The E! True Hollywood Story used to be an incredibly depressing show that documented a certain celebrity's fall from grace or detailed their grisly murder or suicide. However, in recent years the show has shifted its focus to the latest hit reality show or celebrities who are at their current peak of popularity.
Doctor Who itself has made tone shifts in a lighter direction several times — sometimes during a Doctor's tenure, sometimes when Doctors were switched out.
The seventh season, the Third Doctor's debut in which he was Earthbound and working with UNIT, was quite dark at times, with some brutal fist- and gun-fights, a prickly relationship between the Doctor and the Brigadier, one story ending with the Doctor being disgusted by UNIT massacring a group of sentient non-humans who might have been willing to make peace, and another story featuring the Doctor failing to prevent the complete destruction of a parallel Earth. Over the next season, the tone gradually became lighter, with UNIT becoming more Mildly Military, the stories generally having happy endings, and the violence becoming more fantastic.
In Season 14, the character of the Fourth Doctor was made Lighter and Softer. The writers gave him more silly setpieces, funny lines and moments where he would be really cute, and fewer terrifying impossibly-old alien bits, debates over the morality of genocide and, well, performing outright murders and laughing about it. The writers apparently did this because they hoped it would let them get away with still inserting as much gore, horror and death as they wanted without facing as much objection from Moral Guardians fooled by the lighter tone. It worked... for a little while, anyway. A good example of a story with this tone is The Robots of Death, which is one of the goriest and most violent stories Tom Baker ever did, but unlike the similarly violent The Deadly Assassin, the Doctor behaves flippantly and childishly about it throughout and the villain is vanquished in a very silly way.
The most extreme example comes with Seasons 15-17. Just after the show had reached the height of its "dark and intelligent" phase, it was derailed and audiences were treated to three lighter and softer seasons that verged on comedy. As soon as Philip Hinchcliffe quit as producer his replacement Graham Williams was called in by BBC executives and bluntly ordered to reduce the amount of graphic violence and horror, which had caused high-profile condemnations of the show by moral purity campaigners, led by Mary Whitehouse, and the general press during the previous couple of seasons. The Williams era does have die-hard fans, but most of the child audience seemed to regret the loss of the gore and horror.
Season 23 was also the subject of executive edicts demanding that it be made lighter than the very grim and violent previous season. In this case, many fans share the belief that Season 22 had got too crapsack.
Moving on to the revival, debatably the Eleventh Doctor is this to the Tenth. While 'pure horror' episodes are more common in Series 5, the series deals with far less serious themes, and the Doctor is portrayed as a slightly mad gentleman waltzing around the universe as opposed to a shell-shocked veteran riddled with guilt from the murder of his own species. Compare "The End of Time" special (the last episode featuring the Tenth Doctor) to "The Eleventh Hour" (the Eleventh Doctor's first appearance). The Mood Whiplash is massive, although quite well pulled-off. This approach is generally justified by the fact that the writers were aiming to make the show more popular and comprehensible to a younger audience, which it did extremely well without alienating older fans. Series 6 got Denser and Wackier and Darker and Edgier, though, and this was partially responsible for its Seasonal Rot.
The second series of the spin-off series Torchwood actually airs in two versions, one for adults and one for all-ages. There is little difference in the broadcasts, apart from some removal of swearing and gore, such as Alan Dale's character being shot (the all-ages version omitted the squib going off) in "Reset".
Newsround is a simplified version of BBC News, with more kid friendly language and some concepts adults would be familiar with more fully explained. It also tends to lack financial news and only goes into politics on rare occasions (around election time for example). It isn't afraid to report on death or depressing topics (it was the news broadcast that broke the story of the Challenger disaster in the UK) but is a bit more sensitive about it, they also might report something which seen as a story of high 'kid interest' that the adult news wouldn't bother with. It was the go-to source for Harry Potter-related news in the UK, less so since Internet access became all but universal. It is also lighter on politics than it used to be. It was the first television programme that some kids saw Michael Howard MP, interviewed at the Rio Earth Summit by a Press Packer in 1992 as Environment Secretary.
