• Wed, Apr 20 2011

Demi Lovato Leaving ‘Sonny with a Chance’–How Other Disney/Nickelodeon Starlets Left Their Fame-Making TV Shows

After completing three months at a rehab facility to treat her cutting issues and eating disorder last year, Disney starlet Demi Lovato has announced that she is leaving her show, Sonny with a Chance. “I don’t think going back to Sonny would be healthy for my recovery,” she said in a recent interview. “Being in front of a camera would make me nervous.”

Instead, Lovato will focus on her music, especially since she first realized the extent of her troubles when she had to drop out of a Jonas Brothers tour last summer. Disney reps released a statement saying that they support her decision. Because Sonny with a Chance was built around Lovato’s Sonny and other characters performing on a fictional sketch show called So Random!, the studio has a safety net: The next season will be written based on the sketch show itself. (Think TGS without the frame of 30 Rock.)

The new generation of young actresses seem to all get their start on television shows built around their brand. And in many cases, those partnerships end badly when the young Disney or Nickelodeon lady decides she’s done with her squeaky-clean image. Here are the major examples from the last few years, split by network.

Maybe it’s the pristine image that Disney pushes of its girls that make these partings seem that much more bitter:

  • Hannah Montana ended without much fanfare, but in a way that seemed to do honor to the story: Miley Cyrus‘ character revealed her true identity, with the last few episodes devoted to the fallout of her decision. In the end, Miley’s friends go to college without her and she goes on to pursue a movie career. (Meta much?)
  • At the time that Hilary Duff‘s show Lizzie McGuire was on the airwaves, Disney’s policy was that series end after 65 episodes. There’s a series finale leading into The Lizzie McGuire Movie, but it got aired out of order, so that the technical “last” episode is just a standalone. Disney wanted to send Lizzie and co. to high school in an ABC spin-off, but the deal fell apart due to Duff’s reps claiming she wasn’t being paid enough.
  • Selena Gomez — Lovato’s on-screen bff in Princess Protection Program — is still starring on Wizards of Waverly Place, plus the sequel to the Wizards movie.

For the most part, Nickelodeon shows seem to have a smoother transition with their leading ladies:

  • Emma Roberts, who was already an endearing preteen in Unfabulous, continues to win at life with her appearances in the indie Lymelife and the more mainstream Scream 4. It’s not clear if Unfabulous‘ series finale were planned; it seems that the last few episodes were cobbled together as a made-for-TV movie, with some semblance of concluding the storylines.
  • Arguably the most normal of the bunch, Charlotte Arnold parlayed the success of her offbeat show Naturally, Sadie into her current role as Holly J on Degrassi. By the time the series finale rolls around, she has to decide whether or not to go on a safari in Africa, and she gets her guy.
  • Miranda Cosgrove has actually put off college — she got into NYU and USC — to continue filming iCarly.
  • That said, every family needs a black sheep. Jamie Lynn Spears shocked viewers and their parents alike when she announced in 2007 that she was pregnant at the age of 16. (This was a few years before MTV would strike ratings gold with 16 & Pregnant.) Her show Zoey 101 managed to complete a fourth season, but the series finale sounds like it was incredibly shaky, with no real conclusion to the series.

So there you have it. Part of growing up for young actresses these days is leaving the shows that made them famous. Whether or not it’s a clean break is part of how we regard them in their future projects.

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