Bonanza depicts the Cartwrights as stand-offish and put-off by outsiders in its earliest episodes. Also, Ben Cartwright tended to be less patient and in fact, harsher, with his sons in general. However, series star Lorne Greene objected after a few early episodes were filmed and recommended that — because the Cartwrights owned the largest timber and livestock operation in Nevada Territory, they ought to be warming and friendly. The producers ultimately agreed ... and the Cartwright family became the welcoming, heartwarming family a generation of viewers came to know.
Happy Days differs substantially in its first two seasons from the show's prime (starting with the third season in 1975 through the end of the run nine years later):
The first two seasons used "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets as its theme (in lieu of Pratt and McClain's "Happy Days," which incidentally became a hit in its own right).
Fonzie appeared far less often or was less essential to the plots. The show was more focused on the Cunninghams, Richie in particular. Fonzie early on was also much more of a jerk than most people know him to be, when he became the all around good guy after becoming a major character. Possibly explained/retconned in a later episode detailing how Richie met him.
Potsie was the more wordly confidant. By the fall of 1975, Potsie was dumbed down considerably and became Ralph's joking sidekick.
Ralph himself wasn't initially a cowardly jokester; in fact, he seemed to be one of the more popular kids at the high school, and occasionally indulged in pranking, without his trademark "I still got it!" line.
Howard Cunningham was far more sedate, while Marion was more motherly. Mr. C was hyped up considerably by the fall of 1975, while Mrs. C's motherly-ness was turned Up to Eleven.
The layout of the house, to accomodate a three-camera setup that was filmed in a studio, was far different, with the kitchen on the left and the living room at stage right. The reverse was seen in later years.
Arnold's also had a different look early on.
The first two seasons used a laugh track. Late in the second season (spring 1975), shows were taped in front of a studio audience ... and the "big applause" era had started.
Law & Order:Special Victims Unit is almost unrecognizable in the first few seasons compared to what it's like now. The first season was actually heavy on comedy, with little court room scenes. If there was a court room scene, it was almost always one of the detectives being called in to testify to a completely unrelated to that episode's case. They also didn't have a permanent ADA; Abbie Carmichael was the one who showed up the most with 6 appearances. Most telling of all though were Olivia and Elliot's personalities being flipped. Olivia was the Hot-Blooded, Knight Templar who had to be frequently warned that she was on thin ice, while Elliot was the calming influence and a good father and husband.
The People's Court: The first couple of seasons of the original 1981 series – especially the very earliest episodes – were markedly different than the show as seen today. Many cases were simple arbitrations, with rather bland, dull cases being heard. The litigants simply answered the judge's questions and rarely if ever tried to interrupt the other litigant, call him names or interrupt the judge while he was talking. Judge Joseph Wapner – himself far more patient than current Judge Marilyn Milian – rarely if ever accused litigants of outright lying, although he would call them on testimony he thought didn't seem to fit the evidence or if a litigant lacked crucial evidence (such as a dated receipt) that ultimately cost them the case. When the judge delivered his decision, the litigants – except to answer a direct question he might ask them – simply listened respectfully, and while some of the litigants were understandably disappointed with the outcome – although there were always a few exceptions – they generally accepted Wapner's decision in good stride or chalked it up as a lesson learned. Once the show became a hit and logged time on the air, a few scattered episodes with litigants similar to the current series made it to air, but overall the Wapner-era shows were far more sedate and Wapner rarely needed to raise his voice or put wayward litigants in their place.
The first few seasons of the British Whose Line Is It Anyway? have a much different feeling from later ones. This is mostly because barrister Clive Anderson is getting used to his role, and later show staples Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles do not make consistent appearances while John Sessions appears in almost every first and second season episode. The show hits its stride by season four or five.
The first season of the American version did not have Wayne Brady as one of the permanent cast members alongside Ryan and Colin. It can be jarring watching one of the early episodes and not seeing Wayne at all.
The first American season also features a darker lighting scheme, which looks a bit odd compared to the later seasons. Also, Drew, like Clive on the UK version, had not yet completely warmed up in his role as the host, and there wasn't as much banter between him and the performers between games.
In early My Name Is Earl the Camden police dept. are actually a competent, normal, small time police force. Later on in the series it becomes one fat guy on a bike, and his sister. Also Crab-man is just a generic, if slightly brighter, trailer park-type resident, later on he will become a a quirky-genius ex-spy who is in witness protection.
The most notable example of early installment weirdness is the character of Earl's ex-wife Joy. In the early episodes, Joy is out-and-out hostile towards Earl, and even schemes to kill him for his lottery money. However, Joy and Earl's relationship quickly normalizes; at one point in the series, Earl even voluntarily goes to jail for an offense Joy commits just to spare Joy a "third strike" conviction. By the end of the series, they are Amicable Exes.
This happens fairly frequently in That '70s Show. In the early episodes, Hyde has a crush on Donna. This only lasts a little while before that subplot was thrown out, although, unlike many of the other examples on this page, it wasn't entirely forgotten.
That's just a plot point that wasn't gelling well. Some examples that might be more fitting (features that became staple later but wasn't present at the start) are the lack of Idiosyncratic Wipes (they didn't start using the wipes of the cast dancing in front of the trippy backgrounds until the second season) and a different version of "That 70s Song" (sounded like a version taken from a live concert vs. a studio cut; this was also changed from the second season onwards).
The early episodes of Malcolm in the Middle have Hal and Lois being very comfortable with nudity (with Hal being shaved during breakfast with only a newspaper covering him and Lois answering the front door topless and Lois's nonchalant attitude about her breasts). Later on, however, they treat nudity the way most parents would (i.e., they don't allow it unless it's for a shower).
Additionally, the premise shifts from Malcolm-centric to the entire family, with later episodes following the Two Lines, No Waiting formula to accomodate. Several episodes don't even have Malcolm as the focal point of either plot. Malcolm was originally the Only Sane Man but became more insufferable thanks to puberty and other changes.
M*A*S*H originally started as a lighthearted "wacky" comedy set in a war hospital, very much in the vein of The Movie it was based on. After a few years, the laughs became balanced with hard-hitting looks at the horrors of war, then thrown off-balance when Alan Alda became a director for the episodes.
Season 1 of 3-2-1 Contact was hosted by three college-age students in a campus workshop, as opposed to the junior high kids in a basement playroom cast of subsequent seasons. To some, it was First Installment Wins.
The first few Friday opening credit sequences of Season 1 (all aired in October through early December 1971) had a different end theme, which was a longer version of the corporate credits theme used in the first two seasons. By Christmas 1971, the bright marching theme was used for the credit roll.
A few scattered episodes during the first month used uncredited children to help the adult actors with various sound cluster lessons. Most were matching or multiple-choice questions.
The first season of Saved by the Bell is totally different from the rest of the series. Instead of being a high school in California, it's a middle school in Indiana. The students are a supporting cast and their teacher, Miss Bliss, is the main protagonist. This is the case because originally, the show was called Good Morning, Miss Bliss, and that was the premise. They changed this after realizing the kids had more potential for comedy plots.
The first few episodes of 24 differed greatly from the rest of the season, and had many off-kilter moments that don't fit with what followed:
The first season had a title card that read, "Events occur in real time." This was jettisoned after the first three episodes (although it did make an appearance in the second- and third-season premieres, which were aired commercial-free, as well as the seventh). In addition, the first season is the only season to use the word "midnight" instead of "12:00 AM".
The first season's full narration is "The following takes place between 'x and x' on the day of the Presidential Primary." All future seasons do not have any narration following the hours listed.
The pilot episode had several sequences that emphasize ticking clocks (and the "real-time" aspect of the show). In addition, the "ticking" noise played during the pilot is different from every other episode.
In the second episode of the series, Jack drives down an L.A. street distraught after Richard Walsh's death. During this sequence, Jack's perspective shows a time-lapse cityscape perspective - this is the only time such a scene appeared in the series.
The pilot is the first (and only) episode to feature a shot of something happening in outer space (a satellite passing over Kuala Lumpur).
The first few episodes don't have Jack narrating ("I'm Federal Agent Jack Bauer, and this is the longest day of my life."). The opening narration also changes several times throughout the first season.
CTU's design greatly changed between the pilot and the second episode (due to switching from an actual location to a soundstage).
The fifth, sixth and seventh first-season episodes are the only time in the series when the sun rises in a realistic fashion (it takes just under two hours to go from night sky to full daylight). Later seasons had it transition from night to day almost immediately.
A number of bizarre elements in the pilot and second episode (Tony's exaggerated accent, Mandy's meditation scene in the desert) were never referenced again.
The first-season finale (where Jack cradles Teri's body while remembering her) is the only time a flashback was used in the series.
In season two, the ticking clock was integrated with the commercial breaks, and reminded viewers that time was still progressing in the show. This format never appeared in any other season afterwards.
In season 1, the show's pacing was comparatively slow for the first few episodes before building momentum. Then halfway through, after the first arc had been resolved (the season was plotted this way to give viewers partial closure if the show wasn't renewed), there was a transitional episode with not a lot of action. Later seasons would see the show continually try to top itself in terms of action and cliffhangers. The first episode of season 8 is similar to that of season 1 in its pacing, but then that season followed the pattern of the others.
In a sense, the first season is this for the entire series. The first season involves a fairly low-key threat (an assasination attempt on a Presidential candidate), as compared to the nuclear terrorism and biological warfare of later seasons. Consequently, its the only season of the series which doesn't feature the sitting President of the United States. Also, the season has more of a Conspiracy Thriller vibe than later seasons. Jack Bauer is also portrayed somewhat different. His Rogue Agent and Maverick tendencies aren't quiet as developed as they later will be, he's the Head of CTU rather than being just a field agent, and he hasn't quiet got the knack for torture that he will later have. Word of God says that losing his wife, Teri, in the first season finale leads to Jack becoming the character we see in subsequent seasons.
The Degrassi franchise had several examples of this.
The Kids of Degrassi Street (and its immediate telefilm predecessor, Ida Makes a Movie) were about kids in elementary school, not the middle-graders and high-schoolers who would define the later series of the franchise. In addition, Ida Makes a Movie was adapted from a children's book about anthropomorphized cats, and follows a kid who creates a documentary about garbage that gets misinterpreted by a judge at the National Film Board of Canada as being a war film(?). Kids of Degrassi also had actors who would go on to play lead roles in Degrassi Junior High playing different characters in this first series.
Kids of Degrassi also had none of the complex morality that would define the later iterations of the franchise, and could come off as boring or simplistic compared to Junior High episodes.
Degrassi Junior High relied on some unbelievable conceits to further the plot, a notion which did not follow through to any of the later series. The big finale of Junior High involved an explosion (albeit foreshadowed) in the school's boiler room that forced the students to evacuate and change campuses. In addition, the majority of the plots were quaint compared to Degrassi High's Darker and Edgier source material - in Junior High, most episodes usually had one or more couples going on chaste dates at local Toronto landmarks, or having violent actions mostly occur off-screen.
Spike's unplanned pregnancy was the huge turning point of Junior High (and the franchise), but it's hard to see what the big deal is compared to Degrassi High and Degrassi The Next Generation, where several members of the female cast (including Spike, again) end up dealing with the same issue (and it is even portrayed as, at best, a subplot instead of the main focus).
School's Out, the made-for-TV movie that followed Degrassi High (and the immediate precursor to Degrassi The Next Generation), featured a level of Darker and Edgier that, to this day, still hasn't been matched by the latter in terms of single-episode shock value. Joey proposes to Caitlin and they have sex for the first time, just as Joey cheats on her with a classmate. Said classmate discovers that she's pregnant and decides to have an abortion. Wheels and Lucy get into a car crash that results in the death of a young boy, and he goes to jail (and Lucy is blinded) as a result. It was also the first (and only) installment of the series to include both nudity and the word "fuck" (used twice). Interestingly, Next Generation disregarded a number of the plot points in this installment.
The early episodes of the 1980s War of the Worlds series lacked much of the strong narrative tales that defined the latter half of its first season. Norton Drake had an exaggerated Jamaican accent, Harrison Blackwood had a girlfriend who was set up as a supporting character, the villains were generic Irish terrorists with modulated voices and the plots went from "stealing alien war machines" to "infiltrating a location-of-the-week".
The first episode of The Wire has two such moments: the "camera" sequence in the elevator (where Jimmy McNulty is seen, from the perspective of a security camera, waiting in an elevator) and the flashback sequence at the end of the pilot (which reiterates why the informant was killed). David Simon is on record as saying HBO mandated the "flashback" sequence because they felt viewers wouldn't understand what was going on, and it's never been used again. Another minor example is the use of a backing track to underscore certain scenes (such as Avon Barksdale's walk into The Pit), which ran counter to the general tone of the show (no music used at all, except when it was played via a car speaker or music player and in the end-of-season montages), and were never used again after the first season.
Amazingly, Seinfeld introduced Kramer by having him knock on Jerry's door instead of his classic Dynamic Entry. As well, Jason Alexander portrayed George Costanza as a Woody Allen wannabe until he realized that the character closely resembled his creator Larry David, and subsequently made the character angrier and meaner.
There's more: in the pilot episode, Jerry calls Kramer by the name of "Kessler" (which seems to be a mere oversight since that was the character's original name) and Elaine doesn't appear at all (she was added in the second episode because the network felt the show lacked a prominent female character, which turned out to be for the better).
In fact, in the first two seasons, Kramer's schtick was that he was agoraphobic and many of Jerry's jokes revolved around his resistance to leaving the apartment. In the Season 3 premiere, this aspect of the character was completely done away with.
The original pilot actually did have a female regular in the form of a waitress at Monk's (well, actually not Monk's. The diner was different too), but she was pretty forgettable. Most bizarre, however, was the fact that the show wasn't even called Seinfeld, instead being titled "The Seinfeld Chronicles"note These days, that episode's title is "The Seinfeld Chronicles", and that the famous trademark slap-bass theme tune wasn't there. Instead it had a much more conventionalnote that is, eightieselectronic keyboard theme.
Actually, the series itself was very different during its first few seasons from what it would be later on. The plots were slower paced, there was generally a single A story, many of the scenes were word-for-word from Seinfeld's stand-up, there were much fewer scene changes with cheaper sets, and the characters were slightly more sympathetic. Also, there was less transitional music, and the one that was there tended to be more keyboard driven. On the DVD commentary of the second episode of the series, Seinfeld and co-creator Larry David remark that the episode is reminiscent of a high-school play in terms of pacing and set design, and marvel at the fact that they managed to convince NBC to keep the series going at that point.
