Life is funny...if you enjoy pain.
"Why is everybody we know depressing?"
There's a German word, Schadenfreude.
It means "the joy you get at seeing other people's misfortune" (Schaden = "damage", Freude = "joy"). The Sadist Show
is built on it, mainly for psychopaths. In this kind of show, there are no sympathetic characters whatsoever, and nobody will ever Pet the Dog
. Everybody is both obnoxious and incompetent, beyond even the Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist
. The audience can't really root for them, so the fun is in seeing the characters suffer more than they deserve
, more than Job
, more than possibly everybody in the history of the human race combined
. In short, it's a comedy, but not in the Shakespearean sense.
And not just any old misfortune, like getting an Anvil On Head
. The agony in a Sadist Show
is a very sharp kind, the one that reminds you how totally unfair life is. It isn't a Sadist Show
unless the characters suffer the very opposite of poetic justice. For instance, if our Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist
has been mugged, that's not enough. If the poor dope runs to report the mugging, and is arrested for jaywalking, and has to sit in jail while the mugger walks past their cell every day, that's the Sadist Show
Sometimes, there will be a character who the audience kind of sort of roots for, but not really. One form is the No Respect Guy
(like Frylock from Aqua Teen Hunger Force
) who tries to act decent but fails. However, the audience doesn't exactly root for them, because they're so ineffective, and they're usually a bit of a stick in the mud too. Another form is a Heroic Sociopath
, who is as vile as the rest of the cast, but is at least competent (like Brock Sampson from The Venture Brothers
). But they're too evil to really cheer for, and how sympathetic can they be if they're stuck with the rest of these losers? The Venture Brothers
, with its emphasis on failure, reminds us that Brock may be competent, but he's in a pointless dead-end gig, and one that he is so over-qualified for that it's humiliating.
Note that this can be somewhat subjective, depending on how sympathetic and/or interesting one finds a character, a cast, or a situation.
This kind of show almost always has Negative Continuity
, so the writers can inflict any kind of torment they like (including killing them off over and over again
) without affecting future episodes.
Often overlaps with the Grossout Show
. An Immoral Reality Show
will usually be this in-universe. May be the result
or overlap a World Half Empty
. Essentially the basic premise of a Dark Fic
. Compare Kafka Komedy
. Compare and contrast Point-and-Laugh Show
(Real Life Jerkasses
, but dispensing with the torture in favor of just laughing at their existence).
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Anime and Manga
- Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt: It's like Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi meets South Park meets The Powerpuff Girls, Japanese Anime Style.
- Pick a harem series. Any. You'll be lucky if it isn't this trope.
- Love Hina, featuring the classic and pioneering example of an endlessly comedically tormented harem protagonist.
- Girls Bravo does this with a protagonist who's literally allergic to women. Hilarity Ensues.
- The anime of School Days is a more full-fledged example; all the main characters are total jackasses, especially the male lead, and most of the appeal of the series comes from the multi-horrific-murder ending, because by that point you want everyone to die.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion. The protagonist has no backbone and is nearly everyone's Extreme Doormat, the Emotionless Girl is easy to sympathize with (but she isn't supposed to be), and so is the Fiery Redhead despite being one of the people that contributes towards making said doormat's life a living hell.
- Ultimate Girls. UFO Man has revived three girls by sacrificing much of his own life force, so now they're in charge of protecting Tokyo. Oh, but growing 50 feet tall is only the half of this show. While most fellow fanservice shows just feature embarrassment as a natural emotion of being seen naked, this show actively goes out of its way to utterly humiliate the protagonists. It's not enough that embarrassment becomes the girls' power source as their magical spandex wears out (very quickly). Oh no. When they revert back to their normal size, they don't even get their clothes back, even though said embarrassment has already served its purpose.
- Lucky Star, somewhat. While a lot of it is fluff and cuteness, the girls do tend to find themselves in awkward situations much of the time. Examples? Tsukasa having no say when Konata and Kagami go to see a slasher movie, the three girls (not much later in the same episode) finding themselves in a jam at a cake buffet, Miyuki missing a dentist appointment while waiting inside the lobby, Yui barging in drunk just when Konata and Soujiro are about to have a nice, heartwarming moment, more than one instance of Kuroi-sensei appearing online and telling Konata to go study instead of gaming, Konata scaring Tsukasa while they're sleeping at the beachhouse, and let's not even get started on Hiyori or the Lucky Channel segments!
