
    • The replacement also allowed them to have Number Six kiss a woman; McGoohan's contract stipulated that he would not appear in a love scene.
  • Bill Owen, one of the stars of Last of the Summer Wine, died after only partially completing three episodes for the 2000 series. In order to use what footage they had of Owen, the producers devised an excuse for his character, Compo, to leave for a while in each of the three episodes- in one, he goes to the betting shop to watch the races, and in another he goes to see his Thursday lady-friend, which becomes plot-relevant in his funeral episodes. Scenes which Owen couldn't complete were then rewritten without him. Once all Owen's footage had been used, the character of Compo died.
  • The later seasons of The Cosby Show frequently had multiple cast members absent. Technically this started as early in the second season, when Sabrina LeBeauf was added to the opening credits, but it really became noticeable later on. In fact, some recurring characters (not in the opening credits) made more appearances in certain seasons than some regulars did.
  • Desperate Housewives had Bree and Orson abruptly leave for a honeymoon in Switzerland in the middle of Season 3 - apparently months after the two were married - in order to explain away Marcia Cross's maternity leave.
  • Zoey 101: Dustin Brooks, portrayed by Paul Butcher, appears in less than half the episodes throughout the entire series' run (24 out of 65, if memory serves). The reason for this is unknown, but for whatever reason he's not always there.
  • In Power Rangers Dino Thunder, Jason Frank's limited availability led them to go to great lengths when it came to keeping his face offscreen: He's one of four rangers, The Mentor, the Big Good, and yet for entire arcs he's not actually there. First, he was trapped in amber, while suited. When it was dissolved, found that he could no longer demorph, and remained this way for a very long time. Then he finally demorphed... but was now invisible (his civilian-mode power for that season.)
    • And it happened to him again when his character appeared in Power Rangers SPD. To cover his absence, the character only appeared morphed and was voiced by Jeffrey Parazzo.
  • Averted in Alias with Jennifer Garner's pregnancy. Sydney simply had a baby with her in-series boyfriend and worked it into the plot, even. Nice going, writers.
  • This also happened with Meredith Baxter-Birney on Family Ties, but not with Phylicia Rashad on The Cosby Show. Because an obstetrician/gynecologist and a lawyer who live in a two-story Manhattan brownstone and already have several children can't possibly afford another kid.
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys had this occur more than once. Some episodes had Kevin Sorbo not appear in order to give Iolaus A Day in the Limelight. During the fourth season, though, health issues sidelined Sorbo for many episodes. He still appeared often with the focus was on other characters, but he doesn't appear at all in "Men in Pink," a Autolycus/Salmoneus comedic episode. (Iolaus does not appear in this episode either, but Michael Hirst still turns up in a major role. Playing a woman...)
  • Police Camera Action: Gethin Jones, former Strictly Come Dancing contestant hosted a Very Special Episode entitled Drink Driving Special, which aired on 17th December 2008. Alastair Stewart and Adrian Simpson did not appear.
  • On The Nanny, Lauren Lane had to miss several episodes in the fifth season since she was giving birth. To cover this up, her character C.C. suffered a breakdown and spent those episodes in an asylum.
  • Notably averted with Friends. All six main characters appear in every single episode.
  • In Are You Being Served, after Young Mr. Grace had died and the replacement Old Mr. Grace had proved unacceptable, the writers decided to move the character permanently off-screen. The character was still around and at Grace Brothers, issuing orders via telephone or memo, but he was never seen nor heard. There was never any indication whether this "Mr. Grace" was the "Young" or the "Old" one.
  • Throughout the run of Heroes, all the main cast members skipped at least one episode; even Hayden Panettiere was absent from a couple, but not many what with her having more episodes under her belt than anyone else - Panettiere is both the only cast member to appear in every season one episode and the only original cast member[4] to appear in every season four show. Sendhil Ramamurthy is the only other cast member to be present and correct for all episodes of one season (he turns up in all 11 episodes of season two).
    • In the fall of 2007, it was announced that Zachary Quinto would be taking a break from the show in order to film Star Trek, which would have meant several episodes without Sylar. However, the writer's strike shut down production on Heroes, so there were no episodes for Quinto to be absent from. Volume three averted this by tossing in everyone into every episode, even when they had nothing to do. Played straight by the rest of the show, however.
    • Sylar gaining shapeshifting powers may also have been an attempt to avert this, allowing the character to be present even when Quinto was unavailable.
  • Ed Westwick (Chuck) doesn't show up in a number of episodes of the first season of Gossip Girl. Chace Crawford (Nate) is missing from an episode in season two.
    • As of "The Lady Vanished," Jessica Szohr (Vanessa), who was promoted to a series regular in season two, does not appear in season three episodes "How to Succeed in Bassness" and "The Hurt Locket."
    • At this point Vanessa is missing for several episodes each season (including the season three finale). And at the end of the fourth season she was Put on a Bus...
    • Kelly Rutherford (Lily) was on maternity leave during the start of season three.
    • Basically, the only cast members to have a perfect attendance record so far are Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Penn Badgley and the uncredited voice of Kristen Bell.
  • Dawsons Creek is named after the title character played by James Van Der Beek. He does not however appear in all 128 episodes. He is missing from the Season Five episode 'Downtown Crossing', and a few Season Six episodes. In fact the only credited regular who does appear in every episode is Katie Holmes, who plays Joey Potter.
  • Not every episode of Mission Impossible contains the full complement of IMF regulars. In the Season One episode "Elena", the only IMF member involved in the mission is Rollin (although Briggs appears in the first few scenes, he does not directly participate in the mission itself).
  • The original version of Survivors had this throughout Season Two, with various characters "off gathering salt".
