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- All the Chosen Children from Digimon Adventure in Digimon Adventure 02, except for Hikari and Takeru, appear only occasionally because for most of the season their Digimon couldn't evolve through natural means (the protagonists used Digimentals to evolve). Mimi also moved to New York and Jou went through high school entrance exams. Though Mimi's moving away became an important plot device as it helped introducing the foreign Chosen.
- Team Rocket appeared less in the Best Wishes iteration of the Pokémon anime, as they Took a Level in Badass and stopped trying to try another half-baked plan every episode. They became more prominent again after returning to their comical forms, though still remain absent in occasional episodes to allow Ash's team to remain more proactive.
- This happens to Hazuki in Sound! Euphonium, after she fails to qualify for a spot in the orchestra line-up that participates in Nationals.
- In the Charlie Parker Series by John Connolly, Louis and Angel appear constantly as supporting characters up until The Reapers, their Day in the Limelight. Following that, they drop out of the books, making only brief, obligatory cameo appearances (in one book their only appearance is a phone call) until the most recent book, The Wolf in Winter, when they rent an apartment in Portland to be near Parker.
- Happened in Supernatural many times, most notably Castiel in season 6-7.
- Bonnie from The Vampire Diaries is increasingly absent from episodes, or has scenes where her only "appearance" is a phone-call.
- Jimmy McNulty from The Wire in season four, going from being the defacto star in the first three seasons. The actor playing McNulty wanted some time off to do film and theater and spend time with his family, this was explained in series by him deciding to leave the Major Crimes Unit after his adversary was killed before he could take him down, becoming a patrolman and mending his ways while he was at it. He got off the bus in season five, though.
- Richard Dean Anderson's final season as a regular on Stargate SG-1 had him promoted to general where he had vastly reduced screen time.
- On Stargate Atlantis Weir and Ford did this before being dropped entirely. Weir's actress could not return to do any more episodes (despite the writers having plans for a longer arc involving her), so they pulled (another) The Other Darrin on her (the character's 2nd time, disappointing the fans who hoped the 1st actress would be brought back) before having her Put on a Bus. Ford just wasn't very interesting to them, so despite bringing him back several times he was eventually dropped. He last showed up in one of Sheppard's nightmares where he angsted about all the people he failed to save.
- Cordelia spent a good portion of her last season of Angel in a coma despite nominally being in the opening cast. In fact, the Cordelia we had been seeing for most of the fourth season wasn't exactly Cordelia, strictly speaking, but was her being controlled by a God-like entity. Furthermore, she spends several episodes of Season 3 on vacation with Groo, and so does not appear then either. She later came Back for the Dead in the 100th Episode, but was later revealed to be Dead All Along.
- Speaking of Angel, his last season on Buffy the Vampire Slayer had very reduced screen time (though being in hell is quite a commute.)
- This also happened to Giles in the last two seasons of Buffy.
- Also interesting, because the actor was literally commuting (from Britain).
- Jack McCoy on Law & Order after getting promoted to DA. Interestingly, this was at Sam Waterston's request—when Fred Dalton Thompson left, Waterston campaigned pretty hard for McCoy to get the promotion. Since the DA doesn't personally prosecute cases, this naturally meant a massive reduction in screen time.
- On House, Doctors Cameron and Chase were fired from the title character's team at the end of Season 3. In Season 4 they were shown to have taken new jobs at the hospital, while House recruited a new team.
- Season 6 has a lot of bus jumps. Following on from above, Cameron found a long-distance bus to jump onto, while Chase has jumped off the commuting bus and back into the cast.
- Happens again with Thirteen in Season 7: she was billed as main cast, but only appeared in a handful of episodes at the beginning and end of the season, with the claim that she was taking an extended break from work. Though it later turned out she was, in fact, in prison for six months after helping her brother commit assisted suicide. Her absence was due to Olivia Wilde's film career suddenly taking off and her needing a leave of absence to film TRON: Legacy and Cowboys and Aliens. She's Put on a Bus more securely for Season 8, and becomes a Special Guest Star for her three or four appearances in that season.
- In the seventh season of Red Dwarf, Arnold Rimmer only appeared in person in two episodes, then was relegated to flashbacks, dream sequences and - in one memorable case - a theme park ride based on his own diaries. The actor playing him, Chris Barrie, had decided to leave the show and had a very limited schedule, so he agreed to appear in a handful of episodes (and sequences that could be filmed out of order, such as ADR or flashbacks).
