13 Times Characters Left Sitcoms With One Final Emotional Gut Punch

List Rules
Vote up the 'farewell' moments that felt more emotional than a regular TV episode.

It's natural for fans to feel any range of emotions when a character leaves a sitcom they love. Viewers may feel frustrated at the plot or real-life circumstances that forced the exit; they may feel disappointed, wondering what other stories might have happened if the character didn't leave; or they may feel heartbroken, watching the pain of characters saying goodbye to each other.

Some departures hit harder than others, especially when the characters use their exit as a chance to show how much they care for one another - or express when they let each other down. Whether they're tears of happiness or tears of betrayal, here are some of the most gut-wrenching farewell scenes for characters in TV comedies. 


  • In 'M*A*S*H,' Radar Realizes The Camp Can Survive Without Him - And Leaves Without His Teddy Bear
    Photo: CBS

    In this comedy set at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, Gary Burghoff was the only actor reprising the same role from the original film, playing “Radar,” the clerk nicknamed for his exceptional hearing, forming an important part of the ensemble. However, Burghoff was strained by the busy schedule of filming a sitcom, so after Season 3, he pulled back to only appearing in 13 episodes rather than all 23 per season. By Season 8, he felt burnt out and elected to leave the show, having a two-part goodbye episode in his honor.

    Within the show, Radar had to leave to help on his family farm back home, and accepted his hardship discharge once he was sure that Klinger could fill his job as the company clerk. He takes a final look into the operating room and receives a salute from Hawkeye mid-surgery. Additionally, he left his teddy bear on Hawkeye's bunk as a farewell gift. The episode was the perfect send-off for a beloved actor and character.

    Available On:

    subscription

  • In 'Spin City,' Mike Takes The Fall For A Scandal So Everyone Else Can Keep Their Jobs
    Photo: ABC

    Michael J. Fox played Mike Flaherty, the charming Deputy Mayor of New York, on the first four seasons of Spin City. The reason for his departure wasn't creative differences or wanting to pursue other jobs; Fox revealed he had been living with Parkinson's disease for many years, and left the show to take care of his health. Since his character was the lead, he was given a significant reason for leaving, in a two-part farewell season finale.

    The Mayor's office had been accused of having a connection to the mob, which created a huge scandal - until Mike volunteered to take the blame, saving the others by sacrificing his own career. He left the office for the final time, explaining in an email weeks later that he'd moved to Washington to become an environmental lobbyist. Mike returned briefly in the sixth and final season, so fans got some closure with the beloved character, and a chance to support Fox again after his health struggles were revealed.

    Available On:

    free

  • In 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,' Will’s Father Leaves Him Again Just As He’s Becoming Re-Attached
    Photo: NBC

    For most of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will doesn't have a father figure in the picture, leaving Uncle Phil to step in and fill that role for him. In Season 4, Will's dad showed up out of the blue, played by guest star Ben Vereen. Lou apologized for abandoning his son, and Will warmed up to him quickly over their shared love of basketball. However, Phil warned Will not to let himself be too vulnerable, not trusting this reunion, and he sadly was proven correct when Lou not only decided to leave Will once again to take a trucking job, but also tried to leave without telling Will himself.

    Will was heartbroken that his father would choose money over a relationship with him and coldly said his goodbye, calling him "Lou" instead of “Dad.” It's painful to watch Will put on a brave face as he realizes his father will never step up for him, but fortunately, Will had his uncle there to embrace him and help him through it. Will Smith had spoken about a troubled relationship with his own father, which leads to his especially moving performance in this episode.

    Available On:

    subscription

  • In 'Happy Days,' Richie Writes Down All The Things He Wants To Say - And Even Fonzie Gets Choked Up
    Photo: ABC

    After many years of being a main character, along with Fonzie, Richie finally left Happy Days at the end of Season 7. After college, Richie worked on developing his writing skills, and also met his girlfriend, Lori Beth. He was finally written off when he went to move to California and pursue screenwriting, somewhat reflecting the real-life decision of Ron Howard, who after many years as a child and young adult actor, wanted to focus more on his directing career.

    Richie shared a sweet goodbye scene with his parents, who offer him whatever support he needs in his future career with loving words and a blank check. Fonzie gifts Richie first-class tickets for his flight, and in order to express himself better, Richie gives Fonzie a written letter of everything he wanted to say to thank him for his friendship. The audience doesn't get to hear the words, but they're enough to even get famously cool Fonzie misty-eyed. The farewell was tough, but Richie returned in the series finale with Lori Beth, now his wife, to attend Joanie and Chachi's wedding.

    Available On:

    subscription

    free

  • In 'The Office,' Michael Scott Tries To Slink Away Without Anyone Knowing It’s His Last Day
    Photo: NBC

    One of the most well-known character exits from a comedy, Michael Scott's departure was given the fanfare it deserved. Several episodes led up to Michael leaving Dunder-Mifflin to move to Colorado with the love of his life, Holly Flax. Michael got to experience his final "Dundies" and got a ceremonial send-off from his staff singing a version of “Seasons of Love.” However, he claimed he'd be back for a final day, though it was in fact his last. He planned to slink off at the airport and avoid the most tearful goodbyes, but luckily, Pam caught onto his trick and ran to the airport to meet him for one last hug.

    At the time, many assumed it was Steve Carell's decision to leave, but it was revealed later he was willing to return for at least one more season, but the network didn't renew his contract, perhaps due to miscommunications as NBC went through a regime change. We can only wonder what Season 8 with Michael would've been like, but at least Carell returned for the series finale as a special send-off.

    Available On:

    subscription

  • In 'That '70s Show,' Eric Says Goodbye To Donna In The Spot Where They First Kissed
    Photo: Fox

    After being the face of That '70s Show for so long, Topher Grace decided to leave at the end of Season 7 and did not appear in Season 8 (the final season) except for a brief return in the series finale. His character, Eric, decided after finishing high school that he wanted to become a teacher, and left to take a position in Africa. His goodbyes to all his friends and family are emotional, but most special is his farewell to Donna, his longtime girlfriend.

    Donna surprises him by arranging a private moment atop the car where they shared their first kiss years ago. Donna gives him one more kiss, good enough to produce a "Wow" from Eric, to which Donna reminds him that kiss "will have to last a really long time." They affirm their love for each other before Donna brings out the rest of their friends for a group goodbye. It's the perfect mix of sweet, funny, and nostalgic to capture the essence of the show.

    Available On:

    subscription