  • NCIS usually includes everyone in the main cast (minus whoever's playing the NCIS director) in every episode, which makes Ducky's absence in "Legend (2)" (the second part of the NCIS: LA pilot episodes) all the more noticeable. Bonus points for the fact that this was first time a main character introduced in the JAG pilot episodes missed an NCIS episode (Thomas Morrow was never a main character and Vivian Blackadder never appeared in NCIS).
  • In the first seasons of Bewitched, Dick York had gotten injured and could not stand during the filming of the show. So, the writers constantly had to either transform him into different items like a monkey or have him out of town on business.
  • The Monkees: Davy Jones was written out of one episode (“Alias Micky Dolenz”) in order to attend his sister’s wedding in England.
    • Michael Nesmith was also notably written out of a few episodes in the second season: He was absent due to both a tonsillectomy and the birth of his son, Jonathan.
  • Charmed had this occur during the tumultuous Season Eight due to budgetary constraints. Brian Krause's episode count was drastically slashed, leading to Leo Wyatt appearing in only the first ten episodes and a return for the final two episodes became examples of this trope. The void in-between was explained by a convoluted plot where Leo was supposed to die, but (via a deal the sisters make with an Angel of Destiny) is instead simply frozen in a block of ice. Bad as that might've been, Dorian Gregory fared worse - being cut altogether and it being stated that Darryl Morris moved back east with his family. Curiously, this trope is not invoked in the first few episodes of the season where the sisters cast a spell to make themselves and Leo look like different people. (Other characters see them that way, but viewers see their true selves.)
    • This happened during the previous seven seasons, though not for the exact same budgetary constraints. During their respective tenures, Cole Andy, Chris and Dan missed a handful of episodes. Even after being promoted to main cast half-way through Season 2, Leo missed a few episodes over the next five years. Darryl had it even worse, though. He doesn't appear in even half of Season 5, for example.
  • In Highlander the Series, Duncan MacLeod appears in only half the Season 6 episodes. Actor Adrian Paul may have been losing interest, but Duncan also steps aside so a series of Immortal females "auditioning" for a spin-off could be introduced. Sometimes Duncan only appears in an episode to bed one of the women, an "old friend."
  • For most of Season 3 of Farscape, the cast was split into two groups with alternating episodes focusing on each group with Crichton being the only character that was in both sets of episodes.
    • Season 4 experimented a little with this. For example, after the characters are largely separated at the end of Season 3, the first five episodes focus on the crew coming back together.
  • The first season of MST3k suffered from this. Before the creative team behind the show got a budget and were moved to cable, they were just a local cable access show and they shot the movie segments live. Thus, if one of the crew had to be out of town for any reason, they'd do something in the host segments to explain it. For example, when Joel had to be in Hollywood for a meeting, his character was explained by the bots to have gone outside the ship to do routine maintenance, which they then quickly forget about. Later, they notice that he's not back yet and look out the window to see a Ken doll in a jumpsuit and space helmet floating outside, suggesting that Joel had lost his grip and was floating away. Similarly, there's an episode where both puppeteers were unavailable and Joel spent the entire episode alone in the theatre.
  • A strange example in Wizards of Waverly Place. In season 4, Max (Jake T. Austin) has been turned into a girl through magic (and thus played by a female actress) for most of it due to Jake T. Austin taking a break for school.
  • Kaley Cuoco's fondness for horseriding led her to unintentionally give new meaning to the saying "Break a leg" on both 8 Simple Rules and The Big Bang Theory. The former wrote her injury into the show; the latter led to one or two "Penniless" episodes (as an E4 continuity announcer put it).
  • In one episode of The Bill, actor Andrew Macintosh (DS Alistair Grieg) was sick; whenever it was reasonable to expect that he'd be called on to take part in the investigation, DI Burnside would ask where he was and be told he was in the loo. Cue many sarcastic remarks from Burnside...
  • On Sonny With a Chance, the Show Within a Show So Random was defictionalized due to the lead actress leaving the show for rehab.
  • The western Bonanza theoretically centered on a father and his three sons. However, Pernell Roberts, who played the oldest son Adam, left the show in 1965 and Dan Blocker - the middle son Hoss - died in 1972 (his passing is widely considered a factor in the series' cancellation the following year). Therefore, there are entire seasons in which Adam is "away;" in his absence, various ranch hands, long-lost nephews, and adoptive sons join the family. Hoss is implied to have died offscreen: the father looks at a picture of him while trying to console another grieving character. However, the family does not visibly mourn for Hoss or refer to any of his past adventures, nor do they write to, visit, or talk about Adam.
  • In Season VIII of Red Dwarf, the crew were suddenly returned to life. This meant Captain Hollister returned (as a regular), as did Lister's friends Selby and Chen (as guest stars). However Olaf Petersen, Lister's best friend and the character most often seen in flashbacks to before the accident, was mentioned twice but never appeared.
  • So far, every member of the study group has appeared in every episode of Community. However, non-study-group series regulars Ken Jeong and (as of season three) Jim Rash are frequently absent.
  • Lois and Clark episode "Soul Mates" had the case lampshaded by Lois Lane stating she expected Lex Luthor to be the villain of the problem she and Clark had to solve. It would have been Luthor but John Shea, the actor who portrayed him in that series, wasn't available when the episode was filmed.
  • Supporting characters in {{Andromeda would often be absent in first season episodes, given the relatively small cast they frequently had in-character explanations (Harper in a surfing competition, Rev Bem at a spiritual retreat...) in episode 12 their frequent absences was even lampshaded by Captain Hunt.
  • Seinfeld has one episode without George and Kramer, when Jerry and Elaine visits Jerrys parents in Florida. Afterwards, Jason Alexander, who played George, let them know that he would like to be in every episode, to make sure it was kept ensemble, a wish the producers respected. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss almost missed a few episodes, due to her pregnancy late in the series.