In earlier seasons, episodes would always start and end with Jerry's stand-up routines, and they would even take place at various points in the middle of the episodes as well (the original premise of the show was that Jerry's interactions with his friends and routines of his life gave inspiration to his stand-up). These stand-up scenes were gradually phased out in later seasons, eventually disappearing altogether.
The first season of Friends feels quite a bit different from the other nine seasons. The plots are more slow-paced and episodic, the characters are less quippy and there's quite a bit of a Sentimental Music Cue. Plus it has some VERY strange fashions and a bit of an 80s feel about it.
Not to mention that Ross' ex-wife Carol is played in her first appearance by an actress who looks nothing at all like the one who took over the role for the rest of the series.
The pilot episode also has hints of Joey/Monica which was almost immediately dropped in favour of Ross/Rachel and later Chandler/Monica.
As a result of the planned Joey/Monica relationship, both their characterizations were subtly different: Joey was more jerkish and a Handsome Lech, while Monica was a lot more sexual. They settled into their normal characters pretty fast though.
This change was partly due to Matt Leblanc and Courteney Cox's take on the characters. The writers admitted Matt gave Joey heart and Courteney softened Monica a lot and made her more of the Team Mom. (Changes which meant she was better matched with the adorably awkward Chandler, than the confident Joey).
Easy to miss, but—in the first season, there was no street outside the Central Perk set, only a painted backdrop in the window.
The first few episodes of Miami Vice form a conventional Five-Episode Pilot, which focuses on Crockett and Tubbs (who have just been paired up) working to find Columbian druglord Jose Calderone. The biggest difference in these five episodes is the character of Lt. Rodriguez, Sonny's (original) commanding officer who got directly involved in the action on a weekly basis. Other elements were significantly toned down after the first few episodes, including the length of the montages, Tubbs' heavier accent (seen in the first few episodes), Zito and Switek's comedy routines (which used to take up entire segments of the show) and the length of the before-credits teasers.
Compare the first (six-episode) season of Parks and Recreation to the second and onward, and they almost seem like two different shows - during the first few episodes, Leslie Knope is awkward, overbearing, and somewhat incompetent; Andy is a lazy Jerk Ass rather than the affable Man Child of the later seasons; Ron has almost zero personality quirks of his own; and there's a heavy focus on the government aspect of the show. This was the result of the show starting off as a clone of The Office before it found its own voice and style.
The show also started off as fairly bleak and cynical, with the premise essentially being "there's only one person in the government who cares, but she's an overly idealistic doofus who will never accomplish anything." When Leslie was made more competent in the second season, it made her idealism seem more justified and propelled the show to the opposite end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism from where it had started.
In the first season, the characters were more blatantly based on characters from The Office, where Leslie is Michael Scott, Ann is Pam, Ron is Dwight, Mark is Jim Halpert, Andy is Roy Anderson, Tom is Ryan Howard, April is Angela Martin (with some Ryan mixed in) and Jerry is Kevin and Toby rolled into one.
It's particularly jarring re-watching the first season after finishing the final season: the dialog in the beginning was a lot slower paced than in later seasons. The DVD even has a special where the actors comment on how the speed of dialog delivery, which is a famous aspect of Gilmore Girls, has evolved to the point where it's faster than the actors themselves can think.
In the pilot Sookie is a walking disaster area, knocking down pans and starting fires with almost every move. She gets better.
Luke's Diner is in a completely different location in Stars Hollow and looks mostly different inside, as well.
Emily's hair, makeup, and wardrobe was noticeably drab in the first few episodes. You can still tell from a scene that remains in the show's opening. In the later seasons, Emily is more of a Hot Grandma.
Dean was more of a loner, particularly in the first season, having only recently moved to Stars Hollow with his family. His tastes were also more in line with Jess's. As the show went on, he became more of a jock while those attributes became part of Jess's character.
Paris, Madeline, and Louise were a lot more harsh and petty. Paris in particular was only going to be on the show for a few episodes as a way to introduce Rory and the audience to the highly competitive environment at Chilton, but her role was greatly expanded.
Lorelai's parents were also significantly more antagonistic, or at least harsher. Richard, particularly is written as somewhat unapproachable and disapproving.
It's also odd to see Sean Gunn playing two characters who were, although very similar to Kirk, separate characters. Fanon likes to think they're all Kirk, anyways.
Kirk even references installing DSL in one episode, the job Sean Gunn was performing as "Mick."
Lorelai's grandmother ("Lorelai The First") is dead in the second episode. She gets better.
In a first season episode of The Nanny Fran celebrates her 30th birthday. Shortly afterwards her refusal to admit to being older than 29 became one of the show's biggest running gags (Maxwell says at one point even the FBI couldn't figure out her real age).
In the pilot, the stairs and front door are in a different location. There's also at least one early episode where there was a pantry between the kitchen and the dining room which eventually disappeared.
During the first season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Sweet Dee's character was meant to be the female voice of reason to her male friends' idiocy. It was only with the second season that she began matching her friends' depravity. Also, the early episodes didn't have Danny DeVito as Frank, as he wasn't cast on the show until the season two premiere, "Charlie Gets Crippled."
In the pilot of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, cases are posted on The Big BoardHomicide-style, Brass is a shouting hard-ass with scant respect for the CSIs' work, the ME is a woman named Jenna instead of Doc Robbins, and Grissom flirts personably with co-workers and plays practical jokes. The rest of the season has its own departures: the soundtrack is vastly different, the lighting is not tinged with the familiar blue hue, Sara faces some initial resentment within the group, and the team's methods were more practical and relied less on technological tricks. There's also a heavier emphasis on story arcs at the outset; the first handful of CSI episodes started with a Previously On, something that now feels jarring for what the audience expects from an episodic Forensic Drama these days.
Early The Big Bang Theory had Sheldon laughing fairly normally (at a joke he shouldn't even think is funny), and Sheldon knocking on Penny's door once and waiting for her to open it, and just generally acting only about half as much of an asocial nerd as he does in the later shows. Leonard even jokes that Sheldon is a "semi-pro" at producing sperm samples, something the current Sheldon would never waste his time on.
All in the Family changed quite a bit from the time it was shopped to studios in 1968 (under the title "Justice For All") to the time it debuted on CBS in 1971. When the show was officially picked up to series, several things changed between the official pilot and the rest of the episodes. While O'Connor and Rob Reiner had their roles nailed down, Jean Stapleton used a very low, non-shrill voice for Edith, Sally Struthers' Gloria was much more sexually provocative (wearing hot pants and miniskirts as a sign that she was a sexually liberated woman — at least in the late-1960s, early 1970s) and the entirety of the early episodes focused on a single argument between Archie and Mike (with no B-plots). The series also debuted with a "Presented For Mature Audiences" disclaimer (which was jettisoned after a few episodes because there was no audience complaints).
Only the first season featured background music, and in the second episode "Writing the President", there's even a daydreaming sequence - the only time the series ever went inside a character's head.
Also audience laughter could be heard through the theme song, especially after Stapleton screeches out "And you knew where you weeeeeeeeeeereeeeeee theeeeeeeeeen."
Season 1 of The Amazing Race had a couple of features that were changed in later seasons, the most notable being that Phil only showed up at the mat to greet the last team instead of being there to greet every team like he would in every season thereafter. Also, the first episode was edited challenge to challenge, meaning each task was shown to completion before moving onto the next one, making it impossible to tell what order the teams were in; the route flags were yellow and white instead of the yellow and red of later seasons (the yellow and white flags would be brought back for Family Edition, and in countries such as Vietnam, that have a yellow and red flag); and poor course planning resulted in two of the final four teams falling hopelessly behind with no chance of catching up to the two lead teams, something that the producers have taken steps to avoid since then.
The first four seasons as a whole had a lot more exposition than later ones, with teams (and Phil) talking about things like rules (both written and unwritten), money usage, travel, and how each little move affected their placement in the Race. Such exposition was cut out in later seasons as that information was expected to be common knowledge among fans by then. Many episodes in those seasons would also start with shots of the teams interacting at the Pit Stop, and Confession Cams were done solo instead of in pairs.
Originally, penalties were issued at the beginning of the leg following when they were earned (unless the penalty eliminated the team, then Phil would call the penalized team and the last team to check in into a meeting to tell them the new results). However, after Season 4, the rules were changed so that teams could not check in until all earned penalties had been served.
The show gets more cartoonish and absurd after the first few episodes, though it starts off with a healthy amount of meta-humor.
There is a much heavier emphasis on Jeff's transition from hot-shot lawyer to lowly community college student. After the first season, he's just another member of the group with his own reason for being in school.
Britta starts out as the Only Sane Man before her Granola Girl characterization becomes Flanderized, making her much goofier. Halfway through season 3, as Britta attempts to impersonate a dead student as part of her "grief counseling" training, a dismayed Jeff remarks, "You seemed smarter than me when I met you."
Troy starts out as a Jerk Jock, but by the end of the first season he's transitioned into a Man Child uber-geek and best friend of Abed.
Annie is obviously supposed to have been a homely, overachieving dork to judge by the earliest episodes.
The Spanish sitcom Siete Vidas was originally about David, a guy who had just woken up from a coma after several years, and his experiences as he rediscovered his sister, his neighbours and his old love interest. By the second season, the focus had largely moved to the sister and the neighbours, so David and his girlfriend were Put On A Plane and never heard of again except for Christmas specials.
Spitting Image pales in its first season compared to later seasons. The pilot episode had a laugh track (which was abandoned quickly from the next episode on). Certain puppets look and sound different because the voice actors didn't always comically exaggarate the voices of the lampooned celebrities in the first season. Many episodes in the first season follow plot lines that are continued like a chronological series, while later seasons were always stand alone episodes.
In the pilot episode of Burn Notice Michael's mother Madeline is a hypochondriac, and Michael mentions sending money to her regularly to help pay for all the examinations and treatments for medical problems which are not there. This character trait was never mentioned again besides a single reference in season 2. We occasionally see a table in her house littered with pill bottles, but the trait itself doesn't really play a further part in the series.
The haircut and the sassier attitude she has from the second episode onwards suggests that they decided to retool the character and dropped the hypochondria because it didn't fit, rather than just forgot about it or couldn't be bothered following up on it.
This one could be justified if her hypochondria was rooted in a need for attention. Her son drops off the face of the Earth and she gets "sick." He comes back to Miami and starts seeing her every episode, and suddenly she's better.
In the pilot, Michael kills two drug goons. He seems to jump through hoops to not kill in subsequent episodes.
Fi switches from an Irish accent to an American one in the second episode of season 1. In universe, she explains it's to blend in. Out of universe, the reason is probably more or less the same; the writers realised she'd have to adopt an American accent for most her undercover work anyway. That, and English actress Gabrielle Anwar's American accent is better than her Irish.
Wizards of Waverly Place has a very different feel in season one. It is very episodic and feels more like a typical light hearted Kid Com than the darker arc based show it would become. Alex is more nice and more of a typical teenaged girl, and while lazy and not interested in learning, is a pretty far cry from the anarchist she would become. Justin only uses magic when necessary whereas later on he's full out Mad Scientist. Professor Crumb's school isn't around and it seems as if Jerry (and other Wizard parents) are solely responsible for assesing their kids' progress and policing their kid's actions. The Sub Station is more populated and seems as if it is actually somewhat successful (a running gag in later seasons is how it's always empty). Spells are longer and rhyme whereas they would eventually require only one or two words. Also Zeke is stated to be older than Justin whereas they seem to be the same age later on and it's implied Justin is more than only a year older than Alex.
Even when the show was transitioning to the one more familiar with later viewers, things were still off. WizTech went from being a soft-mix parody of Hogwarts and a regular tech school (references were made to competing institutions) to almost being synonymous with the wizard realm itself and Professor Crumb went from school headmaster to pretty much being the supreme ruler of the wizard realm.
The show even had a literal different look between Seasons 2 and 3. That's when the transition was made from standard def to hi-def, and at the same time started farming out post-production to a different company. In addition to the different aspect ratio, the "feel" of the footage is vastly different and the old footage now looks somewhat washed-out on Disney Channel's hi-def feed. The aspect ratio/post-production switch also roughly corresponded to the use of better special effects (or at least, the switch made them look more polished) and when the show really started to get into multi-episode plot arcs (the first notable one, "Wizards vs. Vampires", occurring just before the Season 2 finale).
Like Wizards, The Suite Life on Deck had a different feel in Season 1. More fantastic elements were snuck into later seasons (including fantasy dream sequences, more cartoonish scenarios and characters and in one episode even time travelnote granted, those elements were present from the first season includingtime travel ) and, naturally, characters started to get Flanderized. Also with Wizards, the literal look and feel of the show changed from Seasons 1 to 2 when On Deck also switched to Hi-Def and had a different post-production process, resulting in the same "washed out" look for the early footage in syndication.
The first few episodes, or in general the entire first season of True Blood are quite different from the series onwards. For one, the setting was much more dreary, gloomy and more horror-esque, the characters were more realistic in their emotions and vampires seemed to be more archaic, rule-bound and "cool". The first season resembled the first Sookie Stackhouse novel quite well, and followed the books' mystery structure. The second, third and fourth season have since discarded the first season's gloom and have become even sexier, gorier, bloodier - and yet, also much more like a soap opera, with Loads and Loads of Characters having their own issues - many of them not even supernaturally related. In addition, the structure of the books was ignored in favor of very loosely adapting plot elements. The True Blood fandom remains divided over which version of the show was better; the dark, brooding first season, or the action-packed, character-focused later ones.
Special effects have also drastically changed over the seasons. In the first season, vampire fangs ran out (like they did in the books), suddenly appearing out of the blue and slowly sliding out. Starting in season 2, vampire fangs began coming out more rapidly and aggressively, now also producing a "click"-sound as if someone's loading a weapon.
In the first season and second season, vampire death was portrayed differently as well. A vampire who was staked would slowly dissolve and a vampire who burnt in the sun (like Godric) would catch blue flame and turn into dust. Come season three, vampires started exploding on impact, especially when hit with a wooden bullet, and popping like balloons when staked. Vampires burning in the sun now turned into goo as well. It becomes really weird when you come back to this dialogue in season 2.
Steve Newlin (on staking vampires): I hear it makes them explode.
Jason: Nah, they kind of just.. fall apart.
Sookie's southern accent is much thicker in the first season. Anna Paquin was cranking her "Rogue" voice up a notch.
Early episodes of Kamen Rider were more sci-fi horror than the conventional toku we know today. The famous Rider Kick hadn't even been established yet, and thus Hongo would defeat his enemies with really anything, including a "Rider Throw". (That is, tossing your opponent off of a roof to go 'splat.')
