"The Simpsons no longer marks the elevation of the sitcom formula to its highest form. Episodes that once would have ended with Homer and Marge bicycling into the sunset (perhaps while Bart gagged in the background) now end with Homer blowing a tranquilizer dart into Marge's neck."The Tone Shift that a show goes through when its plots become increasingly exaggerated and cartoonish. Most often happens with shows whose initial premise is mundane, and ostensibly could take place in the real world, begin to gradually take in tropes from more elaborate genre fiction until the show is at a point where it no longer resembles its pilot episode at all. This is similar to Cerebus Syndrome, except that instead of working on tone this trope increases the density and zaniness of literal plot elements, often requiring a greater Willing Suspension of Disbelief and viewer concentration level in order to succeed. This trope is typically used as a ratings grab. For a show that's losing appeal, it's much easier to instantly come up with wacky plot elements than it is to invest time in more complex character nuance. As with much Executive Meddling, this motivation doesn't exactly have much basis in reality — most Long Runners either don't undergo this process at all, or do so only when they're about to be canceled. Oftentimes, fans appreciate good consistency in tone. Shows up fairly often in adaptation, particularly Animated Adaptations, as this is an easy way to demonstrate how a show is different from its parent program. If the author takes advantage of established series elements that have gathered over time, then it's Continuity Creep. Often a reason for Jumping the Shark, or, in some cases, Growing the Beard. Compare Lighter and Softer, Reverse Cerebus Syndrome, Kudzu Plot. Contrast Darker and Edgier.
— Slate Magazine, The Simpsons: Who turned America's best TV show into a cartoon?
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Anime and Manga
- This happened to manga works of Fujio Akatsuka a lot. His comics such as Osomatsu-kun, Moretsu Ataro, and Tensai Bakabon were always comedic (although Ataro was originally more dramatic), but they both started out as being down to earth, but gradually became more and more insane with nonsensical, slapstick-heavy gags. In addition, this happened when all three promoted a Breakout Character and eventually pushed the main characters aside.
- Lupin III: The art style of the Lupin III (Pink Jacket) series is this to the rest of the franchise. It says something when a character who is known for being just this side of possible evokes an "are they smoking something?" feel. While the plots are no weirder than in the past, the new 1980's style of drawing the characters makes a lot of fans give up before the character designs become more consistent later in the show.
- An In-Universe example from Yu-Gi-Oh! is the Blue-Eyes Toon Dragon, a Toon version of the Blue-Eyes White Dragon. Seto Kaiba was not amused to have Pegasus turn his trademark monster into an animated abomination with Popeye biceps. There's also Toon Summoned Skull, which is somehow even creepier than the original, especially when it gets flirtatious.
- The Kaiba Corp Grand Prix filler arc, compared to the other filler arcs, and even the canon ones, which generally had little to no wackiness whatsoever. Not to mention that this was fresh off of the more serious DOMA filler arc. Also, how can you take a NON-ANTHROPOMORPHIC WOLF dressed in old lady clothes that attacks by eating the opponent's monster in one bite seriously?
- The Carnival Phantasm OVA takes almost every character from two of the most violent and depressing sagas in the H-Game industry and puts them into a zany and comedic Gag Series. The results are very funny, partly because of the dissonance.
- The Black Cat manga started out with its deviations from "realism" being mostly limited to creative liberties taken with gun use—then the plots got more and more convoluted, and by the end science with downright supernatural effects was commonplace.
- This is the main reason some people get turned off by Samurai Flamenco. It starts out as a slice of life. After episode 7, being a Tokusatsu hero becomes Serious Business.
- Team Rocket's characterization in the Advanced series of Pokémon. However, this lasted until the Best Wishes series.
- An in-universe example in the comic series Supreme. A comic book writer has acquired powers based on one's personality. Supreme points out that he's a British comic book writer, and he'll just grow more and more complex until he becomes a convoluted mess. This was likely a Take That directed at the trend of British comic book writers who tried to create complex story lines that just didn't stop. (Such as Alan Moore.)
- Marville has an example that's weird because the increased wackiness is the result of the comic trying to be serious and philosophical. The first two issues are a Shallow Parody of comic books. From the third to fifth, the protagonists travel back in time looking after God, and then with someone who might be Him witness the origins of life, dinosaurs and primitive humans (with the first man being Wolverine) while spewing nonsensical "science".
- The two issues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures written and illustrated by Milton Knight, they're more cartoony, bizarre, and surreal compared to most of the other issues, the art is like the Fred Wolf cartoon as if it were animated by John Kricfalusi and Max and Dave Fleischer.
- Big Trouble in Little China is this compared to the movie. There's more of an emphasis on the comedy aspects of the story, Jack Burton is less Straight Man and more The Fool, the Masquerade is so paper thin that it seems everyone must be idiots for not noticing that magic and monsters are all around them, and Jack is able to screw with and get the better of the villains much more easily.
- Several of the Batman comics from the 1950's and 60's are very bizarre and surreal, some stories involved a magical being named Batmite who's Batman's biggest fan and can alter reality, others included stories where Batman becomes a toddler and fights crime, Batman and Robin being turned into paper thin beings by a multicolored monster, Batman becoming a genie, etc.
- What do you get when you give bunch of fangirls access to the Internet? A whole lot of Crack Fics.
- In terms of Ed, Edd n Eddy fanfiction, any incarnation of "A Fanfic By Ed" (which were all over a few EEnE fan-sites before they were taken down at the moment) qualifies as such Crack Fiction, because these are fanfics written by Ed. Said fanfics have Ed make several crossovers, Bowser eating somebody (usually Ronald McDonald), random characters saying "Play something else, kids! [X] is a bad man!" and "Poof!", and Eddy or an Author Avatar telling Ed to stop the fanfic. Here's an example.
- Total Drama Returns is stuffed to the gills with ridiculously over-the-top Flanderization, gratuitous fourth-wall breaking, insane amounts of Refuge in Audacity and so many running gags it's impossible to count them all. And we wouldn't have it any other way.
