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Suspiciously Similar Substitute
aka: Suspiciously Similar Replacement

Martin Lloyd: How am I supposed to tell a story without my lead character?
Cam Mitchell: Easy, just bring in a character to replace him.
[everyone looks at Cam in silence]
Cam Mitchell: ...What?

A character who joins the cast as a replacement for a character who has left the show due to real-life distractions (contract negotiations, death, etc.) despite being integral to the plot or concept of the series. Invariably, this character fills the Stock Character slot left vacant by the departed, whether that be comic relief, intellectual, or musclebound bruiser.

Often, the character has some twist or gimmick to make it seem as if the character is unique, and the writers aren't actually grasping at straws to salvage the year's worth of scripts already written.

Some shows will take risks in such replacements, making the replacements truly different characters, rather than a similar character with a twist. That is much harder on the writers, since they can't simply tweak the scripts they had already written for the old character. Usually when this happens it is very intentional on the part of the production.

The vast majority of these replacements still take up the role of the previous character, such as a missing member of the Five-Man Band, but how much they resemble their predecessor varies widely.

Justified in military and some business settings where there are specific roles.

A Suspiciously Similar Substitute is dangerously prone to becoming hated by the fanbase, creating a Replacement Scrappy, and for a very understandable reason. If they're too similar, fans may become annoyed at the removal of a well liked character if their replacement is just the same guy with a different name and face. They may wonder why the character needed to be replaced if the story can still be told with the previous character, and get annoyed at the unneeded change of character.

For very suspiciously similar substitutes, see Backup Twin. Compare Discard and Draw, which does the same sort of thing with superpowers instead of characters and Legacy Character, where the new character actually adopts the persona of the old one. The inversion, where the same character fills a different role, is Same Character, But Different.

See also: Expy, Temporary Substitute, The Other Darrin, The Nth Doctor, Put on a Bus, Dropped a Bridge on Him, Role Ending Misdemeanor, Counterpart Comparison, Replacement Love Interest, Long-Runner Cast Turnover (the result of Several Suspiciously Similar Substitutes over time), Anti-Hero Substitute (when the substitute is Darker and Edgier), Suspiciously Similar Song (substitute in the form of a song), and Meet the New Boss (for villainous examples).

Contrast with the Contrasting Sequel Main Character.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Card Games 
  • Played for laughs in Munchkin, where whenever a player 'dies', everybody else at the table gets a chance to loot the 'body'...and then the same player simply carries on with a notionally new character of the exact same level, race, and class as the old one.

    Fan Fic 
  • The End of Ends: While he looks like Robin and has the psychic powers of Raven, Copy Cat's namesake ability, to copy the forms of others, is reminiscent of the missing Beast Boy. Guess what happens once Beast Boy is Killed Off for Real.