We don't even hear "Henshin" or see the kind of elaborate poses the old Riders were known for until the episodes are in the teens and Hayato Ichimonji, Rider 2, comes along. The driver (oh, don't expect to hear changing devices called "drivers" for about 30 more years. The Faiz Driver was the first, and the last 'til the Decadriver.) was powered by wind, so simply exposing the belt while moving at a sufficient speed (if you're on your bike, just lift your shirt and reveal the belt. When on the ground, Hongo revealed the belt and then jumped through the air.) was all it took to initiate the transformation. Nothing was said; no poses done. Then Ichimonji came along. His driver was like Hongo's, but with a cover. The pose and "henshin" command opened the belt, whereupon he'd also flip through the air to change.note You know how other old riders do their poses, then jump to initiate the Stock Footage? The jump is The Artifact of Ichimonji's time as sole rider, when the "Henshin!" call opened the belt and the jump was required for wind power. The "Original" Rider Henshin pose, oh-so-often homaged and parodied? It's actually the second. When Hongo returns, he's suddenly posier and Greyskull-ier. Look for it shortly after the episode count tops fifty.
Another thing you'll be surprised to not see when you start the original series: the old-school Shocker Soldiers don't get their familiar design for a very long time. We start with guys in funny beret-like hats. Then they get facepaint. Then a Monster of the Week from Mexico comes with his Masked Luchador-based grunts in the same two-parter that introduces Hayato Ichimonji. They look almost like the ones we know, but lack the ribcage-like design on their chests. That design you probably think of as the "original" KR Mooks, a favorite at most every recent teamup? Yup, it's the fourth version.
Also the Double Riders. Heterosexual Life-Partners in nigh-identical suits? It's a while before we see the two together, and a longer while before they're a packaged deal. First it was just Hongo. Then it was just Ichimonji. He wasn't the first secondary rider, he was the second primary Rider, brought in when Hongo's actor was injured. When he healed, Hongo came back, and Ichimonji soon left. Ichimonji wouldn't be gone forever, but... they basically took turns being the sole rider, with the other away overseas ("overseas battle/training," often where returning Riders were coming from for and returning to after teamups in the old days, was the excuse for why Superman Stays out of Gotham from day one.) and their tenures overlapped as an occasional treat. It even took the original Riders' costumes a while to arrive at the designs we know today, with details like the arm/leg stripe and the color of the boots and gloves changing.
On top of that, the franchise as it is today is quite different from the early decades, even once things like "henshin" were established. If you're used to Kamen Rider as the Darker and Edgier, character-driven, arc-based big brother of the rest of Toku-dom, you'll be surprised to see campy villains sending out the Monster of the Week and the footsoldiers with their little high-pitched "yee!" cries to carry out the plan of the day - which was cartoonish half the time, and "destroy Tokyo for no adequately explored reason" the other half. They did Super Sentai-style poses before and after changing (the changing Stock Footage was less elaborate, possibly due to budget, so the posing was upped to become the "ceremony" behind changing.) and had a "roll call"-like phrase ("Child of the sun, Kamen Rider Black RX!!")
Also, every pre-hiatus Rider was a Hollywood Cyborg. Either they were kidnapped and altered like Hongo, or upgraded to save them from near-fatal injury and fight the bad guys who did it. The sole exception was Kamen Rider Amazon, magically infused with his powers rather than operated on (though they did make sure to call it a "magical operation" on multiple occasions because a Rider who didn't get his powers via an operation was that unheard of; if you're gonna do the unthinkable and have a Rider whose career didn't begin on the operating table of an organization that's an Expy of Shocker, you gotta Hand Wave like hell.) Even Kuuga and Agito had their powers as part of them somehow; you don't get the traditonal "Transformation Trinket I can stick in my back pocket, or be screwed 'cause it got knocked away or stolen" until Ryuki.
The first few seasons of The X-Files does this, too. Mulder's basement office is noticeably different in some episodes (including the pilot) than in later seasons. For one, it's much better lit and usual and seems to have a much different floorplan. It also fluctuates between having windows and not having windows. Scully also fluctuates between having her own desk (like in "E.B.E") and making it a plot point that although she and Mulder are partners for years, she doesn't have her own desk (in season 4's "Never Again"). Scully suffers from some terrible fashion sense in the first couple of seasons, where her wardrobe consisted of brightly colored, boxy, badly fitting pantsuits—a change from Scully's signature style of later seasons of well-cut black skirts and collared shirts. Mulder also had a penchant for wacky ties that disappeared sometime in the early seasons.
He also had glasses off and on in season 1.
Probably the most jarring for fans, however, is Scully's character in the pilot. At one point, she finds marks on her back similar to ones found on the victims in the case. In a very un-Scully like manner, she runs to Mulder's room, drops her robe, demands to know what they are, and then throws herself into his arms in relief when he says they're just bug bites. Even later in season one, Scully becomes infamous for her rigid control on her emotions, her staunch independence, and her unfailing logic. By "Irresistible" in season two, Mulder is trying to convince her that she doesn't have to be strong all the time and that it's okay to show weakness in front of him.
Some of Scully's fashion choices were just unfortunate fads (some of the outfits are VERY 90s), and other aspect of her wardrobe were Real Life Writes the Plot, in that actress Gillian Anderson became pregnant relatively early into the series, and they tried to conceal it behind loose-fitting clothing until she was finally written out of several episodes prior to giving birth.
Scully also apparently has nieces and nephews that come and go as the plot demands. There are some shown in "Beyond the Sea" and Scully mentions babysitting her nephew in "Home" but they are never explained nor mentioned again. By season 5 (when her brother Bill and sister-in-law Tara have a baby), it's implied that Matthew is the first grandchild; there's a deleted scene from season 4's "Memento Mori" in which Bill mentions he's the "last chance" for the Scully name to be passed on, implying that none of the Scully siblings had children.
On a story level, Chris Carter and Co. hadn't yet settled on the blend of monster of the week and mythology episodes which dominated later seasons. While the mytharc was only loosely established, conspiracy-centered episodes made up a much higher proportion of the first season than later ones, with even nominal standalone shows like "Ghost in the Machine" and "Young at Heart" adding conspiracy elements.
The first season or so of MythBusters featured only Jamie and Adam working on the myths, with other crew members present as helping hands but not given any focus themselves; the "build team" started to get more attention in the second season and began getting their own myths to bust in about season 3, creating what is now the show's standard format. The early episodes also include spots by folklore and urban legend specialists explaining the backgrounds of the myths (phased out as unnecessary as the show went on), and formal interviews with experts in fields related to the myth instead of simply filming the hosts' conversations with them as is now the show's current custom.
The show's much lower budget is also evident in early episodes, which show Adam and Jamie having to go to sometimes considerable trouble to obtain a single car or enough weather balloons and helium to lift a lawn chair.
And in a comparatively lesser example, the first season had only "True" and "Busted" for whether or not a myth was viable. All subsequent seasons have had "Confirmed", "Plausible", or "Busted".
Until the Build Team was instituted, a lot of time was also devoted to getting the weird props and supplies for the myth. Eventually the support staff and budget (and the addition of the Build Team to have more parallel experiments) grew large enough to make these interludes unnecessary.
In early seasons the mythbusters would do their own blueprint sketches. This was phased out when 1 of the crew members, a cartoonist, was asked if he wanted to do one. Since then all blueprints have been done by him, with him never appearing on screen.
The first half or so of season one of has a much different feel to it than later episodes (corresponding about with the airing of "A Human Reaction"). Even with the introduction of the Myth Arc, the rest of the first season differs notably from the rest of the series.
Noted by the cast, especially Ben Browder (playing John Chrichton), with the shorthand of "white T" and "black T" episodes. The episodes where Chrichton wore black T-shirts were darker than others, and the series had more "black T" episodes as the series went on, until Chrichton is pretty much only wearing black T-shirts.
The production quality improves significantly as well after the first season. Perhaps the most noticeable example is D'Argo's appearance, which changes drastically at the beginning of the second season.
The facial expressions of the Rigel puppet are much rougher in the earliest episodes. It seems they were still in the process of refining the animatronics at the time.
Chuck approaches this more subtly, but first season episodes tend to be lighter in tone and less interconnected than seasons two and later, with the Myth Arc only minimally referenced until the final four or five episodes of the season. Once Fulcrum is introduced the series begins to become more focused on the Intersect mythology. However even after the emergence of Fulcrum as a Big Bad, the first two seasons have far more unrelated "villains of the week" than seasons three and later, which each focused almost explicitly on one particular villain or organization (the Ring in season three, Alexei Volkoff in season four, and Daniel Shaw and ultimately Nicholas Quinn in season five). The character of Morgan also changes significantly beginning with season two, with subtle changes that had him Rescued from the Scrappy Heap. It could be a case of his character Growing the Beard if he didn't already have one.
The first season of The Muppet Show looks different compared to the rest of the series. On top of having different version of the opening theme, many of the characters weren't completely fleshed out yet. Miss Piggy and Fozzie look drastically different. Miss Piggy was even voiced by Richard Hunt rather than Frank Oz in a few sketches. And a few characters were dropped after the season was over. Fozzie was almost dropped as well until Frank Oz took some time to develop the character more.
Not to mention Gonzo. He was quite scraggy in the first few series (it makes sense, considering he was a recycled puppet from The Great Santa Claus Switch) and he had a permanently sad expression. As he became a major character, they made him look more up-beat until he became the thrill-seeking daredevil he is now.
Jack Horkheimer Star Gazer was more serious in its early days. After being told that his show needed to appeal to a wider audience, he took on a wackier, more excitable style.
On Little House on the Prairie, a Harriet Olsen whose husband Niles had left her in an early ep pleaded to Caroline Ingalls for her help in getting him back, admitting openly that she could be very difficult. Flash forward a few seasons, and a Mrs. Olsen who would never ask for help, and certainly not of Caroline Ingalls, never even sees isolating and destroying a girl impregnated by rape as 'difficult'.
On The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Ted Baxter starts out as being vain mainly because he is aware he is an on-camera newsman and asks Murray for tweaks of his writing for emphasis. He even admits, when his competitive brother shows up, that his parents encouraged their showiness and it's made them a little nuts. Mary also admits to being 'bowled over' by his looks at first. Flash forward, and we see a man who pronounces Arkansas R-Kansas, is regularly an idiot on camera, and who lies to everyone that he is seeing Mary romantically and then some. She forces him to call every last person he has told and retract this.
Melrose Place is a classic example. The early episodes reflect the show's original intention to be a realistic drama about the lives of young twentysomethings who lived in the same apartment complex. There are no hints of the Primetime Soap it grew into.
The first season of Dallas (in 1978) had quite a different feel to the seasons that came after it (largely because the creators weren't sure whether it would be picked up to series or not).
The main characters are largely limited to the Barnes and Ewing families, and the majority of the first season focuses on the marriage (and challenges) between Bobby and Pam. J.R. and Sue Ellen are merely supporting characters in the early episodes, although this changes later on when the plots start shifting to focus more on them.
Southfork Ranch clearly uses a different building than the one seen in later seasons, and it's notably winter outside (a scene in the pilot has J.R. and Jock smoking outside in the winter air).
In the first few episodes, Ray Krebbs is seen having an affair with Lucy Ewing (who was a teenager at the time). This was swept under the rug not long after the first season. It was odd then, and made even less sense when it was revealed three seasons later that Ray was an illegitimate Ewing heir (making it that he slept with his niece).
Cliff Barnes starts out as an attorney for the first two seasons of the series, investigating Ewing Oil and working as the Head of the Office of Land Management. This is a far cry from his regular role of CEO of Barnes/Wentworth Oil (and later, CEO of Ewing Oil) for the majority of the series. Not only that, but Cliff is much more restrained in the early episodes (and practically docile compared to his actions in later seasons).
The season-ending cliffhanger of the original first season (Pam discovers she's lost the child she was carrying while at the Ewing barbecue) looks quaint compared to the over-the-top cliffhangers that would begin with J.R.'s shooting in Season 3.
To the many fans who like A Different World's later seasons, the first season, before Debbie Allen's Re Tool, seems like, well, a different show: Lisa Bonet in the lead role, a racially integrated background cast, and more standard college humor as opposed to addressing social issues.
Five seasons in, this is already somewhat apparent when you watch Modern Family's first season over again: a different set of twin girls playing a much more deadpan infant Lily, and much more open antagonism between various pairs of characters (especially Jay towards Phil. He flew a model plane right at him in season 1, something he'd never think of doing later on).
In the pilot episode, Mitchell's relationship with his father and sister is distant enough that he manages to conceal from them the fact that he and his partner have adopted a baby. In all subsequent episodes, it's made clear that the three are very close, to the point where the whole extended clan have a big get-together at Jay's house once a week, and most characters seem to interact with members of the other two households on a daily basis.
And when Tom Bergeron took over as host, he initially hosted it in a style more akin to Saget's cheesy, goofy mannerisms before becoming more of a Deadpan Snarker.
The first season of Trailer Park Boys utilized its pseudo-documentary format far more thoroughly, with an actual sound and cameraman following Ricky and Julian. Ricky would complain about having to drive them around, other characters would comment on them and occasionally react negatively to being filmed, they even become a plot point in one episode when Julian is forced to drive one of them to the hospital after he is shot while Ricky and Julian were breaking into a shed. Later seasons partly dropped this, with only the camera-style and one-on-one interview segments, along with only a handful of references to an actual camera crew being present, being kept in.
Bubbles in the first season also had a much different attitude towards Ricky, treating him with outright hostility whenever he was around, and only being friendly with him in a handful of situations (such as when Ricky needed him to take part in an amateur porn film). This flies in the face of their relationship in later seasons (and a christmas special which acted as a prequel to the series), where it is established that they (along with Julian) have been friends since childhood.
There were some things early on that looked out of place later on, such as Xander riding a skateboard. Joss Whedon sometimes recognized these elements and gradually phased them out - for example, Xander was seen carrying a skateboard a couple of times before skateboards ceased to be a part of his life altogether, giving the viewer the impression that it was just a phase he was going through (which is Truth in Television for anyone who went through that phase in their teenage years where they're trying to find their identity, often leading them to do, say, or act in ways that will be considered embarrassing in five to ten years, or if the person gets a girlfriend or boyfriend).
While there are references made to Willow dressing in nerdy, uncool, or childish ways at various points throughout the series, the first episode is the only one in which she actually does to any significant degree (with the single exception of a throwback scene in the finale to season 4).
Of course, excepting the times she wears overalls and pigtails usually worn by kids a third her age. The childish clothing is present even in the later seasons, though it happens less often the further you go into the series, mirroring the usage of Xander's skateboard.