Stargate SG-1 has gradually taken this course over its ten seasons, getting closer and closer to self-parody in the process.
Season 7 starts out with a much lighter mood than the dark, dark, dark Season 6 — a deliberate move from the writers to give the audience a break from the doom and gloom. The season did take a noticeably grimmer tone as it progressed.
"A Hole In The World" and "Shells" notwithstanding, the same goes for Angel Season 5. The entire season is a bit of a relief after the relentless Season 4.
Charmed increasingly took this direction with each passing season. First there were mermaids, then there were leprechauns, and finally a unicorn shows up. Dwarves (from Snow White) showed up in a fairy tale based episode. All of which occurred in Season 5. But after the intense and continual darkness of Seasons 3 and 4 (ESPECIALLY season 4), Season 5 is more like a Breather Season.
Season Four of House is much lighter than the depressingly dark third season. And then it immediately went back to dark and depressing when it was time for the finale.
In The F Word, he's not as much of a bastard as he is in Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares. In fact, he is much more pleasant and enjoys cooking in this one rather than what happens in his other shows. The British version of KN also paints Ramsey in this light instead of the scream hound in the bombastic American adaptation. Even in the instances that he does lose his cool, it's easy to see that it comes from genuine frustration instead of exaggerated ranting.
In FOX's summer series of Master Chef, Ramsey was even more considerably friendly; in fact, he was the encouraging judge of the three. While he did show flashes of his usual temper and frustrated mannerisms, he oft-encouraged contestants, even sending one who screwed up on her audition to go home and bring back items from home to make a dish as her own (she went on to compete on the show). Justified in that unlike Hell's Kitchen, these are people not in the dining business to begin with, but normal Joes looking to broaden their love of cooking by becoming a chef.
There was an interesting back-and-forth with The Addams Family across different media. The original single-panel cartoons depicted the characters as genuinely misanthropic monsters who killed random people for the lulz. The TV show, by contrast, depicted them as nice, arty bohemians whose square neighbours were frightened of them because of their weird lifestyle. The cinema films swung the pendulum back towards actual violence and death, but the animated kids-TV show spun off from the films went fluffier again.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, after its first season. The first season and a few lingering bits of it in the second featured (among other things), Picard as a grumpy asshole, Q as a sadistic monster, Riker constantly shouting when he wasn't giving a perverted or just plain cocky smirk, dimly lit sets, aliens with drug problems, a major character getting killed off for no reason, cannibalistic Ferengis, the topic of "sex" often feeling forced into episodes (as if somehow reveling in the idea that you can say a naughty word on TV?) rather than being handled organically, phaser beams that set people on fire, and one infamous episode in which a character has his head shot off and then his stomach explode outwards with alien parasites. The show got better right about the same time these bits went away, focusing a bit more on highbrow concepts and moral dilemmas. Then the Trek Verse got Darker and Edgier again, but without making it so cheesy. Though that's led to some mixed results.
The Adventures of Superman was actually a hard-hitting and violent crime drama in its first season, and featured Phyllis Coates as an especially tough and strong-willed Lois Lane. For the second season, Noel Neill replaced Coates, and played a much softer and more traditionally feminine Lois. The show itself became less violent and more kid-oriented. By the third season, the show had become much more lighthearted and whimsical, with more science-fiction and fantasy elements and less violence.
When the Argentinian Soap Opera "Floricienta" was adapted for Chilean viewers as "Floribella", some aspects of the show became this. In example, the original Evil Matriarch was portrayed as very malevolent, but in the Chilean version she's portrayed somewhat more comically. It doesn't help that the Chilean actress is actually known for comical villain roles, which isn't the case with the Argentinean counterpart. The ending was also modified. In the original, Flor's "prince" dies... he gets better in the remake and they get married in the finale. This was also repeated in the Mexican remake of the show, Lola Erase Una Vez.
