Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness
"Now, I've noticed a tendency for this programme to get rather silly. Now I do my best to keep things moving along, but I'm not having things getting silly!"
How does the work present itself? Do the characters appear to treat their current situation with the utmost seriousness and urgency or do the actors seem to be having way too much fun with their roles?
The answer depends on where the series falls on the Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness.
- A largely silly series relies heavily on the Rule of Cool, the Rule of Funny, and the Rule of Fun. Much of the dialogue is made up of cheesy one-liners, and emotions and reactions are often exaggerated or otherwise played for laughs. No Fourth Wall and Negative Continuity may also be present, though not required, and it is possible to use both tropes in serious works as well.
- A mostly serious series relies more on the Rule of Drama, and the writers at least try to make the dialogue and emotional responses as realistic as possible, though if written or delivered poorly it can still result in Narm. It is possible that there may be moments of comic relief, but in general the series will retain its serious tone throughout.
It should be noted that when a creator creates a piece of media, they often take their work very seriously and want it to be good. But that doesn't mean that the work in question has to take itself
It should be also noted that this scale is completely independent of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism
. It is entirely possible to have a work be idealistic but retain the same level of seriousness throughout, such as in The Dark Knight
. Likewise, it is equally possible to have a very silly and campy work be downright cynical throughout, such as Family Guy
Careful fact-checking might be a good indication of where the show lies on the scale. If the person clearly did do the research
and the situation presented on the show at least closely resembles how it would happen in Real Life
, then most likely the show takes itself seriously. However, it should be noted that just because they didn't check their facts, doesn't mean that the show was supposed to fall on the silly side. It could just as easily have been the result of carelessness or ignorance as to how things actually work on the part of the writers, thus leaving the series still serious, but filled with plot holes and factual errors. On the other hand, if the presentation is clearly done as a parody, or presented in such an outlandish and over-the-top manner, then the show itself probably doesn't take itself too seriously.
Works So Bad, It's Good
generally fall more toward the silly side, while works So Bad, It's Horrible
could fall on either side of the scale. Many works that are on the serious side but are considered So Bad, It's Horrible
have been criticized for taking themselves TOO seriously, thus becoming humourless, po-faced and pompous
on top of their other faults, and many people believe that such works would have been more enjoyable
had they been more camp
, sometimes leading the creator to attempt a Parody Retcon
. Conversely (although relatively rarer), it is possible for a show to not take itself seriously enough, which can affect the audience's ability to immerse themselves in the drama; if the writers and characters obviously don't take what's happening seriously, why should the audience? True to form, works that are So Okay, It's Average
can fall on either side of the scale, with slight silliness being moderately prevalent.
Of course, it is entirely possible for a work to be silly and campy, yet still be genuinely good on its own merits. Many fan bases tend to take the object of their fandom more seriously than the casual viewer and often vocally demand that the show reflect this; see Maturity Is Serious Business
for more on fans of this mindset. Pandering to the Base
can pose a problem, however, if as a result of this a show initially quite 'silly' begins to take itself too
seriously, with the result of turning off casual viewers. If silly scenes and serious scenes are back-to-back to each other, beware of Mood Whiplash
. Cerebus Syndrome
can occur if the work starts out on the silly side, and eventually ends up on the serious side over time. Some concepts can confuse the scale, such as Black Comedy
— comedy is generally more silly, but the subject matter of Black Comedy
is dark and serious.
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Anime and Manga
- Hayate the Combat Butler is definitely on the silly side of things. No Fourth Wall, Negative Continuity, an Unreliable Narrator who interacts with the characters, Mask the Money... and that's all without the Parody Stu main character who is both a Marty Stu AND The Chew Toy at the same time. The picture for this ought to just be Hayate talking about the "Very Nice People." This doesn't stop the series from doing serious, or semi-serious, story arcs, as with The End of the World or Golden Week. This happens more in the manga than the anime, though even then there is only one truly serious story arc and it still keeps the comedy.
- Some people consider Fullmetal Alchemist too silly because even when the story gets serious, visual gags abound and the characters manage to crack jokes in the middle of the most adverse of situations, causing immense Mood Whiplash. Possibly the only part that does without any measure of humor is the lengthy flashback about the war in Ishval. And halfway through an episode of Brotherhood (its direct anime adaptation), a very excited and cheerful announcer will sometimes yell "FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST" in the midst of a gory battle. Mood Whiplash twice within 15 seconds. The 2003 anime version, on the other hand, while often mixing deadly serious and completely farcical elements just like the source material, took itself much more seriously and included allusions to very adult themes (most infamously, gang rape). Given this, it seems strange that Brotherhood received a higher rating of R-17, whereas the 2003 anime was a PG-13.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann starts off on the far side of silly, but winds up somehow mixing hyper-reliance on Rule of Cool with Tear Jerkers and dog-shooting, Bruce Ironstaunch aside.
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni can go from one length to the other without any warning, but when the going gets serious, it usually stays serious until the end of the arc. This creates a good effect of Mood Whiplash.
- Elfen Lied also has some extremely radical shifts from silliness to seriousness and back again and gives off plenty of Mood Whiplash of its own. Overall it probably doesn't take itself too seriously.
- MD Geist takes itself very seriously and many have criticized it for doing so, given how poorly made and ridiculous it was. The fact that it manages to keep a straight face while talking about an Ultimate Evil called DEATH FORCE stored in an impenetrable fortress called BRAIN PALACE is part of the reason why it's So Bad, It's Good.
- SHUFFLE! is another one that goes from one end to the other. The first half of the series is full of fun, fanservice and harem jokes. The second? It got worse. Most people find this an example of Growing the Beard, but a few think it's Jumping the Shark.
- Trigun starts off very far on the silly side and although it gradually becomes more serious as the series progresses, it never completely loses its sense of humor.
- The Berserk manga for the most part takes itself pretty seriously. The main exceptions are the scenes involving either Puck or Isidro, who both tend to be extremely silly and have even broken the fourth wall a few times. Puck and Isidro are not present in the anime due to the anime mainly taking place during the Golden Age arc of the manga, which has the Band of the Hawk bringing their occasional moments of humor to the series — right up until they die horribly when the Eclipse goes down.
- Gintama owns this trope. It's mostly a gag comedy but it can seesaw into dark and sentimental territory.
- Serious fight scenes are interspersed throughout but there is always witty dialogue to accompany them. Characters are really good at ruining serious moods.
- This series often serves to deconstruct various (and more serious) genres in a humorous way.
- One Piece is a series that can be shockingly violent and dark at times (a good example is the Alabasta arc), while being ridiculously silly near-simultaneously. The same fight scene where Usopp, the lovable comic relief, gets his skull cracked and nose broken by a 4-ton bat (among other painful things), features a gun-dog hybrid who sneezes exploding baseballs.
- Regarding that hybrid — if you've heard of the Devil Fruits, you might assume it was a dog that ate a fruit turning it into a gun hybrid. You'd be wrong. It's actually a gun that ate a fruit turning it into a dog hybrid. (the 4Kids dub and the faithful translation have two different one-line explanations for this. Neither of them make much sense.) There's also a sword that ate an elephant fruit. Try figuring that out.
