Death by television

By I. PAUL JOHNSTON
Killing off TV characters can be tricky. While it will no doubt garner big ratings, the fallout of the decision to off a much-loved character is unpredictable. Fans may get angry and move on to other shows.  And filling the hole left by the death can prove difficult, if not impossible. But that’s life. People die. So why can’t they die on TV? And who knows? It might prove interesting to see how the other characters react to the tragic situation. Or it might just prove to be the show’s own death knell. Here are a few of the more memorable TV deaths, and their inevitable fallouts: DR. LAWRENCE KUTNER (HOUSE) – Though actor Kal Penn had announced he was leaving the show for a political career, the nature of his character’s departure (suicide) was a shocker. He seemed like such a normal, with-it dude – maybe a little nerdy but nice. More interesting was House’s reaction. Far from being his typically cynical oh-whatever self, House could not accept the suicide. He searched for a meaning behind it. And when that was nowhere to be found, it seemed to push House further towards his own self-destruction. Here's a fan's video tribute to all things Kutner: [youtube id="Nuz-xMBRTIY" width="600" height="350"] CHARLIE HARPER (TWO AND A HALF MEN) – Okay. We knew Charlie was going to die (the character, not the actor, although...). We just didn’t know how. The fact crazy stalker Rose was behind it wasn’t much of a revelation, though the funeral assembly of girlfriends past was. This scene opened last season and cleared the way for the arrival of new lead Ashton Kutcher. Can the show survive without Charlie? Yes. Should it? No. This scene represents the comedic highlight of the entire Charlie-free season: [youtube id="0PVLTNh01_E" width="600" height="350"] CHUCKLES THE CLOWN (THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW) – Okay. This one is a bit of a cheat. Chuckles wasn’t a much-loved character on this show. He was more talked-about than seen. Yet, his death made for one priceless moment, and sealed the sitcom’s status as one of the all-time comedy greats. A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down the pants: [youtube id="92I04DkMEps" width="600" height="350"] GUS (BREAKING BAD) –  Poor Gus. We just got to know the ruthless, silent drug dealer’s troubled past, and then Walt goes and blows him up real bad. Gus was one of the most complex villains ever to appear on the small screen, and his demise leaves us without a bad guy to hate. Walt has picked up the slack this year but seems like a bit of a phony. As one character notes – just because you killed Jesse James, doesn’t mean you're the new Jesse James: [youtube id="tMxYUhEOVec" width="600" height="350"] JT YORKE (DEGRASSI  – THE NEXT GENERATION) – Just when he gets all the way through his nerdy teen years and finds a great girlfriend, JT gets knifed in some lame-ass Toronto school rivalry killing. Talk about pointless violence. Degrassi  has killed off characters before, but it never ceases to be shocking. And, to their credit, this murder wasn’t so much the focus as the effect it has on those left behind: [youtube id="fzMnMUl6WiM" width="600" height="350"] MAUDE FLANDERS (THE SIMPSONS):  While she would never be considered a main character – or even a much-loved character – the death of Maude was quite a plot-twist. They kill off animated characters? I guess they do. Homer was to blame of course, which was  less shocking.  Maude’s demise led to a whole new life for widower Ned – a life of dating and  ill-advised quickie marriages in Vegas: [youtube id="OpV9ZSjNSZk" width="600" height="350"] BIG PUSSY (THE SOPRANOS) – Though this was a mob show, the sight of Tony wacking best friend Pussy came as a shock. I mean, Pussy was a guy we actually liked. We felt for his pain when he had to rat out his buddies. For his part, Tony never really recovered from this act. It haunted him for seasons to come and seemed to signal his descent into an even darker, unredeemable place: [youtube id="HeY0iRGKKL0" width="600" height="350"] HENRY BLAKE (M*A*S*H) – This one enraged loyal fans. Fun-loving Colonel Blake finally gets shipped home and they kill him off? Nobody saw it coming – including the cast, who weren’t informed in advance of this final scene. The show was never the same following this third season moment. It got darker, and less outwardly funny. I missed the early wacky episodes, but war is war I guess: [youtube id="g450eyrN7Pg" width="600" height="350"]