Video Games

  • In video games based on anime with Loads and Loads of Characters, a lot of major characters are missing for no good reason. The Naruto video game developers apparently have forgotten that Squad 8 exists (but then again, they aren't usually given the best developers).
    • Thankfully averted in the Xbox 360 games, though generally not anywhere else.
  • Bill doesn't get any new lines in the Crash Course DLC for Left 4 Dead. The reason was because the voice actor Jim French couldn't be contacted.


Web Animation

  • In Homestar Runner email "anything", Strong Bad doesn't appear in email despite them being his email. Instead, it's answered by Homestar.


Web Original


Western Animation

  • Phoebe From Kid vs. Kat, Phoebe appears in Do Not Fort Sake Me, Nip/Duck, Tom-Kat Foolery, Cheeks of Evil, The Three Aarghs, and Kat to Future Part 1 but she does not have any lines.
    • Phoebe was also in Class Act, but only has only one line, other than that she does not speak in the episode.
  • In Arthur, the following episodes Arthur does not appear in are "Prunella Sees the Light", "Fern Fern and the Secret of Moose Mountain", "Thanks a Lot, Binky!", "Big Horns George", "My Fair Tommy", and "World Girls". Well, in the episodes Sue Ellen Gets Her Goose Cooked and Best of the Nest, Jane and David Read do not appear in these episodes.
  • Marge appears but doesn't get a single line in The Simpsons episode "Krusty Gets Kancelled", although Julie Kavner still gets a credit.
    • On the other hand, "Four Great Women And A Manicure" has the distinction of being the first Bart-free episode.
    • Also, "Chief of Hearts" is the first episode in which Lisa has no dialogue, leaving Homer the only talking character who appears in all episodes of this show (Maggie also appears in every episode, but with the exceptions of "Lisa's First Word," "Bart vs. Thanksgiving", one of the "Treehouse Of Horror" episodes and the aforementioned "Four Great Women And A Manicure", she has no dialogue).
  • Most episodes of Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers have at least one Ranger absent. Some of this was likely due to Jerry Orbach filming Dirty Dancing at the time, but most of this was deliberate on the part of the writers, who placed much more emphasis on character development than most animated series from The Eighties.
  • In Transformers Generation 1, actors would generally get paid for every three characters, so if they wanted to play six characters, they'd need to be paid an additional amount, so on, so forth. Unfortunately, Transformers has Loads and Loads of Characters. For actors with only one or two regular characters (such as Peter Cullen, Dan Gilvezan, etc.), this wasn't a problem. But for actors with a large number of roles (such as Michael Bell, Corey Burton, and especially Frank Welker), it meant that many of their characters would either be absent or have no lines. This is somewhat conspicuous in the movie; Michael Bell provides the voices for Scrapper, Swoop, and Junkion, but Bombshell and Prowl have no lines. In addition, another one of his characters (Sideswipe) is absent. Frank Welker has 9 roles (Megatron, Soundwave, Wheelie, Junkion, and Soundwave's five cassettes), and three of his other characters appear without a single word (Skywarp, Sludge, and Mixmaster), two (Mirage and Trailbreaker) are nowhere to be seen. Another one, which is not related to his voice actor being unavailable (since he also voices Shrapnel, who speaks in the movie), is Snarl, who does not appear for most of the movie, only showing up for a few short scenes.
  • Star Trek the Animated Series.
    • Interestingly, the episode "The Slaver Weapon" features the only example in any 'canonical' The Original Series work (aside from the original pilot episode) where Captain James T. Kirk does not appear at all. The episode instead focuses entirely on the landing party of Spock, Uhura and Sulu.
      • Something which was actually impossible on the live-action Star Trek. After all, William Shatner was the star, and had a contractual guarantee that his character would always be front and centre in every episode. Which explains a lot.
