Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger and Steve Jones no longer have the "X-Factor."
Hot on the heels of its freshman season, the Simon Cowell-led U.S. "X-Factor" has removed three of its core ingredients from the equation, with word breaking late Monday night about Abdul, Scherzinger and Jones' exits.. While fans watching the Fox reality singing competition's behind-the-scenes developments closely might have seen this coming — network chief Kevin Reilly promised "some tweaks to the show" during the TCA press tour earlier this year — the simultaneous ousting of all three talents is still likely to leave onlookers a little bit stunned.
Alas, that's show business. Behind-the-scenes shakeups are par for the course in Tinseltown, with small-screen endeavors constantly excising seemingly critical players in surprising, one-fell-swoop moves — and it's not just in the world of reality television where this takes place. Indeed, there have been a lot of moves and shakes in the past year for scripted series. Keep reading for some of the recent shocking TV exits that rocked popular dramas to their core, but a warning: Some spoilers lie ahead.
Christopher Meloni, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"
Twelve seasons of cracking down on pedophiles, rapists and other parties guilty of sexually based offenses was apparently enough for detective Elliot Stabler. The imposing New York City lawman and his notorious short fuse burned out quicker than fans had hoped for when actor Christopher Meloni, who had been with "SVU" since its 1999 beginning, opted out of further investigations late last year over irreconcilable contract disputes. Meloni's sudden departure left little to no room for resolution for Stabler, who had left season 12 on a cliff-hanger involving the justified shooting of a child. But even if Stabler's continued days on the street are over, the fan-favorite character will never die — not as long as TNT and USA keep their "SVU" marathons in rotation!
Lisa Edelstein, "House"
Team Huddy fans around the world were left nursing a broken heart over the summer when it was revealed that Lisa Edelstein would not be returning to "House." Like Meloni, Edelstein, who played series mainstay and Hugh Laurie's love interest Dr. Lisa Cuddy, left the Fox hospital drama for contractual reasons. And, like Meloni, Edelstein's exit came at a precarious moment in the show's narrative, with Cuddy's final appearance featuring a cliff-hanger involving House driving his car through her, well, house. To make things worse, the loss of Cuddy came right before what is very likely to be the show's final season, leaving little room for resolution for Huddy fans.
Sean Bean, "Game of Thrones"
Not all exits are due to creative differences or behind-the-scenes negotiations or other forms of squabbling. Sometimes it all comes down to telling a story truly and faithfully, no matter the possible outrage. Such was the case in HBO's "Game of Thrones," which saw the early demise of series lead Eddard "Ned" Stark just before the end of its first season. Ned's beheading at the hands — or command, at least — of cruel boy-king Joffrey stunned viewers new to the land of Westeros, even if it was a long time coming for fans of the George R.R. Martin novels the show is based upon. The Lord of Winterfell's gruesome, dishonorable death set the dangerous precedent that on "Game of Thrones," the old saying really is true: You either win or you die, no matter your star power.
Michael Pitt, "Boardwalk Empire"
Bean's "Thrones" demise wasn't the only shocking death to rock both the small screen and HBO in the past year. "Boardwalk Empire" writers made a bold statement in killing aspiring Atlantic City crime boss Jimmy Darmody in the second season finale, just as the character was really getting interesting. Jimmy's death was controversial for any number of reasons, not excluding reports of behind-the-scenes turmoil between actor Michael Pitt and "Boardwalk" producers. Both the show's writers and Pitt himself publicly maintain that the split was mutual, made solely for creative reasons.
Frank Darabont, "The Walking Dead"
Behind the scenes, there's been no greater scripted drama shakeup in recent memory than the unceremonious ousting of show creator Frank Darabont from "The Walking Dead." Despite Darabont delivering a critically acclaimed genre series with record-setting ratings to boot, AMC executives nonetheless made the shocking decision to cast the show-runner aside like walker bait, just days after the colorful filmmaker's Comic-Con appearance this past summer. The series continues to rake in unprecedented cable numbers with nearly each passing episode, but die-hard fans and casual viewers alike seem to agree that the show's quality has dipped noticeably without Darabont in command of the "Dead."
Everybody, "American Horror Story"
They didn't call it Murder House for nothing! "American Horror Story" fans were rightfully horrified by the FX thriller's critically acclaimed first season, which left the three lead characters dead as disco before all was said and done. But creator Ryan Murphy did not clean house without a reason: In a press conference held shortly after the season finale, Murphy and FX chief John Landgraf revealed that "AHS" was secretly planned as an anthology series, with every single season featuring entirely new story lines and actors. Bye-bye Harmon family, bye-bye Constance, bye-bye Murder House, in other words. We'll miss them dearly — yes, we'll even miss creepy Tate — but we applaud Murphy's decision to keep things fresh all the same.
Which cast shakeup did you find the most shocking? Tell us in the comments.