In the fifteenth episode of The Big Bang Theory’s eighth season, the show took on a somber tone as the friends dealt with news of Mrs. Wolowitz passing away.
The storyline was not unexpected as Carol Ann Susi, who played the boisterous off camera character, passed away late last year from cancer.
Despite never actually being seen in the show, Mrs. Wolowitz was always hysterically funny. She constantly engaged in a battle of wills with her son, Howard (Simon Helberg). She even managed to have a relationship with Stuart “Stewie” Bloom (Kevin Sussman), the comic book store owner.
In the character’s final episode, news came to the friends that she passed away while visiting her sister in Florida. The cast fondly remembered the woman and the audience learned that the woman’s first name was Debbie.
Over the years, there have been a number of actors/actresses who have passed away during the run of a production. The most common situation is to have character they played die in the storyline. Sometimes they are written out of the show or they simply are never again referenced. On rare occasions, the part is recast.
Recently, three other TV shows faced similar situations.
In the UK, actress Anne Kirkbride, who played Deirdre in the long-running drama Coronation Street, passed away in January from cancer. Deirdre’s status has yet to be determined.
Christopher Evan Welch, who played Peter Gregory in Silicon Valley, passed away in 2013 from cancer. The character continued to be referenced in the show after Welch’s death.
Marcia Wallace, who played Edna on the Simpsons, died from pneumonia in 2013. Edna was subsequently written out of the show.
As for [The Big Bang Theory](series:200751), it remains to be seen how, if any, the long-term effects of Ms. Susi’s death will impact future storylines.
Obviously, in being a comedy, the show’s objective is to be funny. Too little focus on the storyline will seem inconsiderate. Too much focus might be a distraction.
One idea comes to mind. Will the show, in future episodes, focus on Howard Wolowitz finding his long-absent father?
It remains to be seen.