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The Curious Case Of Disappearing Sitcom Kids

Michelle Tanner isn’t the only TV tyke to make the milk carton.

Now that you've had the chance to binge-watch your weekend away in a state of '90s-nostalgic bliss with Netflix's Fuller House, it's time to talk about the Michellelessness of the 2.0 series (yes, again).

As has been discussed ad nausaum in the months leading up to the Full House reboot's release, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen -- who, to be fair, have done little to no acting work in the past decade -- decided not to reprise the character they began playing in infancy, and almost no one was OK. And now? Jury's still out.

But this "Hey, where'd that other kid go?" situation has actually played out many times before throughout sitcom history. Sometimes there'd be a sudden cast switcheroo that left you scratching skull to figure out what was different. Other times, a little tongue-in-cheek action gave you a sly good-bye (like the prank call in Fuller House). And every once in a while, the show just dropped him/her like it was hot and never spoke of it again, hoping you wouldn't get mad.

Below, check out some prime examples from throughout TV history.

  1. Chuck Cunningham -- Happy Days
    ABC

    When Richie Cunningham's older brother Chuck waltzed up the stairs and never came down again, there were a lot of questions as to why. Was he drafted to Vietnam? Had he become some world-travelling pro basketball player? Or did his character just fall out of favor with the audience and get the quiet dismissal treatment?

    The first actor who played him, Gavan O'Herlihy, did reveal that for his part, he just wasn't into the work and walked away halfway through the first season (which prompted Randolph Roberts to step in for a very short spell). And rumor has it, there was a finale outtake that featured Mrs. Cunningham toasting with a cheeky, "Wait, where's Chuck?"

    But the open-endedness of Chuck's fate is still a sore subject, and people have even named the trope of cut-out characters Chuck Cunningham Syndrome after him.

  2. Morgan Matthews and basically all of Topanga's family -- Boy Meets World
    ABC

    Boy Meets World introduced little sis Morgan 2.0, replacing little Lily Nicksay with Lindsay Ridgeway, with some playful parlance: "That was the longest time-out I've ever had!" she giggled.

    Rumor has it, the showrunners wanted to age up her character a bit, but whatever happened, Original Morgan obviously didn't hold a grudge. She joined her former on-screen fam (and sat right by her replacement) for a recent reunion feature.

    (Note: We have no earthly idea what happened to Topanga's siblings Stacy and Nebula, but if we had to venture a guess, it'd be that they hopped back on the family spaceship and returned to their home planet.)

  3. Judy Winslow -- Family Matters
    ABC

    For a policeman whose investigative skills came in handy more than once on the series, Officer Carl Winslow sure was aloof when it came to the sudden disappearance of his third child Judy, who went upstairs and was never seen or heard from again. Neither he, nor any member of his household, ever even mentioned it. And here we thought family mattered, harrumph.

    The official line was that "budget considerations" led to the canning of actress Jaimee Foxworth, but she kept her humor about it the situation by joking, "I'm still up there in my closet, putting on my clothes."

  4. Laurie and Tina Pinciotti -- That '70s Show
    Fox

    "Speaking of daughters ... has anyone seen Laurie?" was the wit bit thrown in the series finale to explain the exit of Laurie Foreman (originally portrayed by Lisa Robin Kelly, who came and went from the series due to personal issues before being recast with Christina Moore and then axed all together). She was said to have run off to Canada -- which, come to think of it, was an entirely plausible explanation for her absence.

    Also scrubbed from the scene was Tina Pinciotti, Donna's sister who existed for just one episode (not to mention Valerie, who was mentioned and then forgotten about just as quickly). A season after her unexplained departure, the show toyed with audiences by having an end credit narrator speak for everyone and ask, "What ever happened to Donna's younger sister, Tina?" A lot of people took this as a sign the show was parodying Chuck Cunningham Syndrome from the start.

  5. Denise Huxtable and Maggie Lauten -- A Different World
    NBC

    Lisa Bonet walked away from this Cosby Show spin-off, which followed Denise off to college, after becoming pregnant in real-life. Marisa Tomei's role -- her new best pal at the school -- didn't return after that either.

  6. Becky Conner -- Roseanne
    NBC

    When Lecy Goranson headed off to college after five seasons on the hit show, the character was originally expected to be sized down to fit her part-time schedule. But then Sarah Chalke came along and re-casting Becks offered them the chance to follow her into her new marriage instead of her literally phoning it in.

    That's when things got really complicated. Eventually, Goranson came back and reclaimed her old spot on the ugly couch for a bit, but that didn't last long, and eventually she and Chalke found themselves alternating with the role to the point that it was a running gag.

    They even came up with a silly song-and-dance number featuring both Beckys creating such hubbub in the household.

  7. Seven -- Married with Children
    Columbia TriStar

    Peggy and Al Bundy were never a charitable couple, so when Peg's cousins dropped off little Seven (Shane Sweet) to stay with them, it ... odd. Fans weren't feeling the kid at all, so he got cut with the quickness, and the only clue the show ever offered as to his whereabouts was a flash to a milk carton with his mug on it.

  8. Cody -- Step by Step
    ABC

    DUDE. The disappearance of the Codeman left a van-sized hole in the driveway show because he was easily the most entertaining of all the bazillion people in the family. But they booted him for good cause because, it turns out, Sasha Mitchell was way less chill than his TV alter ego and was convicted of domestic abuse against his first wife back in '95.

    That wasn't the only Step by Step kid shuffle that happened. Fans might remember how little Lilly -- Frank and Carol's only child together -- grew from an infant into the ridiculously cute elementary school-aged kid from those Welch's Juice commercials overnight.

  9. Owen Salinger -- Party of Five
    Fox

    Little Owen also developed a serious case of SORAS and had be re-cast only like a billion (OK, four) times to get him from infant to seven-year-old in no time.

  10. Bobby Draper -- Mad Men
    AMC

    While Kiernan Shipka was the sole Sally for all seven seasons, Mad Men burned through Bobby Drapers, and we have a sinking feeling that January Jones's convincing fire-breathing mom moments as Betty Draper may have scared all these poor kiddos away (JK, but yeah, probably).

  11. Tancy -- Big Love

    There were a lot of kiddos running around in Bill Henrickson's homes because man alive he was fertile, but the replacement of Tancy aka "Teenie" was too obvious to unsee. Jolean Wejbe, the show's execs said, simply grew too fast to match the character's age on for Season 4, so that's why they brought in Bella Thorne for the part. They were hoping audiences wouldn't notice the shift, but ... yeah, it was pretty obvious.

  12. Kaitlin Cooper -- The O.C.
    Fox

    Back when Shailene Woodley was still just a little BB actress, she played the pony-loving princess of Orange County, Kaitlin Cooper. At the end of Season 1, though, the show shipped its littlest lady off to boarding school, and when she returned for Season 3, she had an all new face: Willa Holland's.