- The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is this at times, probably peaking at the infamous "Haruhi steals a computer by threatening to frame a bunch of hapless nerds for gang-rape" scene. She spends a lot of time harassing Mikuru, too. But most of the characters are likable, Haruhi doesn't seem outright malicious as much as self centered, and things get significantly better after her Character Development.
- Alien Nine. Yuri got chosen for the Alien Party completely against her will. And there is no way out of it for her (except maybe killing herself).
- Grrl Power! One half-hour OAV which focuses on convincing this one guy to go to school. How do the girls do it? Set him up for all kinds of miserable tasks, and when he asks for payment, explain that it's not a part-time job. The girls are saving up to set up a new country at some island. Oh, and there's also this one man who the girls refuse to do a damn thing for, for no explained reason, even though they make a point of helping everyone else who can pay up.
- Blood-C chances are if you're not an ally of the Big Bad or Saya prepare to die horribly.
- The When They Cry series, due to the Hate Plague.
- All characters in the movie version of X1999 die either in the first 5 minutes after they're introduced or at least before the end of the movie.
- Excel Saga. Everything Il Palazzo assigns to his henchgirls ends up in failure, Hyatt is so ill that she continually dies and comes back to life, all of Menchi's attempts to escape Excel's ownership end in failure, Mr. Pedro lost ties with his family to Gomez, Nabeshin is prone to lose loved ones only moments after he reunites with them, and Excel's neighbors are led by one hell of an iron-fisted bitch.
- Amazing Nurse Nanako. One of the few shows starring a female Butt Monkey. And it's played for laughs, too.
- It's Not My Fault I'm Not Popular!, the semireal tales of a mangaka who went through a loss of humiliation and abuse.
- Keroro Gunsou. Being a space frog with inferiority complex, while trying to take over Earth, only to be at the mercy of the pink-haired Natsumi Hinata, who you live under and forces you to do chores can suck big time.
- Paranoia Agent. This applies to the lives of nearly every main character that is featured in each episode, up until Lil' Slugger comes by and puts them out of their misery.
- D.Gray-Man: Allen Walker is the universe's chew toy whose rather depressing life is played off for laughs.
- Nichijou. For starters, we have Nano, who finds it embarrassing that she's a robot and has to wear a key on her back all the time, and Sakamoto, who is prone to getting hurt by some thing or another. Then there's everything that happens to Yuko, Mio, and Mai during the series. Mio's older sister is just one more problem that Mio herself has to deal with.
- Ranma ½. The main characters frequently fight and/or scheme against each other (largely in the name of love), and Ranma is constantly smacked around by his fiance for things that aren't his fault. This is all mostly played for laughs, especially in the anime.
- Super Cruel and Terrible Tales of Mangaka. It's a semi-documentary manga about the lives of typical down-on-their-luck mangaka, and it's darkly hilarious: between dysfunctional workplace, overbearing editor, and general sad state of the manga industry in Japan, it comes out as something that is genuinely funny. For example, one of the mangaka just lost his position in a prestigious magazine and is forced to draw for no-name hentai publication for a shitty amount of money. To avoid unwanted children he can't afford to raise, he force his wife to only do oral. This in turn make the wife sick of him, and she abandoned her. The mangaka is now jobless and gets no sex at all. Hahaha.
- Welcome to the NHK!, with a This Loser Is You protagonist, his loser otaku friend who tries to help him but unwittingly makes his life even worse, and the girl who also tries to help him (surprise surprise, she's just as much of a socially inept dork as he is, and suicidal to boot). Played half for comedy, half for drama.
- Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro Chan, which is about an Ordinary High School Student and the insane Magical Girl who kills him repeatedly. Removing her halo causes massive bouts of diarrhea. Another angel shows up and tries to kill protagonist-boy with a cattle prod because he's going to invent immortality in the future...but only for women, and it makes them all look twelve, so everyone decides he's a pedophile. Very much a Crosses the Line Twice sort of show.
- The comics in MAD Magazine featuring Monroe, a whiny, ugly teenage loser. His stories often end with something nasty and painful being done to him.
- Also Mad's Spy vs. Spy, originally by Antonio Prohias. Unlike in the golden age cartoons such as Tom And Jerry, one or the other of the two spies suffers a gruesome and usually fatal injury.
