Loser Villain Serious Villain
The villain the heroes face is a loser, but his boss is a serious threat
In many series, especially ones geared toward children, the heroes come out on top every time they face the villains. If this kept happening, it would make you wonder if the heroes are really facing a genuine threat. That doubt goes away immediately when you see that these repeatedly-defeated villains are working for a villain who is a genuinely intimidating threat. Bonus point is this serious villain (who is often the BigBad and sometimes OrcusOnHisThrone) constantly yells at and punishes the loser bad guy for his/her/their failures (who is often, but not always, TheDragon. The Serious Villain may be a KnightOfCerebus if he/she/it comes into contact with the heroes more often later in the series, but is not a TheManBehindTheMan or a HiddenVillain, since those characters appear later in the series: the Serious Villain is generally visible from the beginning. The Serious Villain may consider himself to be SurroundedByIdiots, but that differs from this trope in that the Loser Villain often acts as a barrier, allowing the heroes to keep winning against a villain, while still keeping the threat believable with the Serious Villain's presence. The Loser Villain may be a MinionWithAnFInEvil or an IneffectualSympatheticVillain, but neither is required: all that is required is that the Loser Villain is in more contact with the heroes than the Serious Villain, and that the Loser Villain usually loses encounters with the heroes: it's not required that the Loser Villain be kind or sympathetic. Also note that the Loser Villain need not be just one character; a QuirkyMinibossSquad, TerribleTrio, or GoldfishPoopGang can be a Loser Villain. Compare SortingAlgorithmOfEvil. This trope is sometimes what happens when SortingAlgorithmOfEvil meets StatusQuoIsGod. Needs more examples.
- Digimon Adventure: during the Myotismon arc, Demidevimon was constantly interacting with the heroes, and they generally left his plans in shambles, prompting hilarious reactions from him. Myotismon, his employer, was not amused, and berated and eventually punished him for his repeated failures
- Pokemon: Team Rocket loses nearly every fight they have with Ash and Co., but their boss Giovanni seems like a serious threat.
- The Big Bad in 3 Ninjas sends three loser teenagers to kidnap the three boys. They boys dispatch the kidnappers pretty easily. However, they have a much harder time when they actually face the real bad guys.
- Care Bears: Shreeky and Beastly are constantly and hilariously getting their butts handed to them by the Care Bears, but Lord No-Heart, their boss, is a genuinely looming threat.
- Get Ed: Crouch, a hunchbacked robot (who appears to be made from a toaster) is TheDragon and comical, and frequently loses his encounters with Ed and the heroes. Bedlam, the BigBad, is his boss, and is more menacing.
- Rainbow Brite: Lurky is hilariously dumb and not even that evil, but his boss, Murky, while clumsy and often hilarious, is genuinely capable of posing a threat. Interestingly, they both served the Loser Villain role in the chronologically first episode to a one-shot Serious Villain simply called "The Evil One"
- Sonic Satam does this often, with Robotnik the Knight of Cerebus overlord, while his bumbling surbordinate Snively does most of the grunt work.
- To a lesser extent Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog did this as well. While Robotnik was a lot more buffoonish in this interpretation, he often appeared following his cohorts Scratch and Grounder's pathetic attempts to catch Sonic, usually acting as at least a slightly more imposing threat.
- The Dreamstone: They Urpneys were constantly being beaten by the heroes, but their boss was a serious threat.
Hello, Unknown Troper. You'll need to get known to lend a hand here.