Dropped After the Pilot
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.
- There were two One Piece pilots both of which had prototypes of the character that would eventually evolve into Nami. The Nami prototype from the first pilot, Silk, eventually did appear in an anime OVA One Piece: Romance Dawn Story, but her character design was significantly altered to look less like Nami.
- Subverted in the case of the second One Piece pilot which had Luffy's grandfather who didn't appear when the series got picked up. Eight years into the run of the manga in chapter 431, a Marine Vice-Admiral who wore a dog mask and appeared early on in the series removed his mask revealing himself to have been Luffy's grandfather all along.
- In the second published Rurouni Kenshin pilot, which appeared first in the collected volumes, Kenshin met an Expy of Kaoru named Chizuru. While Chizuru never appeared in the main Rurouni Kenshin manga, she did make a cameo in the Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection OVA as the girlfriend of Kenshin's son Kenji.
- 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: In the pilot episode, Jess's third male roommate is Coach, played by Damon Wayans, Jr. In the second episode was Coach was Put on a Bus and Winston Bishop took his place, literally moving into Coach's old bedroom. This forced the show to acknowledge and handwave its Artifact Title in its very second episode, with Jess being told by the two remaining original roommates that because Winston used to live in the loft previously, Jess is still "the new kid." Wayans had left the show to appear in the second season of Happy Endings. After that show was canceled, Coach returned to The New Girl as a recurring character.
- 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) 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 and is only mentioned once more several seasons later.
- 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) they're now a yard-working business and 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: Executive officer Laurel Takashima, chief of medicine Dr Benjamin Kyle and station telepath Lyta Alexander were all dropped after the Pilot Movie and replaced by Susan Ivanova, Dr Stephen Franklin and Talia Winters respectively). The characters' disappearances were explained in-story, and in Lyta's case became a plot point in the Myth Arc. Dr Kyle was referred to several times throughout the series, and Lyta was later brought back as a major character. Word of God is that JMS had contingency plans for replacing any of the main characters just in case.
- Star Trek: The Original Series:
- Perhaps the most famous example, every character except for Spock was replaced after the first unsuccessful pilot episode "The Cage". (Majel Barrett, who played the ship's exective officer and helmsman Number One in "The Cage", was later brought back for the series to play recurring character Nurse Chapel.)
- The second pilot episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before" had Doctor Mark Piper, Communications Officer Alden and Yeoman Smith. They were replaced in the series by Leonard McCoy, Lieutenant Uhura and Janice Rand respectively.
- The pilot of Star Trek: Voyager features a prominent bridge officer named Ensign Rollins, who commands the ship when the main characters are absent. He is never seen again and is only mentioned in passing once, in Season 2. According to Scott McDonald, the actor who played him, he was dropped because the producers felt there were too many male characters.
- 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.
- The pilot of Home and Away features Gwen Plumb as a gossip named Doris Peters. By the time the series proper went into production, the actress was committed to another role: Doris Peter is mentioned several times in early seasons as a local gossip but is never seen again, while Alf Stewart was quickly given a sister, Celia, who functioned as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute.
- 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.
- Constantine replaced the pilot's female lead, who was featured heavily in the trailers. Liv was the daughter of a powerful wizard and the pilot looked like it was setting her up to be John's apprentice. Audiences and fans of the comics reacted poorly, so the end of the pilot was rewritten to get rid of her. Zed, a character from the comics, replaced her in the second episode.
- The pilot for The Office (US) featured several unnamed Dunder-Mifflin coworkers working in the office alongside the eventual supporting cast. Most of them were gone by the next episode and by the end of the season, the only ones left were the now-familiar named characters.
- 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 revival of Dark Shadows. 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.
- In the pilot for White Collar, Agent Diana Barrigan is introduced as part of the team; however, in episode two, she is nowhere to be found, and Agent Lauren Cruz takes the place as the female operative. However, in the final episode of Season One, there's a bit of bus shuffling as suddenly Lauren Cruz is never mentioned again and Diana takes back her old position, and remains there for the rest of the series.
- The pilot episode of ER actually featured TWO Na´ve Newcomer medical students—Carter, and a young woman assigned to Doug Ross and intended to be his love interest. But when positive test audience feedback forced the producers to revive Carol Hathaway, the student was given given a case of Chuck Cunningham Syndrome.
- Callie Cartwig from The 100 was councilwoman Abigail's best friend, openly confronted Kane and was an important enough member of the Ark that she served as liaison between the rulers and the people, but she isn't even mentioned past the pilot. Word of God is the character was executed offscreen due to budgetary reasons.
- Captain Gregson's assistant in Elementary's pilot was a guy named Abreu, but starting with the second episode he's replaced by detective Marcus Bell, who mostly serves the same functions in the story.
- In the pilot of Arrow we're introduced to Raisa, the cook at the Queen family household, who's presented as a motherly figure to Oliver, a contrast to his aloof biological mother Moira and whom viewers could reasonably expect to be a recurring character. She's never seen or mentioned in the series ever since.
- Mozhan Marnò only appeared in the pilot of Madam Secretary as an image adviser, then disappeared as she got the role of Samar Navabi in The Blacklist.
- The Flash (1990) dropped Barry Allen's girlfriend Iris West after the pilot and Tina McGee replaced her as Barry's love interrest.
- Eureka: Ally McBeal alum Greg Germann appeared in the pilot as the head of Global Dynamics Warren King, who was replaced by the character of Nathan Stark by the second episode.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The unaired pilot featured Riff Regan as Willow and Steven Tobolowsky as Principal Flutie.
- The Wizard: The aired pilot introduces us to Simon's housekeeper Darcy Stafford, and "occasional assistant" Jack Brooks, a teenager who tries to make his own toys but always ends up failing spectacularly. Episode 2 explains that Darcy was transferred to Alex's old job, and Simon's old friend Tillie takes her place. As for Jack, he's simply never mentioned again.
- Castle had a fourth NYPD detective in "Flowers For Your Grave" who answered the phone and told the others about developments in the case... and that was it.
- The first episode of Night Court had Gail Strickland as the original public defender, and was even credited in the main cast. Come episode two and she disappears without a trace, replaced by Paula Kelly as Liz Williams, who lasted the rest of the season.
- The very first episode of Webster had Art LaFleur as a regular, playing George's co-worker at the radio station. However, since Executive Meddling wanted the show to focus on Webster and not the adults, he was deemed extraneous and never appeared again.
- In the first episode of Teen Titans, Slade has a butler based on Wintergreen from the comicbook. He's never seen again (except for a couple of cameos in the fifth season) and Slade works alone later in the series.