Follow TV Tropes


Cerebus Syndrome / Live-Action TV

Go To

Examples of live-action television shows getting progressively more serious.

  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: The show starts off as a bit of a Sadist Show with a Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist and a cast of varying levels of unlikable characters. Midway through the first season, the show starts getting much more dramatic, showcasing that the characters are in fact sympathetic, but deeply flawed people and even the Hate Sink Valencia is a tragic character once looked at through someone else's eyes that is not Rebecca. In season 3, the show gets a bit even darker when Rebecca is left at the altar and seeks revenge, while also having to deal with her mental problems and suicide attempts. Her season 4 Redemption Quest is similarly serious in tone, but with a more optimistic view of her mental health issues.
  • Advertisement:
  • Never Have I Ever: The penultimate episode of Season 1 really delves into the strained mother-daughter relationship between Nalini and Devi, ending with Devi chewing Nalini out for the deeply hurtful words she's said about her when she thought Devi couldn't hear and saying she wished Nalini were the one who died instead.
  • Otasuke Girl was a short DTV Japanese series about a superpowered high school detective girl. While most of the episodes were very lighthearted, featuring humorous recurring characters, bad guys who were more silly than threatening, and the title character using hilarious fighting techniques like hitting her opponent's face with her butt while shooting 'hip punch!', the series finale featured little to no humor, with a story about children's disappearance and Otasuke Girl being put in a coma. Even if all went back to normal at the end, ending this lighthearted series on such a dark episode gave a really weird feeling.
  • Advertisement:
  • Super Sentai seems to be more lighthearted for the first 10 episodes while we get to know the characters before getting more arc based and dramatic after the story kicks in. Since new series start without so much as a week's break after the last one, this run of lighthearted episodes may count as a Breather Episode after how serious the last ten episodes of a series seem to get. In another way, looking at the series as a whole, it seems to waffle back and forth between each season. The serious Ohranger was followed by the lighthearted Carranger. Similarly we went from silly Go-onger to serious Shinkenger to silly Goseiger. It seems like the creative team just like going back and forth with it.
  • The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret begins as your typical Cringe Comedy, with Todd falling deeper into a web of ridiculous lies, ultimately exposing an entire restaurant to a deadly virus, triggering a terrorist attack that kills the female lead, and being extradited to North Korea.
  • Advertisement:
  • Family Ties: Its pilot and the early episodes were pretty much satire until becoming the trope codifier for the "Very Special Episode", such as a pre-Philadelphia Tom Hanks playing a drunken uncle who comes within a hair of slugging Michael J. Fox's Alex (in 1982; go figure). Fox later netted an Emmy for "A is for Alex", in which his friend is brutally killed by a speeding car during an errand Alex was supposed to be helping him with, but weaseled out of at the last minute. Plagued by survivor's guilt, Alex has a nervous breakdown and goes to see a clinical psychiatrist(!). This episode, along with the show's many imitators during this period, was a major motivating factor for the "no hugging, no kissing" sitcoms of the modern era.
  • Star Trek got much darker as the franchise went on, to the point where many fans (and some creators) have disavowed anything that came after Star Trek: The Original Series, more specifically Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which was made largely without Gene Roddenberry's input. Star Trek II introduced a more militarized Starfleet. Star Trek: The Next Generation suggested the upper echelons of Starfleet were corrupt. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine plunged the Federation into war (just the latest of many, mind you; previous wars had been kept off-screen, because Roddenberry wanted his show to focus strictly on exploration, not politics) and introduced Section 31, a cloak-and-dagger outfit which had been lurking in the shadows ever since the Federation Charter was founded. Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise were darker still.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise was aired in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, with many cast and crew members having lost loved ones in the attacks. By Season Two, the show had become much more cynical: Vulcan was retconned into a hegemonic power, and the newer villains (Suliban, Xindi) were inspired in large part by the Taliban. Exploration fell by the wayside as Earth was besieged on all sides by implacable enemies set to destroy it: the Vulcans, who resisted humanity's encroachment on their colonies, and the Xindi, who were following the edict of a godlike and malevolent alien. In Season 2, the Vulcans sat back and allowed the Xindi to destroy Florida, killing 7 million people. This led to a reactionary mood in Earth politics. Had the series survived past Season 4, it would have dealt with the Earth-Romulan War, so it's not like this was a passing phase or anything.