- Another example of One Piece's ambiguousness in this is the Arlong Arc. During the flashback to the death of Bellemere, her fall to the ground following being shot is cut through a few times with other brief flashbacks of giggle-inducing footage of young Nami and Bellemere's relationship. Very hard to cry and giggle at the same time.
- Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo falls so far on the silly side that it breaks the scale.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion is a complicated case: in its lightest moments it could almost be categorized as comedy, but its dark climax is... rather grave.
- Comparatively, Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei takes very serious subjects, such as suicide, domestic violence and rape, and makes them *funny* .
- FLCL and Rahxephon: both music-themed mecha shows, both very clever, both on opposite ends of the scale. For one thing, FLCL uses modern rock and Rahxephon uses classical music.
- For an animated feature film, Princess Mononoke is decidedly serious. It has comic-relief moments, but only one real laugh line ("No, it's still broken.").
- Fist of the North Star is extremely serious... Or was created with the intention to be, anyway. Most people today watch it for the narm that results.
- The series also has quite its fair share of (intentionally) silly moments, moreso in the TV series than in any other version (where they tried to give Bat more focus by making the Plucky Comic Relief). There's really no way that characters like Juza, Ein, Gyoko, and the whole Fang Clan were meant to be taken too seriously in the first place.
- Death Note is very serious. Most of the humour is subtle and the kind that makes you chuckle, not laugh out loud. It doesn't cross over into narm too often in the anime...and almost never in the manga.
- Most notably, Ryuk's hijinks, especially when apples are involved, Misa's shennanigans, and almost everything about L, and Mello's chocolate eating habits.
- Excel Saga spends exactly 2 episodes being serious. When you have a living Reset Button as part of the cast, it comes with the territory.
- By contrast, the manga features a sliding scale that is all over the place: with hectic silliness interlaced with looming seriousness. It tends to hit the serious end when dealing with Il Palazzo and Kabapu's origins, motivations and encounters. Also worth noting the fact that Excel's past and first encounter with Il Palazzo is hinted to be a dark one. Last but not least, the daily life of Excel and other ACROSS operatives are presented to be dire - dirt-poor and always near-starved, at some points imprisoned and/or homeless (to the point where Excel considers imprisonment to have the advantages of 'three hot meals a day and a cot'
- Blame! begins as Serious Business and ends as Serious Business, though an almost complete lack of drama prevents any narm from showing up. There are a few darkly humorous scenes though, near the beginning... If you squint.
- "My arm should be around you. Should you come across it, please take it with you."
- In Kyo Kara Maoh, Ordinary Highschool Student Yuuri is flushed down a toilet into an alternate universe where he is seemingly arbitrarily crowned king of demonkind. Then they hit you with the Fantastic Racism and Sealed Evil in a Can. It slides on down the scale toward serious through the series, with a few (mostly) filler-induced fluctuations.
- Katekyo Hitman Reborn! started out deeply steeped in Refuge in Audacity with its Butt Monkey protagonist and gun-toting baby tutor...then the Kokuyou arc happened. Now its a largely serious piece with perhaps a bit more comic relief than usual thrown in as a reminder of its roots.
- The Twelve Kingdoms is very far on the serious side. It's realistic in that a few characters can see the humorous parts of life as well, though.
- Full Metal Panic! swings between both ends of the scale, which results in a fair bit of Mood Whiplash - especially if you're having an Archive Binge and watching Fumoffu and The Second Raid back to back. Given the way later installments in the light novels are going, expect more of the same.
- Naruto seems light-hearted at first, but after the Wave arc Starts, it can get very serious even by Shōnen standards, especially after the time skip. Dear god where to begin there.
- Naruto the character himself also exhibits this trope. In Serious mode, he has the "I want to be stronger than all Hokages", "I will never give up", "I have to catch up to Sasuke and bring him back", sennin mode, kyuubi mode, and now the rikudo mode. In Silliness mode, he has the sexy technique, farting humour, stupidity, ramen obsession, pervert. This was nearly lampshaded once, when Naruto went into the Kyuubi mode and started a rampage, and Sakura sees a flashback of Naruto smiling with his hand on the back of his head, and remarks, "Is he really that Naruto?"
- He often does both at the same time (and make it effective), in one of the first episodes Kakashi sticks his finger in Naruto's ass with so much strengh it sends him flying, several arcs later, when Naruto is fighting against his (until that point) stronger enemy he decides to use the same technique, except that instead of a finger he sticked an explosive, Gaara states that his sand armor was the weakest in that part.
- In terms of other characters, any fight focusing on the Hot-Blooded Rock Lee or Might Gai, or the jive talking Killer Bee will mix comedy and drama throughout.
- Record of Lodoss War is pretty serious. The second part, on the other hand, is very silly.
- Eyeshield 21 is a series that's very aware it's a sports manga and has no problem poking fun at itself; whether it's lampshading particular cliches, cracking jokes during moments that would be played as tense in any other series, or having characters so over-the-top and fun that any flatness they may have is forgiven.
- The franchise has usually placed itself far at the serious end of the scale, with Gundam 00, Gundam SEED, and Gundam Unicorn, the most cinematic Gundam shows thus far, probably at the farthest end of the serious side of all of the series. The ones that go closest to the silly side include Gundam ZZ and G Gundam.
- Gundam Build Fighters is for the most part a very silly and fun show. It does, however, tend to dip into the serious side of things, namely when it involves the Cyber-Newtype expy, Aila. Especially episodes 20 and 21.
- In the beginning, Dragon Ball was pretty silly but starts getting more and more serious over time. By Dragon Ball Z, it's mostly serious but still has quite a few humorous aspects to it such as the Ginyu Force, Mr. Satan and a lot of things in the Majin Buu arc.
- Battle Angel Alita is a noften very serious manga, with gory deaths and no character being safe from getting killed; however this doesn't stop it from constantly adding jokes or over the top elements. Even the normally very serious main character Gally/Alita has moments in which she cracks jokes, does silly things or accidently reveals that she is not as smart as she pretends. Last Order drives the point home when one character got heavily injured and the distraction to get him away results in a super sonic thumb fight between two martial arts fighters.
- Tank Girl is set in the Australian outback in a dystopian future. The main character is a girl who drives a tank. And drinks beer. And snogs kangaroos. On the silly side, most plots are very thin and resolved in some ridiculous way.
- Bone creates a perfect balance here. The heroes could be walking through the dark forest, right into a very serious and threatening ambush of two rat creatures. The next thing you get is the two arguing about whether they should capture them alive or make them into a quiche.
- Sin City, as dark as it is, is so over the top and insane that it often ventures into Black Comedy with a dash of Rule of Cool.
- Perfect case in point: Marv. Any action he takes could apply, but possibly the most wildly ludicrous: Marv flat-out torturing a series of seemingly random, shady people in his search for information. This culminates with an image of him in a car, holding an unfortunate face-down in the asphalt, driving at a speed fast enough for the unfortunate's legs to be up in the air. In essence, he is using the street as a grindstone and holding a dude's face into it. Marv's line, also captured in The Movie, is "I don't know about you, but I'm having a ball." This sequence captures this trope masterfully, as not only is the situation extraordinarily insane, not only would this guy have not survived through the first two seconds of this abuse, not only could Marv never hope to actually get information out of this guy afterwards, but Marv is one of the good guys. With zero irony, Marv is a sympathetic hero searching for truth and justice AND ALSO a psychotic madman who murders and tortures freely in this horrible Crapsack World. The seriousness and silliness is completely interwoven throughout all of the Sin City stories, with varying degrees of success.