- The Meg's Family Series, which was a Meg-centric Family Guy fanfic that lasted from 2007 to 2010, was almost entirely faithful to the show's run at the time. As soon as Meg and Zack's daughter Maddie is born, several storylines became chock-full of elements regarding this trope, such as Maddie's future self being an Action Girl, an entire chapter centered around the tank from the episode Hell Comes to Quahog, Peter and Zack switching minds, and the Corvette from Christine that becomes obsessed with Peter and tries to kill Lois.
- TehPenguinz is a Club Penguin fanfic which is this taken to the point of In Name Only. The story centers on the conflict between the "Espi", a group of electrical techno-mages, and "Tyce's Gang". "Donut's Clan" is a third, much less plot-important entity which seems to encompass everything which actually exists in canon. The story contains, in no particular order, magic gateways to other worlds, a legion of "pwnage kittens", a number of magical guinea pigs, what is implied to be some kind of Fantastic Nuke, and an exceedingly bizarre Layered World system. Yet it somehow all started with Club Penguin...?
- Child of the Storm is a (mostly) Darker and Edgier variant of this. The first few chapters have plenty of whacky moments, and a few more strewn through the rest of the story. It is near ridiculously dense.
Films — Animated
- An American Tail: Fievel Goes West most definitely qualifies for this trope, what with the rubbery animation and any of Tiger's scenes, both courtesy of Amblimation note . Starkly different from the first movie, which was a musical adventure about hard times (i.e. immigration, separation, and a war between mice and cats).
- The Ice Age film series. The first two movies had a lot of comedy and their share of silly moments, but they didn't go too over the top. The plots were fairly serious and believable enough (well, as believable as one could get in a movie about talking animals). Starting with "Dawn of the Dinosaurs", however, they have become this. Even the scenes with Scrat have gotten more cartoony over the course of the films.
- DreamWorks Animation began as Jeffery Katzenberg's serious attempt to compete with Disney, putting out some very edgy films like The Prince of Egypt, Antz and, in collaboration with Aardman, Chicken Run. As soon as the self-referential, potty-mouthed and pop-culture heavy Shrek became a mega Sleeper Hit, DreamWorks completely did away with the heavy stuff (as well as their traditional animation unit) and spent the better part of the Turn of the Millennium making the same movie over and over. Recently, they've attempted to remedy this with more sophisticated films like How to Train Your Dragon and Rise of the Guardians, but Turbo proves that old habits die hard.
- Tangled had a follow up short Tangled Ever After, which was 7 minutes of mostly slapstick, where the original spread out the slapstick over the longer running time.
- Frozen's follow up Frozen Fever was a lot sillier than the source film, especially given the consequences of Elsa's powers this time causes mischief instead of danger.
- In development, The Emperors New Groove was originally a standard Disney musical called Kingdom of the Sun. Eventually it was retooled into a goofy buddy comedy.
Films — Live-Action
- The first Evil Dead film is a fairly straight horror movie, playing every scare and monster as a serious threat and highlighting it's cast as "normal" college age kids in over their heads. The second movie began to mix in more slapstick and cartoon-y elements, using over-the-top sets in place of actual locations and turning BruceCampbell's Ash Williams from an everyday guy into a shotgun wielding quipmaster by the end of the movie. Then, in the third film, he's fighting cartoon skeletons and an evil undead version of himself in medieval Europe through the use of Three Stooges style slapstick and references to 50s sci-fi films.
- After the first two Rocky movies, Sylvester Stallone took over as director, leading to Rocky III and especially Rocky IV. The third movie had Rocky fighting Mr T and Hulk Hogan, while the fourth one starts with a robot at Paulie's birthday party. Then the series got serious again.
- The third The Neverending Story film lacked the whimsy of the first two movies, had absolutely no dramatic weight to it, and the antagonist was, instead of a legitimately threatening menace, Jack Black as the leader of a gang of bullies. However, this movie isn't canon to the original book like the previous installments (each adapts a different half of the book).
- Piranha 3D was definitely a tongue in cheek horror B-Movie but relatively little of it was played for outright comedy; Piranha 3DD on the other hand has a lot more jokes and a lot fewer scares.
- The Fast & Furious series. The Fast and the Furious was pretty much a straight cop drama that revolved around the world of street racing. Starting with 2 Fast 2 Furious, the focus shifted to the cars themselves, to the point where The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift was almost entirely about the racing. Then, with Fast & Furious, it took another change in tone, this time becoming an over the top action flick, while Fast Five somehow took it even further to the point where it was just another completely absurd action movie that's closer to something like The Transporter. Certainly a far cry from the first movie's original cop drama format.
- Die Hard had John McClane going from "everyman action hero trapped with baddies" to "Made of Iron action hero wrecking havoc in various places". It gets even worse in the fifth movie, which goes to Russia and barely gives room for John to be a Deadpan Snarker.
- The Bowery Boys movies went from gritty urban melodramas with a substantial dose of comedy to broad and outlandish slapstick adventures with plenty of Applied Phlebotinum.
- Gremlins was a dark comedy about frightening, mischievous creatures with plenty of violent and disturbing scenes that along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was the reason the PG-13 rating was made. Gremlins 2: The New Batch, despite rated PG-13; was much sillier than it's predecessor. It featured fourth wall jokes, pop culture references, as well as poking fun at the first movie. The movie even starts with the opening shot of a Looney Tunes cartoon where Daffy Duck steals the spotlight from Bugs Bunny.
- The supernatural killer from the first A Nightmare on Elm Street film was named just Fred Krueger, and was taciturn, creepy and imposing. In the sequels he became known as Freddy and turned at first darkly comedic and then just comedic, killing his victims in increasingly zany and bizarre ways (the top was probably using the Power Glove to kill a kid turned into a videogame), and acting much more like a cruel jokester.
- The Emmanuelle soft-core film franchise started off being based upon an autobiographical book, but later became increasingly wacky, with plots including extreme plastic surgery, time travel, and cannibals. They even made Emmanuelle in Space.
