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Glee (Season 5, Cory Monteith)
Ryan Murphy's high school musical had long been in decline before the tragic passing of Cory Monteith, but his tribute episode seems to mark the last time the pop culture consciousness at large was tuned into the show. With one less member of the original New Directions, the show seems more and more diluted, and the brief spike in viewership for the tribute was followed by a sharp decline.
Grey's Anatomy (Season 11, Patrick Dempsey)
Grey's has had plenty of main characters exit the show (for those who tuned out awhile ago — Izzie, George, Burke, Cristina, Lexie, and Sloan are all gone), but McDreamy's death made the news. And not just E! News, the nightly news, where his death was mixed in with updates on international conflicts. While it might be too soon to say whether the series can rebound following this profound loss of eye candy, viewership hasn't seen a major decline, and the show seems to be returning to its roots, with plenty of comedic moments and a focus on friendship.
The O.C. (Season 3, Mischa Barton)
Barton's exit in particular may not have killed The O.C. (which only lasted for one Marissa-less season), but the season 3 finale feels so final. Continuing a teen show once the stars graduate is always tough, but when one of the grads dies to the tune of "Hallelujah," fans are even less likely to be jazzed for the college years.
Veronica Mars (Season 2, Teddy Dunn)
Duncan left, and no one cared. A number of factors may have contributed to the untimely demise of Veronica Mars (the awful "fake rape" story line, multiple mysteries a season, a general conspiracy against good TV), but fans stinging over Duncan's exist is not one of them. There were less Duncan/Veronica shippers than Duncan/Piz shippers.
Community (Chevy Chase, Season 4)
Chase was far from a fan favorite, but still the biggest name on the show when he exited amid rumors of clashes with showrunner Dan Harmon. Though it's very much an ensemble show, Chase's exit didn't seem to affect viewership, and the still loyal (and vocal) fan base was credited for pushing for a sixth season, which is streaming on Yahoo.