    Music 
  • Brian Johnson was brought into the band AC/DC after Bon Scott's death primarily because he had a voice very similar to Scott, making him a substitute of a sort. Notable for the fact that, unlike most established bands, their popularity increased with the singer change.
    • Well, not surprising, considering the album they wrote about Bon Scott's death Back In Black, has been considered one of the greatest albums in -rock history.
  • Averted when Vince Neil had a falling out with the rest of Mötley Crüe, John Corabi came in to replace him. He was picked largely because his voice had an extremely different tone to Vince's, and Nikki Sixx, the primary songwriter, wanted to try a different direction. The album they recorded together didn't sell very well, and Vince returned to the band not long afterwards. Nikki has stated that they briefly toyed with the idea of having two singers, as John became a close friend during recording.
  • Randy Meisner was the bass-player and high-voiced backing vocalist in the band Poco. He left to join what would become Eagles (filling the same role) and was replaced by Timothy B. Schmitt, whose distinctive features were also the high vocals, long hair and slight metrosexual vibe. When Randy left Eagles, guess who replaced him? The fact they're both introverted serious family men (as opposed to other band members who were party animals in their time) helps a lot too.
  • Deep Purple's career is characterised by many line-up changes, but avoided any Suspiciously Similar Substitutions. Instead, they recruited new members with their own distinctive sound, resulting in significant changes in the style of the band's music from one line-up to the next.
  • Judas Priest's Rob Halford left the band in 1992, and was replaced with Tim "Ripper" Owens in 1996, who had ironically sung in a Judas Priest tribute band, who sounded nearly identical to Halford in some songs. Owens parted amicably with the band, and Rob Halford re-joined them. This story was the inspiration behind the movie Rock Star.
    • Also, when Tim went to join Iced Earth, a few casual fans thought that Rob had joined the band.
  • Averted when American Idol contestant Chris Daughtry declined band Fuel's offer to replace their lead singer in favor of having his own band, Daughtry. Daughtry has recorded several huge hits since.
  • Phil Collins got to replace Peter Gabriel in Genesis mostly because their voices were so similar. Maybe subverted since they quickly turned away from prog rock in favor of pop.
    • Not that quickly; they spent the next half-decade recording prog albums with the occasional hit single, and didn't transition fully to pop until Phil Collins launched his solo career.
  • After Mick Jones got fired in 1983, The Clash brought in two guitarists to replace him. One of them, Nick Sheppard, looked enough like Jones that they could easily have passed for brothers. Jones had the last laugh, as the new Clash lineup broke up after only one album while his new group Big Audio Dynamite was an instant success.
  • Subverted with The New Pornographers. Kathryn Calder serves as the female lead vocals on tour, but only when Neko Case (also a member, but a major solo singer in her own right) isn't available to tour.
  • After The Fall's frontman Mark E. Smith and keyboardist/girlfriend Julia Nagle had a major falling out in the late 1990s, tensions between the two intensified, with the two first breaking up and then Nagle leaving The Fall ca. 2001. Suspiciously Similar Substitute — and Smith's eventual third wife — Elena Poulou became The Fall's keyboardist in late 2002.
  • David Gilmour started out as this during his first weeks with Pink Floyd in order to cover for the increasingly unstable Syd Barrett. After Barrett's departure, Gilmour was originally supposed to continue playing guitar the way Syd used to; this lasted until about late 1968 when the band started shifting its musical direction.
  • Guns N' Roses has had many members come and go over the years since the dissolution of the "classic" lineup, but many of the replacements were very different from their predecessors. For example, Buckethead is very, very different from his predecessor Slash. However, 2009 rolls around and their newest guitar player wears a top hat, smokes while playing, plays a Les Paul, and is known for his bluesy style.
  • Sublime singer Bradley Nowell died of a drug overdose shortly after their breakthrough hit. The band tried to reform over a decade later with sound-alike Rome Ramirez, causing a major argument and eventual legal battle with Nowell's family: The family thought no one should tour under the Sublime name, and the band wanted to finally get to play for all the fans they gained since 40oz to Freedom was released. Eventually the settled on calling the band "Sublime with Rome."
  • Arena-rock über-group Journey is enjoying something of a career resurgence, largely in part to having hired Philippines-born singer Arnel Pineda to handle lead vocal duties. And while Pineda looks not-a-lot like their former powerhouse tenor Steve Perry, their similarity in vocal tone is undeniable.
  • After blonde bassist/vocalist Peter Cetera left brass-drenched band Chicago in 1985 to embark on a solo career, Chicago responded by hiring sandy-haired singer/bass player Jason Scheff to replace him. Didn't hurt that Scheff's vocal tone was a near cut-and-paste of Cetera's, either. And when Chicago's next few singles included the pseudo-Cetera-sounding "Will You Still Love Me?" and "What Kind Of Man Would I Be?" many casual fans didn't even notice the switch.
  • Current Yes vocalist Benoït David sounds quite a lot like erstwhile Yes vocalist Jon Anderson. This probably isn't surprising since they plucked him out of a Yes tribute band. Trevor Horn, who handled lead vocals on the band's 1980 album Drama, also sounds rather similar to Anderson.
  • Country music group Shenandoah had a hard time holding a lead singer after Marty Raybon left. However, one of the replacements was Jimmy Yeary, who sounded uncannily like Raybon.
  • Though there were guitarists between them, Zakk Wylde appeared to be this for Randy Rhoads when he started playing with Ozzy: both having long blonde hair, white Les Pauls, and great technical prowess. Wylde's distinct Bullseye guitar design came about as an attempt to visually distinguish himself from Rhoads.
  • When rotund lead guitarist/songwriter Randy Bachman left The Guess Who, he was replaced by rotund lead guitarist/songwriter Kurt Winter.
  • When Jermaine Jackson quit the Jackson5 in the mid-'70s, the youngest brother Randy (who'd been touring with them as a percussionist) replaced him, having a similar voice (compare Jermaine's "Daddy's Home" with Randy's vocals in "Can You Feel It"). In 1983, Jermaine rejoined for the famed Motown TV special, and they released their final album in 1989, wherein the lineup consisted of both brothers as well as the two oldest Michael Jackson had become the biggest solo artist in music, while middle brother Marlon released an unsuccessful solo album and appeared in a film produced by Troma).

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Monty was once called Robotman, but the syndicate wanted the creator Jim Meddick to remove the Robotman characternote . That done, fast-forward several years, and Monty is befriended by the mysterious eccentric scientist Doc-and his robot sidekick E. B. So far there's no sign that the syndicate wants to dump this new robotic character.
  • Originally in For Better or for Worse, Lynn Johnston had intended to pair off Elizabeth with Christopher Nichols, but when that family was placed under embargo for reasons she took his design, slapped freckles and glasses on him, and created Anthony Caine, her Wesley.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Mr. Saito to Professor Tanaka as Mr Fuji's tag team partner.
  • Amazing Kong debuted as a suspiciously similar substitute to Aja Kong.
  • Epiphany debuted as a suspiciously similar substitute to Beth Phoenix.
  • Muhammad Hassan and Davari were suspiciously similar substitutes to Rodney Mack and Theodore Long.

     Puppet Shows 
  • In The Secret Life Of Toys, Apple, the plastic doll from The Christmas Toy was replaced by a more Muppety rag doll called Raisin. The male rocking horse Belmont is replaced by a female rocking horse called Hortense, presumably because Belmont was voiced by Richard Hunt.