    • As for the new movies, we start with the destruction of Vulcan before the eyes of Spock - both of him - in the first and move on to what turns out to be an adaptation of The Wrath of Khan and the Section 31 arc at once for the second!
    • Star Trek: Discovery starts out with the protagonist sentenced to life in prison for mutiny, loops through one of the nastiest places in the original series (the Mirror Universe), and then concludes by taking a minor plot point (Klingon spies disguised as humans) from The Trouble With Tribbles, one of the most iconic and lighthearted episodes from the original series, and playing it hard for drama.
  • M*A*S*H is probably the most famous (or infamous) TV example of the trope. It started as early as midway through the first season with the episode "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet," which can be called the first time in the series that the concepts of war and death are looked at in a very serious light, as opposed to the more light-hearted and comedic situations of the previous episodes. And the season 3 finale "Abyssinia, Henry" ended with the first instance of a major sitcom character actually being killed off in American TV history.
    • The departures of comedy-centered characters like Henry Blake and Frank Burns (as well as original showrunners Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds) also contributed to the shift in tone, as did turnover in the show's writing staff and increased creative input from star Alan Alda. While M*A*S*H never abandoned comedy entirely, by around season 8 or thereabouts the balance had shifted decidedly in favor of increasingly heavy and Anvilicious drama.
  • The same happened to All in the Family. The show began as a political satire, and a pretty surrealistic one (even featuring Archie in a Dream Sequence while trying to write a letter to President Nixon). However, beginning by the episode "Gloria the Victim", the show took a Darker and Edgier direction, with notable episodes include Archie unwittingly joining the Klan, Edith being assaulted on her birthday, the Stivics moving west, and Archie Bunker's Place had Mike leaving Gloria and most importantly Edith suddenly dying. The main characters' personalities also changed (as did our views about them)
    • Notably, "Edith's 50th Birthday" made such an emotional impact with fans, that the actor who played the rapist got massive hate-mail.
    • This could also be said for its Brit counterpart Till Death Us Do Part: Alf's wife Else leaves him midway through the show's run and sues him for divorce in the final episode. However, in the later revival series In Sickness and in Health they're back together again.
    • Spin-off The Jeffersons also suffered from this, although it was more gradual. Maude, on the other hand, was drama-heavy enough in the beginning to actually avert this.
  • The first couple seasons of Smallville were mostly lighthearted freak-of-the-week affairs. Around the middle of season three, they began to delve more into the Superman mythos, and the show reflected this.
  • Although Happy Days is known for its late-season wackiness, the show flirted with pathos, specifically the infamous S6 episode "Fonzie's Blindness". Other examples include the episode where Richie almost dies (titled, appropriately, "Richie Almost Dies"), leading to a heartfelt performance from Winkler, and the final season where Fonz saves Joanie from a rapist.
    • One of the spin-offs, Laverne & Shirley, has a distressing tendency to 'get serious' in Season Five. In "The Duke of Squigman", what begins with Squiggy sleepwalking (and morphing into an aristocratic Englishman) turns solemn when Squiggy finally admits to himself that he's a loser. The whole point of his character's comedy is that he's unaware of what a joke he is.
  • While Welcome Back, Kotter started out with the Sweathogs' light-hearted antics during the first two seasons, the third season featured a number of episodes with Vinnie struggling to get his grades up on a test to avoid being held back to repeating his sophomore year and choosing between winning a talent show or a potential girlfriend who happens to be one of the competitors, Arnold Horshack getting brainwashed into a cult, and Freddie getting hooked on painkillers. By the fourth season, the Sweathogs struggle with Mr. Kotter being promoted to vice-principal and taking a more serious stance on their pranks; Horshack talking a girl with social problems out of a suicide situation, struggling with teenage alcoholism and deciding to remain in Brooklyn and finish school alongside his classamtes when his mother decides to move out of town; Barbarino moving into his own apartment and getting a part-time job as a hospital orderly; and a mix-up involving a porno flick and a G-rated sex education film which almost costs Julie her teaching job.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer started its Cerebus transition after the end of the first season. It's frequently debated on the point where it went too far, though the sixth season is the most commonly accused.