Willow's evolving wardrobe can be explained as part of her becoming more confident and sure of herself. Season One: "I'm wearing clothes my mother picked for me." Season Two: "This is still cool, right?" Season Three: "I like colors." Season Four: "More modern, but still cutesy." Season Five: "I'm an adult now. Colors be gone." Season Six: "I'm super-powerful and can do whatever I want, including dress slutty." Season Seven: "I'm secure in who I am now."
Vampires didn't begin dissolving into skeletons after being staked until the third season, likely because the show didn't have the budget for such an effect originally.
The pilot and "Harvest" are two of the few episodes that feature the upper level of the Bronze. Joss Whedon wrote the script to feature the two levels, but didn't realize how difficult it would be to shoot these scenes. Not only was it impractical in terms of filming and lighting, but it stretched their already non-existent budget. It shows up a few times in season 6.
When a pack of vamps chase Buffy and Angel into the Summers house, one of the pursuers gets his hand through the door before Buffy slams the door on his wrist. It is later established that, barring an invitation, an invisible force field encases the doorway to keep vampires out. The henchvamp shouldn't have been able to get his arm through like that. ("Angel")
In "Witch" (season 1, episode 3), Giles seems unfamiliar with magiks, saying "Pretty good for my first [spell-]casting, eh?" and such—which is totally at odds with his, y'know, rebellious Hellblazer youth period. It may be due to the fact that Giles had been trying to keep his past a secret.
The Italians gang are called The Wiseguys and The Homeboys gang are called The Gangstas. Many of the members of the Wiseguys are also old-school Sicilian gangsters rather than more modern Italian-American guido gangsters, while Ryan O'Reilly is shown to be a mere street thug rather than the prominent figure of The Irish Mob he's later revealed to be. Also, there's really only four gangs in the first season: The Wiseguys (Mafia gangsters, later renamed The Italians in Season 2), The Gangstas (African-American street thugs, later renamed the Homeboys), The Muslims, and The Aryans. Season 2 onward would have nine gangs, ten if you count The Others as a gang. However, some characters from other gangs get their debut in Season 1.
Em City as a whole seems more claustrophobic and dirty as well.
The excessive violence and Prison Rape that the show is infamous for is actually very downplayed in the first season as well. There is rape and murder, but nearly all of it is implied and very little is shown. Season 2 onward becomes Bloodier and Gorier as well as Darker and Edgier.
The Muslims and Kareem Said in particular are shown to be militant black supremacists and angry rabble-rousers. In Season 2, they drop all black supremacist and Malcolm Xerox tendencies entirely and become the closest thing to good guys in a show full of Black and Grey Morality and Evil Versus Evil. Although this may have been because Kareem became more pacifist after the prison riot at the end of the first season made him see what his violent rhetoric had caused.
The first episode took place over a day and had a clock that occasionally popped up.
In the first episode or two, Lt. LaGuerta is portrayed as an incompetent detective and glory hound who makes inappropriate advances on Dexter. The negative portrayal is consistent with the books, but the series diverted quickly from the source material and turned LaGuerta into a sympathetic character. Her crush on Dexter becomes an Aborted Arc.
Dexter's M.O. is also different in the first episode. Rather than inject his victim with a sedative, he garrotes the man and forces him to drive them both to the kill site. He also digs up the bodies of his target's victims, something that the obsessively clean Dexter we know now would never donote This is Dexter's actual M.O. in the books.
They also had skirts (including a few on men in the background crew). Troi's early skirt look and hairdo made her look like a cheerleader. Worf is considerably more feral than in later seasons. And it's easy to forget that Worf and LaForge were not always department heads.
This also applies to how species first appeared. The first Ferengi episode had them wildly hopping around the set like mad monkeys, and the pilot episode implied they ate people. The first time we saw Cardassians, they were wearing strange headgear which never showed up again, and Gul Macet is the only Cardassian to have facial hair. There was also an episode in which Wesley said the Klingons had joined the Federation.
More weirdness: the policies of the Prime Directive had yet to be firmly established early in the series, so Picard and Co. often beamed down to planets with pre-warp civilizations that in later seasons would almost certainly have been protected by the Non-Interference clause of the Prime Directive.
The first Ferengi episode also portrayed the Ferengi as having superhuman strength, and unafraid of getting into physical altercations with the Enterprise Crew. Later seasons, and the later series as a whole, seems to ignore this, portraying them instead to be meek and weak cowards who prefer subterfuge and hired muscle in order to do their dirty work.
Possibly a result of seeing different groups of Ferengi: early Ferengi were their version of military, and would be both more aggressive and in better shape than the merchants seen in later installments. Note that Quark (a very successful merchant) once broke golden bricks with his bare hands to see if there was latinum inside.
The first episode showcased that Holodecks used in part replicators, so when Wesley fell in the water and was dragged out of the Holodeck, he was still dripping wet. Later episodes would firmly establish that Holomatter instantly dissolved when leaving the Holodeck. Granted, we see people eating on the Holodeck, but nothing prevents people from bringing in food from the outside.
Another bit of early holodeck weirdness: In the first season episode "The Big Goodbye", when a holodeck malfunction is fixed and the characters from Picard's Dixon Hill program find out they're holodeck characters, two of the bad guys leave the holodeck intending to loot the ship. They're able to exist outside the holodeck for about 10 seconds before slowly dematerializing. Later episodes established that holographic characters dematerialize instantly upon leaving the holodeck.
It's a small thing, but it feels weird watching first season episodes and hearing Dr. Crusher address Picard as "Sir". From the third season on, she always called him "Jean-Luc", even while on duty.
In some early episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series, the Enterprise ran on lithium crystals (rather than fictional dilithium crystals) and the characters served under the United Earth Space Probe Agency rather than Starfleet. Before the United Federation of Planets was first mentioned, Federation bases were called "Earth bases". It also took some time to nail down the series's 23rd century setting: "The Squire of Gothos" suggested it was taking place in the 27th century.
It took a couple of episodes at least to establish that Spock was half-human. In the second pilot, he referred to having human ancestry, but didn't state outright that one of his parents was fully human. By the time of The Corbomite Maneuver, it was established that his father married a human. He also displayed emotion on occasion in the early episodes, something the later Spock would almost never do openly... even as he once said "'Irritated?' Ah, I see, one of your Earth emotions." (He smiled as he said it, too.) Naturally, this is well before the Vulcans' more complex relationship with emotion was known.
For parts of the first season, Spock is referred to as a "Vulcanian" rather than a "Vulcan".
For that matter, the Star Trek series as a whole. Watch one of the original Trek episodes with their '60s kitsch, attitudes, and low-budget effects and then watch an episode from one of the latter-day incarnations of Trek and try to imagine that they take place in the same universe.
The eariler episodes of the original series (notably The Cage and Where No Man has Gone Before) have a very eerie, creepy mood. Much of the background music seems to be subdued and electronic (unlike the kitchy sixties era music that would become iconic in the rest of the series: the fight scene music from Gamesters of Triskelion for example). There is little to no banter between the characters. This, of course was before McCoy was introduced and the core cast developed (Dr. Piper is the medical officer here played by Paul Fix). Scotty is a background character with few lines and no trademark character traits yet, Sulu is not yet in his familar helmsman role, and Uhura has not yet been introduced. Gary Mitchell and Lee Kelso are established as Kirk's close friends and Spock's mannerisms are not yet fully set in stone. Also, at this time, female Starfleet uniforms consisted of trousers instead of miniskirts. These early episdoes occured before the more hip era of the sixties started.
A meta-example: it's hard to imagine any Starfleet officer in Picard's era showing as much open racism as Dr. McCoy showed toward Spock in Kirk's day. Not just playful ribbing, mind you, but outright derogatory references to his Vulcan heritage and hybrid nature (which McCoy clearly saw in the same way that racists in the 1960's saw "miscegenation" between blacks and whites).
And not just racism; the villain of "Turnabout Intruder", the last episode ever screened, is a woman who has taken over Kirk's body, but who makes increasingly irrational and emotional decisions, eventually collapsing in a puddle of feminine hysteria. Poor, silly woman, thinking she could command a starship! On the other hand, "The Cage" and "The Menagerie" established that the previous first officer of the Enterprise was a woman (who had no problems commanding the ship after Captain Pike was abducted), and "The Enterprise Incident" featured a female Romulan commanding a fleet of starships.
Of course, because all the Star Trek series were an allegory of the times, the weirdness between the older and newer series show just how much has changed in American culture in the last five decades.
This gets a Lampshade hung on it in an episode of Voyager. Tuvok is reminiscing with Janeway about Sulu, when he was captain of the Excelsior. Janeway shakes her head in amusement and comments that if any of the original Enterprise crew were in Starfleet now, they'd all have been kicked out.
One of the first lines of the unaired pilot "The Cage"? "I can't get used to the idea of having a woman on the bridge." Cut to 40 real-world years later (and 100 in-universe years earlier), where we see the NX-02 Columbia being flown with an all-female bridge crew.
The Klingons of the original series bear no resemblance whatsoever to those of every other incarnation, including prequel Enterprise. This is the case not only in characterization— they were a Red Scare allegory instead of Proud Warrior Race Guys— but even physical appearance, in which they lacked the trademark forehead. Attempts have been made to explain all of this in-series, which is either pretty cool or an attempt that could only end in tears.
Another strange thing about the Klingons is their armor. In the days of Enterprise they used a heavy, metallic armor that bore the now-familiar Klingon trimark. During the original series they got rid of this in favor of gold-and-black non-metallic uniforms that featured different iconography entirely, and was sometimes worn with a gold sash. Said sash was later seen on Worf, but then replaced by a heavier one made of metal. Starting with Star Trek The Motion Picture they went back to the uniforms they wore during Enterprise and have never changed out of them since. Of course, in real life, this was just the Enterprise costuming department being lazy and using the uniforms we'd become more used to. There is no in-universe explanation for the brief change to the gold-and-black, and when watching the original series and seeing these human-looking guys wearing odd gold and black uniforms being referred to as "Klingons" is very strange indeed.
Similarly, when the Borg first appear in "Q Who," the presentation is much different from what we see later. A few points: Borg produce no life signs (in "I Borg," life signs are identified from the crash site even before they know it's the Borg). The Borg pointedly have no interest in organic life at all, only in technology (assimilation is introduced later as a unique case with Picard, before being broadened/retconned into their single and solitary purpose). The Borg ship is described as a completely undifferentiated construction (compare to Voyager's endless talk of central nexi and central plexi). Q describes a Borg as "not a he, not a she," implying that Borg are gendered neuter (perhaps cause for a rude awakening for Picard when he was assimilated). There's even "the Borg nursery," implying that, even if they aren't conceived in the typical way, Borg are produced and grown by other Borg. Once the assimilation concept took hold there was no need for Borg to be born.
The "nursery" concept was later retconned into "maturation chambers", where assimilated children and infants are artifically accelerated to adulthood over the course of a couple of weeks. Voyager had an episode where five Borg children were brought on board the ship - one of them was a baby, and in all cases, the assimilation was incomplete (early in the episode, Seven of Nine finds a man who died in the process of being assimilated because the children's nanoprobes weren't fully developed). The Seven of Nine character is actually a deconstruction of the Unfortunate Implications, as she was assimilated as a child; other Borg reclaimed from assimilation (including Picard from TNG and the entirety of Unimatrix Zero from Voyager), while they certainly would have a serious case of PTSD, generally do not exhibit such difficulty returning to normal life.
Star Trek: The Original Series started off as pure Wagon Train to the Stars with episodes focused on exploration and scientific theories especially in the early episodes, which often had themes similar to the film Forbidden Planet. The Enterprise was supposedly one of very few advanced "Starship-class" vehicles, with a nearly superhuman elite crew. About halfway through the first season, the episodes started featuring more Human Aliens and Rubber-Forehead Aliens engaged in galactic conflicts and diplomacy, parallel civilizations and other more themes and elements more closely associated with Space Opera, incorporating elements from the unaired pilot "The Cage" which introduced, among other classics, the Green-Skinned Space Babe. Sort of a Subgenre Shift. And also a very odd example of this trope in that the early installment weirdness made the early aired show not only dissimilar to later aired episodes, but also very dissimilar to the unaired pilot, which featured mostly different characters, and somewhat more militaristic Starfleet. This would reappear later in mid-late Star Trek: The Next Generation and its spin-offs, as well as the film series featuring both crews, where it's clear that the Enterprise, though the flagship of the Fleet, is one of hundreds, possibly even thousands of vessels operating in the Alpha Quadrant.
The early seasons of TNG suggested that the Federation/Klingon alliance was a recent development. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country would establish that the alliance officially started 70 years before TNG, though to their credit, they showed the alliance was strained at different points in-between.
That depends largely on how you want to define the Khitomer accords. It is equally plausible that it merely brought an end to the Federation-Klingon cold war and that the true alliance that brought things like joint fleet operations and the exchange of personal and technology was a far more recent development.
Fringe started off as a primarily Monster of the Week show with hints at a government conspiracy and an FBI agent who possessed her dead partner/lover's memories (with the actor playing the dead partner in the opening credits of a dozen or so episodes). It gradually evolved into a heavily serialized show, where the only government conspiracy came from the United States government of one universe conspiring against its counterpart in another universe, and the storyline involving Olivia's dead partner/lover quickly became an Aborted Arc.
Early on, it was heavily implied that some shadowy organization caused the Pattern, and that John Scott was somehow connected to it. By the end of Season 2, it was decided that the Pattern happened because Walter's attempt to travel between the two universes caused reality to break down.
The general air of season 1 of Frasier was far more like Cheers (in that it was a spin-off of Cheers) and other '80s sitcoms — mainly, in its treatment of emotional issues in a comedy. The second and third seasons would perfect the show's trademark use of taking complex or emotional issues and events and making them funny through complications, character reactions, or exaggeration; rather than alternating between emotional character moments and shallow humor moments, which can come off as kitschy.
There was also Daphne's "psychic abilities", which are made much of earlier on, but come up much less frequently in the later seasons (though still occasionally focused on).
The first season of The Odd Couple used many characters from the original play and movie, was filmed using a single camera, and had canned laughter instead of a studio audience.
The early seasons of Newhart are much more realistic, and feature the character of Kirk and his depressing pining over the brilliant, beautiful, and warm-hearted (though not funny) Leslie. Eventually both Kirk and Leslie were written out and the more memorable Michael and Stephanie were written in as characters. The first season was also shot on video and looks noticeably different.
Of course, given the famous series finale ending, this may be justified.
The pilot of Father Ted is the episode in which Jack "dies" (the 6th episode broadcast) and there are notable differences — the parochial house is different, Ted quotes James Joyce, and at the end they plot Father Jack's death.
