Forgotten Characters: 5 Worst Cases Of Chuck Cunningham Syndrome
What exactly is the Chuck Cunningham Syndrome?
Have you ever noticed, while watching a TV show, how an established character suddenly disappeared without any in-universe explanation and was later retconned to have never existed in the first place?
This phenomenon is called 'Chuck Cunningham Syndrome', named after the character from the 70s-80s ABC sitcom Happy Days. The older brother of the protagonist just stopped showing up one day, never to be seen or mentioned again. Even his own parents forgot about him, claiming in the finale that they had two children when they originally had three.
Here are other notorious examples of such poor character treatment.
Mark Brendanawicz (Paul Schneider)
Parks and Rec
Technically, Mark's exit at the end of Season 2 was explained by the character leaving his City Hall career for a job in the private sector. But it feels really weird that he was never brought back for a brief cameo or even mentioned again in subsequent seasons.
When Ann was selling all of her ex-boyfriends' stuff at a garage sale, there was one box for each of her exes, except for Mark. That one painting on the wall was all that was left of him.
Caitlin (Katie Carr)
Does anyone remember Peter Petrelli's girlfriend, who was stranded in the nightmarish alternate future in Season 2, never to be mentioned again? The writers just left her there!
Not only that, but upon his return, Peter immediately embarked on a mission to change the future, making any attempt to get Caitlin back impossible and likely wiping her out of existence. Sounds like a messed up way to use time travel as a murder weapon, right?
Isla (Noelle Hogan)
Can anyone imagine Kieran Culkin's Roman Roy from Succession with a wife and kid? Well, he had both in the pilot. Originally, the character was supposed to be married to Grace and have Isla as his biological daughter. You even see him wearing a wedding ring.
But then the creators decided that Roman should be single and childless, so Isla was retconned as his girlfriend's daughter and disappeared from the show along with the ring.
Detective Daniels (Uncredited)
You probably don't even recall this, but in the Brooklyn Nine-Nine pilot, Hitchcock and Scully weren't the only aging, incompetent detectives in the Precinct. They had a friend, Detective Daniels, who was introduced by Terry as being more efficient at desk work and making coffee than at her actual job.
The character was dropped after Episode 1, probably because Hitchcock and Scully were enough to be the butt of all the incompetence jokes. But we still feel bad for the actress, who could have become a regular on the iconic series, but instead was not even credited for her role.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch
The ABC sitcom was notorious for writing off characters in the most nefarious ways. Some were given half-baked explanations like moving to another city or country, others didn't even get that privilege.
Among those who disappeared without an in-universe explanation were Sabrina's friend Jenny Kelley (Michelle Beaudoin) and Mr. Eugene Pool (Paul Feig), both of whom left after the first season.
In Season 4, Sabrina spends many episodes training a new witch, Dreama (China Shavers), who disappears without a trace by the next season. Sabrina's college roommate Miles Goodman (Trevor Lissauer) is never heard from again after Season 6.