  • Angel went through Cerebus Syndrome, starting life as a supernatural detective story but very quickly transitioning into multilayered plot arcs about conflicts between interdimensional forces of good and evil.
  • The second season of the Argentine soap Rebelde Way took a turn toward darker storylines. While the series was never shy of showing dark/mature storylines in the first season (like abusive parents, drug addiction, class differences, a terrorist-like cult scaring the kids at the school), the second season showcased kidnappings, cheating, and life-scaring operations.
  • Supernatural underwent this process when it hit the halfway point of Season One. And it got even worse from there. With Break the Cutie and Deus Angst Machina.
  • Friends has a subtle process in this vein. It starts out with story arcs entirely for comedy, actual jokes with punchlines, and a set of characters that seem to fulfill every comedic need you could have. Then heavy character development and serious storylines set in and eventually the series becomes straight Dramedy rather than Comedy with bits of Drama.
    • Ironically, the comedy bits became Denser and Wackier in later seasons, making this a zigzagged case.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Hydra reveal. Enough said.
  • Sex and the City: Started out as being about sex and dating and all the various types of men out there, then starting in Season 3 shifted focus to long-term relationships. Really set in in season six, which had arcs dealing with Charlotte's infertility and Samantha developing breast cancer. The last several episodes and the movies were considerably less light-hearted than the early seasons.
  • The French comedy show Kaamelott starts as a short comedic series spoofing the legend of King Arthur, but after three seasons, the storyline became darker and less comedic (except for the two comic relief characters of Perceval and Karadoc) and turned to get an actual (twistful) plot, while doubling its air time to 7 minutes length.
  • Weeds began as a comedy (or dramedy) about a housewife dealing marijuana in the suburbs; from the second season on, though still possessing a lot of bizarre and quirky humour, it became a lot more serious. The show began dealing with increasingly dark themes till it started Crossing the Line Twice. By season 6, it inverted Cerebus Syndrome and turned into a farce.
  • She Spies is a syndicated show (it aired on PAX for a while) that was originally a spoof of Charlie's Angels and the like. In its first season, it took shots at everything, and the leads were Deadpan Snarkers. In the second season, the show dropped most of the humor and became what it had spoofed.
  • The first two seasons of Xena: Warrior Princess were heavy on camp and occasionally had a serious episode. Then Gabrielle was killed for the first time in Season Three, setting off a season-long storyline meant to put Xena and Gabrielle through emotional hell. Subsequent seasons had even less comedy. A notable episode is The Convert where normally goofy Butt Monkey Joxer kills for the first time. Throughout the episode he is not joked about and engages in no goofy antics, despite obvious setups. Even in the fight scenes.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air started off as a lighthearted comedy about the young, funky, foul-mouthed Will Smith living with his rich, stuffy relatives in Bel Air. The series went on to explore increasingly controversial topics, like racial discrimination ("Mistaken Identity"), fatherhood and abandonment ("Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse"), gun violence ("Bullets Over Bel-Air"), alcoholism ("You've Got to Be a Football Hero"), and even drug use ("Just Say Yo"). The later episodes included several "serious moments" where Will Smith cries, screams, or breaks down. There was often no laugh track to end the show, opting instead for a somber, silent cut to the credits.
    • That would be because it wasn't a laugh track sitcom. It had a live audience, who were often left in stunned silence by said heavy endings. The audience is shown frequently in the blooper reels.
  • Since its fourth season, House has become more and more focused on character drama and less on the weekly patient. Whereas subplots involving relationships usually only occupied a few minutes of an episode, which was instead focused on Greg's hilarious antics or the central plot of the patient, that is now almost entirely reversed. Patients are usually only treated for a brief portion of the episodes, and even those scenes are flooded by character drama.
  • The Thick of It went through this, partly because of changes in the Real Life political climate it reflects, and partly because of its own fractured production history. As the UK went into recession, news of the MPs' expenses scandal broke, and New Labour began losing their grip on power, the storylines in the show's third series became less comedic and more dramatic. The third series was also the first complete series commissioned by the BBC (the other episodes had been pilot episodes, short runs or hour-long specials) and gave the writers their first chance to toy with story arcs, resulting in the the third series being much less episodic than the first.
