The Old Switcheroo

Do TV producers really think that they can change actors during a show and nobody will notice?
March 03, 2005
Let's start with one of the most memorable switcheroos ever. Ah "Bewitched", a beloved series that showcased the life of a witch that marries an everyday man but has trouble controlling her magical tendencies.

The chemistry in the cast was amazing. Elizabeth Montgomery played a witch with an itch to twitch, Samantha Stephens. Samantha’s quirky and forgiving husband Darrin Stephens was played by Dick York. It was a match made in TV heaven. In 1969, Darrin had supernaturally changed to an entirely different person. Was this some magical mishap caused by Sam herself? Nope, it really was a completely different person. Darrin Stephens was now being played by Dick Sargent. For some strange reason, the viewing public didn't really notice the double play and if they did...they really didn't talk about it. It wasn't till more recent times that this switch has been found as funny.

"Bewitched" isn't the only classic TV show that was able to smuggle another actor under the public's nose. One of the most celebrated television shows, "Happy Days", is also a culprit in this crime of double trouble.

"Happy Days" is still holding one of the biggest fan bases after airing in primetime and reruns for over thirty years. For those of you have been living in exile, "Happy Days" is about a loving family in the 1950's that deals with life's obstacles with the help of a greasy hoodlum named Fonzie. The cast couldn't be more perfect together. The over-protective father, Howard Cunningham, was played by Tom Bosely.Tom did an amazing job playing the husband of the ultimate mom, Marion Cunningham, played by Marion Ross. Together this TV couple had Richard, Joanie, and.....CHUCK? That's right, not only was there a Chuck Cunningham... but there was TWO of them! In the beginning of 1974 ,when the showed first aried,was the first appearance of Chuck. Chuck was the eldest brother who was known for his love of basketball. Chuck number one was played by Gavan O'Herlihy.
Well, in the later part of 1974-1975 when Chuck went to college the character was played by Randolph Roberts.
If having two actors for the same character wasn't weird enough, after 1975 the character of Chuck was killed of and never mentioned again for the next 9 years of airing.Thankfully,Garry Marshall(creator) has a sense of humor and asked both chucks to appear on the "Happy Days" thirty year anniversary special.

Alright,alright... so TV producers made some goofs in the past, it's not like they would do that kind of thing in recent times, right? Wrong! Who could forget the TV show "Family Matters".

It was the story of the Winslow family plagued with a guy who, even to this day, is the pinnacle of the word "nerd”, Steven Urkel. The majority of people are probably asking themselves right now..."There was a switch in 'Family Matters'?" In the words of Urkel, "Yes Indeedy!" But it went unseen to most of Americans because by this time,” Family Matters" was pretty much over and the ratings were plummeting. In 1998 (the last year of airing) the original Harriet Winslow,Jo Marie Payton-Noble
was replaced with Judy Ann Elder.

Well this little exchange did nothing for "Family Matters" ratings and at the end of 1998 the show was canceled.

Not all substitutions in recent times have had negative effects though. Some of them even gave the opportunity for funny situations and hilarious one liners. Take "Roseanne" for example...

We have seen that switching characters has resulted in many laughs throughout the years. But the television show "Roseanne" broke the mold when it began to make fun of itself. "Roseanne" was about the lower class Conner family dealing with life in general. Roseanne and Dan Conner had three children: Darlene, Becky, and David. From 1988-1992, Becky Conner was played by Lecy Goranson

In 1993, Lecy was replaced by Sarah Chalke( who now plays Dr. Elliot Reid on CBS's "SCRUBS")

But the producers of "Roseanne" were smart to do two things that other swappers haven't done before
A: The writer's would put lines into the scripts making fun of the exchange of actors

Roseanne: [to Becky on the first episode featuring Sarah Chalke in the role] Watch it, young lady. You can be replaced.

B:In, 1995-1996 Lecy Goranson was rehired as Becky and Sarah Chalke was still Becky till the end of "Roseanne" in 1997. This made a record by being the first character replacement that eventually rehired one of the actors and therefore had two actors hired for the same role. This led to hilarious situations where both Becky's would be put into scenes together.

The final and last switcheroo(or at least the last one that I can think of for the moment)was the from the hilarious show "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"...

In west Philadelphia, he was born and raised and on the playground....Don't worry I won't quote the song although it pretty much gives you the plot summary. "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" is about a kid named Will Smith that is sent to go live with his rich aunt and uncle. This show contains one of the most recent memorable switches. James Avery plays the over-weight Phillip Banks who is married to the classy and intellectual Vivian Banks, played by Janet Hubert-Whitten... or at least he was for a little while.

Until in 1993, Janet was replaced by Daphne Reid.

This has to be one of my personal favorite actor swaps because of the way they handled it. Will Smith and Jazz(Will's friend)talked about this change several times with comments like "Do I know you?" and "Did you have plastic surgery?" This change seemed to have positive effects and the show ran for another 3 years.

Although this double vision has us laughing most of the time, it has never had terribly detrimental effects on their shows. I tip my hat to the producers and creators of these series. They obviously did something right because every single one of these mentioned can still be seen in syndication to this day. Who knows what swaps producers have us in for next? But I know, that I can't wait to see it!
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