Five sitcoms that survived a main character leaving

Okorie Chukwu and Brenda Blethyn in the sitcom Kate & Koji (Hat Trick Productions/ITV)
Okorie Chukwu and Brenda Blethyn in the sitcom Kate & Koji. (Hat Trick Productions/ITV)

Kate & Koji returns to TV on Wednesday night with a second series on ITV, although viewers will notice a big change to the sitcom — one of the main characters has been recast.

Jimmy Akingbola, who played Koji, has since landed the role of Geoffrey in high-profile Fresh Prince reboot Bel-Air, ruling him out of a return alongside Brenda Blethyn as Kate.

However, Okorie Chukwu steps into the role and although it's certainly a big deal to change a lead character, this isn't the first sitcom to do so.

Read more: Fresh Prince reboot Bel-Air is more than a cash-in

Take a look at these other comedies which have survived either recasting or repositioning their lead after an original cast member left.

Men Behaving Badly

Men Behaving Badly is remembered for the friendship between not-quite-grown-ups Gary and Tony, played by Martin Clunes and Neil Morrissey in one of the most famous roles either of them have had.

But viewers might not remember that series one launched with Dermot as Gary's flatmate, played by comedian Harry Enfield.

Stars of the BBC-1 series Men Behaving Badly ; Martin Clunes (top r) and Neil Morrissey, Leslie Ash (bottom left) and Caroline Quentin.   * 22/5/96 Caroline Quentin suing her agent. 27/8/96 The show, which  won the 1995 winner of Best Comedy in the National Television Awards (The Viewers Choice), has been nominated for the same  award again this year.   (Photo by Rebecca Naden - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Stars of the BBC 1 series Men Behaving Badly: Neil Morrissey, Martin Clunes, Leslie Ash and Caroline Quentin. (PA Images via Getty Images)

He apparently felt out of place on the sitcom and it looked as though it would be cancelled after his exit, until ITV was convinced to take a chance on Morrissey.

Read more: Men Behaving Badly 'wouldn't get made now'

ITV did end up dropping the show after series two, but it then moved to BBC for a successful run.

Only Fools and Horses

Lennard Pearce, David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst in 'Only Fools and Horses'. (Photo by Photoshot/Getty Images)
Lennard Pearce, David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst in Only Fools and Horses. (Getty Images)

Del Boy and Rodney's Grandad, played by Lennard Pearce, was a key character in the classic BBC sitcom Only Fools And Horses for the first three series.

But Pearce sadly died in 1984 and the show was left without an important part of its storyline.

Read more: Lyndhurst denies retiring from acting

Stepping in to fill the role of elderly relative was Buster Merryfield, who was cast as the brothers' Uncle Albert who came to live with them in Peckham, and is fondly remembered as one of the show's stars.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR -- Season 1 -- Pictured: (l-r) Janet Hubert as Vivian Banks, Will Smith as William 'Will' Smith, James Avery as Philip Banks -- Photo by: Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank
Janet Hubert as Vivian Banks, Will Smith as William 'Will' Smith, James Avery as Philip Banks. (NBCU Photo Bank)

Akingbola's new job on the reboot of the '90s sitcom brings with it links to another recast role in its original version.

Playing Aunt Vivian for the first three series was Janet Hubert, but she was then recast with Daphne Maxwell Reid in the role for the final three series, the only original cast member to be replaced.

Hubert and the show's star Will Smith had fallen out and Hubert said she was offered a "bad deal" to return for series four, which she turned down.

Alfonso Ribeiro as Carlton Banks, Will Smith as William 'Will' Smith, Daphne Reid as Vivian Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. (NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

The pair have since publicly made up in a reunion special which aired in 2020, where they both talked about the personal issues they had been grappling with at the time of the row including Hubert's abusive marriage and Smith's struggles getting used to fame at a young age.

Two and a Half Men

Jon Cryer and Charlie Sheen in a scene from Two and a Half Men. (CBS via Getty Images)

When Two and a Half Men star Charlie Sheen went into drug rehab and began a series of very public rants against show creator Chuck Lorre, it looked as though the sitcom couldn't possibly survive.

Production was halted during season eight, but with hundreds attached to the show potentially out of a job, Lorre decided to kill off Sheen's character Charlie and bring in a new lead who would buy his home, played by Ashton Kutcher.

Jon Cryer as Alan Harper and Ashton Kutcher as Walden Schmidt in Two and Half Men. (CBS via Getty Images)

The star's introductory scenes included a funeral for Sheen's character attended by his many girlfriends, and Kutcher's character appearing in a cloud of Charlie's ashes.

It went on to run for four more seasons.


One of the main draws of UK sitcom Cuckoo when it launched in 2012 was that it starred Saturday Night Live and Brooklyn Nine Nine comic Andy Samberg in the lead role.

However, when Samberg, who played an American hippie that British student Rachel had married on her gap year and brought home to live with her bewildered family, left after one series, it somehow managed to keep going for a further four seasons.

Tamla Kari, who played Rachel, also left after one series and was recast with Esther Smith in the role, but Samberg's Cuckoo was written out as missing presumed dead in a climbing accident. Twilight star Taylor Lautner joined the show in the second season.

Outnumbered's Tyger Drew-Honey joined the cast as Dale, claiming to be Cuckoo's long-lost son, while Greg Davies largely carried things as Rachel's dad.

Kate & Koji begins tonight at 9pm on ITV.

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