- The original Anchorman was pretty silly, with its lampooning of local news, 70's related gags and the brawl between the News Teams. The sequel, Anchorman 2, cranks it Up to Eleven, including a subplot involving Ron Burgundy adopting a pet Shark after being blinded to the final battle which includes a soul sucking Stonewall Jackson and Harrison Ford turning into a were-hyena. Needless to say, this trope was in full force with this sequel.
- The first Guyver film adaptation is a bizarre half-example. There were clearly two conflicting visions for the movie: one as a straight adaptation of the very dark and violent source material, and one as a more lighthearted, slapstick-y adaptation geared towards children. The result is a film that would regularly and awkwardly transition from violent deaths to goofy slapstick with cartoony music.
- Blues Brothers 2000 compared to the original The Blues Brothers, while the original was an over the top comedy it was far more realistic than the the sequel which featured undead horse riders flying through the air during a musical number, a voodoo priestess who turns several soldiers and police officers into rats, and the band temporarily turning into zombies.
- Sharknado was already a wacky movie, from the silly premise to the cheesy characters and acting and the over-the-top ways they killed off both humans and sharks. But Sharknado 2: The Second One takes it even further, with ridiculous celebrity cameos, the folks at The Weather Channel giving straight-faced reports on the shark storm, the hero of the first film becoming a Badass who at one point ends up sucked into the Sharknado and forced to chainsaw through the sharks in midair, and an even greater Sharknado of Puns.
- While previous installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe had their moments of wackiness, Guardians of the Galaxy is almost entirely consisted of odd and crazy set-pieces. It does have its moments of seriousness, but overall the film does not take itself too seriously. Having a talking raccoon as one of the leads tends to do that.
- Compared to Mazes and Monsters, Skullduggery is pretty much this for the Anti-D&D films. Where as Mazes and Monsters presents the protagonist's tabletop gaming-induced madness like an actual psychosis, Skullduggery instead says "turns out this guy was the reincarnation of this warlock and a creepy magician dude had him remember his past life". From there, it just gets crazier, from a janitor with a tic-tac-toe game on his back, a nurse who tries to come onto the protagonist, and a bunch of quirky characters.
- The original Godzilla was a deadly serious anti-war movie which used a giant monster as a metaphor for the horror of the atomic bomb, obviously a risky subject in Japan just 9 years after WWII. The followup, Godzilla Raids Again, was also pretty dark but not as well-made or successful, so the series was put on hold for a while. When it finally came back after seven years, it was in the form of King Kong vs. Godzilla, which is a very goofy comedy that happens to have giant monsters. The series would flirt with serious themes every now and again for the next two decades, but in general it played up the comedy and silliness more and more as time went on, hitting its peak in the early '70s, which saw Godzilla flying and TALKING, basically turning the franchise into a live-action cartoon. When the series was rebooted in the '80s, it went back to the serious nature of the early films and has mostly stayed there ever since.
- The Tales of the City series started off being very slice-of-life. The most outlandish things in the original book were D'orothea's efforts to pose as a black woman and the pedophilic private eye. The second book, in contrast, had a cannibal cult. And then the third book had one of the main characters having a sexual encounter with a real-life closeted movie star (whose name was thus left blank) and a plot involving Reverend Jim Jones.
- Doctor Who Expanded Universe:
Stories deeper, wider, firmer, plumper, perkier, yellower, crispier and with more incredible bad jokes than you can shake a stick at, the New Adventures take the TARDIS into previously unexplored realms of taste and stupidity.
- Doctor Who New Adventures's mission was to push the envelope on stories that could be told in novel form, but none did it quite like the novel "Sky Pirates!" which even replaced the usual blurb with:
- The Eighth Doctor Adventures started off full of lush gothic horror and realistic drama. By book five, they started suddenly retconning the TV series and getting a bit... odd. By book six, all realism was unceremoniously thrown out the window and the novels collectively became insane.
- Supernatural flip flops this trope. While the show pulls no punches in reminding you how crapsack it is it also has its wacky moments when a breather episode comes up. Like when Sam and Dean were hunting a Monster of the Week pretending to be Dracula. While in full black and white. Then the Channel Chasers episode.
- Happy Days: The actual shark-jumping episode is a good example. Picture the premise of the show — how the Cunningham family was so gosh-darn swell back in the fifties. Now, reconcile that image with Fonzie water-skiing over sharks to overcome his fear of them, and you can see how Jumping the Shark became a Trope Namer.
- Seinfeld became this once Larry David resigned from writing duties after Season Seven. The plots became more cartoonish and fast-paced, the characters became even MORE jerkish and self-centered, and the humor was less subtle. A good example of how much the show changed in its last two seasons is the S8 episode "The Bizarro Jerry", which centers on Elaine hanging out with somebody who's literally Jerry's exact opposite, Jerry dating a woman with the hands of a man, George concocting a manipulative-even-for-him scheme to get into an exclusive women's club, and Kramer getting a job.
- Family Matters starts out as a mundane sitcom, but succumbed to this trope as a result of Steve Urkel, who got initially got into plots with his suave, handsome, scientifically induced alter ego Stefan until the end of the series featured him traveling into space. Steve Urkel being the harbinger of these changes was likely incidental, since an Extraverted Nerd does not require fantastic elements in order to function.
- The down to earth family sitcom ended with genetic engineering, cloning, and teleportation being regular elements of the plot.
- Farscape started off as a Wagon Train to the Stars that was only slightly wackier than usual, but from the last few episodes of the first season the writers really started pushing the boat out both in terms of Cerebus Syndrome and in how crazy the situations they put the characters into became. Among mainstream TV shows, it's probably rivalled only by the Doctor Who franchise for how close canon episodes got to what are usually Crack Fic concepts. And it mostly did this while still keeping the stories emotionally significant.
- Actually, by Word Of God Farscape was intended to be an anti-Star Trek, so less Wagon Train to the Stars and more like The Real World in SPACE!. The dysfunction was written in from the start, and much of the increasing craziness was a result of the writers testing just how far they could push the boundaries.