- Every run of Deadpool before the Daniel Way relaunch was a balancing act of serious plot and character development, and wacky humor, black comedy, and comedic "caper"-esque scenarios. Gail Simone's Agent X, being an extension of her Deadpool run, was identical in tone to these, while her similarly-approached Secret Six was a seedier, more depraved version of that. The comics launched in 2008 with Daniel Way's run are almost exclusively focused on setting up scenarios for the purpose of laughs, making Deadpool more of a Looney Tunes cartoon that interacts with the more straight-faced Marvel Universe. An exception to that is Deadpool as he appears in Uncanny X-Force, where for comedic purposes he's batshit insane, but for drama purposes he displays more poignant humanity (such as a sequence where he calls out the other members of the team for killing a child, an issue that happens to parallel a moment in Frank Tieri's Deadpool run). Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan's 2013 run, however, marks a return to the pre-Way approach, balancing serious and silly.
- Moulin Rouge! could be considered the perfect representation of this scale because it begins serious, goes silly for a long time and then, at the second act, smashes onto seriousness.
- Resulting in serious Mood Whiplash. The opening scene is Christian James at his typewriter, obviously quite depressed and a little teary at Satine's death and having to write their story, which was her last request, as he writes about how a narcoleptic Argentinean man crashes through his ceiling, followed soon by a midget dressed as a nun. It's followed by Zidler dressed as a bride singing Madonna's "Like a Virgin" done as a Gilbert and Sullivan number, complete with Busby Berkeley choreography. But before that, we learn Satine has tuberculosis and hasn't told anyone, a sure sign that's she's going to die, probably in the final act.
- Given its extremely bizarre plot, the creators decided to make Snakes on a Plane as campy and silly as possible, and they even reshot certain scenes to make them sillier.
- Despite their differing feel, each of the Alien movies have maintained a consistently serious tone throughout. That was until Alien: Resurrection, which many fans are all too happy to disown.
- The Predator movies, on the other hand, take themselves slightly less seriously, with a high level of machismo throughout the first movie, along with one-liners peppering the dialogue throughout both films.
- An ongoing debate over the Star Wars series is how silly or serious the two trilogies are in comparison to each other. Many long-time Star Wars fans were outraged by the silliness and slapstick in the prequels. Other fans, including Lucas himself, insisted that the original trilogy was quite silly as well. The age at which you originally watch each trilogy may be a factor in how you perceive them on the scale.
- One could say that the original Star Wars trilogy was an example of Cerebus Syndrome, depending on how much you buy the theory that the more dramatic, character-driven sequel The Empire Strikes Back was largely the doing of director Irvin Kirshner and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan rather than George Lucas.
- Shaun of the Dead lost a lot of viewers who were not expecting the slapsticky horror film parody to play the horror and drama of the Zombie Apocalypse so straight at times in the second half. The filmmakers insisted that the film was not intended to be a parody, but a real zombie movie that also had a lot of humor.
- The Batman films could go toward either end of the scale, depending on the director.
- The Tim Burton films were dark and gothic and had a very morbid sense of humor. The first was successful but many people felt that Batman Returns went way too far in this direction.
- Joel Schumacher's Batman films harkened back to the 1960s Batman and so made his Batman films lighter and campier than the two previous films, complete with hammy acting, evil schemes that were utterly ridiculous, and of course plenty of Bat nipples and Bat asses to go around. Batman Forever was successful in this regard, but Batman & Robin went too far with this and is utterly reviled.
- After 8 years without a Batman movie, Christopher Nolan took a more serious approach to Batman (though it still has its share of cheesy one-liners, as well as scenes like Bruce taking a ballet troupe on a private cruise just to screw up Rachel's date), with Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. The addition of The Joker in The Dark Knight added some humor, but what was there was extremely dark- The Joker's magic trick, anyone?
- James Bond has an inconsistent track record with this. Films like Dr. No and Licence to Kill take themselves very seriously, but others like Live and Let Die or Die Another Day remove the brakes on sanity.
- Bonus points to Octopussy for being a serious Clancy-style thriller one moment and a ride through Sim Sim Salabim land the next. Both worlds collide when Bond deactivates a nuclear bomb...while wearing a clown suit. It seems to vary more from actor to actor.
- Sean Connery's Bond was generally on the more serious side, although not afraid to have fun, go on grand adventures, and crack jokes. As his era went on, things slid more into super spy camp.
- George Lazenby's Bond had one fairly serious film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Despite everything else, it ended on a very serious, sad, note.
- Sir Roer Moore's Bond was frequently the silliest and campiest of them all, with films like The Man with the Golden Gun and Moonraker being considered the silliest in the series. They stepped down the silliness somewhat, but Moore's gift for comedy, as well as campy writing, stopped him from ever having films that were ever more than briefly serious.
- Timothy Dalton's Bond had no silly films. This version of James Bond was dark and remorseless. While never really silly or campy, he wasn't quite the most serious one.
- Pierce Brosnan's Bond started out fairly seriously in Golden Eye, but did often retain some camp elements and comedic bits. However, his films got sillier and stupider as they went along. Unfortunately, it wasn't the like the sort of fun, goofy, warm, affectionate camp that came to embody the Roger Moore era. They did try to keep the serious tone from Golden Eye, despite the plots becoming more convoluted and ridiculous. Really, it was just plain bad writing, which often tried to awkwardly marry together silly plots with the insistence that it was all Serious Business.
- Daniel Craig's Bond is by far the most absolutely serious one of them all, to the extent where one could reasonably argue that he is a deconstruction. Craig plays Bond decidedly Darker and Edgier than any of his predecessors. This incarnation of James Bond doesn't joke, rely on gadgets, or save the world; he's a government-employed contract killer, and he absolutely is comfortable with it. Casino Royale was, in many ways, the absolutely most gritty, realistic film in the entire series. Skyfall was dead serious, too, and apart from the somewhat improbably machinations of the villain, is pretty damn grounded.
- Contrast The Rocky Horror Picture Show with the film often cited as its Spiritual Successor in audience participation, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Both are musical comedies with queer overtones and an obsession with glam rock, but Rocky is absolutely devoted to the Rule of Funny, with no character really possible to "read" except as a pastiche of other archetypes, the events not bound by logic so much as what would make the best song or Shout-Out, and frequent theatrical musical numbers; Hedwig, on the other hand, takes itself generally seriously (with a bit of Bellisario's Maxim), being heavily a character study with musical numbers that come without exception from the titular band's playlist (although not always being played by them), and a sense of humor that comes mostly from Deadpan Snarker Hedwig. It may tell of the difference in times that Meatloaf nearly quit Rocky upon realizing just what he was getting into until being assured everything was Played for Laughs, and is now a noted influence on the music in Hedwig.
- From Dusk Till Dawn goes all the way from the serious end, as it starts out with two thieving brothers on the run from the law (along with the family they kidnap), but halfway through it switches into an extremely campy vampire movie set in a debased Mexican bar.
- Quentin Tarantino seems to love this trope.