The first episode of the series also featured an animated scene; something that would never appear again during the entire rest of the show. The first few episodes also featured an aborted attempt at a running joke based upon Dougal staring out of the window to see some implausible stock footage apparently happening outside the house (a massive storm or some implausibly giant ants who are apparently invading Craggy Island (again)).
Anyone going back to watch series 1 of the Brit ComPeep Show will notice the, frankly, ridiculous music the show opens to.
Speaking of Jack, the first season episode "the Fighting Irish" had him falling for a con conceived by his brother (Nathan Lane) & father, who actually appears in the episode. Later episodes established that Jack's father ran out on him and his mom when he was young, and he never saw him again.
The first two seasons of Sex and the City seem a little less "chick show" than the later ones, with stories about male, non-love interest friends of theirs, a somewhat more cynical attitude and a lot less emphasis on fashion. The episodes would have one scene of people on the street giving their opinion on the topic of the episode, and Carrie herself broke the fourth wall a couple of times by directly speaking to the audience.
Try watching the first few episodes of House, particularly the pilot, after having watched more recent episodes. You'll find that the pacing is a bit different, and the CGI "Journeys Into The Patient's Body" bits are far more common.
The lighting for the show has also changed drastically, possibly due to the show being filmed in HD. Earlier episodes are tinted towards very warm colors— the pilot is almost orange— but later episodes are very stark and slightly green. The pilot was filmed in black and white.
LOST's first season is a collection of character stories with the supernatural elements hidden in the background, few cliffhangers or continuing arcs. Also, while the first 6-7 episodes still used the signature "Whoosh" sound for flashbacks now and then, it was by no means universal for all transitions.
Victorious: Most characters are fairly different from how they were in the pilot. Trina started as "talented, but not enough to justify her ego" and became "untalented". Jade was significantly deepened, saving her from being The Libby. Robbie, while still not suave, became capable of normal conversation with the opposite sex. Rex's design is very different from the pilot, including paler skin, a thinner body and neck, paler complexion, and smaller eyes/mouth. Cat's hair is no longer curly as well. Probably the biggest change is that Beck and Tori no longer seem romantically interested in each other.
In the first season of Merlin, especially towards the beginning, the writers set up Prince Arthur and the Lady Morgana as having a potential romantic relationship. Later, this was abandoned to avoid the creepy incest vibe on a family show — since Morgana is basically Arthur's adopted sister. This caused a good bit of fan outrage in some circles, however, since Incest Is Relative, and they felt Arthur had much less chemistry with Gwen.
The very first episode, in particular, is a bit different. Arthur's behaviour is considerably more immature (possibly justified by a combination of Merlin being a good influence in later episodes, or even just getting to know him better), some of the humour is kind of strange (as pointed out on the audio commentary - what was the point of the thing with the sandwich and the porridge?) and Merlin's ability to slow down time has hardly been seen since. As well as this, the brief glimpse of Merlin's home would suggest that it's not quite so poverty-stricken as is shown in later episodes. And, to follow on from the example above, the romantic relationship between Gwen and Merlin was abandoned very early on.
Also of note is that his innate magical ability doesn't require any incantations. This is quickly abandoned after he learns some spells and has to whisper them in order to avoid being executed as a magic-user. His original ability just has him look at something.
In The West Wing, the first mention of the first lady involved press inquiries over her use of a Ouija Board. This was never mentioned again, and seems quite out-of-character for the first lady we eventually meet (who is a surgeon and a Harvard Medical School professor). Presumably the original character design was less "Hillary Clinton" and more "Nancy Reagan".
President Bartlet, too. Through much of Season One, he was a One-Scene Wonder with an occasional focus episode. According to Aaron Sorkin this was intentional, as the writers didn't want Bartlet to steal the spotlight from his staff. Martin Sheen ended up having such great chemistry with his costars that Sorkin rethought the character and integrated him better into the ensemble.
The first major apperance of the Secret Service was an amusing Bullying a Dragon scene where a couple of frat boys harrashed Zoey, the President's daughter, and she ended up using her panic button, having a pile of Secret Service-men swarm the bar and one of them grabbing the main aggressor and growls "Don't move! Swear to God I'll blow your head off!". After this the Secret Service were always portrayed as an agency with the utmost professionalism and for keeping it cool in action.
Watch the later season one episodes and onwards of Supernatural and remind yourself that at the time of the pilot, Dean and Sam haven't seen each other in four years and are not on good terms.
Potentially justifiable. Both brothers went through a lot of character development in Season 1, and a big part of that was that, as adults and no longer under their father's overwhelming presence (a presence that had mostly previously pigeon-holed them as "the obedient one" and "the rebel"), they understood and appreciated one another far more than they once did. For example, Sam only fully understood in Season 1 everything Dean had done for him when they were kids, and everything Dean had had to shoulder that Sam hadn't been aware of. Dean, for what seemed to be the first time, really understood what a misfit Sam had felt like in their family, how little he'd understood of their "mission," and that his independent streak was actually a good thing. Their new understanding of one another, combined with fighting side-by-side and saving each other's lives on the regular, combined with their isolation from general society, combined with some old dynamics between them (prank wars, Dean's protective streak), made them far closer and more reliant on each other than they potentially had been as kids, when they both may have revolved far more around their father than around each other (they were left alone as kids and had to rely on each other then, but due to their age difference and differing outlooks on life, potentially didn't view each other as emotional confidantes, though YMMV there). It was no accident that their relationship seemed to deepen quite a bit after the argument in "Asylum" and "Scarecrow," because they actually resolved some of what caused their estrangement. But yeah, their relatively casual reconciliation after a years-long estrangement is quite the contrast to later seasons, when the brothers split up for 1-2 weeks MAXIMUM after arguments, angst like separated lovers the entire time, then have emotionally fraught reunions.
Demons in their first few appearances had some vaguely defined abilities that don't quite match up with their appearances in later seasons. First, that they would flinch upon hearing the name "Christo," which would seem to be a fairly easy way to check if a person's possessed or not, but this is never used again after "Phantom Traveler". When Meg is revealed to be a demon, the heroes are initially unsure if she's possessed by a demon or actually is a demon, which implies at least some of them can take physical forms. Later seasons establish demons only exist as incorporeal smoke and must possess a human to be able to do anything. The devil's trap/exorcism ritual are introduced as being extremely obscure, but quickly become the go-to methods of dealing with demons, not just for the Winchesters but seemingly all hunters. And finally, the special effects used for the demon's incorporeal form in "Phantom Traveler" is noticeably different than the one used in later episodes.
Exorcisms going from obscure to ubiquitous over the course of a season or two is somewhat justified, in that before the gates of Hell are opened at the end of season 2, it's explicitly stated that only "one or two" demons appear every year. The exorcisms are obscure and rarely used because many hunters could go their entire lives/careers without seeing a single demon. Once they become a common threat, the exorcisms are in higher demand. For all we know, Team Free Will is/was teaching exorcism classes in Bobby's basement in between episodes. The difficulty and obscurity are only relevant before something is found, especially if it's something renewable like a bunch of Latin words and a JPEG of a devil's trap, because at that point you can just copy/paste and email it to all your friends.
In addition to that, in "Phantom Traveler" when a demon shows their true eyes in the body of a human it's possessing, they only take up the iris of the pupil, while in all future episodes demonic possession would be shown by having the entire pupil change. If you want to take a look at the differences yourself, here they◊ are◊.
Also, it is established halfway through Season 3 that all demons are former humans whose souls are so twisted by their time in Hell that they're no longer human. In the Season 1 finale, it was implied that they were a self-reproducing race of their own, because the Yellow-Eyed Demon (Azazel) told Dean that Meg and a demon Dean had killed were his daughter and son (and Meg had referred to him as "Father" in a previous episode). Also, a monstrous girl-like apparition called an Achiri was referred to as a demon in the Season 2 finale, and was controllable by Ava because of it, but all demons since then have been black smoke possessing human bodies.
In the season 1 episode "Faith" the Reaper has a very creepy appearance, with wrinkly gray skin, sharp teeth, and a lot of eye shadow. All other reapers in subsequent episodes have appeared as normal humans. This may have been Hand Waved by Tessa saying many Reapers take A Form You Are Comfortable With, however even when we see her true form it doesn't look anything like the original reaper (being a skeletal ghost instead of a flesh and blood monster).
Vampires were also said to be extremely rare in their first appearance, to the point that John Winchester, a hunter of 20 years, believed them to be extinct before the events of "Dead Man's Blood". Nowadays, they're probably the most common type of monster on the show.
It would have had a run of just fifty-two episodes with a fixed cast and then end. The concept of "companion" did not exist and while the Doctor had top billing, he did not dominate the show to the extent that he did only a few years later. Most of the "adventures" happened because the cast had gotten separated from the TARDIS and, for one reason or another, couldn't simply leave and escape from whatever perilous setting the ship had stranded in this time.
It was conceived of as a series designed in part to educate audiences as to history. Many early stories, which fans call "Historicals", feature the characters meeting and interacting with famous historical figures and events, with no science fiction elements beyond the presence of the time-travelers, and the Doctor either being extremely reluctant to make any attempt to change history or writing this off as impossible. This formula gradually became less common until, after The Highlanders (early in the fourth season, and the second Doctor's second story), it was dropped entirely, never to be seen again. Subsequent episodes set in the past featuring historical figures or events have also included some kind of alien menace or futuristic intervention.
With one (somewhat debatable) exception. Season 19's Black Orchid is often considered a historical, as it took place in a significantly earlier period than it was made and was a straight mystery whose only sci-fi element was the presence of the TARDIS crew. However, it didn't involve any particularly famous historical people or events, and didn't really have the "edutainment" aspect.
The Doctor was not conceived as the main protagonist but one of several and was originally intended to be a character who kept getting his companions into trouble. Indeed, in the third episode ever aired he almost brains a caveman to death with a rock, only to be stopped by Ian at the last second. It was Ian who was intended to be the show's main protagonist, and his and Barbara's professions (teachers, the former science and the latter history) are clear indicators that it was supposed to be an Edutainment show. As well, all four of the main characters were to represent the viewing audience: older viewers (the Doctor), younger adults (Barbara and Ian) and teenagers (Susan).
In particular, have a look at the pilot episode, which was later remade in its entirety. Had it been retained, the programme would have been rather different. Details here.
The second serial "The Daleks" has the moral "War and genocide is bad. And so is pacifism!" Additionally, the Doctor and the others act more pragmatically and more out of more blatant self-interest. This was before the Doctor became a Badass Pacifist.
In the third serial "The Edge of Destruction" the Doctor scoffs at the idea that the TARDIS is sentient.
In several early serials, the TARDIS is referred to as "the ship" or "the spaceship" even by the Doctor himself. Today's Doctor would never use such an impersonal term for his beloved TARDIS.
Another early story, "The Aztecs", has a romantic subplot between the Doctor and a guest character, something that for most of the 1963-1989 show would be unthinkable. (The show has come full circle on this, with romantic or at least flirtatious subplots involving the Doctor being commonplace since the show's 2005 revival.)
The companion variety also followed a very rigid formula in the first two seasons; with one or two female companions and at least one male companion to act as the Doctor's muscle. As Jon Pertwee's run began and the show became much more action orientated (with Pertwee's Doctor being 6"3 and a martial arts master to boot), this was ultimately dropped, and more variety was given to the cast of companions as the Doctor continued to be played by more physically imposing actors.
When the Doctor first regenerated in "The Tenth Planet," his clothing appeared to automatically change as well. This was quickly dropped, and now a major tradition of regeneration is the Doctor picking his new wardrobe.
The early Daleks were extremely unpleasant creatures but acted mostly out of paranoia, very old and ancient feuds and naked self interest, also being a lot more talkative and eloquent (a memorable scene where they dictate a letter for Susan to write to the Thals comes to mind; "WE CAN AL-SO SU-PPLY QUAN-TI-TIES OF FRESH VE-GE-TA-BLES..."). While they hated their enemies the Thal race, their main reason for wanting to shower their planet with nuclear material was because they were dependent on radiation to survive and needed to do this to terraform their world for them, with the added upshot of killing the Thals. They were also portrayed as being very vulnerable - heavily armed, but dependent on static electricity floors for movement and very weak and pathetic in nature. Later Daleks were much less reasonable and much more angry, with the primary motivation for their evil being genocidal racism against everything that isn't Dalek in origin. They also became a lot less talkative, probably because their screechy voices were just horrible to listen to, and a lot less pitiful. Daleks that showed up later still were even more dangerous, having almost destroyed the nigh-omnipotent Time Lords, and they were now willing to play pitiful and vulnerable if it was the only way to get what they wanted (such as the Dalek in "Dalek" which borderline seduces Rose into feeding it energy).
Regeneration is one of the most iconic tropes of the series and yet it took the writers a long time to figure out what it was and how it worked. The Second Doctor ambiguously remarks that he's 'been renewed' and implies it was a function of the TARDIS rather than of his body. The Third Doctor was forced to change his form by the Time Lords offscreen, in a manner achieved ambiguously. The regeneration of the Third to the Fourth Doctor marked the first time that regeneration had been explicitly analogised to death of the old self (due to a producer who decided to combine it with his Buddhist beliefs), although some writers seemed to think that the Fourth Doctor was actually playing a younger version of the Third Doctor, The Other Darrin style (such as the Target Novelisation, where the Brigadier watches the Doctor change and observes that although he gets younger his features stay mostly the same except his hair suddenly turning into twisty curls). The Fifth-into-the-Sixth regeneration was the first time it was called 'regeneration' and mostly codified all of the tropes associated with it.
The First Doctor's heartbeat was once checked by a companion, who only noticed one heart.
Adding onto this, it's not hard to watch the first two Doctors' runs and get the impression that the Doctor is not an alien being, but is in fact, a human from the future. Since the first episode, it is established that he and Susan are from another world in another time, but as we know from several episodes throughout the series, humans in the show's universe eventually spread out and become a universal power, so the Doctor and Susan could have simply come from a colony world. In addition to the First Doctor's aforementioned one heart, he also refers to himself and his companions as "we humans" in "The Sensorites", and even his ability to regenerate is at first said to be a function of the TARDIS. The Second Doctor story, "The Evil of the Daleks", has the Daleks wanting to test Jamie because he is special among humans as a result of having traveled in time, but when the Doctor asks why the Daleks don't just test him, they inform him that he has traveled in time too much and is consequently "more than human," which seems to imply that the Doctor was somehow changed or mutated by his excessive exposure to time (an idea that would resurface much later on). And while we do meet another renegade Time Lord (who, notably, is fixated on altering Earth's history, and is not distinguished as being an alien) during the First Doctor's run, it isn't until the Second Doctor's very last story that the Doctor is established as being a member of an alien race known as the Time Lords. Combine all of this with the fandom-despised assertion that the Doctor is half-human from the 1996 TV movie, and one could actually make a compelling case to say that there is more humanity to the Doctor than most suspect.