- Ziggy, the eponymous character is always getting the short end of the stick, and the other human characters he comes across are sarcastic and indifferent towards him at best, and cruel to him at worst. No wonder he only has animals as friends— but then again his pet parrot Josh isn't all that nice to him either.
- Funky Winkerbean started as a standard humor comic strip, and eventually morphed into a treatise on existential despair and the futility of life.
- Spider Man can tend this way, Depending on the Writer. At the best of times, writers make sure to show how his superheroic life makes his mundane life more difficult. At the nasty end of the scale, he can't keep a girlfriend (or wife), job, or residence; he's roundly hated and on the run from both the police, the mob, and a veritable army of Super Villain; all of his friends are dead, insane, on drugs, insane AND on drugs, or refuse to take his phone calls because he's so unreliable; and he intermittently suffers injuries, power fluctuations, web-fluid shortages, and costume damage. And at one point, his heroism winds up killing him!
- How pathetic can it get? There was a three issue run in the early 90s where, because Peter had been so busy with superheroics and his mundane life, he forgot to do laundry and had to fight crime in a dirty, slightly mildewed costume. Everyone he encountered commented on the smell and made remarks about his personal hygiene.
- Life In Hell. Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Garfield. Lots of the humor revolves around Garfield, Jon, and Odie (usually the latter two) being injured. In one strip◊, Garfield kicks Odie off the table, then drops a freaking vase on him.
- Hägar the Horrible, particularly when the eponymous character deals with his wife Helga.
- Baby Blues, mainly for the parents.
- Zits, for both the parents (whose teenage son drives them crazy), and for said son (whom they deliberately humiliate, as if that's an acceptable way to run any relationship). Though, to their credit, at least they're not nearly as abusive as Monroe's parents.
- Peanuts. Everything that happens to Charlie Brown. Linus is not much better off, having such a tyrannical big sister as Lucy.
- The Lockhorns. Their last name says it all: They argue and berate eachother about everything.
- The Final Destination film series pits normal humans against an immortal, undefeatable, omnipresent force explicitly identified as The Grim Reaper. The humans escaped their original deaths due to unexplained premonitions of their demises. Death wants to balance his books, and he goes about it in a spectacularely sadistic way. As a result the series mostly revolves around figuring out in what horriffic ways the protagonists end up dying.
- Big Bully. So, if you've tattled on your childhood bully, he gets sent away to reform school, and you get to move away and live a happy life where you can be a successful novelist, right? Nope. People are more interested in the new Stephen King book, you're divorced, your son hates you because of that, and that childhood bully is back, and he can get away with messing with your life again, as good things happen to him.
- Meet the Parents and its sequels have one thing after another go wrong for Ben Stiller's character. Even after his happy ending in the first movie, he is embarrassed once more during the credits.
- The Muppets. Have you ever seen a group of characters get shat upon as badly as Kermit and the gang does in this movie? Even the ending is more or less a depressingly unhappy one.
- Pretty much any of Paul Verhoeven's movies. Even the 'heroes' are unlikeable and amoral, tending to use sex as a weapon against others. Bad things happen to his characters, and you can't really find a reason to care. (The SFX are usually pretty entertaining, though.)
- The Passion Of The Christ: Subverted in South Park, "it only shows a man being tortured for 2 hours".
- The Karate Kid: Giving us plenty of scenes of Daniel being beaten and tortured, and bad guys being patheticaly punished.
- Matilda Small girl lives with TV-obssessed family who treat her like crap. Headmistress is even worse. Fortunately she gets psychic powers and gets revenge.
- "Kevin Shapiro, Boy Orphan" in Daniel Pinkwater's story Young Adult Novel is the lugubriously sad tale of a thirteen-year-old boy straight out of Dysfunction Junction, told by the Wild Dada Ducks of Himmler High School. Kevin fails so completely to fix his messed-up life that he often gets killed off in frustration; of course, Negative Continuity lets him always come back to life in the next chapter.
- The early novels of Evelyn Waugh are sadist shows. In the first few pages of Decline and Fall, for instance, Paul Pennyfeather gets debagged, expelled from Oxford, fined five and sixpence for two cigarette burns in his room, cheated out of his inheritance by his guardian, and sent to work in the worst school in England. No wonder he's upset. ('God damn and blast them all to hell,' said Paul meekly to himself as he drove to the station, and then he felt rather ashamed, because he rarely swore.')
