On Monday night (April 6), "The Vampire Diaries" fans (and regular folk who are aware that "The Vampire Diaries" exists) received a massive shock when the show's star Nina Dobrev announced she was leaving at the end of the show's current sixth season.
"I always knew I wanted Elena’s story to be a six season adventure, and within those six years I got the journey of a lifetime," Dobrev wrote in an Instagram post.
A statement from "TVD" creator Julie Plec soon confirmed that the show would go on with Ian Somerhalder, Paul Wesley, Kat Graham and Candice Accola staying on as leads, but it's time to start preparing ourselves for the fact that season seven could very well be the last for "The Vampire Diaries" -- because television history has already proven that when the glue that holds a show's gang together suddenly becomes undone, the rest of the pieces have a hard part believably sticking together.
Unlike, say, Brenda leaving "90210" or Diane leaving "Cheers," Elena's departure will leave little reason for much of the Mystic Falls group to hang out together. Other than Wesley's Stefan and Accola's Caroline, who are a couple of sorts, and Matthew Davis' Alaric, who truly loves Damon, there really isn't a reason for any of them to exist as a unit without Elena at the center -- I mean, she even wrote the titular diaries, for Christ's sake!
These below shows all faced the same problem, and pretty much all of them quickly found themselves facing a swift and merciful death:
Zach Braff, "Scrubs"ABC
Much like with "Vampire Diaries," "Scrubs" was a long-running, popular show that decided to stick with some of its main cast when Braff left for greener pastures in season nine. They also brought in some new blood (including the excellent Eliza Coupe, and future star Dave Franco), but the departure of the series' point-of-view star and much of its writing cast led to quick cancelation.
"Vampire Diaries" was The CW's flagship show for years (before being replaced by "Arrow" and "The Flash") and the network tends to be less harsh with its shows ("Beauty and the Beast") when they dip in ratings, but they might not be so kind if a dip as bad as "Scrubs" hits after Dobrev's departure.
Topher Grace, "That '70s Show"Fox
Even adding Tommy Chong to the show's eighth and final season couldn't make up for the fact that Grace and Ashton Kutcher both left to focus on their burgeoning film careers. "TVD" is losing Michael Trevino at the same time it loses Dobrev -- which could breathe new life into the show, or could put it firmly in "'70s Show" territory, where the gang just didn't quite feel right without them.
Steve Carell, "The Office"NBC
For a while there, the search for Michael Scott's replacement after Carell's season seven departure breathed new life into "The Office." But his replacement (James Spader) never really worked, and by the time season nine rolled around and an actor that could adequately take the reigns from Carell seemed less and less likely, NBC knew that it was time to pull the plus.
John Ritter, "8 Simple Rules"ABC
Ugh. This one's tough to write about since Ritter died suddenly while filming the acclaimed show's second season, but still. "8 Simple Rules" changed its name, dropping the "for Dating My Teenage Daughter" after Ritter's passing, but even that and David Spade couldn't change the fact that fans saw Ritter as the anchor of the show. ABC moved it to Friday nights, then dropped the axe a year later.
David Duchovny, "The X-Files"Fox
Much like with "Vampire Diaries," "The X-Files" had the chemistry between its leads to thank for much of its popularity -- so when Duchovny left Gillian Anderson alone at the end of season seven then returned only intermittently for eight and nine, it quickly became apparent that the end was near.
Charlie Sheen, "Two and a Half Men"CBS
Sometimes there is a silver lining, folks. Unlike the rest of the shows listed above, "Men" got lucky -- megastar Ashton Kutcher was more than willing to accept the high paychecks that came with this ratings blockbuster after Charlie Sheen's meltdown-related departure.
However, it seems highly unlikely at this point that "TVD" will try to replace Dobrev with a similar-yet-different character, and it's even more unlikely that they'll have the budget to replace her with a well-liked celebrity like Kutcher. (Though Mila Kunis would probably work just fine.)