The courtroom battle between Nicollette Sheridan and "Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry over the circumstances of her character Edie Britt's demise is another reminder that for an actor, the only thing worse than not getting a part on a show is getting killed off a show.

"It's a one-way contract, they can drop you at any time," said Steve Schirripa, who spent seven years nervously pawing through the pages of scripts for "The Sopranos" wondering if this was the episode where his character would get whacked.

Producers tend to try to keep the lid on such dramatic events so stories don't leak out to the gossip pages and the actors don't subconsciously alter their performances knowing the end is near. Schirripa, who played Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri on the HBO series -- bodyguard to Tony Soprano's Uncle Junior -- got the word he was on the way out only 10 days before the episode was scheduled to shoot.

"We would ask the writers, 'I'm thinking about buying an apartment, you have to let me know,' " Schirripa said. "You could never get an answer out of them." Writers and producers often go to great lengths to disguise their intentions and keep information on a need-to-know basis. In the case of "Desperate Housewives," the episode in which Sheridan's character was killed by her husband wasn't titled "The One Where We Get Rid of Edie." Instead, Cherry referred to the plot as "Steven drinks OJ," a reference to O.J. Simpson.

Characters die for lots of reasons, some having nothing to do with the plot of a show. "M*A*S*H" co-star McLean Stevenson wanted off the show after its third season, even though his contract was not up, because he felt there was too much focus on Alan Alda's character, Hawkeye, and the series was no longer a true ensemble comedy. The writers responded by having his character, Lt. Col. Henry Blake, shipped home -- then killed in a plane crash, ensuring that he could not be brought back to the show.

More recently, "Two and a Half Men" co-creator Chuck Lorre had star Charlie Sheen bumped off the hit CBS sitcom by having his character run over by a subway train. Production had to be shut down so Sheen could seek help with substance-abuse issues. After Sheen ripped Lorre publicly, he was fired.

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