- Airplane! took its entire plot and much of its dialog from a completely serious movie called Zero Hour!, then turned the silly knob up.
- Airplane is serious. And don't call it Shirley.
- The Evil Dead films go from serious (The Evil Dead) to silly (Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness) and back to serious (Evil Dead remake) as the films go on.
- The screenwriters of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen stated that when they knew the sequel called for larger-scale and more intense violence and death, they decided to try and balance it out with more outrageous humor. In other words, they tried to go down both sides of this scale at once. Needless to say, fans were not pleased.
- The Room. Every time Johnny is on screen, whatever seriousness the movie might have built up with the other characters is lost and his scenes quickly become hilarious.
- Shane Black tends to play with the scale a lot, sometimes making a Cerebus Rollercoaster within a film.
Live Action TV
- The X-Files has gone to both ends of the scale throughout its run. During Seasons 1-5 it generally took itself very seriously, except for the Darin Morgan episodes, which had a very surreal comedic feel to them. While Seasons 6 and 7 had their share of serious episodes, they also had quite a few episodes that went even further with the surreal humor to the point of making the episodes downright campy, such as the two-part "Dreamland" episode from Season 6 and "Hollywood AD" from Season 7. Season 8 returned the series to the more serious end of the scale, while season 9 once more had a mixture of serious episodes as well as lighthearted and really campy episodes as well.
- Millennium, also created by Chris Carter, was serious throughout its first season but as with The X-Files, fluctuated between seriousness and camp during seasons 2 and 3.
- Tales from the Crypt usually fell very far on the silly side of the scale, with intentionally hammy acting and very over-the-top characterization and often plots that present a sort of grotesque parody to sitcom plot conventions and other very outlandish stories.
- Many Hispanic Soap Opera take themselves very seriously, no matter how silly the "tragedies" appear after being subjected to Fridge Logic. Because of that, doing comedic (or at least Dramedy) soaps, such as Yo soy Betty, la fea and its Mexican spinoff La Fea Mas Bella, is tricky and difficult. There have been interesting experiments where the producers follow the conventions, but present them with a slight farcical tone, where the main love story is treated seriously but the rest... not that much.
- The Batman TV series of the 1960s not only rests at the "silly" end of the scale, it jumps off that end and keeps swimming. Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb.
- Supernatural fluctuates between the two extremes so much it could you give whiplash. It's certainly done the homework for the Urban Legends, the psychology and what crappy (long-term) consequences could come from the characters' actions but not so much for the seriousness of wounds or how long it takes to get from one place to the other. And just when you think it's getting far too grim and bleak and disheartening for its own good, along comes a gimmicky episode like "Tall Tales" where Sam and Dean are raging bitches to each other and all their quirks and flaws are heightened to the point of absurdity. It started around the third season (with "A Very Supernatural Christmas" and "Mystery Spot", some of the season 4 episodes focused a lot on comedy (blended with angst), and season 5 took it to the extreme, since it was basically an alternation between very serious episodes, like "The End", "Abandon All Hope" and extremely silly episodes, like the one with Paris Hilton, or "Changing Channels", the latter of course being an example of this sliding scale all on its own, much like "Mystery Spot." Most of the Gabriel episodes tend to be like this.
- Doctor Who jumps between the two so much that the entire series is one long example of Mood Whiplash. An example is Seasons Seventeen and Eighteen of the classic series. Seventeen is often criticised as being an example of a show not taking itself seriously enough; an increased emphasis on humour (thanks in part to script-editor Douglas Adams, best known for his work on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), a low budget mixed with some truly mad ideas and the production team's willingness to let series star and Large Ham Tom Baker off the leash entirely lead to a great deal of camp, which many fans felt ruined the drama a bit (of course, for other fans, this was all part of the charm). Conversely, Eighteen saw a new production team take over, and they promptly dialed back on the comedy, put Baker on a tighter leash and tried to introduce more gravity, seriousness and scientific earnestness into the show. However, it could be argued that they went too far the other way; fans began criticising the show for being po-faced and taking all the fun out of it. Then again, the Doctor Who fan base is notoriously unpleasable.
- One of the goals in Scrubs was to create a show that combines comedy and drama without looking stupid.
- Seinfeld is cynical but generally very silly. The only events treated with any real seriousness are Susan's death (possibly not even that) and the series finale. The series finale was a Deconstruction, showing how terrible all the characters' behavior within the confines of a comedy series would actually seem in Real Life. The episode never became particularly serious, though.
- Friends is usually a very silly show. However, it does have its moments where it breaks away from the silliness and becomes quite series. Mostly notably when Ross and Rachel break up in Season Three.
- Strangers with Candy, as a parody of after-school specials, naturally handles very serious issues such as drug abuse, prostitution and racism - but is about as silly as is humanly possible. When one character is hit by a car, his face is torn off and sticks in the car's radiator grill. The hit-and-run driver is later seen washing the car with it. Crossing the Line Twice doesn't even begin to describe it.
- Desperate Housewives is considered to be a comedy series, but unexpectedly switches between being silly and being serious several times in a single episode. The fact that (at least) each housewife has their own storylines allows the show to have silly and serious plotlines in the same episode.
- Stargate SG-1 started off being pretty serious and gradually slid down the silliness scale over its run, nearly becoming a self-parody by the eighth season. The producers tried to push it back up the serious scale by introducing a new Big Bad for the final two seasons. Jack O'Neill, the leader of the SG-1 team, was a frequent source of silliness for the first eight seasons. He often provided moments of comedic relief and Mood Whiplash. At the same time, he was a very competent, pragmatic, and sometimes tragic leader. He was one of the reasons the show could often seamlessly switch from one end of the Silliness Scale to the other, and back again, to great effect.
- Stargate Universe took itself very seriously with only little bits of comic relief.
- The Fast Show is constantly silly, apart from one or two quite notable exceptions.
- Power Rangers is somewhere in the middle. The stories are sometimes pretty serious, but rarely allowed to go far into the dark side, and sprinkled with lots of one-liners and the like. Super Sentai is at the same time far more serious and far more silly than Power Rangers, sometimes causing tons of Mood Whiplash. Juken Sentai Gekiranger switches back and forth between Rio and Mele's dark background story... and Jan wrestling pandas in the jungle.
- Kamen Rider is generally more on the serious side than Sentai (except things like Den-O, but let's not get into that). Some series, though, especially Kabuto, have Mood Whiplash-inducing moments of stupid humour.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus was constructed entirely from silliness. While some of their more satirical sketches were no doubt intended seriously on some level, having a large flashing sign reading "SATIRE" appear over it neatly drained away anything serious whatsoever. They lampshaded the ludicrous nature of their humour with a certain Graham Chapman character, who would stop a sketch by pointing out that it's getting extremely silly, at which point it would move on to something just as ridiculous. There's also the election night sketch, where the results of various elections were announced, mostly between the Silly Party and the Sensible Party, with a few third party candidates from the Slightly Silly Party and the Very Silly Party, taking the title of this page quite literally.
- Psych seems pretty tame in the silliness department compared to something like 30 Rock or Family Guy, but consider that the show's format is (ostensibly) an hour long crime-drama.
