Continuity has always been a bugaboo for writers, the requisite for things to make sense and follow some form of narrative logic. A requirement that provides scribes with all manner of headaches, hairsplitting, and plothole-induced dementia. Nevertheless, many series go out of their way to pay careful attention to every little detail that goes on in their worlds. The Universe Bible is king; nothing can happen that doesn't fit the existing history. Other shows are less exacting, and an occasional continuity error will be glossed over for the sake of the current episode's plot.
Then there are these.
Not only is there no established continuity, but the show is free to completely wreck the continuity and be assured of a full reboot by the start of the next episode. Burned a hole in your favorite outfit? Don't worry, it'll be better next episode. Burned down your house? No worries, it will be back next time. Turned into a frog, died, destroyed the universe? No problem! If one episode ever continues from the last, it's only because it's part of a storyline too long for just one episode — don't expect any apparent changes from the previous episode to be recognized outside that specific storyline.
The expectation of a new episode reboot is so strong that, in extreme cases, simply having continuity can count as a subversive gag (for example, the letters CHA appearing on the Moon in episodes of The Tick or The Simpsons' forked tongues) or simply the creators getting a kick out of teasing the viewers that have been around long enough (assuming they can remember at least as well as the writers, which they often can).
Generally constrained to American animated shows, or to shows with that style of "cartoony" humor. Often employs Ping Pong Na´vetÚ to allow the humour to work. Often gives the feeling of a veryUnreliable Narrator (even if there isn't one to begin with). Not to be confused with Fanon Discontinuity or Canon Discontinuity.
One of the meta-causes of Alternate Universe.
Related to Status Quo Is God, except it is (or can be) more deliberate/explicit, and it doesn't require any narrative explanation. See also: No Ontological Inertia. Also related is Broad Strokes.
A prime example is the Moroboshi family's house. During the course of the series, it has been flooded, collapsed, burned down and blown to pieces (not to mention the abuse the interior has taken). Yet the next episode shows it standing proudly(?) with nary a tatami or zabuton askew... and Mr. Moroboshi still on the hook for the mortgage.
Likewise with Ranma 1/2. Within individual arcs, a Game-Breaking Injury would be a serious matter, the Tendo home would be all but demolished and the characters would have to repair it, someone would get in deep financial trouble and stay that way through the end of the plot, or someone would land in the hospital with a full-body cast. All this damage will be undone by the next arc with nary a word from anyone. The only permanent change was the destruction of the Saotome home (to force the family, Nodoka included, back into the Tendo household.) This was lampshaded once in the early anime when Genma tended to Ranma's neck injury and said it would take a week (the time between episodes) to heal.
In Excel♥Saga, negative continuity is personified by a being known as The Great Will of the Macrocosm, who resets things at least Once an Episode. Though this is also subverted insofar as the Will is not always available, and also episodes 22-25 have dramatic elements and more or less logical continuity for significant events. Throughout the series, there is also a slight bit of continuity in with all the general weirdness. Then the next episode, aptly titled "Going Too Far" jumps right back to this.
Nicely subverted in the anime Crayon Shin-Chan. A Snap Back is expected when Shin accidentally blows up the family's house at the end of one episode, but the event is actually followed by an arc in which the family lives in a cramped studio apartment while the house is rebuilt.
The Urotsukidouji series. The original, Legend of the Overfiend, ended with the world being destroyed. The sequel, Legend of the Demon Womb began with the world good as new. The pattern was well and truly set.
Samurai Champloo had Negative Continuity in two episodes just before the end of the series. The first one, titled Cosmic Collisions, introduces the characters to a group of dead people who are always searching for a buried treasure that never existed in the first place. The episode ends and everyone is killed by a meteor that destroys the surrounding area. The next episode, Baseball Blues, shows the characters competing in a game of baseball against an American team and everyone on the team is severely injured or killed in the end (it's never satisfactorily explained if they actually were killed or not), while the finale shows everyone in perfect health and in exactly the place where they had been headed for the entire series.
Leiji Matsumoto's works are known for this. Many of the shows based on his manga and stories, such as Galaxy Express 999, Space Cruiser Yamato/Starblazes and the various Captain Harlock shows, share characters but present vastly different backstories and do not attempt to reconcile the character's actions between the shows. It should be noted, though, that this is not quite an intentional case of negative continuity, but rather gaps caused by each show being produced by an entirely different creative team.
Umineko no Naku Koro ni takes this and goes to its logical conclusion - nothing that happens on Rokkenjima actually matters. All that is intended is to convey a series of scenarios slowly revealing clues to the player so that they might solve the ultimate not a mystery.
Naruto In Waterfall's first appearance in a dedicated OVA the village could house maybe twenty families and was ruled by a spineless coward. In its second almost appearance, it was noted for constantly launching border raids on other villages, disguised as war games. In its third appearance, there was a bunker with enough shinobi present to populate the entire village. Databooks reveals that they were the only village out the five great villages to have their own jinchuuriki.
Similar to Galaxy Angel above, Sgt. Frog doesn't give much attention to continuity unless it's introducing a new character. However, it does cycle through seasons normally, often changing seasons once per volume, but the characters are never shown graduating or aging at all.
Ouran High School Host Club states in its first chapter to ignore any graduations that should be upcoming, quickly establishing that its continuity will not be very reliable. That said, the plot does follow rather normally.
In Lupin III, only the essential elements of the story are ever kept... It's part of the reason why the series has worked for so long. The only lasting changes ever made to the story (the additions of Jigen and Goemon to the cast) occurred very early on in the franchise's history, during the original manga. Since then, the cast of characters has not moved forward an inch in over forty years.