- The Office in the USA rolls with this, though not quite as badly as some other shows. The first two seasons (really the first season, but what was technically the first season was stunted), portrayed a fairly realistic day-to-day workplace with a Pointy-Haired Boss, who, while on the extreme of what should be firing offenses, was fairly realistic in his incompetence, but later seasons saw a more ironclad Contractual Immortality take place for many characters, especially Ryan, Michael, Dwight, and (in one case) Meredith.
- Lois and Clark began as a sort of office comedy interspliced with Clark's super heroics. Though the main duo stayed more or less grounded in domestic reality, their surroundings became more akin to the silver age comics, with wacky villains, time travel, magic and clones galore.
- Smallville followed a similar path in its later run: Whereas the show's first half focused on sleepy Americana life being confronted by X-Files weirdness (even featuring a show called "X-Styles" with disgraced muckraker Perry White), the second half was very much in tune with the comics.... Though some of its takes on the classic DCU characters was pretty dark and violent.
- Married... with Children became this once the second season rolled around, with one episode focusing on Al going to extremes to kill a mouse. The shift in tone became more noticeable as soon as Jefferson marries Marcy after Steve left her, and stays that way for the rest of the series.
- The last 2 seasons of Full House had several subplots that fell into this trope, i.e. the guys hawking Jesse's new invention that keeps hair out of someone's face, the family getting addicted to Michelle's new Super NES game, Jesse trying to keep his blood pressure down even though there's an ostrich in Kimmy Gibbler's yard, etc.
- The TV adaptation of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is much denser and wackier than the original movie, with stuff such as talking about foot odor, aliens that eat with their butts, and clowns.
- Thirty Rock gets sillier with each season. Back in the pilot, Jack's official job title being "Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming" was about the only especially unrealistic aspect of the show. Now Surreal Humor in the form of weird, off-the-wall stuff (up to and including having one character be literally immortal) is a regular feature of the series, and convoluted, interrelated multi-episode arcs are common...and the series widely accepted to be much better for it.
Jack: (referring to the Obama-Romney election) Pennsylvania is Obama's. The voting machines there have become sentient, and are strongly in favor of gay marriage.
- Boy Meets World got like this in season 7, especially when you compare it to the more serious season 6. While it had several serious episodes and some realistic plotlines, it also had a lot of convoluted and wacky plotlines, especially the Jack and Eric ones. For example one plotline involved Eric gaining the ability to see into the future whenever he sneezes and Jack trying to use this power to win the lottery. Luckily, this was the show's final season.
- Super Sentai had two: Gekisou Sentai Carranger and Engine Sentai Goonger, both of which were car-themed Affectionate Parody seasons.
- Frasier did this right — after a first season that was very well-written, but quiet, sensible, slow-moving, and rather Cheers-ish in style, the second season amped the show up into a full-blown theatrical Farce and perfected its trademark blend of ludicrously overblown plots, highbrow wit, and slapstick, which it marinated in (and scooped many, many Emmys for) until it started losing momentum in season nine.
- Happened in Doctor Who, but so long ago that it's basically been forgotten. The Edutainment Show stuff is pretty much gone; Series 6 alone featured clones, an I Am Your Father twist, memory loss, dinosaurs in modern London and space pirates.
- Not that it took long. The second serial was "The Daleks".
- The difference between William Hartnell's period and Patrick Troughton's period is this - Troughton's portrayal of the Doctor went from The Wonka into The Mad Hatter, the show dropped the more realistic "pure historical" and hard sci-fi story formats to concentrate on monsters, and (due to it being The Sixties) elements of psychedelia began to influence the show more prominently - particularly apparent in "The Krotons" and "The Mind Robber". Cerebus Rollercoaster also enhanced the wackiness, because although the Doctor was now a lot sillier and Played for Laughs more of the time, pure horror serials became a lot more common - the First Doctor only had three in his whole tenure (the very short Bottle Episodes "The Edge of Destruction" and "Mission to the Unknown", and his very last story, "The Tenth Planet"), but just under half of the Second Doctor's stories were horror.
- Another example was the period in the mid-to-late 1970s where due to a combination of having even less budget than usual, constant BBC strikes, the Large Ham lead actor Tom Baker being allowed to do whatever the hell he wanted, a script editor who loved Surreal Humour and would constantly add it into everything he touched, and Moral Guardians cracking down on the usual Doctor Who strategy for generating horror cheaply (Gorn and screaming) all led to two seasons of truly demented monster ideas that were selected by cost-effectivity and a tone the press at the time found too flippant to make you care about anyone, but too dark to be funny. Though one of the stories made during this period ("City of Death") is considered to be one of the best, if not the best ever Classic Doctor Who story.
- Nu-Who - Season 5, the first season with the Eleventh Doctor, was more comprehensible and lighter-hearted to a child audience than the later seasons of the Tenth Doctor. But in Season 6, this trope hit in full force, the whole season being an extremely convoluted time travel paradox arc centering around very un-child-friendly topics like pregnancy Body Horror, the sex life of a character's parents, and the Doctor getting married to a woman who had met him long after he had already met her (Timey-Wimey Ball). Season 7 dialed it back a bit, though not as far as Eleven's tenure started out.
- Ugly Betty became a full-blown farce starting about Series 3 and the ratings plummeted.
- Downton Abbey started to do this, after a fashion, in Series 2. While Series 1 was a fairly light-hearted Edwardian Comedy Of Manners, the second series featured all kinds of Soap Opera elements, including a murder frame-up, interlocking love triangles, miraculous recovery from horrific injuries, and all manner of other bizarre occurrences. Semi-justified in that Series 2 is set during and immediately after World War I—life was strange then.
- The first few episodes of Community were fairly textbook sitcom material, but over the course of the first season the absurdity was played up. The second season turns this trope on full blast, and the third, controversially, turned it Up to Eleven.
- Kamen Rider Den-O would come into mind. Kamen Rider shows before it are generally more serious in tone.
- How I Met Your Mother started out mostly grounded sitcom, with only a few really overly silly elements, and as it went on roughly around season 2-3 just started to become a lot more over the top and cartoonish, also intentionally banking on the Unreliable Narrator elements to show things Ted were describing in-universe as a lot more outlandish than they actually were. Some fans feel that the more recent seasons may have taken things a bit too far though.