  • A season 3 episode of Warehouse 13 had supernatural twists on torture by burning and waterboarding; pretty dark for that show.
  • The second season of Young Dracula has shades of this, what with multiple vampires actually getting slain, including one who had been a recurring sympathetic character, Vlad being revealed to the The Chosen One, and the series ending on what was probably meant to be a dramatic cliffhanger.
    • After the show was miraculously UnCanceled, the third season began exploring darker themes. Such as seeing a character we first saw as twelve year old boy trying to murder his father and sister.
    • This trend reaches a climax in Series 4, with the main character biting Erin to save her from death, killing one of his closest friends in cold blood, and spiraling into something disturbingly similar to crippling alcoholism. We also get some incredibly disturbing Nightmare Fuel, with the antagonist unhinging her jaw and Vlad bleeding from his eyes, ears, nose, and hands. Oh, also, Erin hates him.
  • After pressing the Reset Button so hard it broke at the beginning of Season 3, Chuck seems to be slowly heading down this path as the separate worlds the titular character has maintained over the course of the show (Spy World and Buy More World) seem to be slowing collapsing into one another, with potentially unpretty results. It seems that Status Quo is still God. (Except for what happened to Emmett, but the first episode of a new season can sometimes change the status quo.) Spy World and Buy More World are still separate so far - there's just a lot more angst and trauma about it. For everyone.
  • Power Rangers got this in Power Rangers in Space. Where previous seasons had the Rangers defend the city from goofy Monsters of the Week, In Space had their mentor kidnapped and they were desperately searching alien planets to find him before time ran out. The bad guys were also more complex characters than the Card Carrying Villains that were present up to that point, and it even wrapped things up with a Bittersweet Ending. The result is that In Space is considered one of the best seasons by the fans, and it got enough ratings to uncancel the franchise.
  • This definitely happened to Boy Meets World in the later seasons. Around the kids' senior year of high school, it went from being a light-hearted comedy about puberty to being more or less a Dramedy with a lot of angst, inner turmoil and Very Special Episodes. It never did lose its 4th-wall leaning, Lampshade Hanging charm, though. The tone shifted as early as Season 2, when they brought in Mr. Turner and Topanga went from 'weird kid' to 'viable romantic option'.
  • Life On Mars was fairly consistent in its Mind Screwy-but-occasionally-light-hearted tone. Ashes to Ashes (2008), on the other hand, started out similar to its predecessor, but grew the beard with its Season One finale (which revealed that Alex's father had pulled a Taking You with Me, killed her mother, and the only reason young Alex survived was chance, not to mention the man who took her hand afterwards was Gene Hunt). And did it again with its season 2 finale (involving a fellow "time-traveler" killing his own younger self and setting Alex up to take the fall, Gene accidentally shooting Alex, and Alex waking up in 2008 only to start seeing Gene on her television). Season 3 upped the ante into pseudo-religious levels, capping it off with revealing Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory and the Devil's been hanging around this whole time.
  • Blackadder did this very suddenly with the tragic finale of the fourth series. Interesting, because the first and second series ended with everyone dying. In those occasions, it was inevitably Played for Laughs, making the end of Blackadder Goes Forth particularly striking.
  • Farscape began as an avant-garde space series with a lot of comedy and some rather astute drama subplots. Crichton was surrounded by aliens who were superior to him in every way, except for his stubborn, hopeful nature in the face of disaster. Season 3 is seriously dark. "Different Destinations" (Crichton fails to save a nunnery from gruesome deaths) and "Eat Me" (the crew is cloned and murdered by cannibals) are a tough combo back-to-back, even today. In Season Four, the aliens behave as a voice of reason to Crichton, who becomes increasingly (if passively) ruthless. He essentially facilitates murder in "Prayer" and he lets the villain justify it to him by suggesting those people were close to death anyhow. If darkness is not your friend then never watch that season.
  • Poirot series, after season IX, saw the deletion of regular comic relief characters like Captain Hastings, and inclusion of more serious, "dark" themes.