In his many failed attempts to become Caliph instead of the Caliph, Iznogoud has been petrified, turned into a dog, lost in a labyrinth, sent back in time, sold as a slave, put in orbit around the Earth, and worse. Nevertheless, everything is always back to normal for the next episode a few panels later.
In a notable exception, the album Les Retours d'Iznogoud (Iznogoud's Returns) tries to explain how things returned to normal after some of the vizir's most infamous adventures. It does not always work, as many of those returns end with Iznogoud in an equally uncomfortable situation. That just raises further questions!
The concept of "Hypertime" - outlined by Mark Waid and Grant Morrison as, basically, a way to remove the possibility of continuity errors in DC Comics while freeing writers from the need to remain consistent with the works of previous writers - could be described as "negative continuity through total continuity." The main points were (1) every story ever written did happen and is Canon, even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff, however (2) every story takes place in its own discrete world, and (3) the writer of any given story gets to decide which previously-written stories did and didn't happen in the "world" his or her story is taking place in, and therefore can just toss out anything they don't like and Hand Wave discrepancies with earlier stories by saying "that never happened in my world." While the idea has its proponents, most tend to feel it causes more problems than it solves, not the least of which is the fact that the only people comfortable with its "anything goes" approach to continuity are the people who never minded continuity errors to begin with. It's now implied that Hypertime has ceased to exist because in the future (a relative concept since he's already a time traveler), a more competent version of Booster Gold will deliberately eliminate it.
Less obvious but almost as intrusive as Hypertime is DC's "Ten Year Rule" (closer to twelve years since the One Year Later issues), which in the late '90s-early '00s unambiguously stated that no matter when you're reading a given comic, Batman and Superman started their careers 10 years ago, and they were the first significant superheroes to debut since the Justice Society disbanded in the 50s. Other heroes began their careers within the following year and the Justice League was formed roughly at the beginning of the next year. Between this and the fact that some stories weren't retconned out of existence by the Crisis on Infinite Earths (predominantly because none of the characters affected by the Crisis had a full, unambiguous reboot — they just kept on going as they were but some miniseries — "Superman: The Man of Steel" and "Batman: Year One" — re-wrote the Back Story as needed) has made a mess of the continuity, requiring multiple mini-Crisis Crossovers to shear off the dead weight.
Marvel has a similar rule to the above, but they don't play quite so hard and fast by it; their flagship characters have aged about 15-20 years since their respective debuts in the 1960s. (But they do adhere to the rule in some capacity, which is why it's not currently, say, 1979 in the Marvel universe right now.)
Despite Don Rosa's attempts to create a duck "continuity", the vast majority of writers gleefully ignore it at their leisure, but just as is the case with The Simpsons there are occasional continuity nods. Several stories have ended up with Scrooge ruined, for instance. Still, 99% of all duck stories use negative continuity, making it possible for Donald Duck and Huey, Dewey and Louie to be surprised at seeing, for instance, dragons, even though they've seen much stranger things at least a hundred times.
In the Anthology ComicThe Beano Lord Snooty one of the older strips in the comic first appearing in the first issue is a victim of this. Originally the character was an upper class child who liked to run off and play with working class kids, then the kids appeared to live with him with no refernece to the past, After disappearing from the comic for about a decade Lord Snooty then appears in a Beano retirement home (he is still a child physically though) at one point in 2001, he briefly appears again in a longer Kev F Sutherland strip as normal and then by Lord Snooty the Third it is implied he is dead and Lord Snooty the Third's grandfather. Whilst characters which are still children eg Dennis the Menace interacted with him whilst they were both still children and some of these characters also interacted with Lord Snooty the Third whilst they were both children as well.
Nero: Since author Marc Sleen worked singlehandedly and for a newspaper he had to whip out two panels of comic strips every day. He worked quick, but didn't care much about continuity mistakes, which are plentiful in his work. His fans never cared about that, though.
Seltzer and Friedberg movies usually have a character get brutally injured in some way, only for them to be perfectly fine later on.
The Godzilla films. Many of the later movies are presented as sequels to the original 1954 Gojira, as if the events of the movie are only the second time Godzilla has attacked. However, you can occasionally catch references to monsters that only appeared in movies that pre-dated the one you're watching by two or three reboots. It's difficult to tell what is supposed to be canon, and what is just meant as subtle easter eggs for Toho fans. For example, the dead body of Kamoebas washes ashore in Godzilla Tokyo SOS, and Gezora shows up in a video montage in Godzilla Final Wars... both monsters are from Space Amoeba (another Toho movie), which otherwise has no connection with any other Godzilla movie.
John Lovitz' character in Loaded Weapon 1 is killed several times and always returns. His explanation? He thought it was a sequel.
The Highlander franchise has a staggering amount of discontinuity within a single series; the original film, its direct sequel set in a post-environmental-catastrophe future, a TV series that ignores the sequel and retcons the ending of the first film, a third film that ignores both the sequel and the TV series, and two film followups to the series which ignore the third film, an animated series set in a post-apocalyptic future completely different from the one in the second film and which ignores everything except the first movie (and most of that as well), and an anime film which reboots the entire story and is set in a third post-apocalyptic future. A planned Hollywood remake of the future is apparently stuck in Development Hell.
The X-Men films have gotten this way due to X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: First Class, both of which were prequels to the first three films and played fast and loose with the timeline. Mainly this is in regards to Emma Frost (is she a 20-something in the 60's or a teen in '79?).
Special mention should be given to Peter Greenaway, the arthouse director who has gone on record that, not only does he not care about continuity but outright defies it in order to get the right visuals. Take The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, and her Lover for instance; the characters change wardrobes as they walk from one room to the next in order to match the colors and decor of their surroundings.