- Night Court increasingly became more fueled by jokes than by plot.
- Friends gradually became this after the Ross/Rachel breakup in S3. The characters became more cartoonish, the plots became sillier (particularly those involving Joey and Ross), and drama was significantly cut down. By S6, the show had more-or-less completed its transformation from "off beat sitcom about six 20-something New Yorkers trying to get by in life" to "fast-paced sitcom about six buffoonish New Yorkers acting silly/goofy for 30 minutes."
- Played with in Warehouse 13. Many of the artifacts had terrible consequences, and they were never unwilling to be serious. However, some of the artifacts started to become even more and more silly as time went on, among them an artifact that traps people inside a Mexican Soap Opera, Walt Disney's pen, and an artifact that summons a bunch of dancing showgirls that chase down people (while singing and dancing.)
- One Thousand Ways To Die was initially pretty macabre and made for somewhat uncomfortable viewing. Later, the series became much less serious, portraying the victims as buffoonish acceptable targets like stoners, narcissists and perverts and having many over-the-top elements to make the tone more comedic.
- Scrubs started as a very subdued Slice of Life medical sitcom, more similar to shows like The Royle Family and The Office (US) with the nominal gimick that the lead character narrated his life. Over time it transitioned into a more standard American sitcom and then into something almost as wacky as The Simpsons.
- FoxTrot went this route. The drawing style was always cartoonish, but in the early years the characters and storylines were well-grounded in reality. Starting in the '90s, the style of humor became increasingly cartoonish and all traces of realism vanished.
- Candorville: This is probably better than Cerebus Syndrome as a description of what's happened. Formerly a slow-paced Doonesbury clone with a bit of Magical Realism thrown in, it's introduced vampires, soul-eating demons, and at least two factions competing to rule the world—but even now that characters are getting killed, the whole thing is still Played for Laughs.
- In The Sixties, Dick Tracy started introducing a ton of sci-fi elements including "Moon People". Once original author Chester Gould left the strip, they were quickly written out. The only remnant of the era Honeymoon Tracy, the daughter of the Moon Queen and Dick's adopted son, Junior Tracy, is still around, but we don't talk about who mom was. In 2013 creative team Joe Staton and Mike Curtis reintroduced Moon Maid via Cloning Blues. The other moon people are gone, though, their city in ruins.
- Though the first Serious Sam wasn't exactly serious to begin it with, it still had a relatively realistic art-style and cartoonish but not that out-there Standard FPS Guns. Then came Serious Sam II, which had things like a world based on fairy tales, a kamikaze parrot as a weapon and redesigned the hero to make him more cartoonish. However, the third game went Darker and Edgier.
- The creators of Team Fortress 2 realized that if they wanted their First-Person Shooter's gameplay and art style to match, they would have to drastically distance themselves from the feel of the first game, and take absolutely nothing seriously. It worked.
- Done in-game after the Pyromania update with the Pyro. Any of the new items for the Pyro, or anyone wearing the pyrovision goggles, shows that the Pyro sees their weapons as handing out rainbows, sparkles and bubbles. People laugh as they lay down to take naps while covered in dancing colors, and the landscape (of certain maps) filled with lollipops and happy clouds.
- The original Earthworm Jim was already wacky, but its sequel went off the deep end - for example, its third level featured Jim as a cave salamander floating through a pinball bumper- and pencil-studded intestine while shooting inflated sheep on his way to a nonsensical game show at the level's end. Thankfully, it actually worked. After that, Earthworm Jim 3D on the N64 (developed by a different team) descended into infantile "random" gags and Bubsy the Bobcat-quality puns.
- Sonic Colors, compared to some of the earlier titles before it, is definitely more cartoony and surreal in its plot and dialogue.
- Sonic Generations, while not as dense or wacky as Colors, is still obviously denser and wackier than the other Sonic games.
- To a certain extent, Sonic Unleashed. While still relatively serious, the game took a very lighthearted turn in comparison to previous games, with the addition of Chip, a lot more comic relief, more cartoony cutscenes and humans designed to look more like they came out of a Pixar movie.
- Sonic Heroes is probably the most egregious example, being much lighter than its darker, more serious predecessors.
- Dead Rising has a variant, in that its plot stays the same - serious, but with comedic bits tossed in. With each installment, however, the weapons get more insane - the second featured things like a lightsaber made from jewels and a flashlight, to chainsaws strapped to boat paddles, to an electric wheelchair with machine guns. The third game allows you to make your own death-machine vehicle. The Dead Rising 3 DLC announced in Summer 2014, Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha, seems to be shooting straight for the highest density of wackiness possible, allowing for four-player co-op gameplay and parodying just about everything that's ever had to do with Capcom, including Capcom Sequel Stagnation, with a lack of seriousness that wouldn't be too out of place in Saints Row IV.
- Saints Row started off as just a slightly wackier Grand Theft Auto clone about gang warfare, but its second installment began introducing outlandish minigames like streaking naked, driving a sewage truck spraying gunk everywhere to devalue property, riding a quad while on fire, and so on. The third game goes completely nuts, with a cyberspace level, futuristic VTOL jets and hoverbikes, a vehicle that sucks people up and shoots them out of a cannon, zombies, and so on. The fourth game takes it Up to Eleven by featuring an alien invasion, superpowers that would make Alex Mercer weep with envy, weaponized dubstep and the main character becoming the President of United States. The preorder DLC pack includes patriotic hardware such as an eagle shaped jet and the "all guns in one" weapon.
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert started out as a more grounded in reality World War Two-based version of The Tiberian Series. Then we had Red Alert 2, which introduced mind control, flying saucers, a giant brain in a tank, attack dolphins and giant squid. Red Alert 3 just drops any idea of being serious and adds in a IFV that launches infantry out of a cannon, Attack Bears also launchable from the same IFV, Animeland Japan with giant mechs, the Mister Freeze Corps, magnetic satellites, S.H.R.I.N.K. beams, and Emperor Takei. Oh my!