- It gets pretty strange when the happy-go-lucky characters (especially Shawn) have to investigate what are increasingly horrifyingly violent murders. The characters themselves have even pointed out the weird contrast on occasion.
- Specifically lampshaded when chasing a serial killer, when Shawn tells Gus that he has to be silly or he won't be able to deal with what he's facing. Truth in Television, to an extent, as morbid humor is often a coping mechanism.
- Pushing Daisies works like this: you try to pour as much silliness as possible in a single episode and try to treat it with seriousness. The strangest part? It works.
- Miami Vice started out in the first two seasons by being a fairly serious cop show but with 80's glamor and pastel colors. Then it got darker around the third season and had some pretty ridiculous plots during the fourth and fifth season but eventually tried to get back to how it was at the beginning in the fifth season.
- The various Star Trek series. While Star Trek: The Next Generation was pretty serious overall (with of course a few good jokes and comedic episodes here and there), the two following series were a mixed bag of dead-serious episodes and pure comedy examples (some being Breather Episodes), such as Quark and family on Deep Space Nine and The Doctor on Voyager episodes.
- Bones has become distinctly less intense as the seasons progressed.
- Castle started out pretty silly (comparable to Psych), but has taken a turn in a more serious direction towards the end of season three. This development got a mixed reception from the fans.
- How I Met Your Mother, while always keeping some measure of comedy, fluctuates all over the place with this trope. Pretty understandable, as it's a guy telling stories about a section of his life to his kids, and the events of peoples' lives have a tendency to fluctuate between serious and silly, without much regard for how appropriate the preceding context is. So we get stuff like Marshall and Lily's reproductive health specialist looking exactly like Barney, Lily refusing to be examined unless Barney is in the same room in case it really is Barney, Marshall being too neurotic to produce a sperm sample at the doctor's office and trying to do it at home while his oblivious visiting parents loudly inundate him with Fetish Retardant, getting conned by Barney pretending to be his doctor, and ending with Lily informing him out of the blue that his dad just died.
- JAG kept a balance between the serious and the silly.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer mainly kept the serious switch on at least medium, but the basic structure would be a silly or lighthearted episode would be followed by a serious or Wham Episode, and vice versa. Angel also did this. While being generally more serious than Buffy, it had some sillier episodes like "Smile Time" and "The Girl In Question.". The latter manages to do this in the same episodes, flipping between the (incredibly silly) adventures of Spike and Angel in Italy and a much, much darker plot about Illyria assuming Fred's form and interacting with her parents, who had no idea that she had died.
- Over the years, Medical Drama Grey's Anatomy has been losing more of its comic elements.
- In Leverage, critical plot points being played for laughs takes away from the sophistication of some of the cons they pull. This is made worse in the final season.
- Red vs. Blue was born out of the idea of using the standard 'bottom rung employees bitching about work' theme and applying it to the military of the future. While The Blood Gulch Chronicles are all out silly, the two miniseries are played completely seriously. The following series Reconstruction splits the difference. In general, it seems that the simulation troopers are silly, and the Freelancers and AIs are (mostly) serious. Those involved with both shift on the scale depending on who they're interacting with.
- Pink Floyd's The Wall, believe it or not, does this from time to time. The message of the album—shutting yourself off from society is not a good idea—is quite serious, but moments of pure silliness shine through. "In the Flesh," for example, plays the hero as an Evil Overlord type, which is outright cartoonish in and of itself, and the lyrics are so over-the-top that they sound like the ravings of a frothing-at-the-mouth lunatic. And then there's "The Trial," which plays Pink's moment of clarity as a vaudeville show, complete with a judge that resembles an enormous, disembodied human backside that wears a judge's wig. And yet it only enhances the message: "Shutting yourself off from society is not only a bad idea, it is also a very silly and ultimately pointless one."
- Captain Beefheart's work frequently goes from surreal and often sexual imagery to his rather serious environmental concerns. The best example of this is on the album Trout Mask Replica, where the rather serious (albeit cryptic) "Well" is sandwiched between the bizarre "Pena" and the hilarious "When Big Joan Sets Up". Another example is on the album The Spotlight Kid which features the song "Blabber N' Smoke". The lyrics of the song go from him making fun of his wife telling him not to smoke to insisting that we "clean up the air and treat the animals fair".
- Iron Maiden have recorded serious songs as singles and released joke songs as B Sides for quite a while now.
- Microdisney's "Money for the Trams" seems like serious commentary on yuppie culture... until Cathal yells "Take your stupid clothes off!"
- Horse Overboard. In the past when a ship was carrying too much cargo they would have to put something overboard to stop it from sinking, and the horses would be the first to go. With that in mind the line "My wife is a horse" makes sense (it's about leaving your wife). Out of context however, it is a hilarious line, made funnier by the fact "horse" is of course a derogatory thing to call a woman.
- Looked at from an out-of-universe perspective Warhammer 40,000 has the tongue so firmly planted in cheek its punching through, in-universe it is so serious and depressing its rather surprising you have productive people at all considering how depressing it must be to be in charge of anything in 40k.
- It also depends on which perspective it's coming from. For example: a battle between the Imperial Guard and the Orks. If the story is from the Ork's perspective, the dialogue and descriptions take an amusing and humourous tone, talking about "takin' da biggest, baddest shootas and choppas ya can get 'old of, and spendin' da rest of da havin' a bit 'o' fun, krumpin' 'umie gitz with da boyz and tryin' not ta get zogged yaself". Take the point of view of an Imperial Guardsman, and the same battle is a terrifying fight for survival with your woefully inadequate lasgun and body armour, against hordes of hulking tough-as-nails green-skinned horrors brandishing monstrous cleavers and improbably-sized machine guns and flamethrowers.
- The Illuminati University setting for GURPS actually makes the Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness adjustable, from "Silly" through "Weird" to the (more or less) serious, paradoxically named "Darkly Illuminated". The current edition of Paranoia does much the same thing, with Straight, Classic, and Zap.
- Most editions of Gamma World are pure slapstick. However, 3rd and 6th Edition both rein in the madness and look at the setting from a more serious perspective (though even so, many of the monsters are still just plain weird).
- Space 1889: Victorian times and Victorian literature, in particular Victorian science fiction, which is the basis of the game, often seem rather silly to the modern mind. The game, however, takes itself seriously, with there being very little humor. The adventure Canal Priests of Mars has a rather silly person as one of the passengers, but that’s about it. Generally speaking, historical Victorians took themselves seriously.
- Rocket Age is definitely on the sillier side of things, which works given its based on pulp and retro sci-fi. You can walk around on islands in the skies of Jupiter for example, without being pulled deeper and crushed like a bug, though you'd better be wearing a space suit.
- Of Thee I Sing was the first musical to win a Pulitzer Prize; for a satire on politics, it's quite idealistic. It's also gleefully silly, with the nine Supreme Court judges appearing to rule on such Serious Business as:
"Which is more important: corn muffins or justice?" (The answer is corn muffins, because Feminine Women Can Cook
"Will it be a boy or a girl?" (The Supreme Court decides the sex of Presidential infants by a strict party-line vote.)
- Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You In The Closet And I'm Feelin' So Sad is both cynical and silly.