Arthur C. Clarke's Odyssey novels are notable for each book taking place in a slightly separate universe than the one before it.
Similarly, Clarke seemed to also regard the three Rama Cycle books cowritten with Gentry Lee as being set in a somewhat different universe to his original Rendezvous with Rama. This may be less to do with continuity concerns and more to do with the fact that Lee wrote the bulk of these stories in a very different style and tone to Clarke's writing.
In the stories about Jerry Cornelius and his friends by Michael Moorcock and others, continuity naturally fails between the various twentieth century time streams, and often within some of them in what is, after all, a multiverse.
H.P. Lovecraft was known to disregard continuity whenever it suited him (mostly on the account of not seeing the point in continuity in the first place). The name "Old Ones" referred to both gods like Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth but also strange alien races like the one in The Shadow out of Time. Likewise, he has claimed that the "nightmare plateau of Leng" is in Asia, Antarctica and an otherworldly dreamland in various stories. One's sanity is a tenuous thing, after all...
Robert Rankin's Brentford trilogyoctalogy keeps the Reset Button firmly held down at all times - Brentford itself has been repeatedly destroyed/heavily damaged and on occasion, had the Great Pyramid of Giza teleported directly on top of it, world changing events are promptly ignored in later books, secondary characters disappear without a trace and almost the entire main cast was wiped out in book 3.
In George Orwell's 1984, the dystopian government's power comes mainly from their ability to do this by editing historical documents and newspapers. In fact, the main character's job is to correct newspapers, even to the point of inventing completely new characters and events to fill space.
The stories in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis by Max Shulman contradict each other in many ways, as the author's note points out.
Live Action TV
A few specific examples of this are called out below, but really, until fairly recently this was more the rule than the exception in American sitcoms.
Married... with Children: The Bundy family routinely caused great destruction, wound up in jail, or accumulated massive debts in their adventures, but everything was back to normal at the start of the next episode. One of the few times the show HAD continuity from episode to episode was during the Story Arc where the Bundys visited England— this is subverted at the last minute by having the story end with Al locked up in the Tower of London, sentenced to subsist on bread and water, seemingly for life (which is actually taken as a HAPPY ending by Al, since it gets him away from his horrible family.) Next episode, everything is back to normal. Rule of Funny, folks.
Red Dwarf has no problem with contradicting earlier episodes. Lister is a pantheist in Series 3 and an atheist in Series 5. He went from having never asked Kochanski out when he had the chance (Series 1) to having gone out with her before being subsequently dumped (Series 4). He had his appendix removed twice (though one of the novels attempted to Handwave the issue by stating that he in fact had two appendices). Of course, the series did have a fair bit of time travel, which could well have altered the backstory of the show.
The Mighty Boosh is hardly the type of show you'd expect to find continuity in anyway but it has a surprising combination of both Reset Button and Snap Back plots. One episode has a main character die only to have him rescued from hell by another, upon returning he's asked "I thought you were dead" only to respond with something to the effect of "Yeah, I'm back now" which is treated very nonchalantly. In other examples, Bollo the gorilla dies on one episodes ending only to appear again later. One egregious example involves them employing a Snap Back on Backstory— Howard reveals that he doesn't play instruments because he signed his soul over to the Spirit of Jazz to become a musical genius and now every time he picks up an instrument the Spirit of Jazz controls him. This isn't remedied in any way at the end of the episode but the very next episode open with Howard playing a guitar with no ill effects or explanation.
On Late Night with Conan O'Brien, he had a recurring character named Artie Kendall, who introduces himself and explains his backstory to Conan on every appearance, at which Conan shows no sign of having seen him before. This is particularly unusual given that Artie is a singing ghost.
While Conan was hosting The Tonight Show, there was a recurring character named Cody Devereaux, to capitalize on the "brooding, emotional vampire" craze. In every appearance, Cody would get sad, run outside, and spontaneously combust in the sunlight. There would even be a graphic with his year of birth and year of death. Whenever he would appear again, Cody would be fine.
The Goodies were arrested repeatedly, caused massive amounts of damage, had at least 2 separate sets of children and, on one occasion, the entire world was destroyed. Then they're back to normal again next time. There were a few instances where, despite their massive amounts of damage, they got a letter from the victim saying that their intent had been well-meaning and they wouldn't press charges. So occasionally, there were attempts at explaining why they got to run rampant.
The early-'90s Chris Elliott comedy vehicle Get A Life featured the main character getting killed at the end of several episodes, only to return in the next episode with no explanation or reference to his previous death.
The Young Ones often destroyed their house, each other, and the Fourth Wall all in a single go. All are back by the next episode (fragile as ever).
This trope is one of the charges frequently (and not without some justification) leveled at Star Trek: Voyager.
The Saturday Night Live recurring skit character MacGruber always gets blown up by a bomb along with his partners at the end of every skit, but is somehow still living (and still trusted by the others to defuse the next bomb in time even though he has yet to actually succeed at this task) for the next skit. Subverted in that his first love interest, Casey, is killed off in one sketch and stays dead (due to Maya Rudolph leaving the show). The Movie, however, plays this trope straight when it retcons her manner of death.
Scrubs kept good continuity in the main story, but the flashbacks were free game. JD and Turk met for the first time in so many different ways. (Usually when one opened the door to their dorm room, but which one it was and what the other was doing would change.) Since all flashbacks and daydreams were happening in JD's head, it makes sense that they would continue to change.
Saved by the Bell rarely had any continuity from one episode to the next. One Christmas Episode had Zack ask a homeless family to live with him, only for them to disappear once the episode ended. This trope was most glaring when it came to the kids' parents (the few times they showed up). Usually, they would be played by a different actor/actress each time, they would be divorced or not divorced, had different occupations, and would even have different names.