  • iCarly: The episode iOMG is the first of a five episode 'arc' involving the Sam/Freddie 'romance'. The first promo from the 2nd episode is void of comedy, and instead concentrates on kissing, and Sam wondering if she has 'lost her mind' for liking Freddie.
  • Notably averted by Seinfeld. Despite being on the air for almost a decade, it never slid into drama. Not even a Very Special Episode. Even the series finale was all comedy.
  • The Job started out as somewhat black comedy, but over the course of the series morphed into something very much like its Spiritual Successor Rescue Me.
  • 8 Simple Rules had the premise of lighthearted family Dom Com with emphasis of an overprotective father toward his offspring at first, but only for roughly one season. Afterward (most notably due to the death of the actor of the father), this trope set in and this show became more dramatic.
  • The first season of Mad Men revolved around the daily life of an ad agency in 1960 (including the famous John F. Kennedy-Richard Nixon election). Then Don Draper's past became more apparent, and confirmed the day JFK was killed. Needless to say, the lives of the characters (especially the men) have spiraled down since then (not to mention they all have become less and less sympathetic with the "self-destructive alcoholic chain-smoker" aspect of the leads being quite played up), at least until the move to California...
  • How I Met Your Mother has began limping down this path to some degree, with the death of Marshall's father or Robin's infertility and as a means to extend the popular series. It gets hiked way up in mid-season 7 with episodes like "Tick Tick Tick", "Symphony of Illumination", and "The Drunk Train", which are as rife with drama and sad moments. The syndrome is somewhat lightened by the fact that the Happily Ever After ending (with everyone staying close friends, Marshall and Lily staying together, and Ted marrying and having kids) has been a Foregone Conclusion since the pilot. The only truly dramatic tension is whether or not Robin will get her happy ending with Barney, and even if she doesn't, Future!Ted has confirmed that Robin still had a wonderful life and was always surrounded by her friends.
    • Then back with a vengeance in the series finale, After one season spent with the marriage of Barney and Robin, we learns that they divorced three years later which cause Robin to distance with the gang. Ten years after Ted met his wife, she dies from an illness. It turns out the entire story was Ted explaining to his children that he can move on and go back with Robin.
  • Green Wing started out as a light-hearted, surreal comedy, and partway through season two turned depressing with Mac's terminal illness and the suicides of Statham and Joanna.
  • Glee started off with really lighthearted humor and was almost a parody of the Musical genre. However, during the second season the storylines have become more and more serious. By Season 5 the show has come full circle and now parodies itself.
  • Scrubs was never supposed to be a blatant humor show, and had always shown signs of seriousness, but the last 3 seasons with the main cast really took the darkness up to 11. With JD's romantic story lines getting more and more tragic, his son, Turk and Carla's marital problems, Dr. Cox's ever growing problems leading up to several break downs, and plenty of death to go around, Scrubs ended as way more of a drama than a comedy.
  • While the first season of Community had its darker moments, it was generally episodic and consequence free. The second season noticeably changed tone, especially with Pierce becoming a downright villain in several episodes ("and then I rape the Ducane family" anyone?). Even lampshaded by Abed (of course) and several others dropping various comments like "this has been a dark year". And the third season? Can anyone say "darkest timeline"?
    • They do this again with the 5th season, which followed the relatively lighter 4th season with the study group getting out into the world and finding out their degrees were worthless, Andre leaving Shirley and taking the kids, and Pierce dying within 5 episodes. Things get better, but damn...
  • Breaking Bad remained darkly humorous to the end, but it manages to use this trope by making Walter White less and less sympathetic in each season. As Walt becomes corrupted by the drug trade, the tone of the show becomes even darker and more tragic than it was in seasons past, feeling more like a modern Shakespearean tragedy by the conclusion. It has become so well known for this trope that The Onion even ran a parody article announcing that the show would take "a dark turn" in its forthcoming season (in contrast to the "lighthearted" tone of the show up til now).
    • Its prequel spinoff Better Call Saul goes down the same route too. The show does have the same black comedy as Breaking Bad, but the tone gets darker as Jimmy starts doing shadier things and inches closer to becoming Saul while Mike starts getting involved with the cartels.