    Radio 
  • Comedian Artie Lange replacing Comedian Jackie "The Jokeman" Martling on The Howard Stern Show. Somewhat averted in that while the two did have similar hobbies and character traits, Lange was specifically hired as an on air personality, whereas Jackie was only sometimes on air, with his main job as writer.
  • Jack Allen from Adventures in Odyssey. After addressing the Replacement Scrappy issue head-on by openly admitting that he could never replace Whit... he replaced Whit. He was generally well-received, though, and after resolving some storylines that hinged on "Whit's" presence, he developed into his own character.
  • In The Navy Lark, Troutbridge's Number One in the first season, Dennis Price, was replaced by Stephen Murray in all the following seasons. They were different characters, but shared some of the same knowledge and responses.
  • In The Jack Benny Program, there were several cast changes over the years: Bob Crosby for Phil Harris; Dennis Day for Kenny Baker.
  • The first Big Finish Fourth Doctor Adventures set - "The Hornet's Nest", "The Serpent's Crest" and "The Demon Quest" - was originally written with the Brigadier as the companion, but when Nicolas Courtney fell ill the part was rewritten for UNIT Captain Mark Yates.

    Roleplay 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Very common in roleplaying games when a Player Character dies (and isn't brought back). In the mildest case, the character will be replaced by one of about same level as the deceased (and even this can strain Willing Suspension of Disbelief if the characters are peerless world-saving heroes). Often, there is pressure on the player to create a character who can fill the same party role that's been vacated. (And then there are players who will just rub out the name on their old character sheet and reuse everything else...)
  • In Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, a Dark Sun epic destiny has the main character become a hero template, and killing off the lead character would simply bring in a mechanically-identical replacement with the same powers and abilities.

    Theater 
  • Not exactly an apt trope for plays, but there's a very similar feeling in Othello: Brabantio, father of Desdemona, has a role in the first act, then does not follow when the action moves to Cyprus; then in the last act Gratiano, his brother, shows up to announce Brabantio is dead and generally stand in for him as a Venetian authority figure. Heightened in some small productions where the two characters are played by the same actor.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • Lampshaded in The Chronicles of William Bazillion here.
  • L.D., the ruthless wolf CEO of HerdThinners in Kevin & Kell, only seen as a pair of slavering jaws, died in the first year and was immediately replaced by R.L., a ruthless wolf only seen as a pair of slavering jaws.
  • In Sonichu, the character of Sandy is introduced almost immediately after the death of her mother Simonla. She had all of the same abilities as her, too.
  • Discussed in The Order of the Stick when Tarquin claims that after he kills Roy Greenhilt and Durkon Thundershield, Elan will have a Terrible Interviewees Montage and end up hiring Rob Redblade and Murkon Lightninghammer. This references the tendency in Dungeon & Dragons campaigns where a lost party member will be quickly replaced by another character with the same class and level (to maintain party balance), and because they're played by the same person, often the same personality too.
  • Played with in X Why when substitute teacher Quinn Jonas comes in for Ken.

    Web Original 
  • Awkward.: The departure of Ernie and Henry resulted in new characters turning up to fill their shoes: Henry (the therapist) is replaced with Dexter (the sage), and Ernie (the douche) with Jermaine (the mega-douche).
  • There's a Muppet Web TV show, The Muppets Kitchen With Cat Cora that has Cora working with a new muppet, Angelo, an Italian chef. His role as a cook and his heavy Italian accent inevitably invite comparisons to the Swedish Chef (although Angelo speaks intelligibly and is actually competent), and viewer comments indicate that at least some see him as a Replacement Scrappy.
    Beauregard: Hey, didn't you used to be Swedish?
    Angelo: That's-a the other guy!

    Real Life 
  • The leader of a British charity was replaced by his twin brother after he killed himself.
  • It can often seem a bit like this in professional team sports, when a particular 'role' is 'recast.' In particular, the identities of the fourth line (aka the goon line) of one's favourite ice hockey team seem to change about as frequently as Diana Ross's outfit. Sometimes it happens with more well-known players - eg. if a soccer/football team replace their tall, hulking, head-the-ball centre forward with another player who does the exact same thing, leaving the fans to wonder what exactly was the point of the exchange.
  • Brand name products can be expensive. It's not uncommon to see shelves at home stocked not with brand name Cheerios, but with store-brand imitations like "Tasteeos."

Similar SquadThis Index Is CopypastedReplacement Scrappy
Suspiciously Similar SongAdverbly Adjective NounSuspiciously Small Army
Suddenly EthnicityCharacters and CastingTalking to Himself
Sleeping DummySubstitution TropesSwitch Out Move
Suspend SaveAdded Alliterative AppealSuspiciously Specific Sermon
Streisand EffectSelf-Demonstrating ArticleSuspiciously Specific Denial
Mother Russia Makes You StrongImageSource/Video GamesTrying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty

alternative title(s): Jonas Quinn; Replacement Character; Suspiciously Similar Replacement; Suspiciously Similar Substitutes
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