    • Walter Koenig (Chekov) was missing from the entire series because they couldn't afford to pay him. Instead, he worked as a writer on the show.
    • An aversion also occurred: originally, only William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, and Majel Barrett were going to be hired as voice actors. But Nimoy balked and said he wouldn't work on the show unless George Takei and Nichelle Nichols were also hired, keenly aware of the ramifications of jettisoning two groundbreaking minority characters. Luckily, Doohan and Barrett were both able to voice far more characters than just Scotty and Nurse Chapel.
  • Twilight Sparkle doesn't appear in three episodes of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. Other characters also don't show up in several episodes.
    • Averted with Derpy Hooves in the second season; she appears in every episode, usually as an Easter Egg someplace unusual, as a Shout-Out to the fans outside the target demographic.
  • In the Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends episode, "Pranks for Nothing", Mac doesn't appear at all. Either the events at the beginning occured after he left for the day, or he got sick and couldn't visit Bloo. It also could have been before he visited.
  • Mung Daal doesn't appear at all in Chowder episode "The Apprentice Scouts".
    • Mung's absence is lampshaded "A Faire to Remember", then subverted as he appears with a couple of lines just before the episode ends.
  • Rocko doesn't appear at all in "Frog's Best Friend" and "Magic Meatball". In addition he only makes non-speaking cameos in "She's the Toad" and "Teed Off" (Rocko screams in the latter, but that's it).
  • Roland and Rattfink: Roland doesn't appear in "A Taste of Money".
  • The Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Zuko Alone" is the only episode that doesn't feature any member of the Gaang at all.
  • In Dexters Laboratory Dexter doesn't appear in "Paper Route Bout" and "Surf, sun and science", focusing on Dee Dee instead.
  • During the need-to-be-plotline of Gargoyles (The journeys after Avalon), there are several episodes without the main crew.
    • Also, in the unholy last season (The Goliath Chronicles), Demona was rarely seen. This gets pretty annoying when the final episode states several times that Angela is the last of her kind. With Demona being Angela's biological mother and not being in the explosion that not killed the main cast, this just screams for her appearing. Of course, this is just a minor detail being wrong about the final episode or the final season.
  • Increasingly done in later American Dad episodes; the series has gradually turned it's focus on Stan, Francine, Roger and Steve, leaving Klaus and Hayley to rarely appear save for the odd joke or plotline. It's so frequent that it's lampshaded in "Ricky Spanish":

 [Klaus climbs into frame at the end of a scene]

Klaus: Ah ha ha! I made it into the episode! Pay me bitches!

Hayley: [jumps in] Ha ha! Me too!

  • In Justice League, having all of the Big 7 appear in one episode meant a comparable threat. Smaller scale threats meant small combinations of different characters - with the ones left out rarely accounted for, but always at least implied to be busy elsewhere. Powerhouses like Superman and/or Wonder Woman, for example, would be conveniently absent when their Super Strength would easily solve the problem. Meanwhile, Flash never appeared in an Aquaman episode as his speed would be of little use in those plots. When the League later expanded to Heroes Unlimited, whenever anyone in the Big 7 didn't appear became even more noticeable - with some episodes focusing more on guest characters like the Question or Green Arrow.

Notes

  1. (They instead chose to use Schrodinger's Gun by telling actors to keep in mind they could be playing a Cylon)
  2. (though in 3's case, her appearance in one such pow-wow was the episode's shocker ending)
  3. (Dean Stockwell of Quantum Leap as #1, and Lucy Lawless of Xena as #3)
  4. Robert Knepper, who was a regular in the final season, also appears in every instalment
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