  • Hogan's Heroes is an interesting case of this. While it never stops being a comedy, later scenes play up the dangers the heroes face considerably. The difference between how the Gestapo and SS are treated in Season 1 (a nuisance) and Season 6 (an actual threat) is especially jarring if one re-watches the early episodes after the later ones.
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century became much more serious in the second season. the Like a Duck Takes to Water aspect of Buck's character had run its course by the end of the first season. Gone were his constant humorous references to the 20th Century (i.e teaching the people of the 25th century how to "get down"). The "Disco Era" feel and look of the show also abruptly disappeared with the change of setting to outer space. Also, Ardala and the Draconians were now friends of Earth. So gone was the serio-comic sexual tension. Buck was no longer a swinging ladies man who cracked jokes while fighting. It was evident that Buck now took his relationship with Wilma Deering seriously as he should have done from the start. No longer being a quirky maverick prone to setting out on his own, he became a more serious team oriented character who just followed orders from The Captain. Even TWIKI was no longer a goofy sidekick and not only did he become more grumpy, but he also lost his signature speech impediment. He had a different voice to reflect this. Also, in keeping with the new Wagon Train to the Stars style format, there were no more Space Battle scenes. There were also fewer outright villains, most episodes revolving around mysteries instead of conflict. Also, Buck became more preachy (his very serious sermon in Time of the Hawk) as well as angsty when problems couldn't be solved without violence.
  • Skins started out as a fairly balanced comedy/drama that dealt with real life issues college kids go through with respect and realism, while still having whimsical larger than life side characters and plenty of funny moments to keep the overall tone enjoyable. Generally every season got a bit darker towards the end, and the second season for each generation of cast was always darker than the first. Generation 2 was a lot darker than Generation 1, though they lightened up just a little for Generation 3, at least ending in an upbeat fashion. Then came the grand final Season 7, which revisited some of the previous characters dealing with some very heavy adult life issues. When you think back to the wacky funeral coffin-stealing car chase of Season 2's finale, it's hard to believe it's the same show that saw the final episode of Season 7 be a tense comedy-free finale of protagonists being chased through the woods by a crazed gunman. So you've got layers of Cerebus Syndrome over the course of individual episodes, seasons, generations, and the series as a whole.
  • War of the Worlds (1988) started off as a science fiction adventure show with a team of specialists on a mission to fight alien invaders. The team included the usual lineup, The Lancer who was also The Brigadier, The wisecracking Token Black Friend who was also the Playful Hacker, The Chick and her daughter, all led by the Smart Guy who was also The Wonka and Pacifist. Colonel Ironhorse was the Straight Man of the team and Butt-Monkey because of it. The second season, however, did away with Cololnel Ironhorse and Norton Drake. Harrison Blackwood lost his sense of humor, his quirkiness, and his pacifism. They gained Anti-Hero John Kincaid. Suzanne goes from being a feminist, single mom career woman to an Empty Shell. Debi becomes more Emo. The world became a Cyberpunk dystopia.
  • Burn Notice: After six years of balancing a "help the common folk" story with the underlying Plot Arc, and generally finding a witty tone to carry it through, the show went fully dark its last season, maybe season and a half. After Mike kills his former mentor in cold blood for orchestrating his brother's murder, he's forced to go undercover as an alcoholic ex-spy inside a privately-funded terrorist organization. As season seven progresses, he loses his relationship with Fiona, he's broken psychologically by being forced to revisit his Darkest Hour, then finally, he's tempted to make a Face–Heel Turn by both the lure of power and the loss of faith in his CIA handlers. It's only through the intervention of his old friends that he avoids crossing the Moral Event Horizon, and while he does get something of a happy ending, it's at best bittersweet: his mother sacrifices herself to allow his nephew and Jesse to escape a tactical assault team, and he and Fi are forced into hiding to cover their own staged deaths.
  • Once Upon a Time: While the show was already dark, the overall tone gave a ray of hope feeling, with a lot of talk about True Love and happy endings. But by the time Snow White killed Cora and darkened her own heart, it had definitely become Darker and Edgier. As of season 4, the town is constantly under attack, the lines between heroes and villains have become increasingly blurred, and Happily Ever After remains elusive for anyone who isn't Snow White and Prince Charming; and even then, recent developments have shown that the two heroes aren't above performing morally questionable acts and trying to cover them up, and this predates Snow killing Cora by a good twenty years.