- Shakespeare's plays always run back and forth over this line. The comedies have serious undertones (The Taming of the Shrew and spousal abuse, Much Ado About Nothing and the damaging effects of rumors, The Merchant of Venice and racial prejudice) and the tragedies always have comedic asides (The Porter in Macbeth, Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, Polonius in Hamlet).
- Jason Robert Brown has written on the more serious side of the spectrum, but Thirteen is on the sillier side.
- Cirque du Soleil shows are idealistic but all over this spectrum — ranging from whimsically comic (KOOZA, OVO) to bittersweet and melancholy (Quidam) or grand and stately ("O", KA), with such shows as Mystere, Alegria, Varekai, and Corteo occupying a middle ground. A good indicator of where a show falls on the line is its clown acts — how much time they get, how important the characters are to the rest of the show, the style of their humor, etc.
- Wicked is much lighter than the novel it was based upon, especially with songs like "What Is This Feeling?" and "Popular" in Act 1, but still remains fairly serious on the whole.
- The Pokémon video games have gone up and down like a yo-yo. All of the main series Pokémon games are definitely on the completely serious end of the scale — however, despite its serious storylines and Science Fiction elements, it doesn't mean you can't have some silly fantasy ingredients. This depends on the player.
- Pokémon Colosseum and XD relies on seriousness with some silly spots.
- Pokemon Mystery Dungeon starts off as a silly series, but have gone serious in subsequent games in series. The initial Rescue Team games mixed both to a great effect, but Explorers are getting very serious with storyline progressing. Adventure Squad games play very big silly, while Gates To Infinity returns to the balanced scale.
- Pokemon Ranger plays a big silly albeit with a few serious tone, while other games, such as Hey You, Pikachu! and Pokepark Wii, are on silly end of the scale. But Pokémon Conquest is more serious and dark.
- Metal Gear Solid is full of lampshades and has completely abolished the fourth wall very early on, but stays dead serious all the time.
- The Legend of Zelda series is typically a serious series, even if the cel-shaded visual style of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and other iterations may make you think otherwise, sometimes sliding to the middle of the scale at the very most when it comes to silliness for the comic relief that slightly lightens the series' somewhat-known melancholy. The Wind Waker itself, for example, has a contrast in tone between the comical situations seen in the sidequests and the more serious events and backstory narrated through the main story. Even The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, which stays on the serious side of the scale, has its moments of extreme silliness, such as the dialogues with Tingle, the Beaver Brothers and the minions of Igos du Ikana. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, another game, deals with deep philosophical questions about the nature of reality, but has instances where you trade with talking animals, rescue a chain chomp from evil pig people, and rescue a giant flying whale called the "Wind Fish".
- Dragon Age: Origins is generally a very grim sort of game revolving around weighty issues, possible child-killing, a forced Heroic Sacrifice, demonic possession, and The Corruption. Some of the inter-party banter, however, is just hysterical; of particular note are Sten's fondness for cookies, Leliana's pet nug, and all of Morrigan and Alistair's back-and-forth snarking.
- The early Tomb Raiders didn't take themselves seriously at all, with a heavy dose of Rule of Fun and Rule of Cool, even Breaking the Fourth Wall at the end of Tomb Raider II as Lara shoots the player for trying to watch her in the shower. Last Revelation onwards, the series has become more and more sensible and mature.
- This trope wouldn't be complete without Serious Sam. Despite constantly claiming to be serious, the games are always far on the silly side of the scale. To show just how serious the game is, this quote from the man himself: "Now I'm seriously serious!"
Sam: (on picking up the atomic powered chainsaw): LOOK MA! I'M A LUMBERJACK!
- Doom, which was one of the pioneers of the First-Person Shooter genre remains serious as the unnamed Player Character runs down the dark and gloomy corridors of Hell, blowing away the evil demons and never so much as cracking a joke (or saying anything at all) while doing so.
- Contrast to Duke Nukem 3D, which doesn't take itself seriously at all. Duke constantly spouts off one-liners and making homages to movies and other video games as he explores each new brightly-lit level, saving naked babes and blowing away the alien scum.
- Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, with its unbelievably hard science and its completely consistent stories about the survival of Mankind in a Death World is one of the most serious videogames ever created by man. Despite this, there's a good number of jokes scattered throughout the Encyclopedia Exposita. Especially the Morganite quotes. On the subject of black holes: "Yes, yes, we've all heard the philosophers babble about 'oneness' being 'beautiful' and 'holy'. But let me tell you that this kind of oneness certainly isn't pretty and if you're not careful it will scare the bejeezus out of you."
- The Metro series (Metro2033 & Metro: Last Light) are decidedly on the serious side of the scale. Things are bleak.
- Starcraft falls somewhere in between. The Terran footsoldiers and commanders are fond of cracking jokes, throwing one-liners and being portrayed in a Duke Nukem-esque style (the Confederacy is even the Deep South Recycled IN SPACE!); the Zerg, however, are portrayed as a Chaotic Evil force of destruction and assimilation, while the Protoss are portrayed as strict but virtuous and disciplined heroes, who occasionally crack a really good joke. This is a game where if you click often enough on a Protoss observer, it'll replay lines from other units, as well as "One small step for man", and the sequel's Viking unit is a Transforming Mecha that's slated to say "Transform and roll out!". It also has cutscenes in which people get claws shoved through their faces.
- Kingdom Hearts whips up and down the scale. The plot is generally serious (albeit impenetrable), but on occasion the series does have to lighten up...because, after all, it's impossible to be fully serious when most of your cast comes from Walt Disney Studios.
- The villains in the Rayman series have been steadily going from serious to silly as time goes by: The first game featured Mr. Dark, a more serious character (as serious as Rayman 1 could be) with no funny bits at all. Rayman 2: The Great Escape featured the Robo-Pirates, genuinely scary-looking monstrosities but with their own funny moments. Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc had the Hoodlums, about as scary as the Robo-Pirates but much more cartoony, with lots of slapstick humor throughout the game. Finally there's the Raving Rabbids party game series, featuring the psychotic but overall stupid Rabbids, who seem somewhat creepy at first until... "BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"
- The main reason why Shadow the Hedgehog, both game and character, are such sore spots of contention amongst Sonic fans is most likely the fact that both take themselves deadly seriously, in contrast to the light-hearted and cartoonish tone of previous games and most of the rest of the cast. This turn to the serious side was Played for Laughs in the All-Stars Racing games, where all of the other characters (save for Sore Loser Eggman) sound like they're having fun whereas Shadow is taking the races seriously (and may not even fully comprehend the silliness going on around him).
- The first game in the Donkey Kong Country series was definitely on the "silliness" side of the scale, featuring a wide variety of cartoony enemies and bright, colorful locales. The second game took a few steps towards the "seriousness" side, with more realistic colors and settings and more ominous music, but took an equal amount of steps backwards for the third game.
- In La-Mulana, Elder Xelpud starts off as a cheery, screwy old man who rambles about MSX games. Also, in the village, Lemeza's cheerful theme music will play. Then when you beat the eight Guardians, he stops saying them for the rest of the game, the village music gets changed to the dark title screen music, his theme music no longer plays when you enter his tent (instead continuing to play the title music), and his random lines all get changed to the following:
- Of course, you can turn the silly back on if you manage to make it though the Bonus Level Of Hell in the remake.
: The wind sure is howling (recoils back
) to.... daaaayyy...