Of course, let's not forget the "Tori season". Essentially, the show filmed its final season, including the graduation. The network wanted more episodes, but two of the three female leads wouldn't return. A new slate of episodes were filmed with a new female character. These episodes where aired alternately with the original final season episodes. Therefore, they had Kelly & Jessie episodes interspersed with Tori episodes with Zack as love interest for both Kelly & Tori and neither set of episodes referencing each other.
Louis C.K. said of his show Louie: "Every episode has its own goal, and if it messes up the goal of another episode, [...] I just don't care." This is reflected in such matters as his character's mother being played by two different actors as having two completely contradictory characters in two episodes.
Glee falls here with regularity, particularly in tribute and holiday episodes.
Supernatural's Misha Collins has commented on the 'Angel drycleaning' that seems to apply to his costume, which was destroyed every few episodes, and always back to normal by the next week.
Father Ted allows Father Stone to stay with him forever after his brush with death. He is never seen again.
Pearls Before Swine does this intentionally. It's even lampshaded by the characters, e.g., "Didn't that whale die a few years ago?" "Yes, yes he did." And then the strip continues as if nothing happened.
Beetle Bailey: Only a few major events covered by story arcs have continued to be canon — mainly that Beetle enlisted to the army from college, and his and Sarge's vacations spent with Beetle's parents. Other than that, things up to and including aliens landing on Earth will be ignored in the next strip, and character concepts have changed to the point of Retcon.
One recent comic Beetle states that it feels like yesterday since he joined the army, another character adds that "It was Yesterday" which caused internet blogger Josh Frulinger The Comics Curmudgeon to joke that Camp Swampy is trapped in a Groundhog Day Film time loop.
A common device in radio comedy, where the audience would often consist of whoever happened to be near a radio set at the time. For instance, The Goon Show would often have major characters blown up, bankrupted, thrown into prison, killed by wet elephants, or otherwise removed from the story before bringing them back the following week. There was at least one character (Bluebottle) whose entire schtick was getting killed in every episode. Bluebottle is also a case of far shorter-term Negative Continuity: "You've deaded me, you swine!"
Old Harry's Game is full of negative continuity.
The Professor's character is originally called Professor Richard Whittingham, but in later series he becomes Professor Richard Hope.
Satan states that there is no such place as Purgatory (it's an invention by religious people who "didn't fancy their chances", but later Scumspawn celebrates some good news by going to tell "the demons in Purgatory".
Satan also states that he's never possessed any human, even though he's previously claimed to have possessed (among others) Eric Cantona, and later possesses a self-absorbed model so she can humiliate herself on live TV.
Season 3 ends with an appearance by the Archangel Graham, who is annoyed that his name was recorded as "Gabriel". Season 7 features a completely different Gabriel.
Early Super Robot Wars games in the "Classic" timeline were notorious for this, especially when events that happened in one game would repeat in the exact same manner from the last game and no one noticed or commented on it. By Super Robot Wars Alpha, when the writing got markedly better, this trope ceased to be prevalent.
Honorable mention: Each route in the games to Tsukihime and Fate/stay night have Multiple Endings, although each ultimately has a "True" ending and a "Good" (or "Normal") ending, which are not the same. The Tsukihime Kagetsu Tohya exists mostly in a dream and doesn't follow on any particular ending, and Fate/hollow ataraxia is in a time-loop and the same applies. Melty Blood takes place after an Alternate Universe that was supposedly an unreleased route of Tsukihime. Some endings are 'more canon' than others, but it's still nigh-impossible to reconcile them all. Especially since Kagetsu Tohya's dreamworld incorporates elements of all the endings.
The Galaxy Angel gameverse also had a sequel series, Galaxy Angel II, where elements from all the endings occurred (most obvious in Lily's character chapter, where her form of initiating Kazuya into the Rune Angel-tai includes re-enacting scenes from every Moon Angel's story).
The first three Crash Bandicoot games have continuity, It starts with Cortex making Crash, then he gets defeated on his blimp, finds the crystal and sets the plot of Crash 2 into motion, where at the end his space station gets destroyed. Start of Crash 3 then shows this released Uka Uka, and by the end N. Tropy, Uka Uka, and Neo Cortex are all trapped in time. This is where the Negative Continuity begins, as it's never explained quite how he recovered to race go-karts with Crash in time for Crash Team Racing. After that, it sort of deteriorates with different developers messing around with the franchise, earning it an eventual Continuity Reboot.
Ganbare Goemon 2 ended with the revelation that Ebisumaru was actually a woman trapped in a man's body, a curse that was undone by the end of said game. This was undone in future installments as if Ebisumaru was always a man. This may have been done to prevent him from becoming a possible love interest of Goemon's, since Omitsu was established as a major character in the following game.
In Mega Man Battle Network, there is an overarching storyline across all six games with consistent characters and villains. However, Negative Continuity is rampant in the area designs: the internet and some recurring real world places (like Sci Lab in 1, 3 and 5; Netopia Castle in 2 and 4) are redesigned in every single game, and there is an almost completely different set of locations to visit in each game. ACDC Town and its houses had all the same design in the first three games, but were heavily redesigned after the graphical revamp of the fourth game. The only place that never got a redesign was the school in ACDC, which never appeared outside of cutscenes in the final three games.
There's also some Negative Continuity with the characters too. Lan's father Yuichiro works for Sci Lab in every odd-numbered game, but otherwise: It's played straight in 2, where he's working at the Official Center (an "internet police" organization), justified in 4, where he's recruited by NAXA (a play on NASA and JAXA) due to a global emergency, and in 6 he's transferred to a different city to oversee the upcoming Expo. Also, in the third game, Lan's best friend Dex moves to Netopia (another country) in the 3rd game (and returns immediately "as a visit"), but in the following games he is back in ACDC.
