Whatever happened to …?

TV characters that disappeared without a trace

“Happy Days”

Television history is littered with characters that disappeared without a trace or explanation.

One of the most noteworthy was Chuck, the eldest Cunningham sibling in the 1974-84 ABC sitcom “Happy Days.” As played by Gavan O’Herlihy — who passed away in September at the age of 70 — he was the basketball-playing son of Howard and Marion (Tom Bosley, Marion Ross) and brother of Richie and Joanie (Ron Howard, Erin Moran), who went off to college never to be seen nor heard from again after Season 2. In fact, his very existence was erased in latter seasons, with several references made to the Cunninghams’ two offspring, not three.

In reality, O’Herlihy had become disenchanted with the character’s limited role and decided to move on to find more challenging work. He was grateful for the start the series gave him as it launched a busy career as a TV and film actor with more than 50 credits to his name.

Viewers who want to acquaint themselves with Chuck can stream the early seasons of “Happy Days” on Amazon. The series can also be seen weeknights on MeTV.

Other Retro Rewinds:

Laurie Forman, “That ’70s Show” (Streaming on Amazon): Originally a main cast member, Lisa Robin Kelly’s bad girl sister of Eric (Topher Grace) in the 1998-2006 Fox comedy appeared in fewer and fewer episodes as the series progressed before disappearing entirely in Season 5 (replaced briefly by Christina Moore in Season 6). Sadly, Kelly was battling a drinking problem at the time and left the series by mutual agreement with the network. She died in 2013 of a drug overdose.

Dr. Grace Miller, “Scrubs” (Airing on IFC; streaming on Amazon and Hulu): Season 3 of the 2001-10 NBC/ABC sitcom brought aboard Bellamy Young (“Scandal”) as attending surgeon Dr. Miller — intelligent, confident and created as a female version of Dr. Perry Cox (played by John C. McGinley). The problem was she was also unlikable, not very funny and consequently written out after a handful of episodes.

Captain Christopher Pike, “Star Trek” (Airing on Heroes & Icons; streaming on Amazon, Hulu and Paramount+): Film veteran Jeffrey Hunter had the role of Captain Pike, the commander of the Starship Enterprise, in the first pilot episode of the original 1967-69 NBC series titled “The Cage.” When the pilot was rejected, Hunter moved on to films and a new chief was cast — William Shatner in the now-iconic role of Captain James T. Kirk. The episode never saw the light of day until the 1980s and now lives on in streaming. As for Pike, he’d turn up in several later productions.

“Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot” (Streaming on Tubi): The “mom” in director Roger Spottiswoode’s 1992 buddy comedy is Getty, who plays a seemingly frail but overbearing woman who comes to visit her cop son (Sylvester Stallone) and slowly begins to meddle in his life — and job.

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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