- When Philip K. Dick was going through his darkest days of depression and insanity, he wrote some very painful stories, most of which consist of him bashing down his protagonists so that even suicide seems like a happy option.
- The Gap Cycle. Hooooo, boy, and HOW. It's even represented by an actual sadist show in which a large-breasted woman cuts off her breasts with a rusty knife, then guts herself. On a nightly basis, thanks to future technology - but she still feels everything.
- Justine by the Marquis de Sade is nothing but a Sadist Show (written by the guy who gave rise to the very word "sadism", no less!) punctuated by philosophical monologues. The world is not just indifferent, but actively malevolent. Justine is consistently punished for her decent behavior while her persecutors experience nothing but boons for their cruelty and selfishness.
- The Ur Example for this in television might be the game show Queen for a Day, on which five female contestants described in excruciating detail their horrible Real Life problems (such as deaths in the family, cancer, job loss, poverty, homelessness, even mental illness) in order to win prizes, the host viciously belittling and ridiculing them as the audience laughed at their predicaments. When the winner was announced, the other contestants were ushered off the stage and given nothing, not even bus fare home. This passed for family entertainment for twenty years on American TV.
- The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica plays this for drama. It got excruciatingly (and brilliantly) dark at points.
- Teen soaps are prone to this half of the time, apparently to show you that some Teens Are Monsters. Nickelodeon usually leads this trope, as well as Dan Schneider shows that employ Abuse Is Okay When It Is Female on Male.
- Almost any Indonesian TV.
- The series Arrested Development finds its characters, particularly Michael Bluth, constantly having brief opportunities at success yanked away from them. Often times, it will be the culmination of the decisions of everyone in the house working against each other to completely void any progress they may have made. The mildly likable Michael Bluth often finds that as soon as he himself is willing to be the slightest bit lax in his principles he is karmically punished, as when he condemns his family for spending their shares of company stock only to have it immediately revealed that he has used his shares to buy a new car.
- The humor in the BBC TV series The Office and Extras comes from the continual humiliation of the main characters, especially the second series of Extras.
- The US adaptation of The Office will occasionally flirt with this, but seldom rely on it. However, the Dinner Party episode...
- The same goes for The IT Crowd, often in a big way.
- The Brit Com Bottom (as well as its spiritual predecessor The Young Ones) exists entirely so the audience can watch two only-slightly-sympathetic Loser Protagonists sharing an apartment, arguing, dreaming up Zany Schemes that inevitably fail, beating the hell out of each other, and suffering fatal injuries at least once every three episodes. Edmondson, Mayall, and Planer also joined forces for Filthy Rich And Catflap. This sort of show is really Edmondson and Mayall's specialty.
- Peep Show is another Brit Com to fit this trope, a cringingly awkward black comedy following, once again, two only-slightly-sympathetic Loser Protagonists as they ruin their own chances in life and love.
- Every single episode can be summed up as Mark Corrigan narrowly avoids a fleeting moment of happiness.
- Married... with Children. What redeeming moments the characters had were very few and far between, and such moments were almost always the exclusive purview of Al and to a lesser extent Bud.
- Played for drama in Breaking Bad. The show opens with Walt deciding to use his scientific expertise to make a batch of meth so he can pay for his cancer treatments. His life spirals downward from there, further and further, as the expense of treatment draws Walt deeper and deeper into the drug world.
- Somewhat inverted on Frasier, which was an extremely well-written show with sympathetic characters, but it was very rare for the eponymous character or his brother to ever come out ahead by the end of the episode. This made the series a bit of a "Masochist Show."
- The Worst Week Of My Life
- Mad TV
- It's arguable that the humor in Australian mockumentary We Can Be Heroes derives from the patheticness of the characters.
- Everybody Loves Raymond, to some extent. There are no more than token efforts to solve the Dysfunction Junction situation. Ray is a wuss when it comes to standing up to his wife and mother, although he does get better at this in the later seasons; Frank is an insensitive Jerk Ass; Deborah is a mean, overly angry housewife; Robert is a self-loathing whiner who expresses Wangst despite the fact that he's in his forties; and Marie is simply the personification of the devil who uses guilt to get what she wants in addition to being meddlesome.