The first five episodes of The Dukes of Hazzard look very different from the rest, because they were actually filmed in Georgia. In addition, there were more "rowdy" scenes at the Boar's Nest, mild profanity was used more freely, Daisy was often more scantily clad than in episodes from Season 2 onward, and the character of Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane was a fairly serious one and not the dimwitted man-child that defined his character.
Early on Dollhouse was mostly episodic, giving way to longer story and character arcs. This isn't quite Cerebus Syndrome—-the early episodes were still serious, but they focused more on the Dollhouse's clients and were meant to explore what kind of "desires" (sexual or otherwise) people would be willing to pay for. Though most fans think the later episodes are better, Joss Whedon has commented he thinks the change made the show lose some of its original point. Some fans underestimate how important these early episodes were to establishing the series premise and introducing us to the various personalities that Echo would later switch into.
The first season of The Sopranos is a mild example, playing somewhat more like a lampoon of the gangster genre. It emphasizes the zaniness of Tony's two lives as a family man and a "family man." His wife gets this treatment as well. In one scene she expertly cocks and loads an AK-47 when she thinks there's an intruder. The supporting gangsters are also constantly quoting famous mob movies, showing that modern mob culture is partially based on imitating fiction. This all gets seemingly ignored for long periods during the show's run to a much more straightforward drama, though nearly all these elements are referred to again well past the first season.
NCIS: The differences aren't quite as noticeable as other examples, but watching a current episode back to back with one of the first few episodes can be a little jarring - the director isn't a major part of the activities, making just a couple of appearances over the course of season one, Gibbs is a little more... sociable, there's the mysterious redhead he occasionally hitches a ride with, Tony's regularly the sole butt of jokes (no McGee for him to pick on), Abby's voice is a little huskier, Ducky's assistant is a man named Gerald, and, most jarring of all, Tony does not constantly make movie references, even being confused by one made by a guest character. By the end of the first season, though, things have just about settled in to something close to what we get now.
Speaking of Abby, in addition to her voice being different, she started out with a relatively normal level of energy. By season 3, it went to above normal, and now it's just ridiculous. Her hair/makeup/wardrobe was also noticeably toned down over the seasons. Though she still frequently wears her hair in high ponytails or braids, we haven't seen anything like her hairdo in the pilot (there were five or six ponytails) since season one. Her makeup is much more natural now, where in the first season she wore pretty much exclusively black or dark red lipstick, and after the first couple of seasons, she started wearing colors other than black, and occasionally, outfits with no black in them at all. Other than being a goth, Abby was also much less quirky in the first season.
In the first ten or so episodes of the first season, there was something resembling sexual tension between Gibbs and Abby. By the second half of the first season, it had been completely dropped, and by the beginning of the third season, the writers had really started to capitalize on their father-daughter relationship.
Gibbs' relationships with the rest of the team in general were a lot different early on. He flirted some with Kate too, early in the series, and wasn't so much a father figure to Tony or McGee. By season three, Gibbs' relationships with his field agents (and Abby) was pretty staunchly parent-child. This increased protectiveness and involvement with the rest of the team can be explained in-universe by what happened at the end of season two.
This is really the nature of the beast when replacing a major character, but seasons one and two with Kate had a noticeably different tone than seasons three onward with Ziva.
The pilot has Gibbs making a modern movie reference (going on and on how Air Force One looks exactly as it did in the movie Air Force One), and FBI Agent Fornell has no idea who Ducky is, and barely an awareness of Gibbs (surprising, when they were married to the same woman).
At least with Gerald being replaced, that one was actually explained by plot- a terrorist shot him in the shoulder with a rather nasty type of bullet that caused severe joint damage.
The first few seasons focused much more on the cases, where most later episodes, starting with Tony's involvement with Jeanne in season four, have a B-plot that focuses on the outside life of one of of the agents. Ziva was really the first character to have any kind of extensive backstory, which is striking considering she didn't even come on the show until season three. Given the emphasis on the backstories, families, and love lives of the agents in later seasons, it seems almost laughable that Kate was on the show for two years and didn't have a backstory past being in the secret service and winning a wet T-shirt contest in college.
Even before the pilot, in the parent series JAG NCIS was rarely portrayed as competent or favorable to the heroes. Key pieces of evidence were overlooked by the NCIS Agents during investigation and would need the military lawyers to find them or motivate them to look for the truth.
The first series of Blackadder is different from the latter three (and the specials) in a number of ways.
The character of Blackadder is almost always referred to as Edmund, Duke of Edinburgh. The Black Adder is a nickname that only he himself uses.
Although he is sometimes shown as fairly rational and progressive regarding such topics as witchcraft and superstition, to the extent of being the Only Sane Man in the Witchsmeller episode, Edmund is generally portrayed as a bumbling, uncharismatic fool, a far cry from the Magnificent Bastard of later seasons.
The show also differs in its general feel: It had a greater budget than its successors, allowing larger sets, location shooting and a far greater number of actors and extras. When budget cuts were made for Blackadder II, the writers (now including Ben Elton) compensated by putting more emphasis on dialog and characterisation, which most fans agree was beneficial for the show as a whole. As Elton put it "Rowan Atkinson falling off a horse in the middle distance is no funnier than anyone else falling off a horse in the middle distance. Get in close and he'll make you laugh."
Blackadder's Christmas Carol has Flashbacks to Lord Blackadder and Mr Blackadder, but not to Prince Edmund, suggesting the series might be considered Canon Discontinuity. Also, the original series is the only one from which no characters returned for Blackadder Goes Forth. Melchett from II, George from Third, but no Richard, Harry, or even Percy .
The first two Super Sentai shows, Himitsu Sentai Goranger and J.A.K.Q. Dengekitai, did not have the giant robots from subsequent shows. For a while they were not even considered part of the franchise, although this was mainly due to right disputes between Toei and Goranger/JAKQ creator Shotaro Ishinomori. Also, in Battle Fever J, the third series, the mecha fights were kick-started by the human-sized monster calling his 'little brother' (a giant robotic duplicate) to avenge him as he was dying, (something of the likes wouldn't be seen in the series until more than 30 years later with Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters) and the Battle Fever Robo was not made from separate vehicles, but was a non-transforming robot stored on a non-transforming airbase. Make My Monster Grow and Combining Mecha debuted in the following shows.
While the uniforms of Goranger and JAKQ are very different from later uniforms, they still somewhat resemble the traditional concept of a Super Sentai uniform. Battle Fever J on the other hand, featured face-shaped helmets with two-eyed visors and sculpted noses (a style which was only reused for a One-Shot Character in Hikari Sentai Maskman). Miss America wore a blond wig on her helmet and Battle Cossack is notable for being the only main member on a Sentai to wear orange. The goggle-like visors were not introduced until Denshi Sentai Denziman and the scarfs were eliminated after Dai Sentai Goggle Five.
Chouriki Sentai Ohranger: Olé vs. Kakuranger, the first film in the Super Sentai Vs. Series (not counting the earlier J.A.K.Q. vs. Goranger movie), had a slightly different title format than the subsequent Vs. films and the Kakuranger's giant robots are not even present.
A minor example is that the first three Sixth Rangers had vests. While the next proper Sixth Ranger wouldn't be seen until Megaranger sans vest, the vest wouldn't reappear until Hurricanger and Abaranger only to vanish again. Gokaisilver sort of had one with his Gold Mode power up.
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers had a lot of weirdness early on. The unmorphed fights scenes were slower and had a few goofy moves, Alpha5 had a teddy bear, Zordon had an RP British accent, etc. Once the show got its Sixth Ranger, and grew out its beard, the show had found its identity, and most of the weirdness was ironed out. "It's morphing time" (with a G) was first said by Zordon, and wasn't something the Rangers always shouted - it was just a Title Drop and a mention that morphing was what it was time to do. It took a few episodes for "It's morphin' time!" to become an obligatory pre-morph call stated by the Red Ranger (though sometimes taken over by the spotlight Ranger). The posing-routine-with-name-shouting wouldn't be established for many years and then was still rarely used until Wild Force, though there were a few instances of sentai posing footage finding its way into MMPR episodes, with new dialogue and often going unnoticed due to the fact that all ranger movement is exaggerated while suited. Most notably, the zord summoning throughout season two was a standard roll call in Zyuranger.
In the greater Power Rangers universe it's interesting to see MMPR characters returning for a Reunion Show taking place later and with newer conventions that the series adopted, such as the elaborate movements made with the morpher. In Power Rangers in Space "Always a Chance" had Adam making dramatic arm movements with the old "belt buckle" morpher (though it is appropriately dramatic for the scene, where morphing could kill him), where all they did in the show was put a hand behind their back as they say "It's Morphing Time!" (as though to retrieve their morpher from their back pocket or something). Jason in Power Rangers Wild Force "Forever Red" had a similar morphing pose that he never did before, and fight scenes done with the MMPR Red Ranger costume had never been done with wire work before.
It should be noted, though, that the morpher action was used once - the first part of MMPR season three's "Ninja Quest", where it was really dramatic. And it was also based off of how the Zyuranger team had done it.
In the first few episodes of Family Matters, the front door of the family house opened out into a corridor, suggesting that they lived in an apartment block. Later on, it opened onto a front porch, suggesting a house.
The first season is very different from the rest of the show. There's a different commander in the first season, far more focus on the criminal underworld in Brown Sector, and Delenn still looks completely Minbari. One episode ("Grail") uses an unexplained "cycle" as a unit of time, and that never showed up again (but by the time they decided it wasn't a good idea, the episode was done). The sets are a little different, and the lighting and exposure was changed from the beginning of season 2, giving the show a very different visual feeling. A viewer who started watching the show from season 2 onward might also be put off by G'Kar being a Smug Snake and something close to a villain in most of the first season.
This is perhaps due to the first season having a lot of stand-alone episodes written by people other than J Michael Straczynski. Those by JMS himself are still pretty tonally consistent with what comes later.
The pilot movie is officially set in the same universe as the rest of the series, but in order to digest this, viewers need to apply Broad Strokes. Specifically, Delenn and G'Kar's alien makeups are very different from their later appearances, with flashbacks contradicting the pilot and supporting the rest of the series (in fact, Delenn was originally meant to be a male character played by a female actor with her voice digitally altered; this was changed last-minute, and Delenn's character was made female). The technology used by Earth Force is slightly different, with huge surf board-like plasma rifles, and the Earth Force uniforms lack the distinctive broad leather strip down the front. And we NEVER see a Minbari with clan tattoos again outside of the pilot. We're also meant to believe that an energy being like a Vorlon can become infected by a poison, and that their biology includes cellular structures (to be fair, it wasn't established until much later that Vorlons were Energy Beings). G'Kar makes a reference to his "mate", who was never referred to again (although later villains do threaten his family in general). The 'special edition' re-edit of the pilot done in 1998 removed the reference entirely.
Vorlons aren't always in energy form, just because they can be in energy form. So can the Shadows, who are never seen that way. The real mystery is why his hand was exposed out of his encounter suit, which the other characters question later in the series.
Kind of a minor point, but the Earth Force uniforms used in the pilot differ from the uniforms used for the rest of the series, including flashbacks that supposedly take place before the pilot. It's not something you typically notice on your first viewing, but the rank structure looks different, and the leather panels on the front of the uniform tunics are not there.
Also in the pilot: when G'Kar is trying to convince Delenn to enter in an alliance with him, he notes "the Centauri are beyond the dream of conquest". This has some rather strange implications; one of which is that the Narn may have originally wanted to partner with the Centauri, but their world-weariness prevented it. This is very different from the way that relations between the two worlds are depicted in the series.
Early episodes of MST3K were pretty noticeably different from the 'golden' later seasons. The riffing came at a much slower (and poorer) pace, and it wasn't until about mid-Season 2 that the quality really picked up. (This is because the early episodes were riffed improv-style, with little preparation and rehearsal beforehand) Also, in the first few Comedy Central episodes, the focus of the series seemed to be more on the Mads than the Satellite of Love crew.
The characters were also very flat. Dr Forrester in particular was stuffy, officious, and serious, later on developing his mincing energetic and more violent persona, possibly influenced by the replacement of his colleague, Dr Earhart, with the buffoonish sidekick Frank. Tom Servo's personality changed considerably too, around this time, but this was due to his change of voice actor (from Josh Weinstein, who also played Earhardt, to Kevin Murphy.)
Season seven has an odd case of this with Pearl Forrester, Dr Forrester's mother introduced to replace Frank for the six episode season. She played a frumpy older character during that season before switching to a younger character closer to her real age for the remaining seasons when she took over the lead Mad spot from her son. As well, early on Joel Hodgson played Joel Robinson as "sleepy,' which many viewers interpreted as "stoned." This was soon abandoned. Word of God is that Hodgson actually was only half-awake in the first episode, and he decided to incorporate that into the general characterization for a time.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a good example. In the first season, the show clearly hadn't found its feet yet, and many of the early episodes seem rather awkward and forgettable compared to the later episodes.
And the indoor set for the house was completely different from how it would be in Season 2 and the remainder of the series.
The iconic Theme Tune Rap included an extra verse in the first season.
On Everybody Loves Raymond, the early seasons did seem to have a different feel from the later seasons. However, some people like the tone of the early seasons better, when the comedy seemed a bit more subtle, and Debra wasn't mean (yet). In the earlier episodes, Ray and Debra were in it together against Ray's marauding parents and brother. In the later episodes, the show was more or less a collective of neuroses played up against each other — Ray was more of a mama's boy and idiot, and Debra became meaner and nastier.
In the first season of The Avengers, John Steed's partner was a man (Dr. David Keel, played by Ian Hendry), and the tone tended more toward gritty crime drama. Few people know this because most of those episodes are lost.
One of the central plot points was that they were specifically avenging the death of Keel's wife - when the show found its feet and Keel vanished, its title became irrelevant.
Very early on in Are You Being Served?, Mrs. Slocombe was attracted to Mr. Lucas. For the rest of the series (until he was Put on a Bus, anyway) Mrs. Slocombe couldn't stand Mr. Lucas.
Saturday Night Live when it first started came off as more of a variety show (despite the original idea of making SNL different from the variety shows that were prevalent at the time). In the premiere episode, host George Carlin had several stand-up comedy pieces interspersed with the sketches but didn't appear in any of them, and there were two musical guests with two songs each, two stand-up comedian guests (including Andy Kaufman), and a performance by a bizarre early batch of Muppets in a strange prehistoric land (these Muppets weren't the ones like Kermit and Miss Piggy; these were ones specifically made for SNL that no one — not even the writers — liked). The second episode, hosted by Paul Simon, was nothing but musical acts (except for Weekend Update). However, before the first season was over the sketch comedy element of the show came to dominate.