- This started happening to Kimberly in season three of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. She had her powers drained halfway through after being captured by Kat Hillard. Since Amy Jo Johnson actually told Saban she was going to quit beforehand, instead of clumsy camera tricks and an abrupt Suspiciously Similar Substitute, half the season was spent slowly easing her character out of the Pink Ranger position and setting up her successor.
- After Skull was Put on a Bus in Lost Galaxy, the writers apparently had trouble coming up with material for Bulk on his own. He only appears in a few episodes despite being in the opening credits.
- This happened with Ryan in Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue. Due to the fact that he was created exclusively for the American version and didn't have a Sentai counterpart it was starting to become too costly to shoot new footage with him in Ranger form every episode, so to keep costs down he took off in the second half of the season to find a way to defeat the antagonists and only appeared in a handful of the remaining episodes.
- This was the fate of Omega Ranger Sam from Power Rangers S.P.D.. In a bid to save money, Sam was not given an out of suit actor, which made it difficult for him to properly interact with the other characters since he could only do so while in costume or as a CGI ball of light. So the writers wrote around him as best they could, having him turn up whenever the Sentai stock footage called for him and then having him disappear as soon as he wasn't needed.
- Very prevalent in the weird final season of Welcome Back, Kotter. Mr. Kotter only makes fleeting appearances, due to actor Gabe Kaplan not being very happy with the show. No one acted as though it were at all unusual that Mr. Kotter hardly seemed to be around any more. In fact, Gabe Kaplan still got top billing. At least Barbarino, who was also absent that season because John Travolta was doing movies, was explained away as having dropped out of school. To preserve some semblance of familiarity, the previously stay-at-home Mrs. Kotter became the Sweathogs' new adult supervisor in her role as the school secretary, or something.
- Josh has been in ONE episode of season 3 of 30 Rock. He's supposed to be a cast member of the Show Within a Show (and the only one who writes too), but hasn't been seen in writers meetings or on stage in forever.
- This was eventually lampshaded before driving him to the bus station and replacing him with a new cast member in Season 4.
- On Chicago Hope, Mandy Patinkin got sick of being away from his family by the demands of the show, so Dr. Jeffrey Geiger was reduced to making a few guest appearances each season.
- Terri Schuester during the second season of Glee. The season had 22 episodes. She appeared in 6, and one of these appearances was literally a five-second cameo. She was dropped from the cast beginning with Season 3.
- Almost all of the graduates in the fourth, fifth and sixth season. In season 4, Puck, Mike, Quinn, and Mercedes all come back occasionally to visit. In season 5, more characters graduate, adding Tina and Brittany to the mix of commuters, and Mercedes becomes a regular character again. By season 6, Puck, Quinn, Tina, Santana, Brittany, Artie, Emma, and Unique are all commuting regularly and the main cast is much smaller than before. It makes sense in universe since the characters are all over the country at college and still visit their home town sometimes.
- Noah Wyle as John Carter on ER. Eventually, he moved to the Congo. Then he moved back for the final season.
- Degrassi: The Next Generation started with characters in the seventh and eighth grade, and moved along with them on through high school. Degrassi, of course, is the name of the school. With the exception of Snake, none of the original characters remain on the show. Give them credit for avoiding the California University route, although they did send about half of the characters to the same university (the fictional Banting).
- More specifically, this tends to happen with characters who go away to college. They frequently end up coming back to deal with love interests or unresolved situations. As of season 14, however, the only graduated character still appearing is Eli.
- Done by necessity with some characters from Last of the Summer Wine due to the actors' age catching up with them.
- During the final season of The Bob Newhart Show, there are several episodes where Newhart himself has only one scene, which is not shared with any other characters (allowing him to perform one of his trademark one-sided telephone conversations).
- Steven Hill was originally the main star of Mission: Impossible, but partway through the first season, he began returning to his roots of Orthodox Judaism, and begin observant meant he refused to work on the Sabbath. He was downgraded to only appearing in a couple scenes per episode, before being replaced entirely by Peter Graves.
- Though still listed as a main cast member, Lost's Desmond was pretty much commuting on a bus to make brief appearances in a few episodes in the fifth season. Still listed as a main cast member (on the episodes, not in the press releases) in season six... he showed up in the first episode, but didn't show up again until the second half of the season.
- After Don Knotts' departure from The Andy Griffith Show as a regular, his character of Barney Fife was brought back as a guest for at least one episode in each of the remaining seasons.
- Doctor Who:
- After Jack Harkness left the TARDIS and subsequently joined Torchwood, he made return appearances in the third and fourth series' season finales. Similarly, both Martha and Rose returned for the series 4 finale (along with Martha making prior guest appearances in both Doctor Who and Torchwood) after officially "leaving" their roles of companion.