Jeopardy!, to a degree. Until about the 1990s, the clues were often straightforward, and host Alex Trebek was rather stuffy and formal. Over time, the clues have become more whimsical and punny, with occasional pop culture references and Getting Crap Past the Radar (arguably without dumbing the show down). Trebek has also loosened up especially in the 2000s, as he now smiles and laughs more, and gets in plenty of Deadpan Snarker moments.
Many game show fans have noticed that Alex Trebek was a lot more laid-back on Classic Concentration (1987-91) when compared to his still-formal hosting style on Jeopardy! at the time. As the show progressed, he also began to wear sweaters instead of suits, further emphasizing his increased casualness.
After years of sexed-up comedy shows, reality TV, Darker and Edgier dramas with Black and Gray Morality conflicts, and grisly police/medical/lawyer procedural shows, a straight up battle between good and evil with an intriguing mystery at the core feels so refreshing to audiences in comparison.
Once Upon A Time even manages to retain its basically optimistic outlook when it's at its darkest. Snow murdering Cora is depicted as being evil not just for the sadistic way that it was done, but because it's made clear that she could have been redeemed instead.
Rizzoli & Isles is much "lighter and softer" than the books it is based on—a more comedic tone, everyone much better looker than their book counterpart, etc.
Red Dwarf. Its latest series (Red Dwarf X) is much more easy going, episodic, and not as self serious as the Darker and Edgier adventure-com direction Red Dwarf VII tried to go, nor is it story arc driven, and prison orientated as Red Dwarf VIII was either. It's gone back to its simple, light hearted sit-com roots.
Hunter beginning in season 2 when the late Roy Huggins took over as executive producer and toned down the violence.
In the 90's, John Larroquette had his own show called, well, the John Larroquette Show. The protagonist was a recovering alcoholic working as the night shift manager of a run down bus station in East St. Louis, and he lived in a one room flop house. Some of the other main characters included a prostitute, a homeless man, and a janitor who took laziness to new extremes. Plots included finding a brick of cocaine in a locker and using it to set up a drug dealer who was trying to extort them. Then the next season came on. John moved to a spacious apartment, started working days, the bum now worked at a newsstand, and the prostitute straightened up, and now owns and runs the local bar. They managed to kill the dark and edgy humor that was the attraction of the original, and the show was summarily canceled.
RoboCop: The Series is definitely this trope applied to the franchise. Suddenly things were more cartoony and slapstick, violence is toned down a few notches (as in, RoboCop is not allowed to kill humans), and merchandising has suddenly became Moral Guardians-friendly (you know this trope has struck when the series resulted in a talking RoboCop action figure that tells kids to stay in school and don't do drugs). However, they did keep the parody commercials, so the main draw of the movies are still there, somewhat.
Robot Wars: After Season 1, the snarky and often downright rude Jeremy Clarkson was replaced by Large Ham Craig Charles, health and safety rules were beefed up, and contestants were barred from swearing on camera. Also, the show's aesthetic was originally a dark futuristic apocalypse, but that eventually gave way to an aesthetic more like an official boxing or martial arts tournament.
The Live-Action Adaptation of Life focuses on the bullying caused by Manami. It completely scrapped Ayumu's Self-Harm habits which are a major part of her character and did away with certain other aspects.
Prehistoric Planet was a kid-aimed version of Walking with Dinosaurs that removed (some of) the more graphic content and had narration.
Season 4 of Arrow was an attempt at this after a particularly dark season. Oliver finally adopted his comic-book moniker of "Green Arrow", along with a lighter shade of green for his suit, and declared his intention to be a 'symbol of hope' for the city as opposed to the ruthless vigilante he was as the "Arrow". Oliver was in a relationship with Felicity and generally had a more optimistic and agreeable demeanor (dubbed "Ollie 2.0" by Thea). Team Arrow had a swanky new lair that was literally brighter and was more of a family than ever. YMMV on how effective these changes were, especially since the show went on to suffer Seasonal Rot and by the end, things went in a pretty dark direction with Diggle killing his brother Andy, and the death of the Black Canary.