Some of SNL's recurring sketches and characters have this:
The first sketch for "Appalachian Emergency Room" (a sketch from seasons 29 to 31 about rednecks explaining to the receptionist their Amusing Injuries) took place in a clean, white, free clinic-type waiting room instead of a cabin version of the aforementioned waiting room.
Stefon (Bill Hader's Camp Gay city correspondent with a knowledge of New York City's weirdest clubs) originally appeared in a one-shot sketch on the season 34 episode hosted by Ben Affleck as the estranged brother of a Disney screenwriter named David Zolesky (implying that Stefon's last name is also Zolesky, but a later Weekend Update segment implied that Stefon's father is David Bowienote whether this means that Stefon was adopted or is David's half-brother is left to fan speculation). It wouldn't be until the Gabourey Sidibe episode in season 35 that Stefon would be a Weekend Update character. Also, in his first sketch, Bill Hader's Stefon looked more like a burned-out Club Kid than his later appearances and, most noticeable of all, Hader actually got through the sketch without cracking up (like an inversion of Rachel Dratch's Debbie Downer sketches, where she cracked up during the first sketch, but not in any others [though there were times where she came close]). Compare this sketch to this one.
Gilda Radner's character Roseanne Roseannadanna was another character who started out in a one-off sketch (Hers was a fake commercial called "Hire the Incompetent") and became a Weekend Update fixture later on.
The original "Coffee Talk" sketches featured Mike Myers as the middle-aged male radio host Paul Baldwin who talked with callers calmly about "dogs, daughters, lofts and coffee ... you know, no big whoop." Since the sketch's basic joke (on the way the initial vowels are pronounced with a New York City accent) wore thin pretty quickly, Paul Baldwin soon became an older guy, and then Myers began putting on a dress and playing his then-mother-in-law, Linda Richman, as an excitable middle-aged Jewish woman with various cohosts of what was now just a standard TV talk show.
Despite being considered one of the worst seasons in the show's 30+ years on the air, the 1980-1981 season (season 6) had a very interesting real life Early Installment Weirdness in the form of cast member Gilbert Gottfried. Imagine if you will, a Gilbert Gottfried who doesn't squint, has a full head of curly, Jewish hair, and didn't always talk in the grating, screechy, obnoxious voice that would later be associated with him.
The early "Jared's Room" sketches had Chris Parnell as the college roommate that Jared (Jimmy Fallon) and Gobi (Horatio Sanz) would always prank. When Chris Parnell left the show in season 27 (and was brought back months later), he was replaced by Jeff Richards, and a Dumbass DJ character named DJ Johnathan Feinstein (played by Seth Meyers back when he actually was in sketches) was introduced.
The first season of Bones featured the "Angelator," a volumetric imaging system that can show 3D recreations of victims and how the murder occurred. It functioned as an alternative to showing flashbacks, as a way to visually show the audience the team's deductions about a murder. It was originally used in every episode, but was seen less and less in seasons two and three, without explanation as to why it wasn't being used anymore or what Angela's job is now since that was her only function.
In one episode, the "Angelator" was called into question by the government when they suspected it wasn't a reliable tool. Although Angela proved it was, it's easy to assume the government whisked it away out of pure spite. That said, Angela still has a job, ID'ing murder victims. She just uses computer screens now.
Amazingly, there was a time when Jerry Springer was as tame as shows like Oprah and The View. Before adopting its format of showcasing bizarre people and their torrid antics (often related to sexual matters, like infidelity, weird fetishes, sleazy sex jobs, and transsexuality), and codifying the Point-and-Laugh Show, it tackled political and social issues in a straightfaced manner. Compare this to its later episodes.
Early episodes of the first season of How I Met Your Mother display this for many. One readily apparent example is that the main cast sit at a table in their favorite bar - rather than what became their regular booth in future episodes.
Early episodes also had Seinfeld-esque musical scene transitions. Although later episodes would sometimes still use these, they tended to be much more understated.
Despite the series' love of continuity, some plot points seem weird when they're expanded upon in later seasons. Robin Sparkles went from a flash-in-the-pan pop star who was so unknown Barney had to ring someone in Malaysia just for the music video of "Let's Go to the Mall", to the pop star whose Genre Shift at the 1996 Grey Cup "invented" grunge in the minds of many Canadians.
Soul Train's first couple of seasons used a far different intro animation, featuring a childishly cartoony multi-colored train, rather than the classic big gray one, and the set invoked an old "juke joint" rather than the discotheque/dance club-type sets of the majority of the run. The 1971 pilot in particular seems odd: In addition to the above, there was a completely different announcer (with a higher voice and a more excitable style), the editing seems to borrow more from Laugh In than its counterpart, American Bandstand and instead of showing short clips of the musical guests in the intro, there the guests (Gladys Knight & The Pips, Eddie Kendricks, The Honey Cones and Bobby Hutton) were shown dancing among the rest of the "Soul Train Gang"
Battlestar Galactica, the 2004 series, originally showed Cylons' spines glowing when they got really... excited. Apparently the directors decided that this was too much of a dead giveaway (or just too silly) and dropped it. The miniseries also included "Lords of Kobol!", and even an improvised "Jesus!" from Michael Hogan, as religious exclamations before the writers settled on Greek polytheism as the Colonial religion.
Much has changed on Survivor since its debut in 2000, especially within the first few seasons of the show.
The cast of Borneo made numerous mentions of the fact that they were playing a game, and discussed how their actions would be judged by the "audience" watching at home (noted in Colleen's "We are on a game show!" quote). This was rarely, if ever, brought up again in later seasons.
Contestants in Borneo were voted off for making alliances instead of voting emotionally - you'd be hard-pressed to find an instance in the later seasons where the contestants didn't forge alliances in the first few days of the game. The contestants in the first few seasons also took things very personal - Richard Hatch and Kelly Wigglesworth were painted as villains for, respectively, forming an alliance/using strategy and winning a string of challenges to save herself after being seen as useless by her tribe.
Jeff Probst didn't have the show's terminology down correctly, and would often mix up the names of the various challenges and ceremonies. The contestants were also confused about the name of the different gameplay elements (for instance, B.B. referred to the Immunity Challenge as the "Indemnity Challenge"), and sometimes made no effort to complete the challenge (like Rudy's infamous "I don't know" responses during one memory challenge).
Several of the challenges in the first season were based off popular works like the then-recently released The Blair Witch Project. Later seasons had little, if any, reference to any piece of popular media.
The merge was instead called a "merger" in the first season, and the players knew in advance when it would occur. It happened at the same time in the next few seasons, allowing the show to do a twist in Thailand where the tribes were brought together on one beach and incorrectly assumed they had merged, when in fact they had not. In more recent seasons, the merge time has varied in order to keep the players guessing about when it will happen.
Nearly every challenge now features non-stop play-by-play narration by Jeff Probst. In the early seasons, this was not done, and all we heard from Jeff during challenges was occasional words of encouragement to the players.
Jeff Probst has said in interviews that he's always done the play-by-play we are now used to hearing. They just used to edit out his audio.
The shooting style changed greatly from the first two seasons. The production crew seemed apt in Borneo and Australia to focus on "slice-of-life" scenes instead of predominantly focusing on the strategy or tribe politics. In addition, scenes shot during natural disasters and accidents (see Michael Skupin's burn wounds or the camp flooding in Australia) seem much more unfocused and panicked, with included interviews by the medical staff.
There was no tribal switch, Exile Island or Hidden Immunity Idols in the early games, meaning they were played slower and more methodically, where survivors didn't have the luxury of finding a "free pass" to the next round.
This is quite common on panel shows where the format gets mixed around quite a lot in the early days and not every component remains. The first episode of Have I Got News for You featured eight different rounds, only four of which survived to the show's better-known format.
The first two series of Would I Lie to You? featured more rounds and questions, a completely different set and the deadpan Angus Deayton as host. The show didn't really achieve success until it cut out the less amusing rounds, got a set with a brighter colour scheme and the more lively Rob Brydon as host.
Very much played in the first two series of Mock the Week, in which Rory Bremner's impressions are a key part of the comedy before being dropped once he left the show.
In the first few episodes of Soap Benson was very adamant that being the butler was his job. When the Tates were hosting a party and Bert was expecting his long lost son to arrive, he went to answer the door, Benson tripped him up. He very quickly changed to disliking doing particular tasks, which most fans remember him for, and his catch phrase was "You want me to get that?" whenever the doorbell rang.
Early seasons of Sesame Street were much slower-paced, and frequently relied on lectures (such as this really long, calming one about how milk is made), making it more in line with competitors such as Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Captain Kangaroo. Also, some segments tended to repeat at least twice, since they acted like TV commercials. They abandoned this around the mid 1970s.
Characters looked very different, too. Oscar, for example, was orange, and only his head was visible. Big Bird missed most of the feathers on his head, and had the mindset of a dim-witted adult bird rather than a child. Plus, Grover was green.
Animated segments outnumbered Muppet segments, too. Also, the characters broke the fourth wall more frequently, addressing their audience as well as introducing and commenting on segments, as if they tied into each other more.
The first season of Boy Meets World included several secondary and tertiary characters that disappeared within a few episodes, or at least by the end of the season. Also, Shawn had a sister, Stacey, who was never mentioned again.
In the pilot of 3rd Rock From The Sun, Tommy and Dick use some kind of telepathy on each other so that Tommy can demonstrate the disgusting thoughts which puberty is causing him to have. For the remainder of the show's run, this ability is never mentioned again and the aliens appeared to lack any kind of "powers".
Also from the pilot, Dick, wanting to get rid of Ms. Dubcek, pushes her out a door that would later lead to his bedroom.
The first two series of Red Dwarf featured much more complex plots and Myth Arcs, mainly concerning strange alternate universes and Lister's relationship with Kochanski. This was mostly dropped for series three in favour of a Monster of the Week format. Kryten only appears as a guest, and the Cat doesn't spend that much time around the other characters, preferring to wander around alone. In addition, the first two series (especially series 1) take place almost entirely on the Red Dwarf itself, rarely taking the action away from the areas shown in the first few episodes. Later series see the addition of a lot of new sets, as well as plotlines that see the characters going to new areas of the ship as well as getting off the ship more often.
The first appearance of Kryten in series 2 has him as a very English robot butler in a suit who is obsessed with cleaning. He's not very intelligent and his only personality quirk is that he's oblivious to the fact his crew have died. His personality, voice and appearance are entirely different to the Kryten who would appear from series 3 onwards (he's played by a different actor). This is Hand Waved with some Unreadably Fast Text at the start of Series 3 that states that he crashed his "space bike" into an asteroid, they found his remains and rebuilt him, but they couldn't restore his original personality. It's also explained that Lister is helping him break his programming. This is lampshaded in series 8 where Kryten is (briefly) restored to his factory settings and behaves just like he did in his first appearance.
The Office (US) with its chubby, balding Michael Scott, random background deskworkers, and very straitlaced, plainly-dressed Kelly Kapoor in its short first season. The first season is also more cynical, keeping in tone with the UK version, right down to Michael Scott being more of a self-absorbed, intolerable boss a la David Brent instead of the well-intentioned bumbling boss he came to be. The series began to shape its own identity in Season 2.
Jenna Fischer (Pam) mentions on the commentary for "The Dundies" (the Season 2 opener) that her mom visited the set for the first time during the filming of that episode, and after previously hearing Fischer's description of the unattractive, intolerable Michael Scott, was caught off-guard to meet the much more handsome and charming Steve Carell, who had lost weight, stopped thinning his hair and was filming the episode dressed in a tuxedo!
The pilot is the only episode to include Iris West, Barry's love interest from the comics. The writers wanted to do Girl of the Week stories and also develop Barry's tension with Tina McGee; they decided keeping Iris as well would be overkill.
It's also the only episode to feature Barry fainting after going fast for too long, although many episodes feature him to be a Big Eater (often using superspeed to eat a lot) to compensate for the accelerated metabolism.
Mohinder's accent is quite different in early Heroes episodes: he sounds specifically Indian rather than just British.
The original Stargate to the Stargate SG-1 series. Abydos is in the "Kalium galaxy," on "the other side of the known universe," instead of the closest system with a gate, Ra looks more like a Grey-type alien at the end instead of the snakelike creatures the series has, the Goa'uld language also sounds extremely different, Daniel's girlfriend/wife's name is Shau'ri instead of Sha're (that has more to do with Michael Shanks's difficulty in pronouncing the "au" diphthong) and the gate symbols on Abydos being completely different from the gate on Earth.
In the first few episodes of Stargate SG-1, the Daniel Jackson character was shown to sneeze a lot, a trait he carried over from the movie. It was so prevalent that he used up an entire box of tissues in one day, yet after the first episode the character sneezes, perhaps, two or three more times in the entire ten-season run.
This was lampshaded in a very early episode by stating that Daniel is on heavy antihistamines (which served to project him from the danger-of-the-week).
In the first few episodes of season one Samantha Carter is shown as Feminist to the degree of Straw. The pilot has a particularly cringe-worthy moment wherein Carter defends her combat ability against Jack O'Neill's. After the scene, Amanda Tapping said she went to the writers to tell them "Women don't talk like that":
Major Samantha Carter: . . . and just because my reproductive organs are on the inside rather than the outside, doesn't mean I can't handle anything you can handle.
The "reproductive organs" speech makes a cameo appearance eight seasons later in "Moebius" only to be mocked by Carter as sounding ridiculous. To be fair, it's a pretty clear-cut case of Early Installment Weirdness and the show settled down fairly quickly after that.
It was used again by "Puppet Carter" in the episode "200", as part of a gag about her tendency to engage in Techno Babble.
The bit about Ra being a Grey is particularly troubling considering that the show did introduce Greys later on, in the form of the Asgard, allies of the Tau'ri.
Word of God explained that Ra had possessed an Asgard prior to possessing a human. Why this was reflected physically isn't as easily explained, other than the idea that Ra used some form of nonstandard Go'auld possession on his human host.
In early episodes the zat'nik'tel alien weapon disintegrates anything that gets hit with three shots from it. By the fourth season, nothing is shot three times with a zat-gun ever again. The idea of disintegration is even indirectly mocked on a later episode.
Early SG-1 episodes also tended to ape early TNG a bit much, with heavy-handed aesops and the like ("The Nox", for example, had a heavy pacifism message that was both inapplicable to the SGC's situation and pushed Can't Argue with Elves too hard). This settled down roughly about the time Bra'tac first showed up in "Bloodlines" and was largely avoided in favor of straight storytelling afterwards.