- Dinner Impossible could be fairly accurately summarized as "Food Network tries to kill Robert Irvine." Restaurant Impossible allows him to spread the suffering around a bit more. That said, he enjoys the sadism a bit as he doesn't perform so well in other shows.
- From the same network, a lot of the "Food Network Specials" basically consist of the audience waiting for the cake to fall over.
- Or shows like Chopped and Cupcake Wars which is a stage by stage elimination show where 3 out of 4 chefs dreams gets crushed one chef at a time.
- Hell's Kitchen, getting eliminated early there is practically suicide for your career in the culinary field, you will be stuck working for slave wages after this at a low quality dining place if you were eliminated early.
- Hello, Supernatural. All the fans watch it to see the Winchesters suffer and see how Dean will fall apart this week (except for the portion of the fandom that thinks Dean is a saint). And everyone loves to watch Sam and Dean cry.
- Everybody Hates Chris. The name speaks for itself.
- Seinfeld was practically built around this idea. "No hugging, no learning" was the mantra in the show's formative years.
- It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is this trope in spades. The main cast of five has virtually no redeeming qualities and their attempts to improve anything always makes it worse. Sweet Dee was originally conceived as the voice of reason, but very quickly lost that aspect of her character and is now just as horrible as the rest of them.
- Lexx is another World Half Empty example. The characters are less than sympathetic, and while you'd kinda root for them at first, by the third series you'd wish they died in the pilot, for the entire Universe's sake. The third series tries to redeem them, but some even consider blowing up Heaven and Hell planets to deserve them the fate above. Fourth series goes to Earth, which doesn't have that much luck or sympathy either, and is destroyed chunk by chunk until it is blown up and between the survivors manage to wind up President Buffoon, the Mad Scientist partly responsible for Earth's destruction (and his Fangirls), and of course, the devil himself.
- The BBC show Mongrels
- Malcolm in the Middle. The show is wall-to-wall power struggles and emotional warfare. The rule on that show is that whatever makes the characters (especially Malcolm) the most miserable is what will happen. Just two examples: the episode that ends with Francis dragged naked behind a Zamboni on a skating rink (after trying to stop getting deeper in debt to his evil employer), and the episode that ends with Malcolm being insulted, a lot, by a girl, having a crying jag, and drying his tears with poison oak.
- There was an in-universe example of this as well... In one episode, Francis babysits his brothers and sets up a "contest" to see which brother loves him most by doing random tasks for him. This quickly devolves into a brawl, and Francis briefly cuts in, saying something to the effect of "Whoa, whoa. This was supposed to be about love, and you've turned it into something ugly! ...Carry on." He then sits down with a drink and watches his brothers fighting, saying "This, too, pleases me."
- The Thick of It is a relentlessly cynical, sadistic show about dirty cowards and a near Villain Protagonist. The characters who aren't self-serving and malicious are hideously incompetent, and they all inhabit a realm where idealism goes to die. Oh, and it's about politics. But we repeat ourselves.
- And then there's Cheaters. The show's purpose is to be a private investigator service for people who think their significant other is being unfaithful. Except without the "private" portion. If the SO is indeed cheating, you don't have to pay any fees for hiring the show, but you are expected to confront them and the Other (Wo)Man in public with the host and camera crew trailing behind like Ambulance Chasers, getting in the broken-hearted peoples' faces and asking "How do you feel?" Never once have they shown an investigation that exonerated the SO or had a happy ending. Is it any wonder the host was once stabbed on-camera by an enraged man?
- Naeturvaktin/Dagvaktin/Fangavaktin/Bjarnfredarson are about a Dysfunction Junction Comic Trio unintentionally (and occasionally intentionally) making each others's lives worse in a Crapsack World. Dagvaktin is the most extreme, dealing with the cast committing or enduring rape, murder and child abuse, as well as embarking upon a Mushroom Samba and breaking the index finger of a Jerkass surgeon with million-dollar hand insurance.
- Ooh La La Couple, a 2012 Korean Drama, constantly has its characters in awkwardly funny situations that should generally be serious and heartbreaking, but are juxtaposed to hilarious reactions.
- ANT Farm. While the main character isn't too bad, everyone else is either an inconsiderate jerk or a complete idiot.
