Created By: KJMackley on January 17, 2013

A Day in the Shadow

A main character steps aside for a story

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Some serial stories depend on a specific group of characters dominating the stories. But sometimes for Something Completely Different one or more of those main characters are put on the sidelines, to the point it is notable that they have little to nothing to do with that particular story.

Tends to go hand-in-hand with A Day in the Limelight for the secondary characters, for obvious reasons. Although it isn't mandatory, as sometimes even the one being put into the light is fairly prominent to begin with and the one in the shadow merely has a reduced role rather than ignored outright.

Often enforced due to Written-In Infirmity.

Examples:
  • Michael Westen is the bona-fide main character of the series, leading the action first hand in almost every scene. But there are a few episodes where he takes a backseat to another character working the mission. He never steps entirely out of focus but it allows one of his teammates to take center stage. Usually it happens because he has shown his face to so many people that some missions run the risk of getting exposed, so instead Sam has to manipulate cocaine dealers or Jesse has to misdirect a South American cartel. Incidentally, actor Jeffery Donovan tends to direct those episodes so he doesn't have to worry about acting and directing in EVERY scene.
  • Used often due to the large casts of the various Star Trek shows. While rarely commented upon some characters don't even show up for some of the Bottle Episodes, even if they have a name in the opening credits.
  • "The Zeppo" from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the most popular episodes and featuring Xander in A Day in the Limelight. The funny thing was that the story was so focused on Xander that the entire rest of the cast was relegated to short, almost cameo, appearances.
  • Kevin Sorbo was having health problems during the run of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and a few episodes were written to feature his character in small bit parts. As the show had developed a rather impressive supporting cast those instead were put into focus, such as Autolycus, Iolaus and Salmoneus.
  • One episode of Batman Beyond focused almost exclusively on Terry trying to combat a Joker gang commandeering an experimental military vehicle. It featured the shortest appearance of Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) in any episode of the DCAU that featured the character, with just one line "Well go get them."
Community Feedback Replies: 11
  • January 17, 2013
    robinjohnson
    Isn't this the same thing as A Day In The Limelight? The main characters are out of focus and the minor characters are in - I don't see how it's a different trope just because you say it the other way round.
  • January 17, 2013
    MetaFour
    This sounds like a slightly more specific version of Out Of Focus.
  • January 17, 2013
    Larkmarn
    This is well covered by A Day In The Limelight and Out Of Focus. Really unneeded.
  • January 17, 2013
    KJMackley
    A Day In The Limelight is specifically that a lesser character gets the spotlight, not that main characters and secondary characters switch positions as sometimes the limelight is the fact they are working alongside the main characters. Out Of Focus is more closely related to Demoted To Extra, a more permanent change in the cast. The Batman Beyond example is not an example of A Day In The Limelight or Out Of Focus, thus making it the most pure example of the trope that I can think of.
  • January 17, 2013
    robinjohnson
    Terry is a minor character who gets an episode to himself? How is that not A Day In The Limelight? Lower Deck Episode is also so close as to be uncomfortable.
  • January 17, 2013
    Larkmarn
    And Absentee Actor.

    ... and Terry is the main character in the show so that's why it's not A Day In The Limelight, but... Bruce Wayne isn't the main character so it doesn't count either.
  • January 17, 2013
    KJMackley
    ...the definition of main character is different from protagonist or The Hero, Terry is both of those but Wayne is most certainly a main character in the show, he was only missing in one episode of the entire series.

    On that note there are several episodes of Batman The Animated Series where Alfred gets to be part of the story but Batman is certainly not substituted in the process, like "Eternal Youth" or "The Lion and the Unicorn," further highlighting the difference.
  • January 17, 2013
    dubey
    Western Animation
    • In Adventure Time, Jake takes a Day in the Shadow in It Came from the Nightosphere

  • January 17, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    This isn't even an inversion of A Day In The Limelight. It's the same.
  • January 17, 2013
    dubey
    Also, I would disagree.... as seen in my above example, this isn't Marceline's turn to shine as she is one of the main characters, nor is Jake Out of Focus. It is simply an episode where Jake is not present for the vast majority of screen time.
  • January 21, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Your first example ("Michael Weston is the bona fide main character of the series...") doesn't say what work it's about.
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