Pilots are unique in many ways. Most notably, they're how we (and networks) learn about the people whom we'll hopefully be spending the following 21 (or 12, or however many) episodes with.
However, pilots are also produced independently of the rest of the series, and any number of things can happen between the filming and presentation of the pilot and its subsequent pickup. Actors may end up getting parts somewhere else, or an extension on their current contract. The production budget may be smaller than anticipated. The producers may decide that the character doesn't mesh creatively with the rest of the show for whatever reason.
As such, the character is dropped from the show's actual production run, in any number of ways: Put on a Bus
, killed off, replaced with a new character
, or outright ignored. For more major supporting characters (e.g., the main character's best friend or arch-nemesis), it feels a bit like Early-Installment Weirdness
because the show spends parts of the pilot building up the character as someone of note for the show to follow, and he suddenly disappears from episode two on. For people introduced as minor recurring characters, this could be a form of What Happened to the Mouse?
Subtrope of One-Shot Character
and Second Episode Substitute
. Related to Chuck Cunningham Syndrome
, Nonindicative First Episode
and Decoy Protagonist
Anime and Manga
Live Action TV
- The Lupin III Pilot Film (released in the west with the Green Jacket series, but in Japan with the Secret Files) has Detective Kogoro Akechi (the same character as Edogawa Rampo's detective), an established character in the manga series, as a partner for Inspector Zenigata who never appears again in the anime portion of the franchise.
- Jake 2.0 had Darin, Jake's best friend and roommate, who is suddenly transferred out of Washington DC.
- Covert Affairs introduced Annie to Conrad Sheehan, a fellow CIA agent set up as a potential romantic interest/rival, and Conrad subsequently disappears. In his place, we get Jai Wilcox in the second episode, who takes up that mantle.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine made note of three lower-tier detectives in the pilot: Scully, Hitchcock, and Daniels. While Scully and Hitchcock are still around, Daniels is never mentioned again after the pilot. (Also notable: Daniels is the only female of those three.)
- New Girl had this going for it with Coach as played by Damon Wayans, Jr, who was important in helping Jess deal with some of her issues in the pilot. When Happy Endings was picked up for a second season, Coach was written out of the second episode and Winston Bishop took his place (literally, as he moved into Coach's room), who's a bit different in terms of looks and personality. However, with Happy Endings' cancellation, Coach has returned for the third season.
- The pilot of The Golden Girls had a gay Latin houseboy named Coco, who never appeared again.
- Speaking of the Golden Girls, spin-off Empty Nest's pilot was made as an episode of the Golden Girls, and almost everything about it was dropped after the pilot, including it's premise. The pilot starred an older married couple dealing with the fact that their children had all left home; The series was about a widower whose two adult daughters still lived at home. The only things which carried through to the series were the main character's job as a doctor, and the wacky neighbor played by David Leisure (although that character also changed name and career).
- The pilot episode of Dad's Army had a character called Private Bracewell who never appeared again. Word of God says it was decided that he was too similar to Private Godfrey and dropped.
- On the short-lived 1997 show Players (which starred Ice-T and dealt with three con men now helping the FBI), the pilot takes place in New York, then moves to Los Angeles for the rest of the run. With the move, the boys got a new handler as well.
- Seinfeld: Claire, the waitress at Pete's Luncheonette, was intended to be a regular but she was replaced by the character Elaine after the pilot episode. Pete's Luncheonette was also replaced with Monk's Cafe, explaining why Claire is never seen again.
- Psych gave Detective Lassiter a female partner (Anne Dudek appeared as the competent and skeptical Detective Lucinda, no last name given, partner and lover of the major character Carlton Lassiter) with whom he was having an affair and who was suspicious of Shawn's "psychic" abilities. Post-pilot she is never seen nor heard of again, she's transferred out in the second episode because of the affair thing and replaced with Shawn's trusting, less skeptical eventual Love Interest, Junior Detective Juliet O'Hara.
- A two-fer for Weeds in Ep. 1x01 You Can't Miss the Bear. Haley Hudson appears as Silas' cool, down-to-earth girlfriend Quinn Hodes, who is also the daughter of major character Celia Hodes. Similarly, Justin Chatwin appears as a fellow Agrestic drug dealer Josh Wilson, who is also the son of major character Doug Wilson. In Ep. 1x02 Free Goat Celia tells Silas that she sent Quinn to Mexico for sleeping with him, as well as revealing that Quinn had a whole day to tell him this herself, but apparently cared more about the songs on her iPod. She returns for two brief appearances during the Season 4 Finale/Season 5 Premiere. Josh however, is not mentioned again until Season 4 in a short remark from a stoned Doug.
