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Behind The Scenes Tensions of Classic TV Shows Revealed

Steve Palace
Rob Reiner, Sally Struthers, Carol O'Connor, and Jean Stapleton in a scene from the T.V. series "All In The Family." (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Contributor)

Some TV shows hold a special place in people’s hearts. From must-see dramas to laugh-out-loud sitcoms, people care about their favorite series. And when things change onscreen, audiences notice.

Often this is down to behind-the-scenes tensions. Read on to see which classic shows raised the temperature off-camera, taking things in a different direction.

All In The Family

This popular sitcom was a staple of TV in the 1970s. Starring Carroll O’Connor as the bigoted Archie Bunker, it was known for tackling tough subject matter.

Speaking of tough, Bunker nearly met his maker following O’Connor’s desire for a pay raise. If you’re wondering why Archie disappeared for a couple of episodes, that was why. “Fortunately for him, the third episode, which was slated to kill off his character, was rewritten after they reached an agreement,” writes Her Moments. Bunker went on to have his own spin-off show.

Carroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker

Publicity for the US television series, ‘All in the Family’, USA, circa 1975. The sitcom starred O’Connor as ‘Archie Bunker’. (Photo Credit: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Fantasy Island

Where would hit show Fantasy Island be without Hervé Villechaize shouting “The plane! The plane!”? Ricardo Montalbán’s Mr. Roarke found out after his assistant Tattoo took off for the final season. Villechaize, who’d been with the series since it began in 1977, wanted higher pay.

The resulting argument proved too much for Villechaize. He bailed, with new character Lawrence (Christopher Hewett) replacing him. Not long after the classic island was deserted for good by network producers. A complex character, Villechaize died by suicide in 1993.

Hervé Villechaize, Ricardo Montalban, Sammy Davis Jr.

Hervé Villechaize, Ricardo Montalban, and Sammy Davis Jr. in a Fantasy Island publicity still (Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television & MovieStillsDB)

Three’s Company

Roommate sitcom Three’s Company wowed audiences from the late ‘70s to early ‘80s. Just as All In The Family was based on UK show Till Death Us Do Part, so this set-up was borrowed from the Britcom Man About The House. John Ritter, Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt starred.

The onscreen household was packed with tension, a situation mirrored offscreen. “Somers has been widely reported as the instigator of these issues, as she apparently resented Ritter’s place as the top-billed star,” writes The Delite.

Joyce DeWitt, John Ritter, and Suzanne Somers

Joyce DeWitt, John Ritter, and Suzanne Somers After A Taping of “Three’s Company” (Photo Credit: Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

A high profile pose on the cover of Newsweek reportedly displeased Ritter and DeWitt. All in all, this trio didn’t have the happiest of times. Somers threw in the towel after Season 5, after which the series was never the same. She left over… you’ve guessed it, a pay dispute. Three’s Company became zero 3 years later.

The A-Team

A small screen action favorite of the ‘80s, the adventures of Hannibal Smith and co lit up many an evening in houses worldwide. Often literally, what with all the explosions, in which famously no one died.

If you think The A-Team was strictly a boys’ show, then you may be forgetting Melinda Culea, who played journalist and series regular Amy Allen. By the second season she’d moved onto other assignments. Why did she stop helping the legendary soldiers of fortune?

The A-Team promo shot

The A-Team promo shot (Photo Credit: Universal Television)

Culea says that star George Peppard took her to one side and explained that, despite her professionalism, she wasn’t needed: “For some reason they think they need a girl,” are the words he used, according to TV Tropes. Mental Floss adds that she believed “the entire cast ‘ganged up on her’ to get the producers to dump her.”

The Equalizer

This gritty (for the time) action drama starred Edward Woodward as a British agent taking out the trash in New York. There was no mistaking Woodward’s screen presence, which made it pretty noticeable when he didn’t appear in a handful of episodes.

Producers lined up a true Hollywood great as his replacement – Robert Mitchum, a surprisingly heavyweight signing. But why was he there? Truth was, Woodward had been struck down by a heart attack. Happily, he returned to the role of Robert McCall and stayed through until the show’s cancellation.

The Equalizer publicity still

The Equalizer publicity still (Photo Credit: company Universal Television & MovieStillsDB)

Growing Pains

Family-focused sitcom Growing Pains, produced between 1985 and ‘92, went through some agony of its own. Kirk Cameron’s burgeoning religious views resulted in him taking a hard line on cast and crew.

As mentioned by The Delite, co-star Julie McCullough lost her job after committing the cardinal sin of appearing in Playboy. Future Chandler Matthew Perry also got short shrift. Cameron really took against him, reportedly believing him to be doing the Devil’s work!

Kirk and Julie

Kirk Cameron and Julie McCullough(Photo Credit: Guntzelman/Sullivan/Marshall Productions &
Warner Bros. Television & MovieStillsDB)

Frasier

Dr. Frasier Crane left the building for a while, to use the lyrics of his famous theme song. Or, to be more precise, star Kelsey Grammer needed to dry out. Viewers may have noticed a shorter than usual Season 4, which happened after Grammer crashed his car under the influence.

The cast of Frasier

The cast of Frasier (Photo Credit: NBC & MovieStillsDB)

He sought help and, while not totally off the booze, appears in a better place these days. Much amusement of the unintentional kind was apparently caused by Frasier suddenly attending a radio psychologist convention.

Perry Mason

Ultimate legal eagle Perry Mason thrilled audiences between the 1950s and ‘90s. HBO recently revived the character as Matthew Rhys, but for many Raymond Burr is the definitive Mason.

Perry Mason promo shot

Perry Mason promo shots with Raymond Burr and William Hopper (Photo Credit: MovieStillsDB)

So, they may have been a little confused by A Perry Mason Mystery (1993-95), which placed the title lawyer elsewhere and brought in esteemed actors such as Paul Sorvino and Hal Holbrook to lead the case.

More from us: 5 Ferocious Hollywood Feuds that have Achieved Mythical Status

Why wasn’t Burr involved? Well, he had a good reason – he died! Cancer took him from the world, leading producers to try and recapture the magic another way.