- Black Books is nothing more than an embittered Irish drunk taking out his anger and frustration on the world, usually in the form of Manny. It's good.
- Paranoia has one of the most consistently and gleefully sadistic rule sets imaginable, as everything and everyone is stacked against the players, including each other. The backup clones each player receives does less to mitigate the cruel dooms than it does to encourage the GM and players to heap even more on each other. Players participate with the guarantee that they will get to spread their share of sadism around and enjoy the suffering of their friends.
- Whacked! No matter what the specifics are for any given round, it will always involve slaughtering your opponents with baseball bats, meat cleavers, exploding rubber duckies, oversized shishkabobs, cacti, missiles, and plenty more! Again, and again, and again!
- Conkers Bad Fur Day. Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Maybe minus the "fur" part, since none of it has anything to do with his fur so much as his acid-trippy trials and tribulations, which are ultimately topped off with his life being ruined. Did the prologue say that this was all how he became the king? It was all a lie. He never became anything grand; he just went through hell for nothing... or, less than nothing, if you will.
- Dragon Age II, Hawke is caught smack dab in the middle of having an apostate (or being an apostate) on the run from Templars and insane blood mages and have absolutely no way to make anything better. Only the way they approached one bad thing after another. Either by being pragmatic/sarcastic/angry.
- Something Positive is a form of Sadist Webcomic that is more about characters surviving their lives while the world continues to spit at them. (Of course, how sympathetic you think they are depends on how you view the passive-aggressiveness and sadism they react with.)
- 8-Bit Theater has an entire cast of idiots, sadists, and idiotic sadists. The main characters are Fighter, a nimrod who manages to be Too Dumb to Live and too stupid to die at the same time (or maybe not); Black Mage, a psychotic murderer who kills any- and everyone that gets in his way (and a few others just for the hell of it); Red Mage, a Munchkin powergamer blissfully unaware of his own idiocy with no regard for anyone elses' well-being; and Thief, a duplicitous, greedy elf supremacist with no conscience. All their opponents are of matching idiocy, and the king of the local kingdom wears the literal interpretation of Black Comedy for shoes. In fact, the most sympathetic main character other than White Mage, the voice of reason, is Black Mage, as he's at least tried to change. Well, before it was revealed that in order to obtain his doomsday attack, he sacrificed orphans to a dark god. Said doomsday attack is also powered by love; i.e. it siphons love out of the universe, and the divorce rate goes up by a few percent every time he uses it.
- Even White Mage is becoming more of a Jerkass, with her refusing to heal Black Mage when he has a spear through his head (though to be fair, it's Black Mage). Also, to add insult to injury, Thief almost never gets his comeuppance, whereas Black Belt (an actually slightly sympathetic character) is the only character yet to have been Killed Off for Real (even the Big Bads turn up in Hell occasionally).
- Technically, Thief does get his comeuppance when he loses everything he has ever stolen when his bag of holding is frozen, then is shattered into a million pieces in order to kill one of the fiends. He is catatonic for several strips afterwards.
- It's true, he rarely gets his comeuppance, so it's just that more hilarious when Berserker strangles him with his own intestines. He has savagely attacked Thief at least 3 times by now.
- The webcomic Ansem Retort, which tells the tale of a sadistic Fox reality show.
- Garfield minus Garfield forces this trope into being, but that's somewhat the point.
- Nana's Everyday Life is basically about how long you can keep a character alive without putting her out of her misery...
- Every protagonist in Contemplating Reiko is a sadistic demon girl.
- The Snail Factory features characters which eat each other on a fairly regular basis.
- Classic Disney Shorts: Donald Duck. OH, Donald. In his own words "You can't win. You just can't win"
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force
- Invader Zim: A megalomaniac alien, a deranged hedonistic robot, a paranormal-obsessed lunatic and his self-centered, sociopath sister in a ignorant, cybergothic Crapsack World.
- This one's worth elaborating on a bit, because there's something special about just how all these characters come together to create the amazingly unfortunate (for the characters) milieu of this show. Vasquez has managed, through no small amount of effort in both writing the show and fighting to get his ideas aired by the censor-happy Nickelodeon network, to create a world wherein everyone fails at everything they try all the time. The only ones who come out okay are the ones (read: Gaz and...pretty much just Gaz) who do. Not. Give a shit. About anything. Dib tries to foil Zim's latest plan to destroy Earth? Dib probably succeeds, Zim's plan fails, ending up with Zim learning nothing, Gir having destroyed half the lab (again), Dib taking the blame for whatever damage Zim wrought on the world, and Gaz rubbing salt in his wounds by calling him a kook. Pyrrhic victories all around, nobody grows, and the world is worse off. In every goddamn episode. Vasquez is a misanthropic savant.