  • The Vampire Diaries: The show was already dark, it became darker once John Gilbert showed up and Stefan struggled with his blood addiction. Once Katherine and Klaus came, things got worse. Then, Alaric was revealed to be a supernatural serial killer, Elena died and became a vampire, and things went straight to Hell.
  • Season 4 of The Mindy Project is much more serious than the first three seasons, which have been compared to a Romantic Comedy in tone. In this season, Mindy and Danny are dealing with raising a child together as well as their upcoming marriage. Danny wants Mindy to quit her job and become a housewife and raise their large family, however Mindy doesn't want to give up her new fertility clinic. This leads to extensive arguments and the eventual break-up of their relationship.
  • Kamen Rider Gaim, as one might expect for a series helmed by Gen Urobuchi. While the series starts off with street-dancing teens engaging in Mons battles and the second episode sees the title character trying to use his Rider powers during his part-time jobs with hilarious results, there are still the seeds of more serious plots to come like an omnipresent Mega-Corp, the main character's best friend going missing (which actually kicks off the main plot). The big turning point is Episode 14, where Ryoji Hase/Armored Rider Kurokage is Killed Off for Real; after this things get progressively darker and more serious, with Micchy puling a massive Face–Heel Turn and literally shooting Kouta in the back, said missing friend turning up as the monster Gaim killed in the first episode, The Reveal that Helheim is Alien Kudzu that's trying to take over the planet, and the Mega Corp is trying to help, but they can only save one-seventh of humanity at best and is prepared to destroy the other six-sevenths so they aren't transformed into monsters. The show does still have some humorous moments throughout (mostly provided by the pastry chef/Rider and one of Those Two Guys), but the tone is still overall serious, and late in the series there's even a scene where those two characters lament that it seems like there's nothing they can do anymore. While the ending is bittersweet at worst, it's still a marked change from other Kamen Rider series.
    • Similarly, Kamen Rider Ex-Aid starts out with Riders with hilarious designs in a story that's a pastiche of the 1980s era of video gaming. It becomes very dramatic and complex as it goes, though. It starts with a characer being Killed Off for Real in the Christmas Episode that had been pure wacky fun up to that point, and gets more intense from there. However, it never gets to the point where the fun is totally lost.
  • Dear White People: Episode 5 of Season 1 is when the show takes a darker yet realistic turn where Reggie is held at gunpoint by campus police after a fight at a party, where he's considered the instigator and for nothing more than talking back to the officer.
  • Doctor Who, when it returned to TV in 2005, adopted a format of season-long story arcs (generally built up on the background of otherwise-episodic stories, leading to a season finale where the arc elements come together). The series also took a more serious tone with regards to the relationships between the Doctor and his companions, including acknowledging the possibility of romance or unrequited love between the Doctor and the people he traveled with (something the original series was forbidden from addressing). Series 9, which aired in 2015, ramped this up, as much of the season dealt with serious topics such as obsessive love, the morality of time travel and immortality, anticipation of loss, and the season ended with a trilogy built around an episode ("Heaven Sent") that unflinchingly addressed (with a sci-fi backdrop) one man's grief and inability to accept the loss of a loved one - that person's death having been foreshadowed throughout the season. Although praised by critics and many viewers, the seriousness of Series 9 led showrunner Steven Moffat to follow it up with two consecutive comedic Christmas specials, the addition of a well-known comic actor as a regular cast member, and the promise that Series 10 (which would not air for 18 months after Series 9) would be intentionally Lighter and Softer.
  • Magnum, P.I. always kept its balance of action and humor, and is rather bright for a film noir crime series. However, the fact that Magnum, T.C. and Rick are all Vietnam veterans had to be brought to shocking light in "Did You See The Sunrise?", and then the amount of serious episodes steadily increased from that point onwards.
  • Castle started out as purely comedic in the first season, with the only moments treated seriously being those that would have been completely impossible to make funny, given that it was a homicide detective show. However, as the series continued, it morphed into a Dramedy and then a just drama with jokes thrown in.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: