A show which suffers an excessive regular turnover in the main cast. Regulars might last for a season or two at the most and even the (seemingly) most vital characters have a very high chance of being dropped at the end of the year. This is not merely Loads and Loads of Characters
- the core cast at any one time might be pretty small, just prone to being replaced.
Generally this happens most organically where a series is mostly concerned with a place of work such as a hospital
or police station
at which some turnover might be expected, but it is not limited to such. For obvious reasons this is much more likely to happen in a Long Runner
; Long-running shows without turnover frequent enough to qualify for this designation might still qualify for Long-Runner Cast Turnover
The actual way the old characters are written out can range from merely Put on a Bus
to Brother Chuck
. Expect a lot of Suspiciously Similar Substitute
style replacements. When a new regular conveniently shows up just as another is shown the door, that's a Convenient Replacement Character
Based around a place of work:
- Saved By The Bell: The New Class dropped three of its seven regulars at the end of its first year (including the main character). It did the same thing the following year, including a survivor of the first season. And so on, and so...
- If you're interested:
- Season 1 began with Mr. Belding, Megan, Weasel, Vicki, Scott, Lindsay and Tommy D.
- For season 2, Weasel, Vicki and Scott were dropped and replaced with Screech, Brian, Bobby and Rachel. This was due to the six students in season one merely being expys of the original cast, and Saved By The Bell: The College Years getting cancelled led to Dustin Diamond returning.
- For season 3, Megan, Brian and Bobby left, and R.J., Ryan and Maria arrived.
- For season 4, Tommy D, Lindsay, and R.J. were dropped and Eric, Nicky and Katie arrived.
- For season 5, Rachel was replaced by Liz.
- For season 6, Ryan was replaced by Tony. Seasons 6 and 7 were filmed concurrently so there were no further cast changes on the show. Only Mr. Belding was on the show from beginning to end.
- Dream Team, the British soap opera set in a soccer club, featured dozens of characters during its ten year run, the great majority lasting a year or so. And an absurdly high death toll for a soccer club.
- Partially justifiable, in that much like in real life, players would sign for the club, before being sold on in a transfer window. Or, more than likely in the show, die.
- Law & Order and its assorted spinoffs.
- Seminal British police drama The Bill.
- ER. Even Doctor Carter eventually left the show (as a regular).
- To elaborate: during two or three seasons (with exception of some occasional episodes), NONE of the original series regulars were there. Curiously, ALL of them returned (briefly, mostly for only one or two episodes) for the last season.
- Any David E. Kelley show. Later seasons of both Ally McBeal and The Practice had older cast members being replaced by younger, sexier versions because either the actors would quit or Kelley would just get bored with their characters. Boston Legal and Boston Public were the worst offenders as literally every season of both shows were littered with disposable characters that never gelled with the rest of the cast. Sometimes cast members would even get replaced mid-season.
- While the core group of interns in Grey's Anatomy has remained constant until recently, there has been a constant parade of attending surgeons and new interns. In the later seasons so many new characters appear and then rapidly disappear that the show appears to be just throwing characters at the audience to see who sticks.
- Spooks has run for ten years and kills off or writes out main characters frequently and with extreme prejudice, something that starts in episode 2. Of the original cast only one remains, but he's more of the boss over the other main characters.
- The process is slower than in other examples, but Degrassi has gradually retired its early characters in favor of new ones. Snake is the only one who's been a main character the whole time, and he's usually a minor character.
- Damages tends to revolve around this trope with the appeal of the show generally being that most of the guest stars (and series lead Glenn Close) are film actors (William Hurt, Martin Short, John Goodman etc.) or other actors who normally don't do TV. In a given season these actors usually play the Big Bad or other characters that are somehow tied up in the plaintiff's case. At the end of the season a case is usually resolved and most of the supporting cast are either killed off or put on buses indefinitely. It's also notable that of the original six main characters so far only two have not been killed off or sent to prison with only a few characters added since then getting any luckier. The luck of the guest cast is almost worse.
- Brazilian soap opera Malhação has had a lot of this since its inception in 1995 - even changing the setting (from a gym to a high school, then another high school) to justify it. The actor with the longest run (6 years) even joked he and the runner-up (5 years) stood so long because they never scored with anyone in the soap opera.
- Casualty has old cast members leave and new ones join at least once a season on average. As of August 2012 (Season 27) only one character, Nurse Charlie Fairhead, remains from the first season.
Not based around a place of work:
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch is a fairly mild case; only two main characters lasted to the end but most other characters stayed on the show for two to three years.
- lonelygirl15. Danielbeast is the only character who was on the show from start to finish, and even he had some short phases of being Put on a Bus.
- Power Rangers. Fairly justified in newer seasons that are actually completely different teams, but for the first several seasons, the main cast remained more-or-less consistent... except when it didn't, starting with the replacement of the red, yellow, and black rangers in season 2.
- Let's review anyway:
- Season 1 begins with Jason, Zack, Billy, Kimberly, and Trini. Tommy joins midway through.
- Season 2: We have Rocky replace Jason as Red Ranger, Adam replace Zack as Black Ranger, and Aisha replace Trini as Yellow Ranger.
- Season 3: Katherine replaces Kimberly as Pink Ranger, and Tanya replaces Aisha (although she never uses the Mighty Morphin' powers and doesn't become Yellow Ranger until Zeo.)
- Season 4: There are only five rangers, so Billy steps down, leaving Tommy, Adam, Rocky, Tanya, and Katherine. Jason temporarily returns as the Gold Ranger before leaving at the end of the season.
- Season 5: Between seasons 4 and 5 (The Turbo Movie), Justin replaces Rocky as Blue Ranger. Midway into season 5, Tommy, Adam, Tanya, and Katherine are ALL replaced with TJ, Carlos, Ashley, and Cassie, respectively. At the end of the season, everyone heads into space on a rescue mission except Justin, who stays behind to be with his father.
- Season 6: Andros appears and gives the team new powers, and then they begin replacing the ENTIRE cast each year.
- Blake's 7. Originally Blake, five other people and a computer. By the fourth series it was no Blake, five people, only two of whom were in the first series, and two different computers.
- Soap opera Neighbours (and probably others of its ilk) is known for having a small cast of longer-running (usually older) characters and a substantial contingent of high-schoolers with a very high turnover rate.
- Angel. At the end of the show, two of the original three characters have died, and at least one new character was accumulated every season.
- Doctor Who. The new series replaced at least one primary cast member every single year until series 6.
- In the 1960s, there were fairly frequent cast changes in calendar terms, though so many stories were done per year early on that short-term companions stayed through a significant number of episodes. Sara Kingdom and Katarina were both regulars for part of only one story, The Daleks' Master Plan.
- In a few cases (like season 1 of the new series), the Doctor himself didn't last more than the one season in his current incarnation.
- LOST is notorious for its Anyone Can Die mentality that results in at least two main character deaths every season (except the first), plus several new regulars each year:
- Season 1: Boone died and Walt was kidnapped/Put on a Bus
- Season 2: Ana Lucia, Eko and Libby join the cast. Shannon, Ana-Lucia, and Libby all died, the latter two as part of a double murder. Michael was Put on a Bus.
- Season 3: Ben, Juliet, Desmond, Nikki and Paulo join the cast. Eko and Charlie both died. So did Nikki and Paulo, who were series regulars for the first 14 episodes, but no one cares about them.
- Season 4: Daniel, Charlotte, and Miles join the cast. Michael returned from his bus trip and died. Claire wandered off into the jungle and vanished.
- Season 5: No one joins the cast, though Ilana and Caesar were almost regulars; Caesar dies however. Charlotte and Daniel both died. Locke dies, but Terry O'Quinn stays on as Jacob's nemesis.
- Season 6: Recurring characters from previous seasons Frank, Richard and Ilana join the main cast, Juliet dies, and Claire returns. Locke, the Oceanic Six and various other characters also appear as alternate timeline selves.
- The TV series Mission: Impossible (1966-73) was one of the earliest examples of this; only Barney (Greg Morris) and Willy (Peter Lupus) were regular characters for the entire show's run.
- Earth: Final Conflict: The villain Sandoval (Von Flores) was the only character who stayed throughout the whole run.
- Heroes was meant to switch out most of its main cast every season, but this was changed. Instead, everyone from season 1 has immunity from death or bus trips (Nikki died but Ali Larter played a new character, Nathan stuck around for half a season after his death). Even recurring characters that weren't promoted, like the Haitian, get this immunity. Meanwhile, every volume introduces at least a dozen characters that appear in most, sometimes all episodes and are all replaced with a new set of characters. The only one that stuck was, ironically, introduced as one of a few one-off villains in the early half of his first volume.
- Due to the circumstances surrounding its creation, this occurred with Robotech, which changed casts whenever it began adapting a new anime and thus began a new cycle. Twenty-one years later, when Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles was produced, it replaced the cast again, combining a handful of characters taken from all three cycles with several new ones.
- Any superhero team tends to fall under this.
- Skins switches out its entire cast every two seasons.
- Farscape: Following Zhaan's departure in Season 3, at least one character was replaced with a new character each season.
- 24. Only Keifer Sutherland has appeared in every episode, with the runner-up (Mary Lynn Rajskub) lagging behind by about fifty episodes. Some get jettisoned between seasons (Day 4 and Day 7 ditched most of the main cast except for Jack Bauer), but for the most part, characters departed the show by getting brutally killed off. Of the Main and Recurring characters from Day 1, only a tiny handful are still alive by the end of the series run, and only Jack Bauer is still actually in the show.
- Dragon's Den changes the Dragons every season or so, with at least one investor leaving per series. Indeed, out of the whole cast, only Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne have stayed for all eleven seasons, with everyone following on from Rachel Elnaugh leaving after only a couple of seasons.
- Misfits lost all its original regular cast members over the third and fourth seasons. The fifth and final season had none of the original main characters.
- The Walking Dead has headed towards this thanks to Anyone Can Die. Currently of the original 7 cast members only 3 are still alive as of the middle of season 4, two recurring characters from the first season who were later added to the main cast are still around though one was Put on a Bus and only two of the characters added in season two are still alive. A good number of characters from season 3 are still around though given then the low life expectancy of the source material one probably shouldn't expect them to stay safe for much longer.