- Metal Gear:
- Metal Gear 1 played like a relatively subdued action movie, with some sci-fi elements and a pinch of ridiculous comedy. The action, sci-fi and humour was all generally done more obviously and with more verve in Metal Gear 2, which added political subtext to the mix. Metal Gear Solid added supernatural elements, like psychics and ghosts, that are just accepted as part of the universe of the games. By Metal Gear Solid 2, outrageously complicated conspiracy antics and vampires become involved, and every boss in Metal Gear Solid 3 has some kind of supernatural power (and explodes after being killed). By Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots the setting is pure sci-fi, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker has Turing Test-passing AI, magic, singing tanks, dinosaur-like monsters and mp3 players in 1974 and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance replaces the hangover of relatively subdued violence for completely stylised over the top Bayonetta-esque antics.
- Gaiden Game Metal Gear Ac!d is, like it says on the title, Metal Gear on acid. It's actually not that much weirder, but is a Genre Shift to card-based Strategy RPG (in gameplay) and exaggerates the supernatural elements in the plot to almost Gothic Horror levels (making use of Jekyll & Hyde, Technically Living Zombies, Mad Scientists, Fairy Tale elements, tragic kidnapped pale little girls with Psychic Powers, Creepy Dolls, and lots of Psychological Horror). The character design shows a distinctly more outrageous, Animesque aesthetic than the main series (especially Teliko's Costume Exaggeration of Snake's Sneaking Suit).
- The Call of Duty games started out as a relatively restrained and realistic war time era shooter but grew more outlandish over time with the Modern Warfare and Black Ops spin offs moving the setting into the near future and the inclusion of the Nazi Zombies bonus mode which well... has Nazi Zombies.
- An IGN article even says something in the likes of this for why the franchise would be First Installment Wins. The original employed a understated "docudrama" style, with realism and putting the player in historical battles while "work[ing] hard to make sure you felt like a small part of a bigger story, like the proverbial Cannon Fodder you really were." The current Cash Cow Franchise goes for instead an overblown macho Summer Blockbuster starring characters that wouldn't be out of place in an eighties action film.
- Koei's Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors have gotten like this. The launch titles for the "Musou" games, as they're known in Japan, mostly focused on basic armed combat on foot and some mounted combat, featuring entirely reasonable costume design. Come later titles, however, attacks have gotten flashier, new, supernatural abilities have been introduced, and costumes have gotten more absurd. Strikeforce is possibly one of the weirdest incarnations of the Dynasty Warriors series thanks to the introduction of what can only be described as powered up super modes for every character in the game. The two series arguably met a mutual crescendo of denser and wackier with the Warriors Orochi series, which takes the concept of both Massively Multiplayer Crossover and Loads and Loads of Characters and ramps them both Up to Eleven. It has also taken on shades of Crisis Crossover as of Warriors Orochi 3.
- Borderlands 2 is considerably wackier than the original, which was more of an Indecisive Parody until the DLC came out. As a good example of just how not-seriously the game takes itself, there's a quest called "Shoot This Guy in the Face". Overlaps with Darker and Edgier, however, given how much of the wackiness is undiluted Black Comedy.
- Fallout 1, like others here, wasn't the most serious of games, but Fallout 2 took it Up to Eleven with the wackiness factor. Fallout 3 toned down the humor with Bethesda handling it (but still had its odd moments), only for it to return in Fallout: New Vegas, which even features a Silliness Switch as one of the chargen traits you can pick.
- The Sims was a typical life simulator with a little humour. Expansion packs added oddities like genies and zombies, and this eventually escalated into a full-on World of Weirdness with The Sims 2 and its expansions, and most of the true weirdness is contained in the expansions, meaning that any given copy of the games will start out as (relatively) normal, and will then accumulate supernatural elements as the player installs additional expansions.
- Alan Wake, a psychological horror thriller, had a downloadable sequel subtitled American Nightmare, which added more emphasis on gunplay, contained a hammy villain, and time travel shenanigans. It's justified in the fact that the plot (and enemy) come straight out of Alan Wake's old, crappy grindhouse horrors and sci-fi horror. It's best described as Tarantino and Stephen King hanging out.
- Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon took the (mostly) serious gameplay from the Far Cry franchise and turned it into an Affectionate Parody of all 80's movies.
- Not that the Rayman series was serious to begin with, but the second game was Darker and Edgier than the first. 3 went back to being dense and wacky, then went beyond dense and wacky with Origins and Legends.
- The Super Mario Bros. series exemplifies this trope in that the first games involved fairly realistic (or at least familiar) premises: a carpenter trying to rescue his girlfriend from a gorilla (Donkey Kong), then a plumber clearing animals out of the sewer pipes (Mario Bros.), then a demolition crew tearing down a building (Wrecking Crew). Super Mario Bros. 1 made this premise a little more epic and strange in that it's a princess being rescued from a bunch of turtle sorcerers, and it involves a journey across eight worlds, but it's still fairly straightforward. Super Mario Bros. 3 made each world wildly different from the others and added more powerups, and since then each Mario game seems to try to outdo the last in scale and zaniness, to the point of Super Mario Galaxy which has the plumber soaring through space and jumping from planet to planet.
- When you get into the Seraphic Gate in Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume, the game hits the Silliness Switch and cranks it Up to Eleven.
- Dangan Ronpa had a relatively mundane setting, with everyone being trapped in a large high school, and relatively few plot elements that could be considered bizarre and out-there. Come Super Dangan Ronpa 2, suddenly everyone's trapped on a series of tropical islands guarded by giant robots and one character gets transformed into a robot himself, the trial room is reached via a giant Monokuma version of Mt. Rushmore, and Monokuma himself has a sidekick to serve as a comedic foil against (in theory, at least.) The executions were pretty silly and full of Black Comedy before, but in this game they went completely insane, including deep-frying people in active volcanoes and rocketing them into space on a giant rocket arm. The plot is still serious, but the setting is far more outlandish. Which makes sense when you find out it's all a VR simulation.
- NetHack started out as Hack, which was a fairly simple Rogue clone to begin with except for the addition of a Canine Companion.