This is the case with the main (platform) series, where Shigeru Miyamoto said that there wasn't a continuity simply because it'd limit the development of future Mario games (hence the Reset Button basically occurring at the end of every single Mario game when the world is saved). This isn't entirely the case with the RPGs, however, where events in past games are occasionally referenced, and don't have Miyamoto's input anyway.
While Princess Peach's castle looks more or less the same every time it appeared, its surrounding area or maybe even the interior changes with each appearance. In contrast, Bowser's own castle remains inconsistent in terms of design, though the Mario & Luigi and New Super Mario Bros.. games have their own standardized designs for the outside view of the castle. The latter may be justified that his castle is shown getting destroyed in almost every game it appears in.
In Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter for the DS, Galileo is nowhere to be found for some reason. It's not even said where he went to. There's also the ending, since it seals off hopes of a canon sequel, but they're making one anyways.
Averted in Ever17. Although the constantly restarting storyline simply does not add up at all, like anything that doesn't add up in the story, it eventually somehow does get explained.
ZUN has been quoted as saying that this applies to the Touhou games. It certainly was true for the five games on the PC-98. The series kind of remained like this immediately after the move to Windows with the sixth game completely ignoring everything before it, but the next few games at least mention the events of the previous Windows games. Then ZUN started writing Universe Compendiums around the time of the ninth game's release, and the series has had fairly strong continuity ever since.
The Mortal Kombat series has some outside of the main canon. You can kill any character and they can still come back in the ending or next game. Averted and played with in Mortal Kombat 9. Apparently everything up to Armageddon happened and Raiden tried to reverse it all with time travel, Resulting in a very different series of events. Averted in that each character apparently still has their own side stories, which do not run canonically with the main story.
Stargunner has two separate backstories, and 3D Realms waffles between both by publishing the manual, which has one of the two backstories, on their website, and then putting the other backstory on the game page and coding it into the game itself.
Penny Arcade rarely keeps continuity for more than one three-panel strip at a time; in news posts there is a Running Gag about the struggle against "dreaded continuity". Despite this, there are continuity nods, such as a watch that passes to the victor when one character kills the other.
PvP once parodied this when character Cole needed a trip to the dentist. He cheerfully told the dentist to go ahead and do whatever he needed and heck, forget the anesthesia, because Cole would be all better in the next strip anyway. The dentist then informed him that PvP isn't that kind of comic. Cole spent the next few strips at home, recovering and in a great deal of pain.
The Non-Adventures of Wonderella frequently has the characters get mutated, zombified, killed, or otherwise just given seemingly-permanent changes that get disregarded by the next strip. Not to mention all the times that the city got destroyed, everybody in it changed into sharks, etc.
It is actually stated at one point that the universe "reboots" whenever a Time Paradox occurs, resetting the continuity. This is a fairly common event in the comic, usually caused by Wonderella herself.
Casey and Andy, a comic about two mad scientists and their neighbors, routinely kills off the two eponymous stars, only to have them get right back up and continue on. In one strip in particular, the Big Bad of the day (it's always a girl scout) kills one by disintegrating his body below the neck, and, two panels later, he gets back up, only to have the girl ask how he did that? "Did what?" It might be "explained" by Andy being in a relationship with Satan, who returns them to life, but Word of God has it that this is not the case, and both Casey and Andy have died a few times before that relationship has started.
Le Avventure Del Grande Darth Vader has several episodes acknowledging the continuity of other episodes, but often has characters being decapitated by the protagonist, only to return as if nothing happened when their presence makes for a funny situation again. However, the two things are not mutually exclusive: an episode has a character acknowledging another character's death and return, only to have the "resurrected" character reply: "Yeah, I remember I was dead too, but our audience won't care about this."
VG Cats. Leo has been aborted from time and recovered, only to head back in time and cut off both his past self's arms. He got better from that, too.
In Bob the Angry Flower, Bob has repeatedly raised vast evil armies and reduced the earth to ashes, or fed every living thing into the mouths of gibbering Lovecraftian horrors, complaining all the while how people just don't have his vision. It never sticks.
Insecticomics has this in spades. A "catastrophic event of order" that would cause most universes to stagnate because of lack of entropy, only succeeded in giving the comic an official backstory, and not a particularly good one at that. The only subversions I can think of are: Thrust's gender, and the breakup of the Brigade.
Nobody Scores! uses this trope emphatically. Most episodes culminate in a disaster from which no kind of narrative could recover without the hard reset.
Speak With Monsters is technically a case of Deep-Immersion Gaming, but both gamers are roleplayers and neither are often shown, so their out-of-game personalities and thought processes don't often impact the comic. Since they recycle the same characters over and over, from the reader's usual perspective the same characters are dying over and over.
Chopping Block doesn't even keep the main character's personality constant from strip to strip—the only things that never change are that he wears a hockey mask and, for one reason or another, kills people.
Space Tree: The Space Tree used this a lot; in one early episode, a character is killed and replaced with an evil robot (but is mysteriously better in the next), while in another, the entire universe is destroyed.
Happy Tree Friends always results in most, if not all of the characters featured in each episode dying a horrible death of some kind. Despite this, all characters are alive and well the very next episode.
Oddly enough, there's still the occasional Continuity Nod. One episode featured Flippy being cured of his PTSD which actually seems to stick. An episode after this showed Flaky being afraid to get near him and having visions of him killing her, seemingly implying that somehow she is aware of how she has been killed before...which is odd, seeing as how Flippy still flips out in later episodes.