- Family Guy - From about season 4 and onwards.
- The Simpsons. Only show ever to have a famous running gag involving child abuse. Not to mention everything that happens to Hans Moleman and Milhouse.
- Moral Orel - Especially in the third season, when it stopped pretending to be a comedy.
- Sealab 2021
- Frisky Dingo
- Pick one of the Looney Tunes derived series from WB in the 90s and tell yourself it isn't sadistic, you won't be able to.
- When Drawn Together isn't about taking the piss out of Reality TV (the original premise which it pretty much dropped in the second season) or cartoons, it's about heaping abuse on the dysfunctional housemates. Fortunately, they all retain strong Jerkass tendencies, so there's little room for sympathy save for Captain Hero, who was originally the biggest of the Jerkasses but developed into the most sympathetic character.
- Stressed Eric: The entire point of this show was to have every single thing in the protagonist's life go horribly wrong. At the end of every episode he collapses of a heart attack or some other such stress related malady.
- The Ren & Stimpy Show
- The Venture Brothers. More on show page.
- CatDog. They never succeeded, and they lived in a Crapsack World.
- Ed Edd N Eddy. It's a rare occasion that the neighborhood kids did something positive toward the Eds. It changed by the end of the movie—the neighborhood kids actually start liking the Eds at that point.
- In most of the episodes, a character gets hurt practically every five seconds. The show practically revolves around pain.
- South Park - the moral of the show appears to be "Life sucks, then you die. Then life continues to suck, and you die again."
- From it's second season and onward, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends often wound up being this.
- A majority of The Buzz on Maggie has the eponymous character treated like crap by her parents, her Jerk Jock older brother Aldrin, the teachers, the Alpha Bitch Dawn, and occasionally, her younger brother Pupert and her best friend Rayna. The only time that the odds were in Maggie's favor was when she was forced to babysit her baby sister Bella while trying to win memorabilia of her favorite band.
- Jimmy Two Shoes: It takes place in a town that's obviously Hell, with the eponymous character the only one in the cast that isn't either a complete sociopath or an idiotic hedonist.
- Total Drama. It's even hosted by a sadist!
- Spongebob Squarepants seems to have become this in it's later seasons, due to Seasonal Rot.
- The Drinky Crow Show
- Superjail: It has a sadist Willy Wonka looking character for a prison warden.
- American Dad, though to a lesser extent than Family Guy.
- The Life & Times of Tim: When Tim isn't the victim of his own social ineptitude, he's suffering for being too meek and unassertive to turn down his friends and coworkers' terrible ideas.
- Futurama: In the future, Everything Is Trying to Kill You. And the only one who minds is a one-eyed sewer mutant.
- The Fairly Oddparents anyone? The whole show seems to revolve around ways to just to torture Timmy in the most cruelest ways possible. Heck, his parents get in on the act more often then not. It's a miracle the kid hasn't broken down after all the crap he gets into.
- His life being hell is why he has Fairy God parents in the first place, Timmy has two Fairy God Parents who grant his every want at any possible second, Timmy despite parental and babysitter abuse can still live in total paradise whenever he wants. As long as he makes smart wishes and keeps them under control... (Note: He never does.)
- Dexters Laboratory certainly qualifies.
- Time Squad. Almost all of the humour comes from the main characters being complete dicks to each other- Tuddrussel abuses Larry, Larry tries to kill Otto, Otto attacks Tuddrussel etc. The most vicious cases of this is when the writers had decided to make entire episodes dedicated to making sure that Otto is completely miserable, like have him abandoned on islands only inhabited by blood-thirsty baboons. If it's not the main guys- you can bet that some of the jokes come from ether Tuddrussel beating people up for stuff they didn't even do or historical figures being stupid or jerks and their inventions or ideas cause mayhem.
- The heroes and sidekicks of Sidekick are so horrible it almost makes you wish XOX would just destroy the world already.