- The early Ganbare Goemon games were a slightly whimsical take on Jidai Geki motifs, Breaking the Fourth Wall occasionally. It developed into an anachronism-laden Widget Series on the Super Famicom.
- The G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toyline was never realistic, but in its infancy, vehicles tended to be based on existing millitary hardware with minor changes and the character design, while ethletic, was somewhat restrained. This changed as the franchise headed in the 90's, with characters both new and old clad in bright primary colours, overdesigned vehicles and wacky sublines (such as dinosaur-hunting and ninjas) being the order of the day. For a direct comparison, view the '84 vehicle assortment with the '91 one.
- Grisaia no Kajitsu started off as a pretty grounded romance visual novel with only a few hints of oddities like a bit about cellular memory being a plot device and Yuuji's often hinted job as a black ops agent. The sequel even retconned away the cellular memory thing when the writers realized it was a discredited theory. However, Grisaia no Rakuen contains super soldiers, super serums, cloning, brain uploading and artificial arms though it turns out the latter two were actually lies. Kazuki is connected to the Thanatos computer system rather than it being formed around an uploaded version of her brain and the artificial arm was just a really tasteless joke.
- Roomies! was never exactly down-to-Earth and serious to begin with but nevertheless dealt with fairly realistic personal issues, went this route with the introduction of the Aliens.
- Problem Sleuth slides from gentle, mildly complicated antics into utter, ultra-convoluted chaos. Some fans consider the change to be where it Grows the Beard.
Andrew Hussie: "There was only one sure thing I knew when starting HS. That was that this thing would go batshit insane in ways I couldn't begin to imagine. In fact, it was practically the mission statement."
- The author's next series, Homestuck, started with this trope as a goal and succeeded admirably.
- Sonic For Hire was already wacky to start with, yet as the story goes, it gets farther and farther into the wacky extreme.
- The first season or two of The Simpsons was very grounded in a quite realistic premise... Quite unlike the 'anything goes' antics that made the whole show a pop-culture fixture in later seasons. However, many viewers feel that as years dragged on, this went on too far, especially during the Mike Scully years, when this trope was allegedly used to death. Now the show has toned down the wackiness just a bit in attempt to return to its original roots.
- The Tom and Jerry cartoons started out as a fairly typical 'cat chases mouse' cartoon, which even in the early 1940's wasn't anything new. As time went on though, episodes began taking place in different time periods and settings, and thanks to the influence Tex Avery had on MGM's animation studio, the slapstick violence was cranked Up to Eleven.
- Total Drama was a pretty exciting, relatively realistic "animated reality show". The second season takes place in a movie studio and every episode is a shout out to films with much cartoonier antics. The third season has the contestants flying around the world in a jet and is a musical. The fourth season takes place in the first island, but is now a radioactive waste deposit.
- This trope is probably best exemplified by the way contestants are kicked off the show each season. In Season 1, a boat came to take the contestants off the island. In season 2, a broken-down limousine drove the contestants off the movie set. Season 3 had the contestants sky dive out of the jumbo jet they were flying in when voted off. In season 4, a giant catapult flung them off the island. And in Season 5? They're flushed down a giant toilet.
- One should also note the characterizations of certain characters as the show goes on. In the first two seasons, each character was mostly realistic, with some exaggerated teenage and reality show stereotypes to boot. Come season 4, and we've got Mike, a boy with multiple-personality syndrome who can turn into an old man, a treasure hunter, a Jersey Shore-esque bully, a female Russian gymnast, and an evil, chaotic supervillain in season 5. Let's just say, that's not even remotely how MPD works.
- This also goes to character injuries as well. In the first season, the worst injury sustained was that a contestant got mauled by a bear, though he recovered in the end. In Season 3, one contestant is engulfed in lava, leading him to become an Expy of Darth Vader. Another character, after being voted off, stows away on the plane, causing him to become feral with his skin becomes ghastly pale, eventually making him an Expy of Gollum. In Season 4, a contestant is exposed to radioactive material, causing her to become a giant, humanoid monster.
- Hey Arnold! started out as a typical Slice of Life series with a good balance of humor and drama. Once the show switched from cels to digital paint, the show put a bit more emphasis on comedy.
- Spongebob Squarepants: The characters became wackier when the show was revived, dumber and rather callous. The show as a whole becomes zanier and more like Family Guy.
- The Fairly OddParents went through this trope as it went on. It starts to become wackier after its transition from Oh Yeah! Cartoons, then when the movies were cut down from 90 minutes to an hour, then when Poof arrives, and finally, with the addition of talking fairy-dog Sparky.
- Family Guy, big time. The first few seasons were rather realistic in comparison to what it later became — the only really crazy things happened in flashbacks. After the show was Un-Cancelled, however, the plots and the characters became wackier, zanier, dumber, and quite mean spirited at times.
- Season 12 has taken this trait and amped it up to 11, to the point of where every scene is comedic. note
- Disney cartoon adaptations are often this. Timon & Pumbaa is a noticeable example, being random slapstick and goofy compared to the more realistic film.
- Same goes for 101 Dalmatians: The Series.
- The Boondocks became this way starting with season 2. The show started out as an animated series with fairly realistic settings and events for the most part (much like King of the Hill). Once it entered its second season however, the characters became very flanderized, the story-lines zanier and far more outlandish, and the show as a whole much more cartoony and fast-paced (to the point where even the characters seem to be talking a mile a minute at times).
- Originally, South Park was just a vulgar comedy, but by the time season 7 rolled around, the show went through a Cerebus Rollercoaster by having more dramatic moments once in a while. Season 13 was the only season where the show became wackier compared to the previous 6 seasons before it, with episodes such as Mickey Mouse (yes, really) using The Jonas Brothers to shill purity rings to horny preteen girls, confusion over what real wrestling is like, Cartman's insane logic about The Smurfs to get back at Wendy, and apocalypse at a water park involving pee.
- Some Two-Part Episodes tend to be rather serious, such as "Cartoon Wars". Ironically, the mostly serious 12th season had a Two Part Episode about giant guinea pigs attacking. And they are REAL guinea pigs dressed in cute costumes that were integrated with the animation.