- Worms lives way down the silly end of the scale, and loves every second of it.
- Konami's two popular shoot 'em up franchises, Gradius and Twinbee, lie far at opposite ends of the scale, with the cinematic Gradius at the serious end and the cartoonish Twinbee far at the silly end. And then came Parodius where Konami cranked up the silly and tore off the knob. Otomedius leans on the silly side, but it has its own plot that is on the lighter shade of seriousness.
- Metal Wolf Chaos is way at the silly end of scale, being an affectionate parody over both the Japanese mecha anime and the American blockbuster action movies!!! Practically an Americanized, manly version of Parodius.
- Bug!- Definitely at the end of the silly side. You know that when the "hit an enemy" sound is a wacky cartoon sound effect. Also, Bug's silly humorous quotes when he kills an enemy or when he takes damage show it too.
- Dead Rising manages to cover the entire scale gameplay-wise while keeping its serious story elements. At one point, you can dress yourself as a fat old lady with beard, and at another point, costumes homaging the Mega Man franchise spawn up to goof up the zombie massacre (Frank as Mega Man; Chuck as Dr. Wily).
- The Mass Effect series, which loves to hammer home the fact that War Is Hell, stays extremely serious most of the time, but is willing to get silly from time to time, especially when it comes to Joker and Garrus. A special mention goes to the "Citadel" DLC for Mass Effect 3, the first half of which is a rather grim story involving terrorism, hijacking of the Normandy, Shepard's clone, and An Aesop about the Power of Friendship driven in with iron nails, while the second half is basically most of the (surviving) characters of the series bumping into each other for massive hilarity, ranging from Grunt's drunk antics, to Zaeed hitting on Samara, to Shepard and Javik participating in the shooting of a Blasto movie as themselves.
- The first half of Citadel was pretty hilarious in its own right, it basically slid whichever way it wanted, but it was pretty silly, especially with regards to the numerous jokes once they find out Shepard has a clone.
- Kid Icarus: Uprising is for the most part, an enormous farce, but it occasionally dips into serious drama: Every character's a chatterbox comedian, the game's filled to the brim with Mythology Gags and Nintendo-centric Shout Outs, and the art style and character designs are bright and cartoony. Yet the plot twists are entirely serious and set up in advance, the major villains are genuinely menacing, and there are parts where characters are in realistic peril, sometimes more than you might expect in a E-10 + rated game. It's probably comparable to the Zelda series in that extent.
- Paper Mario (especially the middle two games) is very similar to Uprising in this respect.
- Half-Life is a more or less serious first-person shooter about aliens invading and enslaving all of humanity and driving them to near extinction, and the player character's battle to liberate humanity is played pretty straight. At the same time, there are still undertones of wry silliness throughout. A few specific examples:
- The many scientists in the first game are exaggeratedly nerdy eggheads, and many of them are shown dying in morbidly hilarious ways.
- One of the major supporting characters of the second gamenote keeps a de-fanged pet headcrab affectionately named LaMarr, which he feeds watermelons as a substitute for violently latching onto human heads.
- Possibly one of the most cartoonish elements of the second game is Father Grigori, a shotgun-wielding religious madman who escorts you through his zombie-infested town while fanatically uttering Biblical references.
- Portal is a darkly humorous puzzle game with more prominently overt silliness involving a cheerfully insane A.I. forcing you to solve deadly puzzles with the promises of cake and grief counseling, all while cute robots and a Companion Cube keep you company. Some elements of it are just plainly dark, like the depressing back-story of both the player character and the main villain, but it's otherwise Black Comedy full-stop.
- Compare Street Fighter to Mortal Kombat. The former silly, the latter serious.
- The Saints Row series began fairly seriously as a GTA competitor and drifted further into silliness as each game is released. In the first game you played as a member of what was essentially a vigilante gang. Pretty gritty. In the second game you tried to remake that gang into a criminal powerhouse while also engaging in some nonsensical antics, like spraying shit from a septic truck. In the third game you turned that gang into a multi-media empire and are essentially a criminal pop-culture icon and one of the weapons you can have is a giant purple dildo. In the fourth game, you are the president of the United States when Earth gets attacked by aliens who trap you in a virtual reality simulator that gives you superpowers. At that point it's pretty clear the series didn't just go off the rails, it gleefully jumped off the rails just before nuking them and didn't even look back at the explosion.
- Kingdom of Loathing is firmly on the silly end of the scale; it abounds with gratuitous pop-culture references, Self-Referential Humor, Double Entendres and crude MS Paint artwork. However, the depth of its gameplay means that its player community takes it very seriously.
- Star Control 2: The Ur-Quan Masters somehow manages to still be quite serious despite being very silly. The scale setting could generally be determined based on what alien race you were talking to at the moment. Talking to [[Cloudcuckoolander the Pkunk]]? Expect a very silly conversation. Talking to the Ur-Quan, expect things to be very, very serious. And for all the silliness, even the silly parts were often important to helping you complete the game.
- Compare After Burner to Ace Combat. The former takes air combat to the silly, arcady extreme, while the latter takes it much more seriously - even with its relatively lighter-hearted first two installments.
- The Talos Principle, taking bplace in a computer simulation humans set up Just Before the End and still running After the End prefers to remain serious almost all the time, yet occasionally (if you look) descends into silliness with gleeful abandon, mostly in the various text logs you can find, though occasionally elsewhere.
- Sluggy Freelance is on the silly end of the spectrum roughly 95% of the time, but every so often something like "Fire And Rain'' comes along and the series dives head first into seriousness. This seriousness is usually mocked later on. And yet, one of the reasons why Ian McDonald's guest Saturdays gained some hatedom seems to have been that he went over some invisible line in making the Dimension of Pain a bit more silly than usual.
- The Insecticomics has never really taken itself seriously, to the point where the fourth wall has a hinge on it, but there have been a few dramatic storylines to add an element of seriousness to the business—the current Unicron-related one being the most dramatic yet.
- Despite being known for a solid and serious storyline, Girl Genius hits the silliness switch every second we step out of canon (even inside canon, sometimes). Case in point: the Ferretina arc.
- Schlock Mercenary, despite being one of the more cynical works out there, is quite silly, looking mostly like a normal gag a day strip at first glance.
- The Order of the Stick began on the silly side, slid slowly but surely towards the serious side, reached some major extremes during the Azure City battles and the split party arc, and has slid back noticeably since that story wrapped up, going back to self-aware joke-a-day strips, though still remaining within the story.
- The Ciem Webcomic Series tries very hard to be all serious and that. But...]it's made with The Sims, so a little narm is inevitable.
- Goblins: Life Through Their Eyes started as a light hearted parody poking at DnD rules. Then all hell broke loose.
- Gunnerkrigg Court: A mostly serious story-telling comic, but with entire chapters with non-stop funny, like Chapter 24.
- The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! is generally quite silly (e.g., one of the main characters is a Muppet-like furry monster spontaneously generated from a jar of peanut butter), but that doesn't stop the characters from having emotional depth and experiencing some quite moving moments of pain, love, regret, and redemption amidst all the absurdity of the storylines.
- Homestuck: The webcomic is on both ends of the scale so frequently and rapidly, it must have broken it by now. Can overlap with Mood Whiplash at times.
