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TV Stars Who Couldn’t Lead Their Own Shows

November 3, 2020 1.7k votes 287 voters 77.3k views13 items

List RulesVote up the actors who had a tough time branching out on their own.

Many actors from ensemble cast shows benefit from being just one key part of the big picture. They play a key role in creating the chemistry that fans love and turn a solid premise into a ratings hit. However, when successful shows or contracts end, it's not a cakewalk to capture that same magic when an actor is at the center of their next project.

Starring in a hit television program isn’t easy. For every Friends or Seinfeld, there are plenty more shows like Mr. Sunshine and Bob Patterson. Never heard of the latter two? That’s because they didn’t last more than one season despite having the small-screen star power of Matthew Perry and Jason Alexander. While those actors thrived acting alongside a stellar cast, they weren’t able to make it on their own. 

Most of the time it’s not the actor’s fault. There are several moving parts that need to land just right in order for a television series to succeed. The writing, directing, casting, time slot, and production all have to be perfect. Most shows fail; it’s a plain and simple fact.

  • Photo: CBS / NBC

    Josh Radnor played the constantly looking-for-love Ted Mosby on the hit Emmy Award-winning sitcom How I Met Your Mother for nine seasons. Although Radnor may technically be considered the main character on the show since he put the "I" in How I Met Your Mother, the ensemble cast of Ted's best friends helped to keep the show funny and fresh. Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan, Neil Patrick Harris, and Cobie Smulders round out the strong cast. 

    Radnor is a man of many skills. He is a writer, director, and musician. He not only took the opportunity to star in his own series in 2018 called Rise, but also got to show off his passion for the arts. In the NBC drama, Radnor played Lou Mazzu, an inspirational high school English teacher who reinvigorates his school's drama department. Rise received mixed reviews and NBC canceled the drama after one season. The show started out performing moderately well in the ratings but continued to drop after each episode.

    • Age: 47
    • Birthplace: Columbus, Ohio, United States of America
    Rough follow-up?
  • Photo: NBC / ABC

    Friends has a case to made as the most popular sitcom of all time. Imagine having to follow up Citizen Kane; it's not easy. Matthew Perry played the sarcastic but lovable Chandler Bing among a stacked cast. The writers always did an excellent job of spreading the funny material out between the six leads. 

    When Friends went off the air in 2004, Perry decided to stick with TV and headline the Aaron Sorkin dramedy Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The series featured a talented cast (Bradley Whitford, Amanda Peet) and focused on the production of a live comedy series. NBC canceled the program after one season despite it receiving mostly favorable reviews. As the season moved along, the show's ratings continued to dip as its popularity waned.

    Perry would trudge on. He returned to the half-hour sitcom format in 2011 with Mr. Sunshine starring alongside Alison Janey as an operations manager at an arena. The mid-season replacement was canned after one season due to poor ratings.

    Perry would make two more unsuccessful attempts at the half-hour sitcom format. In 2012, he played a salty sportscaster in Go On. The show lasted only one season. He would have a little more success in 2015 with his The Odd Couple reboot. Perry starred as Oscar Madison opposite Thomas Lennon's Felix Unger. The CBS show stayed on the air for three seasons before being canceled in 2017.

    • Age: 52
    • Birthplace: Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA
    Rough follow-up?
  • Photo: NBC / ABC

    Premiering in 1994, the seminal hospital drama ER lasted 15 strong seasons. Over the course of its award-winning run, the cast lost many of its ensemble regulars like George Clooney and Julianna Margulies. Anthony Edwards decided to hang up his stethoscope in 2002. It was Edwards's decision to leave the series, which was still leading in the ratings at the time of his exit. 

    "It's been eight years of my family working around my schedule," said Edwards. "It's been a long time playing Dr. Greene." The actor won a Golden Globe award in 1994 and received four Emmy nominations for Best Actor for his work as the respected Dr. Greene. ER, like most long-running ensemble dramas, would survive long after even its most popular actors departed. It remained on the air until 2009.

    In 2013, Edwards decided to return to the small screen in the paranormal conspiracy drama Zero Hour. He played the lead character Hank Galliston, a skeptical magazine editor whose wife is abducted. ABC released the drama as a mid-season replacement show. It didn't take long for the network to give up on the series, which was canceled after only three poorly rated episodes.

    • Age: 59
    • Birthplace: Santa Barbara, California, United States of America
    Rough follow-up?
  • Photo: NBC / Fox

    Craig Robinson has an impressive filmography both in television and film. He is probably best known for his role as Darryl Philbin on the American version of The Office. Darryl was in charge of the warehouse at Dunder Miflin, and unlike Dunder Mifflin boss Michael Scott, he was actually good at his job. Robinson was a part of the Office cast for its entire nine-season run, but he served a more prominent role beginning in Season 4.

    Besides his comedic work in The Office, Robinson has appeared in several episodes of Mr. Robot and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, as well as the films Pineapple ExpressThis Is the End, and Hot Tub Time Machine.

    In 2019, the actor got a chance to star in his own series, the comedy-horror sitcom Ghosted. He played Leroy Wright, a skeptical former police officer that joins a scientist (played by Adam Scott) who believes in the paranormal. Together, they secretly investigate paranormal activity in the Los Angeles area. The show was basically a funny spin on The X-Files

    Fox canceled Ghosted after just one season. Critics liked the Odd Couple-style pairing of Robinson and Scott. However, the series received mixed reviews and poor ratings.

    • Age: 49
    • Birthplace: USA, Chicago, Illinois
    Rough follow-up?