Early Installment Weirdness

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"Oh please, Mandy. That didn't even look like us."
Grim, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, after a flashback to the pilot short.

Long running series often have to experiment a little before they find their niche: sometimes there are concepts abandoned early on that were fascinating, either because they were potentially good ideas back then, or they just clash so much with the later tone of the series. In short, the first installment is a "prototype", like a pilot of a first episode.

If the series improves after abandoning these elements, it often leads to a Growing the Beard moment. For something similar applied to individual characters, see Characterization Marches On. A specific sub-trope of this dealing with early installments resembling the real world is Earth Drift. When early characters disappear entirely with no explanations, that's Chuck Cunningham Syndrome (or even Dropped After the Pilot, if it happens in the very first episode). Might be the result of Plot Tumors, Art Evolution and/or Early Installment Character-Design Difference and Continuity Drift.

There will always be some fans who view the current incarnation of a series as They Changed It, Now It Sucks.

When this happens to themes that become popular after the fact because of a work, and are only actually codified elsewhere, it is a subtrope of Unbuilt Trope.

Compare New First Comics, Lost in Imitation, Early Installment Character-Design Difference, and Adaptation Displacement. Contrast First Installment Wins and Later Installment Weirdness. When a character displays this, it's Characterization Marches On (or Flanderization, when it essentially happens in reverse). May be the Oddball in the Series. See also Meet Your Early Installment Weirdness.

A special note on the trope in video games: there, it is often the counterpart to Spiritual Successor. A series may evolve in a drastically different direction from its first installment in a technical sense, abandoning core gameplay mechanics or changing them in drastic ways, while retaining the setting (general background lore, characters etc.), although elements can be added or retconned. This can happen if the developer for an intellectual property held by a publisher changes or merely if a developer wishes to keep a recognizable, established IP, but adapt to a new player demographic or emulate gameplay seen in another revolutionary title. Such changes result in an early installment weirdness when the sequels are compared with the first installment .In contrast, a game which tries to imitate a forerunner title mostly in gameplay terms (copying/refining particular "revolutionary" aspects, the entire gameplay or just the general "feeling" of the game), but is not part of the forerunners' IP, e.g. if the rights to the IP are held by a different publisher, and so uses a different setting, it's usually a Spiritual Successor.


Examples:


Alternative Title(s): First Installment Weirdness

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EarlyInstallmentWeirdness