- Besides a few pages of seriousness (dealing with a character's Final Death), the NSFW La Mouette Noire resides permanently in the Silly end. Fitting, as it's about a video game where many characters know that they are VG characters.
- Cartoons like The Simpsons, South Park, Futurama, and Family Guy are, on the whole, pretty cynical, but also flippant and often deliberately silly. However, on the occasion where they're slightly serious, they're usually less cynical.
- Contrast to the Spawn HBO animated series, which ran from 1997 to 1999. It remains dark and gritty throughout, everything is taken seriously, and about the only thing one might find laughable is some of the random nudity in the first season as well as the barrage of profanity constantly spewed from everyone's mouths.
- The DCAU takes itself seriously, especially whenever Darkseid shows up, but when the spotlight is on The Flash then it usually crosses over to the silly side. It's the same in the comics and their respective influences on mood are used very deliberately by authors. Santa delivering coal to Darkseid? Hysterical. Horrific things happening to the various Flashes (Heroic Sacrifice, children murdered, wife murdered)? Utterly tragic.
- Two Batman shows spanning the scale: Batman: The Animated Series and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. The Batman falls squarely in the middle, and has a seesaw between light-hearted and deadly serious too. The episode where Batman finally tracks down Joe Chill - the man who killed his parents, springs to mind. He's every bit as dark and terrifying as his Batman: The Animated Series counterpart was, even edging close to The Dark Knight Returns territory. Another example is a shockingly dark Batman Cold Open involving the Spectre, who's entire gimmick is dealing out poetic justice, in this case turning an obcure Batman villain into cheese, only for him to be eaten by rats.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender fluctuates wildly between the two sides of the scale depending on the episode. The extent to which each side of the scale is travelled is equally extreme; the silly moments are incredibly silly (for example, a hammy play based on the characters' exploits) and the serious moments are incredibly serious (for example, revealing that Zuko obtained his scar from his own father who shot him in the face).
- There have been two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series so far (with a third on the way) and they both represented opposite takes on the material. The first, made in 1987, was everything the original comics were not - hammy, Totally Radical, entirely light hearted and harmless, family friendly fun with an eye on selling The Merch. The second one, made in 2003, took the serious plots of the comic (often literally), and replaced its somewhat dry characterizations with the more realized turtles from the previous show and live action films to deliver something very comparable to Avatar: The Last Airbender. There were campy superhero stories, and alternate universe tales where everyone dies. There was even an episode that was a straight-up HP Lovecraft send-up. When Executive Meddling retooled the show, it become a lot more like the first cartoon and stayed that way until the Turtles Forever crossover movie, which plays up the differences between the two shows for laughs. The 2007 CGI movie was in line with the 2003 series' tone. The 2012 series so far has been fairly balanced, and many episodes have both serious and silly moments. It helps that it's pretty self-aware of its roots in both shows and the original comic.
- Much like Avatar above, Danny Phantom is all over this scale. It goes from various degrees of complete silliness (the Box Ghost in general, Danny being split into two stereotypical and wacky Flanderizations of his personality) to incredibly serious (anything involving Danny's alternate future self for a start, Vlad's cloning, Danny becoming Public Enemy Number One). Many times, the scale fluctuates repeatedly in a single episode, where humor will be placed into an extremely serious episode.
- Teen Titans has really serious and dark episodes like Slade's scary Mind Rape with a few episodes away from a funny Extreme Omnivore episode. Silly Bizarro Episodes always aired RIGHT BEFORE the Darker and Edgier Season Finales.
- Head Injury Theater even notes that seasons tend to go up and down the scale correspondingly. For example, Season 1 was relatively low on plot, and the episodes tended to mostly stay in the middle. Season 4 was heavy on a dark and apocalyptic plot, but the episodes not having to do with that plot were about Control Freak leading them through TV shows, Cyborg going back in time to fight with barbarians, the other members dressing like Robin while he trains with animals, tofu aliens, a redneck who can duplicate himself, and a bizarre re-enactment of Hansel and Gretal.
- Dr. Light was an interesting case, as he was a complete doofus but he seemed to have been written with a wink and a nod toward the darker stories the modern DC comics have written about him, as evidenced with Raven mind-raping him and him kipnapping a teenage girl (Dr. Light of the comics was revamped as a rapist and mindwiped by the heroes in the Identity Crisis mini series).
- By contrast, Young Justice is almost uniformly serious, with most of the comic relief coming from snark rather than sillyness.
- Invader Zim is an interesting case, basically being about ridiculously silly characters in a total Crapsack World. Episodes tend to lean on the side of silly, but it varies; often they mix the two, which can result in bizarre aspects of a very dark plot (such as in "Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy," where Zim uses the titular toys to mercilessly maim and almost murder Dib as a small child).
- During most of the first three seasons, Daria was firmly silly. Starting with the season three finale, the Daria/Tom/Jane Love Triangle brought the show closer to serious territory, although most elements not related to it remained silly.
- Samurai Jack could jump genres as easily as it jumped degrees of silly: moving from a slapstick Alice in Wonderland parody in one episode to outright undead horror in others.
- The Boondocks is another "Silly yet Cynical" work. For example, "The Passion of Uncle Ruckus" is about a man with re-vitiligo note who hates black people founding the "Church of White Jesus," who believe, among other things, that smacking black people is good for both the slapper and "slappee." He demonstrates this on people who come up to the altar. Meanwhile, Huey tries to break an innocent black man out of prison. Said innocent man had a ton of evidence that said he did not commit the murder, up to and including the gun license that had the full name and other identification of the real culprit, as well as a confession letter signed by the culprit himself.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is already a silly show in itself, with lampshades being hung all over the place, and deliberate violations of disbelief being made in favor of coolness, funniness; etc. When Pinkie Pie enters the scene, however, the show drops any sense of seriousness and shoots off the silly end of the scale. Even the "serious" moments in the show are still done in tongue-in-cheek and propped up by gags and silliness by the characters themselves to keep things from getting too heavy and dramatic, including the villains (Especially Discord). The only aversion to the trope has been King Sombra. When he's described as made of pure darkness and evil For the Evulz, the viewers couldn't help but expect a hilariously over-the-top villain. It made him all the more chilling when he appears, and is played as a deadly serious and frighteningly competent villain that is given such little characterization he comes off as an impending force of destruction rather than a character. Even his cheesy line "My crystal slaaaaaves..." somehow sounds intimidating after the build-up he's been given.
- Adventure Time in general lies on the silly end of the scale even later in the series after Cerebus Syndrome kicked in and gave it a more serious nature. However it can go all over the scale, sometimes shifting within an episode. It can be unbelievably silly (like "Slumber Party Panic") or go VERY serious (eg "I Remember You"), and ANYWHERE in between. You would expect a series like this to stick to the silly side exclusively due to its art style alone.
- Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog are on opposite ends of the scale from each other. Sonic Underground is sort of a strange middle ground, being more serious than Adventures of but not as dramatic as SatAM.
- Ultimate Spider-Man is about as far towards the silly side as you can get. Its precursor, The Spectacular Spider-Man was fairly serious for a kid's show, but compared to Ultimate Spider-Man, it is almost as serious as The Dark Knight.
Right, stop that! That's silly! And a bit suspect, I think...