The Movie and the pilot had gate travelers being freezing cold upon exit, even explained by Carter. This was quickly done away with and supplementary materials retcon it as being caused by the SGC's McGyvered dialing system before bugs were ironed out.
Similarly, the gate first caused violent shaking, enough to be detectable as an Earthquake. This was quickly done away with by claiming they installed dampeners to prevent it, but how gates on other planets where the gate is just stuck on a rock or in a museum or some other such basic or unused location are supposed to have these dampers is anyone's guess.
The first Afterschool Specials on ABC were far less focused on the youth, often dealing with things like extinction or other more "generic" issues. The first one, Last of the Curlews, was actually an animated special instead.
The first episode mentions the Three Essentials of Magic: timing, feeling, and the phases of the moon. It's never brought up again, nor is there any indication in the rest of the show that the moon's phases have any effect on their magic. With the exception of an episode where, under a strange occurrence involving a blue moon, the witches are turned into ferocious beasts who maul Whitelighters. It's also commonly pointed out that their powers are linked to their emotions.
In the second episode one of the shape-shifting demons held on the book and tried to get it out of the house by carrying it. Never once did it shock him like the evil sensing and shocking book that would come later. It's heavily implied that the shapeshifter's powers confused the book at first: whilst it allowed him to carry it, the book did refuse to leave the house, flying out of his hands when he tried to force it through the door, and sliding away when he tried to reach for it again. Likewise, the book is shown to be connected to the sisters' powers, and it becomes steadily savvier, and more aggressive to evil as the series goes on. It's therefore implied that it's just the book's defensive capabilities strengthening as the sisters' powers do, as opposed to a complete non sequitur.
In the later episodes just about every magical being, good or evil, has at least one of the dozens of teleportation powers. In earlier episodes they aren't as common. It's quite jarring to go back and see chase sequences with the demon of the week running after them, as opposed to just teleporting away.
The first season featured spells and potions that were inspired by real life Wicca and neopagan practices (creator Constance M Burge was inspired by The Craft which used similar ideas). This was phased out around season 2 and more emphasis was placed on vanquishing potions and the sisters' active powers.
Although the Girl Power theme was prevalent across the whole show, the first couple of seasons veered more towards the Female Angel, Male Demon side of things. When Leo and Cole became series regulars, the show became more gender neutral. Likewise no empowered male witches appeared on the show until the fifth season.
Warlocks were initially the main threat on the show and demons looked demonic. As the show went on, warlocks became Mooks while demons were the primary antagonists. Demons also appeared more like humans in black leather. This was explained in show that the more powerful upper-level demons were able to assume a human form - so as the sisters' powers grew, the more powerful and human-appearing demons came after them. Additionally when 'blinking' first appears in Season 1, Melinda Warren says the warlock Mathew Tate copied it from a witch. By season 3, blinking is a default power most warlocks have. And witches are never seen doing it.
In the season 1 episode "Wicca Envy" when the sisters have given up their powers, Leo is able to restore them by using his healing powers on the Book of Shadows. That was the episode that revealed him as a whitelighter. Whitelighter lore was explored more towards the end of the first season and Leo's powers seemed restricted to healing only injuries. He does restore the broken P3 sign with his powers in a season 4 episode but doesn't display this elsewhere in the series. This one is especially egregious because a season 4 episode has Phoebe and Paige struggling to stop Piper from being tricked into giving up their powers again. Leo never once mentions he could heal the book.
Criminal Minds: It's very clear that the writers were still getting a hang of the series's tone and pace when the pilot was scripted. The most jarring difference for regular viewers is the appearance of voice-over quotes outside of their usual Book Ends, as well as an out-of-place ending scene that feels like it got spliced in from a completely different series. Characterization is also still finding its footing: Hotch actually smiles while on the job, Morgan's dressed to the nines rather than the casual look he'd take on in later episodes, and Reid's "autistic tendencies" are much more obvious. All this gets smoothed over by about four episodes in.
Beverly Hills 90210 started as an episodic high school drama mainly focusing on the Walsh twins. Each episode had its own story and moral. From season two onwards, the plotlines started to arch over several episodes and the friends of the Walsh kids were given some limelight as well. And starting season five it went totally soap opera (similarly to its spin-off Melrose Place).
Also, during the first season, the opening was very different. It was a series of scattered scenes with the main characters hanging out in Beverly Hills rather than an Opening Credits Cast Party, and it used an 80's styled pop/dance rendition of the show's theme song rather than the hard rock rendition used from season two onward note which was modified slightly in season four.
The phrase "And Now For Something Completely Different" is already said in the first episode, but by Eric Idle instead of John Cleese who traditionally said it in the later episodes.
The infamous crushing foot in Gilliam's opening titles doesn't make the Blowing a Raspberry sound it made from the second season on.
The nude organist originally appeared in the second season ("Live From The Grill-O-Mat"), but portrayed by Terry Gilliam rather than Terry Jones! The character only became a regular on the show starting with the first episode of the third season: "Whicker's World".
Terry Gilliam himself is mostly reduced to appearing as a seldom speaking extra in most of the first seasons.
Mr. Gumby was first portrayed by Graham Chapman, rather than Michael Palin. Though every Python member has portrayed him at least once it's Palin who is most associated with the role.
Baywatch was originally a serious drama about lifeguards and the threats they face while doing their jobs instead of the excuse to show sexy people in bathing suits running in slow motion it turned into. There were even (gasp!) old people as regular characters (seriously, Oscar nominee Richard Jaekal had a regular role)! And not everyone had a sculpted swimmer's body!
A Top Gear fan from later days might wonder if they've downloaded the wrong show. The Stig is wearing black, James May is nowhere to be seen, Clarkson seems aware that he's hosting a television show instead of just behaving like a child and some fat guy named Jason interrupts once an episode to give you incredibly boring tips on buying your next car. And that's before you throw in more disconcerting stuff like a slightly different version of Jessica and the audience not cheering through transitions.
Go back even earlier, to the pre-relaunch seasons, and you'll find that Top Gear was a magazine style programme hosted by a large ensemble cast of presenters and made up of serious road tests of high performance cars. It had no wacky challenges, no Richard Hammond (and James May only joining in the original programme's final seasons), not even The Stig. The only thing it had in common with the current incarnation of the show was the theme music and the fact that Clarkson was in it (although he was just one of the many presenters, and not one of the main hosts either, and not to mention he was putting on a posh accent in those days). Of course, these episodes are not syndicated these days, so Keep Circulating the Tapes.
The National: The anchor position on the early decades of the program wasn't considered a journalist, but an announcer. Therefore, early anchors only read scripts prepared by the working reporters. Lloyd Robertson left for CTV when he realized he could never get editorial control of the newscast. It wasn't until the Knowton Nash era when the CBC won a concession from the journalists' union allowing him to become Chief Correspondent for CBC News, a position to which Peter Mansbridge inherited.
Cougar Town: Ironically, the first half-season or so, when the title actually made sense, the episodes don't match the tone and direction of the rest of the series. What started out as a kind of one-note joke quickly evolved into an ensemble comedy as a survival mechanism and the first six or so episodes really stick out.
Police, Camera, Action! had a slightly different feel for the first three episodes; Alastair Stewart's British episode was emphasized a lot but then reverse Flanderization set in; Hampshire Police and Surrey Police footage went Out of Focus after 1995, and he started to wear less charcoal or grey-coloured suits, instead, in later seasons, began to take on a more casual look (except in situations where it was not necessary). Also, his tone changed from formal British accent to a more informal tone. The early episodes Police Stop! (later retitled to the show we know today), Police Camera Action! and Safety Last have a very different feel to later ones; the narration style seems different too. By 1997, the show was semi-Retooled, to mix foreign footage with British footage, leading to the show we have today.
In the 2007 reboot (well, as fans consider it, due to Adrian Simpson being the co-presenter), early episodes Speed Dating up to Stop Thief! have a different feel from later episodes, not to mention a 'go-to-middle-of-the-action' sequence, which was absndoned after Technocops.
The first season of The Facts of Life concentrated on seven girls and none of them were Jo (although one of them was Molly Ringwald). The show also took place in the dormitory for Eastland with Mrs. Garrett as the housemother. Also, the dean of Eastland was a regular. On top of that, the theme song had different lyrics.
The classic example from the first handful of episodes of The Cosby Show is the existence of only four Huxtable children. These lines get a big laugh in the pilot episode:
Clair: Why do we have four children?
Cliff: Because we didn't want five.
Sondra Huxtable was added to the cast about midway through the first season, because Bill Cosby thought the show needed an example of successful parenting, i.e. a child who'd made it through high school and into a good college, with prospects for a future career.
Also, the Season 1 opening segment was the only one not to feature the actors dancing.
In the pilot episode, Theo is referred to as "Teddy."
A name plate on the door to Cliff's house and office reads "Clifford Huxtable".
The inside house set is different in the pilot episode.
The pilot episode of Once Upon a Time had stated that characters should never let Rumpelstiltskin know their names. This is immediately ignored in all future episodes.
Snow White also claims in the pilot that Regina gave her a poisoned apple because she was prettier than her like in the original tale. This is quiet jarring when the very next episode reveals that Regina wants to avenge the death of her lover, in which Snow was somehow involved. No reasons are given for why Snow made this claim.
In the second episode, Regina's father Henry is seen passing out instantly when she rips his heart out. In other episodes, people remain conscious when the heart is removed and are only visibly hurt when the heart itself is squeezed. Henry is implied to have died instantly when his was ripped out; something that is a little at odds with the rules established later on.
In the first few episodes of The Walking Dead the walkers are seen running and climbing after survivors while avoiding obstacles, and one is seen trying to use a doorknob in the pilot. Later episodes showed them as much less mobile and more mindless.
Our introduction to Glenn is him casually calling Rick a dumbass. Later episodes would establish Glenn as extremely mild mannered who only uses profanity during danger and/or tragedy.
Horrible Histories didn't introduce the memorable pastiche songs until series two. Furthermore, there's much more toilet humour than in later series (yes, even more people caked in excrements) and the presumably lower budget is also quite visible. A somewhat odd type of sketch featured the imaginations of the Rattus the rat, which was phased out after series two.
The first season of Danish sitcom Langt Fra Las Vegas seemed unsure on whether to focus on the absurdities that Casper Christensen's former series, "Mandrilaftalen", was known for, or to be a regular sitcom. As a result, the first season has a rather huge amount of completely outlandish characters, surreal humor and even supernatural phenomena (like the magical football shirt and the "lucky seven star") compared to the last four seasons which were much more realistic (though still exaggerated and over-the-top). A common theory in Fanon about the reason Wulff left the main cast after season 1 is that his quiet Cloud Cuckoo Lander demeanor simply didn't match the hamminess of the other characters. Jump Start was also generally a bigger part of the episode plots in season 1, while in later seasons, most episodes focus on Casper's private life, and Jump Start is often only brought in as comedic relief.
The Daily Show was quite different when Craig Kilborn was host. It was more of a straight parody of news shows(in its first year it didn't even have a studio audience) with Kilborn as the Ted Baxter-esque pompous pretty boy anchor, and was more entertainment-focused and less politics-focused. The field pieces generally involved a correspondent interviewing some obscure weirdo and mocking them in a way that some(including Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell) considered mean-spirited. The show carried over a lot of the same style of humor the first year or two after Jon Stewart became host before it became more or less the show it is today.
The Love Boat's opening credits for the first season featured the porthole graphic circling around the guest stars' names. From the second season on, the porthole graphic was put in place as photos of the guest stars' faces were shown alongside the credits.
The first season of Breaking Bad had more Black Comedy than the simply darker direction the series took in later seasons.
The first episode featured bare breasts, at least in its unedited version. Future seasons did their best to stay away from that, even during sex scenes.
The first installment of Night Gallery had stories that all involved paintings that were in the gallery; after that, not so much.
The 1979-80 spy series A Man Called Sloane saw Thomas Sloane (played by Robert Conrad) share adventures a la I Spy with a fellow agent with a bionic hand called Torque. The pilot episode for the series, which aired as a TV movie a year after the series was cancelled, starred a different actor as Sloane, but it also featured Torque (played by the same actor as in the TV series), but he was a villain in the pilot.
The first episode of America's Top 10 had Casey Kasem behind a desk, making it look more like a newscast. They got rid of the desk in later episodes.
The first season of Master Chef Australia had a few differences from the other series, most notably the appearance of "host" Sarah Wilson. Since Gary, George and Matt had become major personalities in their own right, they could handle all of the hosting aspects themselves and Sarah's role ended up being superfluous, so she was dropped.
In the first season, if a contestant won the Celebrity Chef Challenge, they got a guaranteed place in the finals and, in the mean time, got a chance to work in a professional kitchen. It became obvious that the contestants who took a break from the pressure of the Masterchef Kitchen would fail against those who were used to it, since both contestants who won the Challenge got immediately eliminated in the finals week. From the second season, it was replaced with the Immunity Pin.
The first few eliminations were voting based, where the members losing team from the previous day would vote one of their team out of the competition. This concept clashes a bit with the "competitors as a big happy family" vibe that came out of subsequent seasons.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: General consensus seems to have it that the show didn't Grow the Beard at all until somewhere around episodes four and five at the earliest, meaning that the first three episodes are all over Early Installment Weirdness, including odd moments of awkward characterisation and expositional dialogue that seem out of place once you've seen the whole thing. That's to say nothing of the fact that the show had a mid-season Re Tool planned from the start, rendering the first few episodes nothing like the latter half of the series in tone and content, going from a fairly lighthearted Mystery of the Week format to a much darker ongoing Mystery Arc that looks set to continue into Season 2.
There's also a couple of more minor ones that crop up by the end of Season 1: for example, the first few episodes have Simmons (played by Elizabeth Henstridge, a Yorkshire-born actress) speaking in Received Pronunciation, which was slowly fazed out over the course of the first half dozen or so episodes in favour of the actress's natural accent. There's also the fact that Simmons seems to have a mild crush on Fitz for the first few episodes, yet most of the season then shows him pursuing her romantically while she becomes actively Oblivious to Love and shows a preference for a couple of other guys.
The Vampire Diaries, in the first few episodes, features Damon being able to control fog and a crow. Both disappeared without any explanation of how Damon did that and were never mentioned again.
Nickelodeon was significantly different in its early years. It didn't have commercials and its programming was more educational (with a low budget Sesame Street clone called Pinwheel being their flagship series). Its ratings were dead last among cable channels, so it rebranded itself in 1984. It started airing commercials, changed its logo to the now-iconic "orange splat" logo, and changed its programming to give it a more "kids only" feel, changes that helped make it a household name.