Retarded Animal Babies, also hosted on Newgrounds, takes full advantage of Negative Continuity to kill/maim the main cast (especially Bunny) each episode, only to have them back by the next. In one later episode, the entire universe was destroyed by one of the cast when he tried to f*** a black hole. Surprisingly, the series actually reveals why it has Negative Continuity (aside from Rule of Funny): in one timeline the cast grew up; while they ultimately became successful adults (somehow) they also became smart enough to realize that their world sucks. Cat, who became a Mad Scientist, then invented a Physical Law Usurper, which gave them all the chance to go to a place outside of normal space and time, where they could remain blissfully ignorant forever. As a side character in a later episode notes, "they exist in a continuity proof bubble, like a bunch of Kennys from South Park!"
Cat: We can go back Donkey! We can go to a place where we will be young and retarded forever! We will never grow old. We will never get smart. We will never realize what a horrible place this world truly is.
Then, Bunny attempted to destroy the entire universe. Needless to say, while he succeeded...
Actually justified in To Boldly Flee, where it is revealed that any continuity errors are the result of a literal Plot Hole in space. By the end of the film, the entire universe becomes part of the Plot Hole.
Hardly Working (except Jake and Amir) with the worst example being Die Hardly Working - people die and come back to life in the episode
The two ongoing series on Red Letter Media, the Plinkett Reviews and Half In The Bag, both adhere to this. In the case of HITB, though, this is subverted by reality: the living room set is gradually destroyed by the ongoing antics of the characters, and the beer bottles consumed in previous episodes are left to accumulate, to the point where it's difficult to move around without running into them.
It should be noted that continuity in Western Animation is a relatively new thing, perhaps its earliest use starting when cartoons first moved to television in the late 1950s, but even then it took a while to become widespread. When watching something like Looney Tunes, Popeye, or Tom and Jerry, you don't expect anything resembling continuity, even in cartoons with the same characters and similar premise.
Example: Sylvester and Tom often go from master to master between cartoons, or are pets in one picture and strays in another. Claude Cat, except for "No Barking Here", was always a housepet, though his design changed from sleek to more rangy, and a red stripe was added on his underbelly.
The location of Bugs' hole also changed from picture to picture, often seen in a place where he became a nuisance to someone who wished to build on that property.
Not to mention that even the time period when these cartoons take place can vary dramatically. Most Tom and Jerry stories are set in the present (the time they were made anyway), for instance, but then there's stuff like "The Two Mouseketeers," which is set in Renaissance-era France, and "Advance and Be Mechanized," set in the far future. (The former, incidentally, is a rather famous, or perhaps infamous, case of negative continuity as the episode ends with Tom's death. Naturally, Tom is just fine by the beginning of the next short.)
Yogi Bear is something of a transitional phase between theatrical animation and TV animation. The earliest Yogi cartoons don't always depict him living in Jellystone Park, don't always have Boo Boo as his sidekick, and whenever Ranger Smith did show up, he wouldn't look the same from cartoon to cartoon.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force This trope allows them to get away with, say, Frylock refusing to move back even after the others beg him to in the episode "The The." There's also Shake's frequent deaths and Carl getting repeatedly mutilated/mauled. Occasional callbacks are made just for laughs, and recurring character M.C. Pee Pants' whole gag is that he doesn't benefit from a Snap Back and everything that happens to him sticks.
The best example of this would be the season 2 finale, "The Last One." The episode involves all of the Villains of the Week that the Aqua Teens had faced banding together to form a Legion of Doom. This is despite the fact that some of said villains were violently killed by the end of whatever episode they debuted in.
American Dad! has the episodes "Hot Water" (an episode done In-Universe by Cee Lo Green, on what you should take into consideration when buying a tub...) and "Tear Jerker" as officially non-canon.
Though originally "Hot Water" was going to be the series finale before they got picked up for another season, so yeah...
South Park: Kenny's repeated deaths, for starters. Oddly, the characters are somewhat aware that Kenny's died a lot. This is occasionally lampshaded. The kids' ages are also an example of this; they did at one point go from third to fourth grade, but they've been in fourth grade for close to a decade, despite going on summer break several times. Also, the 14th season episode "You have Zero Friends" revealed that the kids were born in 2001, meaning they were not alive for the first five seasons of the series.
It should be noted that, during the Coon episodes, it is eventually stated why Kenny is always alive later.
Some faux-Clip Shows have the characters remembering past episodes completely wrong (such as everyone getting ice cream at the end.)
The boys' given ages constantly vacillated between 8 and 9 after they entered fourth grade. Later episodes have them said to be 10, although this too can depend on how Parker and Stone feel when writing a script.
Superjail! has some of the most bizarre examples. Usually happens about once per episode.
Dexter's Laboratory: Shorts often ended with inescapable doom, or other seemingly-permanent bad things (like the destruction of Dexter's lab on several occasions, or the whole planet getting destroyed by a huge meteor shower in "Let's Save the World, You Jerk!").
Duckman: Lampshaded when the character Ajax was beat up and placed in traction. He mentioned that he would be in perfect shape tomorrow due to non-FDA approved drugs. Another example: The amount of grievous bodily harm that Duckman puts his secretaries Fluffy and Uranus through, only for them to be back to normal by the following episode; this was lampshaded by Uranus in the first episode, when s/he comments that being stuffed makes them "very resilient."
Invader Zim: The world has been dragged trillions of miles off course and major characters have been turned into bologna or had their organs replaced with household objects, and yet virtually every episode starts as though nothing unusual has happened. Again, there are occasional callbacks.
Dib: I helped you when we were turning into bologna.
Zim: YOU'RE MAKING THAT UP!