- Raising Hope opened with Jimmy and Cousin Mike working at the pool-cleaning business and living in Maw-Maw's house. In the second episode (which takes place the morning after the pilot) he's left a note stating he met a girl and joined a cult. He reappears for a couple of episodes towards the end of Season 1.
- The Sarah Jane Adventures had Maria and Sarah Jane's loud-mouthed neighbor Kelsey, who is set up as Maria's friend and possibly a member of Sarah Jane's newly formed alien hunting squad (despite outright denying the extraterrestrial things she witnessed). Kelsey is never mentioned again note after the pilot, and her role as the "cool one" is given to Clyde, who ends up sticking around the whole series and providing the Opening Narration.
- The pilot of No Ordinary Family is presented in a How We Got Here fashion using P.O.V. Cam as if the various family members are talking to a family therapist, but as of the second episode, it's clear they've never been to therapy or told anyone about what happened to them.
- Babylon 5: The chief doctor and second-in-command of the space station telepath from the two-part pilot were given Second Episode Substitute treatment (replaced by Susan Ivonova and Doctor Franklin), which became plot points. The writers did attempt to explain the characters' disappearances in-story. Word of God is that JMS had written out a plan for replacing any of the pilot episode characters just in case.
- Star Trek: The Original Series:
- Perhaps the most famous example, Captain Pike from the first pilot. More accurately, everyone but Spock was replaced.
- The 2nd pilot episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before" had Ship's Doctor Mark Piper, Communications Officer Alden and Yeoman Smith. They were replaced by Leonard McCoy, Lieutenant Uhura and Janice Rand (respectively) in the series.
- Hogan's Heroes had Leonid Kinskey as Friendly Russian tailor named Vladimir Minsk in the pilot. Carter was a prisoner making his way through. Vladimir's actor decided the show wasn't taking the Nazis seriously enough and quit, and Carter became the fifth main character for the series proper.
- The two episodes of JAG that comprised the Poorly Disguised Pilot for NCIS had a character named Vivian Blackadder on Team Gibbs. Come the first episode of the spinoff, she's nowhere to be seen, and her slot on the team is quickly filled by new recruit Caitlin Todd.
- The character Sonny from My Name Is Earl, until he is unexpectedly (and briefly) brought back in the third season. Earl even lampshades this in the relevant episode.
- In the unaired pilot of The Big Bang Theory there's a girl named Katie whom Leonard and Sheldon rescue from being homeless and moves in with them, and Gilda, geeky female friend/fellow researcher of theirs with whom Sheldon has had sex. In the real continuity of the show, Sheldon is a No Hugging, No Kissing advocate, hasn't lost his virginity because of it, unlike the more sex-driven Leonard, and recoils at the mere mention of coitus.
- In the pilot of Go On a man named Don is in the group Ryan joins. He disappears after that.
- On The Finder, Ike Latulippe appears in the Backdoor Pilot as Walter's bartender and pilot. She is never seen after that.
- In the first episode of The Brady Bunch the girls have a pet cat named Fluffy, who Tiger (the boys' dog) runs after and ruins the wedding reception. Fluffy is never seen again.
- Breakout Kings:
- The con artist Philly in the pilot episode was intended to be a regular member of the team. She doesn't appear in the series, replaced by bounty hunter Erica. Her absence is at least explained, as the Marshals discovered she was concealing ill-gotten gains and she was thrown of the program and transferred to high-security prison.
- The show also has another seeming team-member cut (i.e. sent back to prison) before the end of the first episode, because he pocketed a knife while they were in a restaurant, apparently planning to escape. The guy shows up in a later episode wherein he aids the team from prison.
- On The Following, there's originally a female FBI agent named Jennifer Mason working alongside Ryan Hardy and Mike Weston. She's replaced in episode two by Debra Parker, a specialist on "alternative religions".
- In "Everybody's Favorite Bagman," the Law & Order pilot, Roy Thinnes portrays District Attorney Alfred Wentworth. When it came time for the series to go into production, Thinnes was unavailable, working on a different series. So the role was renamed ("Adam Schiff") and recast (Stephen Hill). There was no on-screen explanation for the change, which really confused viewers when NBC inexplicably aired the pilot as the sixth episode.