Television lost some of its greatest stars in 2020, from talk and game show host Regis Philbin and Jeopardy host Alex Trebek to MythBusters‘ Grant Imahara. When it comes to sitcoms, in particular, there were a number of actors from popular series, old and new, who sadly passed away in 2020, and many of them appeared on some of the most groundbreaking sitcoms of the 80s and 90s.
The television world lost far too many actors this year, including both those who starred in shows and those who had guest-starring roles in one, or many, sitcoms.
15 Conchata Ferrell
Best known for her role as Charlie Harper’s sharp-tongued housekeeper Berta on Two and a Half Men for all 12 seasons of the series (working for Ashton Kutcher’s character Walden, as well), Ferrell was an Emmy Award-nominated actor.
In addition to Two and a Half Men, she also had a recurring role on L.A. Law and appeared in various TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Love Boat. She also had supporting roles in a number of movies, from Edward Scissorhands to Erin Brockovich. Ferrell passed away in October due to complications following cardiac arrest at the age of 77.
14 Raymond Allen
Raymond Allen’s two best-known roles were as Woodrow “Woody” Anderson on Sanford and Son and Ned the Wino on Good Times, both in the 70s. Allen passed away in August at the age of 91 from a respiratory illness.
Allen stopped acting in the mid-80s, reportedly due to an illness, though he would still make the odd appearance and sign autographs.
13 Reni Santoni
Reni Santoni passed away in August at the age of 82 from cancer and other health issues, but he will forever be remembered as Poppie, the neurotic Italian restaurant owner, on Seinfeld (as well as Chico Gonzalez in Dirty Harry).
The character’s most memorable moments on the sitcom were when he was seen not washing his hands after going to the bathroom, leading Jerry to refuse to eat there. Santoni is one of many actors who appeared in the final episode of the series to confront the gang on trial.
12 Galyn Gorg
While Gorg didn’t have major roles in any sitcoms, she did have memorable appearances in many of them, including boxing against Will on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as Helena. She also had roles in episodes of Living Single, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, a Different World, and, more recently, Parks and Recreation, among many other TV shows outside of the sitcom genre.
She was a prolific movie actor, too, known mostly for her role as Angie in Robocop 2, Lt. Maxwell on M.A.N.T.I.S., and as Nancy on Twin Peaks. She passed away in July at the age of 55 from stage 4 lung cancer.
11 Naya Rivera
This 33-year-old talented woman left the world in July following a tragic accident on the water. And while she’s mostly known for her leading role on Glee, many forget that Rivera had been appearing in sitcoms since she was a child in the 90s.
From a young age, she racked up an impressive number of sitcom credits. In the 90s, she had small roles on The Sinbad Show, Family Matters, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Smart Guy. In the early ’00s, she appeared in an episode of My Wife and Kids and had a major role on The Bernie Mac Show. She also had small guest roles on 8 Simple Rules and Girlfriends and a voice role on the animated sitcom American Dad!
10 Mary Pat Gleason
While her name might not be instantly recognizable, her face certainly is. Gleason won an Emmy for her writing but she has also appeared in front of the camera, most notably as Jane Hogan on the soap opera Guiding Light in the 80s. She’s also a bona fide sitcom star, having appeared in a long list of them, including Full House, Dear John, Murphy Brown, Empty Nest, Saved by the Bell, Friends, and Step by Step.
Gleason, who also has more than 50 movie credits to her name, passed away at the age of 70 in June, losing her battle with cancer.
9 Richard Herd
Considered among the sci-fi elite, enthusiasts of the genre know Herd from his roles in V and V: The Final Battle, SeaQuest DSV, and Star Trek: Voyager. But he is also a recognizable face from the sitcom world as George Costanza’s boss Matt on Seinfeld, who had to deal with the many annoying things about the character.
The stage actor also had appearances in The Golden Girls and many other TV series outside of the sitcom genre, like Quantum Leap and NYPD Blue. His last role was as Roman Armitage in the movie Get Out. He passed away in May at the age of 87 due to complications from colon cancer.
8 Ken Osmond
While he died at the age of 76 this May, Osmond will forever be known as Eddie Haskell from the 50s and 60s sitcom Leave It to Beaver. He reprised that role for the 1980s revival series as well, The New Leave It to Beaver.
Osmond claims to have been typecast from the role and unable to find other work because of it. As a result, he switched career paths and became a police officer from 1970-1988, after which he went back into acting. He died from complications due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and peripheral artery disease.
7 Fred Willard
A comedy legend, what hadn’t Willard appeared in? While he has a lengthy resume of movie appearances as well, his most recent sitcom job was playing Phil Dunphy’s father on Modern Family. But his list of acting credits spans pages and pages, from movies to shows, talk shows to short sketch performances.
Willard passed away due to cardiac arrest in May when he was 86, just two years after the passing of his long-time wife, Mary. Some of his most notable sitcom credits, in addition to Modern Family, include The Bob Newhart Show, Sirota’s Court, D.C. Follies, Family Matters, Roseanne, Mad About You – the list goes on and on.
6 Jerry Stiller
Father to actor Ben Stiller, Jerry Stiller rose to prominence thanks to two sitcom roles in particular: as George’s father, Frank Costanza, on Seinfeld and as Carrie’s father Arthur Spooner on The King of Queens. Stiller brought his signature style to each role.
The long-time comedian, actor, and author passed away in May at the age of 92 from natural causes.
5 Sam Lloyd
He had two notable roles: one as lawyer Ted Buckland on the medical comedy-drama Scrubs and the second on the sitcom Cougar Town, where he appeared in one scene alongside other actors from Scrubs.
Also a singer and musician, Lloyd died in April at the age of 56 due to metastatic lung cancer. Back to the Future actor Christopher Lloyd is his uncle.
4 Ranjit Chowdhry
An Indian character actor in the sitcom world, Chowdhry’s most recognizable character to American audiences was that of Vikram, a telemarketer who briefly worked with Michael in The Office. A prolific Bollywood film actor, he had been acting since the 70s.
While the role on The Office was one of his few American series roles (he did also appear in two episodes of the serial drama Prison Break), Chowdhry will be remembered by fans for it. Just 64, Chowdhry passed away in April due to complications from surgery from a ruptured ulcer.
3 Ja’Net DuBois
She was Willona Woods, the neighborhood gossip on the widely popular 70s sitcom Good Times. She also not only starred in one of the most iconic sitcoms in television history, The Jeffersons, she also wrote and sang the iconic theme song, “Movin on Up.”
Appearing in many films through her career, which spanned from the 60s through to the 2010s, some of the other sitcoms DuBois also appeared on include Moesha, Home Improvement, The Wayans Bros., and Everybody Loves Raymond. She died in February from cardiac arrest. Sources differ on her age, but she would have been anywhere from 74 to 87.
2 Orson Bean
Although he lived a full life through to the age of 91, Orson Bean passed away in February in a tragic accident wherein he was struck by one car, then another that didn’t see him. The veteran actor was known as a panelist on the game show To Tell the Truth and for being a favorite comedian of Johnny Carson’s – he appeared on The Tonight Show more than 200 times.
In the world of sitcoms, Bean’s appearances include How I Met Your Mother, Modern Family, and Two and a Half Men. But he gained a lot of recognition among a new generation for his role on Desperate Housewives.
1 Norma Michaels
With an acting career that spanned six decades, dating all the way back to the 50s, Michaels was still very much active in the business right up to her death in January at the age of 95. Her sitcom credits include The King of Queens, Modern Family, 2 Broke Girls, and Everybody Loves Raymond.
Her final small-screen role was in a 2016 episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine as Mildred Lench.
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