- Ultimate Spider-Man is infamous for being this compared to the previous Spider-Man animated incarnations of the character, and even compared to the comic character; while Spider-Man is known for being a wise-cracking character prone for often pulling I Shall Taunt You and You Fight Like a Cow, his story included several serious, sometimes even dark storylines, with some of his villains being murderous creepy psychopaths. Ultimate Spider-Man removes or tones down most of the serious elements and extends Spider-Man's humor to No Fourth Wall and cartoonish cutaway gags. Ironically enough, the Ultimate Spider-Man original comic which the series take its name from is known to be actually Darker and Edgier than the classic comic, even involving Spider-Man's death.
- Ben 10: Omniverse went for this after the previous Darker and Edgier sequels Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien ended up being Base Breakers. So far, this only ended up breaking the base even more than before.
- My Little Pony ended up as this with My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
- Friendship is Magic itself grew denser and wackier as the series went onwards. Compare "Party of One", probably the zaniest episode of the more down-to-earth first season, with the season 4 Musical Episode "Pinkie Pride" with Weird Al as a pony named Cheese Sandwich - it's almost like watching a different show. Some gags in the latter episode wouldn't feel out of place on pre-movie Sponge Bob Square Pants.
- The wackiness continues in the Season 4 episode "Testing, Testing 1, 2, 3". Turns out there is hip-hop and 1980's VCR technology in Equestria.
- Phineas and Ferb from its second season onward is noticeably wackier than the more laid-back first season.
- The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo was this for the Scooby-Doo franchise, not only featuring real monsters and supernatural powers, but also a lot more nonsensical cartoon gags and Breaking the Fourth Wall.
- A Pup Named Scooby-Doo is the wackiest thing related to the Scooby-Doo franchise, with just about every character showing over-the-top, rubbery reactions, as well as turning Fred into a lunatic who believes in Bigfoot and always blames local bully Red Herring for being the Monster of the Week. Not surprising the animators went on to make Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs.
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated straddles between this and Darker and Edgier. The show plays up and lampshades most of the franchise's typical elements, and shows how some of the villains can be really dangerous.
- Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! is the closest modern Scooby Doo example. The show, like Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, lampshades and subverts its predecessors' common tropes. Unlike that show though, it's not a serious take on the concept. The show embraces Deranged Animation and raises the comedic value extremely.
- Teen Titans Go! to the original Teen Titans. While the original show did have its silly moments and occasional wacky episode it also had very serious and even downright dark and terrifying episodes. The new show is purely comedic with even wackier situations and the characters have been redesigned into a simpler, more cartoonish style.
- Happened in the later seasons of Garfield and Friends, especially the U.S. Acres segments. That was actually a good thing. The last three seasons were the funniest and the wackiest of the series.
- VeggieTales in the House, a spin-off series of VeggieTales is notably a lot more cartoony and slapsticky than the latter, most prominently for its wide use of cartoon sound effects.
- The Amazing World of Gumball is this in season 3 (and to a lesser extent, in season 2), despite said season having Wham Episodes that contrast well with it. There is the wild Bizarro Episode that is "The Countdown", involving Time Travel, reality warping, Medium Awareness (in contrast to the rest of the show), and a very strange plot that makes just as much sense in context. "The Gripes" and "The Procrastinators" are a few other strange episodes, especially when compared to the somewhat more realistic Slice of Life episodes in season 1.
- The short lived Slimer! And The Real Ghostbusters compared to the original The Real Ghostbusters, while the original show had it's comedic moments some episodes were downright dark and scary, Slimer! on the other hand was purely comedic, the character designs were simplified, and most of the plots were about Slimer being assigned some task which led to wacky and cartoonish antics rather than catching ghosts.
- The pilot episode of The Dreamstone was much more dark and actionized (if still cartoony) with a much greater sense of mortal peril for the heroes. The following episodes downplayed things into a Harmless Villain Protagonist series with the Urpneys with most episodes following their buffoonery or some Epic Fail to take the title stone. In the final season the heroes started becoming more prone to slapstick and wise cracks as well (originally much tamer and down to earth than the Urpneys).
- Space Ghost had plenty of B-movie elements, but was still relatively serious as far as Hanna-Barbera cartoons went. Then Space Ghost Coast to Coast happened, transplanting the hero and his rogue's gallery into a talk show format and throwing any pretense of seriousness out the window. Cartoon Planet somehow managed to be even wackier than that.
- ALVINNN!!! and the Chipmunks, the 2015 remake of the 1980's Alvin and the Chipmunks cartoon, has the heart of its predecessor, although the comedy is more up-to-date and right out in the open. Thankfully, it isn't really much like the live-action movies.
- The original Rainbow Brite was an action fantasy. The 2015 miniseries reboot was a comedy.
- The '80s were more or less this compared to The '70s. The '90s would then do the same thing to The Eighties.
- Benthelooney when his rants/reviews were Un-Cancelled. To begin with before the uncancelled seasons, Ben was a straight forward ranter that exaggerated how angry he was and added an occassional joke, but still focused on the subject of his rants. In the Uncancelled seasons, Ben took a Denser and Wackier approach which was a trait flanderized in the second run of Ben Rants to the point of where by 2013, his whole rants started to follow this formula and Ben creating two spin off videos of his other characters.
- Taiwanese news outlet NMA got famous for doing relatively straight, 3D-animated re-enactions of events, such as Tiger Woods's car crash, the JetBlue flight attendant who opened up the emergency slide on the plane, and a cartoonish repesentation of the fight over The Tonight Show returning to Jay Leno. Nowadays, their videos are completely off-the-wall, have recurring gag characters such as a weed monster, two midget pilots named Sum Ting Wong and Wi Tu Lo (after an infamous incident where an intern gave fake, racist names to a news station regarding a fatal accident at San Francisco International Airport), and a mockery of Ark Music Factory's "Chinese Food". Compare this to this. It was enough to make an intern infamously quit the company (with an equally silly method: an interpretative dance explaining why she left).