- River Song, after her introduction in "Silence in the Library" hops trips on the TARDIS for an episode or two, only to get off at the end, but she's supposed to be incarcerated so there is a supposed reason. They later establish that she chooses to commute because "one psychopath per TARDIS" is enough.
- A similar thing happened to Roger Delgado's incarnation of the Master. In his first season of Doctor Who, the character turned up in every single serial, from "Terror of the Autons" to "The Dæmons". Then, Delgado, while enjoying the show, became concerned that while officially a guest star, many casting directors considered him a de facto regular cast member of Doctor Who and therefore unavailable for other work. So in the next season dramatically scaled back his appearances, with an eye to making a splashy departure the following season. Due to his untimely death in Turkey, the character was quietly retired for a time.
- This also occurred with the gradual writing out of the UNIT characters in the transition from the "Earth Exile" period of the Letts/Dicks/Pertwee era to the Hinchcliffe/Holmes/Baker era. The stories set in historical or non-Earth/future settings gradually came to outnumber the contemporary Earth stories, and the appearances of the UNIT characters became increasingly perfunctory, until "The Seeds of Doom" became the first contemporary Earth story with no established characters reappearing.
- After K-9 was written out of Doctor Who in "Warriors' Gate", various models of K-9 (although this is played down to the point that non-fans probably don't realise that in-canon there is more than one version of the character) have intermittently appeared in different parts of the franchise, including a period as a regular character in The Sarah Jane Adventures and K9, a short-lived Australian series with little connection to the rest of the franchise due to rights issues.
- Izzie Stevens in the sixth season of Grey's Anatomy.
- After Katey Segal's tragic miscarriage on Married... with Children, where the producers had written her pregnancy into the storyline before being being forced to backtrack, the character of Peg Bundy was instead subjected to this trope during the second and third times Segal became pregnant during the show's run. Both times, Peggy was sent out in search of her missing father, and was only shown in voiceovers talking to her family on the telephone, or only shown in scenes where she didn't have to do anything strenuous and the viewers couldn't see her pregnancy. Happily, Segal's later two pregnancies were both successful, and when she was ready to return to work the producers brought Peggy home, much to Al's chagrin.
- This was done to Emily Prentiss in Season 6 of Criminal Minds, as a result of some extraordinarily ill-advised Executive Meddling. She came back in Season 7.
- On Boy Meets World Alan, Amy, and Morgan Matthews did this during seasons 6 and 7 when the main characters went to college.
- After Richie Cunningham left Happy Days, his friend Potsie remained on the show in various different roles before getting a job working for Mr. Cunningham. His screen time, however, was greatly reduced and he wasn't present in several episodes because the writers struggled to find things for him to do.
- Dustin Brooks is considered a main character on Zoey 101 but appears much less frequently than any of the other characters.
- This happened to Toby in the final season of The West Wing. Understandable, given that Toby had been fired from the White House and so would no longer be naturally interacting with the characters on a day-to-day basis.
- Jorja Fox on CSI. Sara left, then came back, but though she's credited as a regular, she doesn't appear in every single episode.
- Eureka: Several early season regulars became recurring characters in the later seasons, especially Carter's daughter Zoe, who left town to go to college.
- Mulder got this in season 8 of The X-Files before formally getting Put on a Bus for the final season until returning for the series finale. You could make an argument that Scully in a vastly reduced role was commuting during season 9 so they could focus more on Doggett and Reyes.
- The Sopranos: After essentially being the Big Bad for the first season Uncle Junior was gradually phased out as his ailments got worse and worse. In season 5 he only appeared in half of the episodes and the season 6 carted him off to a nursing home where he spent most of his time offscreen. Notably, Junior only appears in two episodes during the final batch of 9 episodes.
- In season 6 Johnny Sacks got put in prison and appeared infrequently before dying of cancer after having been central to the storyline of the previous two seasons.
- Stark in Farscape must be one of the most indecisive examples in history. He was introduced as a guest character towards the end of the first season for a single two-part story, was reintroduced towards the end of the second season and stayed (apart from one episode when he was Not Quite Dead) until towards the end of the third, being a credited regular character in the third. Then he disappeared again until the final arc of the fourth and final full season, and stayed for the Wrap It Up mini-series.