The Angry Beavers: A lot of the episodes end with Norbert and Daggett in a seemingly inescapable situation, or, on at least two occasions, accidentally destroying Earth. One episode had them eat a magic nut which regressed them into little kids, which later on they started de-evolving backwards through history, becoming (among many more things) knights, cavebeavers, then protozoa.
Sealab 2021: The Running Gag of Sealab blowing up repeatedly. Lampshade Hanging occurs in the third episode, "Radio Free Sealab," when Marco tells Captain Murphy, "Once again, your stupidity has killed us!" before the explosion. The show also plays with this trope— some episodes reference past shows with perhaps only some characters actually remembering the event. For example, when Quint mentions he was a robot (as revealed in an earlier season) and everyone seems surprised, Quint explains he had told them previously. note It should be noted that the episode in question ended with everyone being killed.
The Simpsons has an interesting trend in having mostly Negative Continuity with the occasional Continuity Nod. Characters will often comment on a previous episode's events, such as Homer's Mr. Plow job when he took off Flanders's roof to use as a snow plow, or Mr. Burns and Krusty the Clown not recognizing Homer and Bart, even if someone points out all the major things they've done to them. It doesn't usually affect the plot for that episode other than a joke. The Simpsons have made something of an art of using a Continuity Nod to lampshade the lack of continuity.
Mr. Burns: I'm sure your replacement will be able to handle everything. Who is he, anyway?
Smithers: Uh, Homer Simpson, sir—one of your organ banks from sector 7-G. All the recent events of your life have revolved around him in some way.
Mr. Burns: Simpson, eh?
A similar conversation in another episode:
Mr. Burns: Simpson eh? New man?
Smithers: Actually he thwarted your campaign for governor, you ran over his son, he saved the plant from meltdown, his wife painted you in the nude...
Mr. Burns: Hm. Doesn't ring a bell.
Bart: I'm Bart Simpson. I saved you from jail. I reunited you with your estranged father. I saved your career, man! Remember your comeback special?
Krusty: Yeah, well, what have you done for me lately?
Midway through Season 5's "Homer Loves Flanders", Lisa observes that, on account of Homer now being friends with Ned Flanders, something odd seems to happen to their family every week, but soon enough something happens which returns everything to normal. At the end of the episode, the main plot has not been resolved, and Homer and Flanders are still friends, causing Lisa to fear that perhaps this means it's the end of their adventures. We then flash forward to the following week's airtime ("Thursday, 8 PM") when a completely different plot is set in motion. We then see that off-camera, the events of the previous week's adventures have returned to normal and Homer hates Flanders once again with no explanation given. Lisa and Bart both sigh in relief.
Many Treehouse of Horror episodes have various characters die. However, the halloween specials are officially non-canon, so it makes sense however most deaths outside of that remain that way
Oddly, a clip from the first halloween special was seen in one of the clip show episodes.
The Simpsons also suffers from "continuity bubbles," where some things happen in specific years throughout the show's run while others have sliding dates in relation to the present. For example, Homer and Marge "always" graduated in 1974, even though in 2012, this would mean Marge would have had to give birth to Maggie in her mid-50s; also, multiple episodes say Bart was involved with Sideshow Bob's first arrest "in 1990", even though a later episode shows that Marge wasn't pregnant with Bart until after she finished college in 1994. Another one is about Marge and Homer in college in the 90's, despite the fact that the show started at the end of the 80's and both Homer and Marge were married and settled down with kids when it started.
Homer was an infant during woodstock and a teenager during the first moon landing.
Ăon Flux makes a point out of not having continuity.
Aeon doesn't die as often in the long episodes (she only dies in two of them, with a third that leaves her in an And I Must Scream situation that retains some possibility of rescue), but the authors seem to have excised almost every example of continuity. Each episode takes place in a vacuum: events, characters, and settings used in one episode will never be seen or referenced again. The exceptions are the main characters, Aeon and Trevor, the countries they live in, and a single reference to an event from a previous episode in "Chronophasia".
Drawn Together applies this trope endlessly, with characters dying several times an episode, spouses of otherwise unmarried characters showing up for one episode and then vanishing, the Earth being conquered (and all characters killed) by robot insects with hats, etc.
Futurama lampshades this once, when Fry declares that the most important thing in sitcoms is that "When the next episode starts, everything is back to normal"... as the camera pulls out on the burning ruins of New New York, which is — of course — back to normal by the next episode. The series as a whole has a continuity, an explicitly stated timeline, a canon, and at least one running storyline-that involves Nibbler and is hinted at from the first episode. It is still affected by Negative Continuity, though.
In "A Farewell to Arms" there is a Continuity Nod to the Native Martians abandoning their homeworld in "Where the Buggalo Roam" and the planet Mars is thrown into the sun. Nine episodes later in "Viva Mars Vegas" Mars not only still exists the Natives still live there.
Megas XLR: Not only does Coop destroy the garage (and often house) where he lives every time he takes Megas out, but he often destroys New Jersey ENTIRELY. It's always fine the next episode. Lampshaded vaguely in an episode where Coop needs money and says: "I don't have any cash; my mom took away my allowance for wrecking the house again," and again in an episode where Coop destroys the city (again!).
In Courage the Cowardly Dog, many episodes has Eustace being turned to stone, eaten by a dragon, stuck in space, etc., or Courage turning into a helicopter, or Muriel becoming a puppet, but everything was back to normal by the next episode. Also, villains would come back and not be remembered. One noted exception is the character Le Quack, where it is actually explained how he comes back and why no one recognizes him.
