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 Reverse Cerebus Syndrome, Kudzu Plot.
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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 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.
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 asAlan Moore.)
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...?
Films — Animated
An American Tail was a musical adventure about hard times, i.e. immigration, separation, and a war between mice and cats. The sequel, Fievel Goes West, most definitely qualifies this trope, from what you can tell from the rubbery animation to any of Tiger's scenes, both courtesy of Amblimationnote The only film they made that was an exception to this trope was Balto.
The Ice Age film series. The original movie had a lot of comedy and its share of silly moments, but it didn't go too over the top. The plot was fairly serious and believable enough (well, as believable as one could get in a movie about talking animals). Then came the sequels...
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 a lot more jokes and a lot fewer scares.
The Fast and the 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 Tokyo Drift was almost entirely about the racing. Then, with Fast and Furious, it took another change in tone, this time becoming an over the top action flick, while Fast 5 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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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 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:
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.
Similarly, 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.
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, and George concocting a manipulative-even-for-him scheme to get into an exclusive women's club.
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.
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.
30 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.
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.
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. At first, the only sci-fi element was the time machine, which was basically a plot device so you could get dropped in historical settings and teach science. Fifty years later and 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.
The difference between William Hartnell's period and Patrick Troughton's period is this - Troughton's portrayal Flanderized the Doctor 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.
Nu-Who - Season 5, the first season with the Eleventh Doctor, ditched all of the characters from the first four seasons in order to fight back Continuity Creep, and was intended to be more comprehensible and lighter-hearted to a child audience turned off by the heavy romantic drama, Angst and Continuity Porn that characterised 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 kinky "psychopath" who was trying to kill him with sex (played as romantic). Fortunately for many people, Season 7 dialled 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.
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 Series/Warehouse13. 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 summo1ns a bunch of dancing showgirls that chase down people (while singing and dancing.)
Worked pretty well for A Thousand Ways To Die of all things. The initial series was pretty macabre and made for somewhat uncomfortable viewing. Later 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.
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.
Round about the 1960s 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 to be memorable and stand out from other similar games, like Call of Duty, 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 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.
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 (see below).
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, Animeland Japan with giant mechs, freeze rays, magnetic satellites, S.H.R.I.N.K. beams, andEmperor Takei. Oh my!
Like wise 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.
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.
Furthermore, most of the weirdness is contained within the expansion packs, meaning that a given copy of any 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.
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.
An IGN article says something in the likes of this for why Call of Duty 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 machoSummer Blockbuster starring characters that wouldn't be out of place in an eighties action film.
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) and then a plumber clearing animals out of the sewer pipes (Mario Bros.). Super Mario Bros. made this premise a little more epic in that it's a princess being rescued, 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 planets.
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.
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.
The author's next series, Homestuck, started with this trope as a goal and succeeded admirably.
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."
Sonic For Hire was already wacky to start with, yet as the story goes, it gets farther and farther into the wacky extreme.
The Simpsons is one of the better executions of this trope, as the first season or two of the show, while not bad, 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.
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.
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 Except for the 3 episodes where Brian is briefly killed off.
Disney cartoon adaptations are often this. Timon & Pumbaa is a noticeable example, being random slapstick and goofy compared to the more realistic film.
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.
Ultimate Spider-Man is infamous for being this compared to the previous Spider-Mananimatedincarnations 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.
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's 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.
Phineas and Ferb from its second season onward is noticeably wackier than the more laid-back first season.
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.
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.
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).