- Bulldog on Frasier. For a long time he was the most important supporting character, appearing in more than 30 episodes during the show's first 7 seasons. Then he was mostly written out of the series when he lost his job as a KACL sports commentator. However, since he got a new job working at the KACL storage room, the writers could still occasionally use Bulldog without needing to explain why he was "back". He had four more appearances during the show's last four seasons.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: After his departure in season 4, Wesley Crusher did this a few times through the rest of the series.
- Harold was co-host of The Red Green Show for the first 8 seasons, appeared in one segment per episode in Season 9, disappeared completely for Season 10, then showed up sporadically (sometimes in his old hosting role) in the final 5 seasons.
- Friday Night Lights: This happened with nearly single original lead character from the series outside the Taylor family, who remained the main characters, and Lyla and Tyra who were both flat out Put on a Bus. Jason and Smash both left a season after being downgraded to this while Matt, Tim, and Landry still made occasional appearances even after no longer being regulars all the way up to the final episode.
- Nate Getz was a main character in Season 1 of NCIS: Los Angeles, but has had only a few appearances per season since then.
- Happens with any show that has actual teenagers playing teenagers—the character going away to college is because their portrayer is as well.
- Very common in 24. Several former main cast members will be downgraded to guest, but still have heavy recurring roles, including Nina Meyers, Sherri Palmer, Tony Almeida, Michelle Dessler, James Heller, Curtis Manning, Charles Logan, Audrey Raines, and Ethan Kanin. On some cases a character will be credited as a regular but only make some recurring appearances (Sherri in Season 2, Tony in Season 5 and Curtis in Season 6), which often led to them being written out shortly after.
- Once Upon a Time has Loads and Loads of Characters who slip in and Out of Focus. Due to the setting, their disappearances are explained as the main cast not seeing them. Archie was a regular in Season 1, but only makes a handful of appearances in other seasons. The Blue Fairy/Mother Superior is another, making a couple of minor appearances in Season 5. Ruby's absence during Season 4 was also explained as her having transported back to the Enchanted Forest offscreen during the events of the Season 3 finale.
- On Gilmore Girls, Luke's nephew Jess was a regular character for two seasons where he pursued and dated Rory Gilmore. However, at the end of season 3, he leaves Stars Hollow for California in an attempt to figure out his life. He guest stars for a few episodes in seasons 4, 6, and the revival.
- Happens to Danny post-season 4 of The Mindy Project. In universe, he and Mindy split up and he moves to another practice.
- WWE wrestler The Undertaker is one of the company's biggest names and has spent over twenty years with the company, but as time has gone on his screen time has been scaled back considerably, due to the multitude of lingering injuries he's picked up over his career. In general it seems he's pretty much limited to showing up during the build to WrestleMania, where he will put his undefeated streak at that event on the line against some other big-name talent, with some other sporadic appearances throughout the year. Given how popular he is, and the fact that his recent matches at Wrestlemania have been generally considered the best matches of the show, fans tend not to have a problem with this.
- In 1998-2001 WCW, Meng would get built up as a threat, lose to, say, Goldberg and then disappear again. This happened several times.
- Chris Jericho, ever since the end of his second WWE run, only appears in yearly six-month runs, due to focusing more on his band Fozzy and other ventures. Much in the vein of the Undertaker, Chris doesn't get as much flak as other part-timers such as, say, Brock Lesnar, because when he does come back, he goes all out. He does house shows, appears on RAW every week, and puts over younger talent. He hasn't even held a world title since 2010, as he is much happier to give the younger talent the spot.
- Dramatic Dream Team: Kota Ibushi due to a dual priority contract with New Japan Pro Wrestling.
- In the late 1980's and 1990's, Frank Oz' busy movie director schedule put limits on how often his classic Muppet characters appeared in new projects. Bert, Grover and Cookie Monster appeared in less new material for later seasons of Sesame Street, while The Jim Henson Hour and Muppets Tonight reduced Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Animal to occasional guest appearances. This has been more-or-less reversed now that Oz has retired from the Muppets and his characters have been recast to full-time performers.
- The Koopalings in the Super Mario Bros. series have been subject to this. Appearing extensively since they were introduced, they disappeared after their Hotel Mario role. Since then, they have appeared sporadically, aside from remakes.
- Starting with the fifth installment of Mario Party, Donkey Kong was demoted from a playable character to a star-giving NPC. He only returned to playable status in Mario Party 10, over a decade later.
- After a temporary promotion to playable character for the fifth and sixth installments, Koopa Kid was demoted back down to NPC for the seventh and disappearing completely after that, his role being handed over to Bowser Jr.
- Between the first Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong 64, Donkey Kong's role was reduced to a Distressed Dude, only showing up at the end of the game.
