Characters are a writer’s playthings. They are used and abused, put through the worst possible situations, all for our enjoyment. Often, they are discarded, sometimes without fanfare. Without a teary goodbye speech or tragic death, these neglected characters just drop off the face of the Earth. The following is a list of — mostly “The West Wing” — characters who are still missing in action, as well as one who was brought back from obscurity.
Mandy Hampton, “The West Wing”
Mandy was introduced in the very first episode of “The West Wing” along with the rest of the core gang of West Wing staffers, which may lead you to believe that she is one of the main characters. Instead, Mandy came in and out of the story when she was needed until one day, she simply disappeared. This mystery inspired the term “Mandyville,” which is the place where characters who are unceremoniously erased reside, like when a parent tells their kid the old family dog was sent to a farm upstate.
Santiago Herrera, “Friday Night Lights”
Santiago was a juvenile delinquent with a heart of gold who was taken under the football fanatic wing of Buddy Garrity. Santiago also befriended Buddy’s daughter Lyla, and I noticed a possible budding relationship between the two of them. Then, he disappeared forever. Although his departure wasn’t explained, the reason behind it is clear. Season two of “Friday Night Lights” was off the rails. From an accidental murder to multiple secret affairs, many of the storylines of the show’s second season were underdeveloped and unresolved because of the writers’ strike, and also possibly a case of the sophomore slump.
Chuck Cunningham, “Happy Days”
I was a casual “Happy Days” watcher growing up. I would watch it when it came on TV Land, so I never saw it in order. My family and I recently went back to the beginning and watched a few early episodes of the show because, thanks to streaming, we can. I was shocked to find out the Cunninghams had a second son. No, I’m not talking about Fonzie, who eventually becomes an honorary Cunningham. They had another biological son who was in college and would come home to visit. There was even an episode where Richie goes to live with him. After season one, however, he disappeared, never to be seen or mentioned again.
Ainsley Hayes, “The West Wing”
Yet another bantering coworker-slash-love-interest, Ainsley Hayes was a frustrating character. She was a Republican pundit who, after battling West Wing staffer Sam Seaborn on live TV, was hired by White House counsel and stuck in a basement office. Although her opinions were often questionable, it was fun to see her challenge Sam’s irritating superiority complex. That is, until she disappeared completely. Maybe she got lost on the way to her office.
Tina Pinciotti, “That ’70s Show”
In early episodes of “That ’70s Show,” I remember Donna mentioning a sister, Tina. She was used as an excuse at least a few times when Donna couldn’t hang out with Eric Forman or couldn’t host a party because she had to babysit Tina. She only ever actually appeared in one episode before she was written out of the show. Donna was an only child at heart.
Zoey Bartlet … Almost, “The West Wing”
Zoey Bartlet, the youngest daughter of President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet, was for a time a significant part of the show. Bartlet, portrayed by Elisabeth Moss, was a student at Georgetown University, so she would drop by pretty often. Especially once she started dating Charlie Young, the president’s aide. Then, Zoey basically disappeared. Charlie, a very central character, barely even mentioned her. Just when I thought she had gone to “Mandyville,” Zoey came back with a new French boyfriend and then got kidnapped by terrorists. Zoey, along with her and Charlie’s relationship, had faded from the show’s consciousness, but she was revived for what many would call the show’s shark-jumping. Sorry, Zoey.