In Tom Goes To The Mayor, not only has Tom meeting the mayor seemingly for the first time in every episode but the episode "Spray a Carpet or Rug" actually ended with Tom's suicide and subsequent descent into Hell while "Bass Fest" ended with the death of seemingly everyone but Tom. In both cases the next episode begins with everything back to normal. This has been somewhat explained by the creators: Tom is stuck in a kind of Hell, and every new episode he goes to the mayor with an idea, something absolutely terrible happens to him, and everything snaps back and he gets to be tormented again.
Family Guy: Very often, and it often lampshades it.
For example, one episode portrays the Brian as having been with the Griffin family since he was a puppy; another portrays him as having joined them after being homeless and already grown-up as a dog. Both of these were meant to be taken seriously.
In the Rush Limbaugh episode, Chris remarks that Rush Limbaugh didn't actually exist and was a persona created by Fred Savage. When Lois questions him on it, he mentions that Lois herself had reported all of this when she was a FOX news anchor. Lois retorts that everything on FOX news is a lie, and true statements on FOX news retroactively become lies.
The Powerpuff Girls frequently had Townsville getting physically smashed or going up in flames. It was always perfectly fine by the next episode (even though the episodes are probably very close together, since the characters never move on from kindergarten). Lampshades (sensing a theme?) when Townsville was undergoing renovation/reconstruction, presumably from all the fights the PPG have had there.
The Land Before Time series is positively egregious in this regard, constantly resetting character traits and ignoring all the times when they finally got to paradise.
Beavis And Butthead frequently had the title characters get severely injured or their house trashed (if not completely destroyed), but everything was always fine by the next episode. Also, Mr. Van Driessen (Beavis and Butthead's teacher), survived much more painful injuries than the duo, considering he fell in a chasm during a field trip and was knocked out by government agents in Beavis and Butthead Do America. Even better, he got killed in his first appearance, before he was even introduced as a teacher.
An in-joke in the first Uncancelled season has Beavis and Butthead discussing that they used to have a friend named Daria who ended up moving away. Obviously this was an explicit reference to Daria, who indeed moved away and became the subject of her own TV series. The thing is, Daria actually had some plot progression and the show even ended with Daria and her friends splitting up and going off to college. Meanwhile, Beavis and Butthead have been in the same grade with the same teacher and classmates for well over 15 years at this point.
Camp Lazlo's continuity can't make up its mind. Although a fair amount of things do stay with the continuity, some cases go beyond Status Quo Is God. Camp Kidney built five years ago one episode? Next episode, it's decades old. How old the camp is, how long the characters have known each other and more change from episode to episode, yet things like Edward owning a doll and Lazlo renaming the newspaper remained until the show ended. Edward being able to drive the cabins like cars was even promoted from a one-time gag to a plot element in the next season.
Very few things that happened in episodes of Ren and Stimpy carried on into later episodes (they lived in a different place every episode), but one of the things that did get carried from episode to episode was Stimpy's first material possession (a litter box)... until it was destroyed.
Monkey Dust. Taken to extremes. One sketch features a character that commits suicide each week. Another features a character who, every week, is released from prison after being locked up for 25 years for a crime he didn't commit.
Just about every Sponge Bob Square Pants episode has Negative Continuity. In one, Squidward and SpongeBob were turned into snails, and in another they were turned into fruit and about to be eaten by the Flying Dutchman. Multiple times, Bikini Bottom has been crushed, blown up, and destroyed. Seems to be happening a lot less often in the newer seasons, but definitely true of the first few, at least.
Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, given that the premise seemed to be to just put the character in antic inducing situations for 7 minutes, and then start anew in the next short. It does become a bit of a head scratcher when skills the two have acquired simply vanish, and little bits are blatantly reversed— such as Yumi's fear of squirrels in Season 1 paired with her love and devotion to squirrels in Season 2. Also Kaz's love of watching professional paint drying, contrasted with his later attitude of what a waste of time it is.
Justified in Code Lyoko: Thanks to the "Returns to the Past", any injuries or problems the kids face can be easily resolved and the status quo unchanged, even for no real reason. The only exception is death, though the series did end up trying to decrease the RTTP power by giving a consequence for its overuse. Even with the Reset Button, the first season still had a bit of unexplained negative continuity, such as certain characters never being mentioned again. The later seasons stopped doing this, as a side-effect of not using the returns to the past in every episode any more.
Count Duckula. Nearly every episode ends like this, with the castle destroyed, or having train-tracks running through it, or having the characters stuck without the castle in another country and having to hitch-hike home. One episode had them complaining about this, and how it takes FOREVER to get back home.
The Penguins of Madagascar does this quite a bit. On the other hand, it also often takes throwaway gags in previous episodes and turns them into running gags (or devotes whole episodes to them!).
The charater Juandissimo, that is the fairy godparent of one of Timmy's enemies, Remy Buxaplenty, is often shown living alone in Fairy World, then is shown living with Remy again. In the episode "Fairy Idol" (season 5) he even competes to become a fairy godparent, but in season 7 it's confirmed that he's still Remy's godparent.
In one episode, Mr. Crocker does not recognize Poof, who he had a bond with in "Bad Heir Day" (keep in mind, this happened after that episode).
CatDog, being a borderline Sadist Show, likes putting its protagonists through terrible tribulations; for example, at least two episodes end with the duo's house burned down or collapsing into the underground, and it's good as new come next episode.
Adventure Time: "Ocean of Fear" establishes that Finn is terrified of the ocean, but he had no problem jumping into it four episodes earlier in "Business Time".
In the first episode "Slumber Party Panic", Princess Bubblegum tells Finn that the Candy People explode when they're scared. This is never mentioned again and has been contradicted numerous times, such as in one of the Graybles episodes when Cinnamon Bun is terrified by excessive darkness and brightness.