- In Backyard Baseball 2007, Amir, Gretchen, and Stephanie became like this. Then they were dropped from the series.
- The King of Fighters pushes the protagonist of the previous arc into this role for the following arc. Kyo's importance to the plot during the Orochi saga was downgraded to make room for K' in the NESTS saga and then K' himself moved down to make way for Ash Crimson in the Tales of Ash arc. After being demoted the character continues to add to the story (Kyo was used as a base for a series of clones in the NESTS arc and K' got to fight Mukai in 2003) but it's the current main character who gets the spotlight and wraps up the saga.
- This has been instantly subverted with the end of the Tales of Ash arc in XIII: Ash removed himself from time at the end of XIII, meaning that there will be no commuting via bus for him.
- Most of the supporting cast from the Sonic the Hedgehog series has gotten this treatment. This trend is most noticeable with Sonic Colors and Sonic Lost World, as Sega shifted from its Loads and Loads of Characters approach to having Sonic as the only playable character, with Tails as support and Dr. Eggman as the primary antagonist in both games. The supporting cast returned in Sonic Generations as NPCs, and while Sonic Boom had a few series staples, it was still scaled back compared to the two Sonic Adventure games.
- Arguably, John in Out There. He certainly seems like a main character during the strip's initial 6-7 months (he's in almost every strip), but once he and Miriam reach Portstown, we start to see him far less frequently; sometimes several weeks will go by between his appearances.
- The latter can be said for all the other characters aside from Miriam, though; the only difference is John's first "co-starring" arc is at the very beginning of the strip, and lasts for a long time. It seems to establish him as a main character when perhaps all it really establishes is the pattern of long arcs starring Miriam and one of her supporting characters. Sherry, for instance, has a co-starring arc of about the same length a year later.
- Homestuck: Vriska and Tavros became this since they died. They still show up occasionally, but much, much less than they used to, particularly in the case of Vriska, who was something of a Spotlight-Stealing Squad for a while. Also, the exiles had a fairly big role early in the comic, but slowly drifted further and further Out of Focus until WV and PM probably fill this trope now.
- Also, Gamzee appeared less often after being calmed down by Karkat. He's begun appearing more after the beginning of Act 6 Act 3, when he suddenly showed up on Jane's planet. Since then he's been popping up in all sorts of weird places.
- John Egbert. He started off as the main viewpoint character of the comic, but his plot significance has diminished to the point where he's now at the periphery of the action. John's former Lancer Dave and Foil Karkat have basically supplanted him as the male leads.
- In Precocious, Xander transferred to a private school, but still appears in the comic just about as often as he did before.
- Bree and Taylor on lonelygirl15.
- Pvt. Donut and Doc frequently flit in and out of Red vs. Blue. In Donut's case, it's because his voice actor, Dan Godwin, notoriously refused to quit his day job and join Rooster Teeth Productions, and only appears as Donut when it's convenient to his personal schedule (by comparison, the rest of Red Vs Blue's principal cast and crew either work at Rooster Teeth or are full-time actors). The result is that Donut can go from being a regular character to recurring to completely absent within the space of a few seasons.
- X-Men: Evolution: Spyke is major character in seasons one and two. In season three, he up and joins the Morlocks early on, and only makes one reappearance before the Grand Finale two-parter.
- Luanne on King of the Hill was in nearly all the episodes for the first three seasons. When she moved into her own house midway through the fourth season she was quietly changed to a recurring character, often not appearing for weeks unless the episode was specifically focused on her. Later on in the series she was upgraded again and became a semi-regular, appearing in about half the episodes.
- In the first season, Beast only appears sporadically, because he's in prison. At the end of the season, he gets out, and becomes a regular from then on.
- In season 2, Professor X and Magneto are trapped in the Savage Land and left powerless at the end of the 2-part premiere, so after that we see the two of them every episode or two wandering around it for a few minutes before things switch back to the main action.
- During the second season of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!, the Incredible Hulk gets arrested in the ninth episode, for a rampage actually caused by Red Hulk. Hulk becomes pardoned 13 episodes later, but decides to sort some personal things out before becoming a full-time Avenger again. Frustratingly, the Opening Narration still calls Hulk an Avenger during his absence.
- Sheriff Terrorbull, also known as The Masked Bull, was phased out of the second season of Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa when season two's first episode "No Face to Hide" ended with him being exiled from Cowtown after Marshal Moo Montana captured and unmasked the real Shock Holliday. In spite of this, he did return for a few more episodes that revealed he became the sheriff of a deserted town called Lonesome Gulch.