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Cerebus Syndrome / Web Original

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Examples of Internet-based works getting progressively more serious.

  • The Ed Stories start out in blog format, then continue as a more formal type of prose fiction with a fairly whimsical tone (cf. "An Admin Password for the Universe"), then suddenly takes a turn for "the dreaded continuity", turns a hinted-at running gag into a major plot point for a longer story arc, and culminates in a Downer Ending.
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  • Oh, Doctor Horrible. The first act introduces the light-hearted tale of an incompetent supervillain, the girl of his dreams, and his cheezy superhero rival. Act Two starts with "My Eyes," Doctor Horrible's half of which at least is pretty dark, but really, it's just him bitching because Penny is going out with Captain Hammer instead of with him. The act then ends with "Brand New Day," which announces that Dr. Horrible intends to go through with Bad Horse's command: "There will be blood / It might be yours / So go kill someone! / (Signed, Bad Horse)" And then there's Act Three, which has Dr. Horrible trying to kill Captain Hammer, but getting Penny killed instead in the process. Of course, considering the short length, it was obviously planned from the beginning.
  • The Church of Blow does this deliberately and with great effect; it starts off as a light satire of youtube vlogging, religion and cults, with episodes about deciding on the Church's logo (smiley face or weird mouse creature?). Then Cornelius Blow, the protagonist, dips further into insanity, the comedy gets darker and darker, someone shows up at Cornelius' house wearing his face, Cornelius kills at least two people before finally having a breakdown and discovering he's a fictional character and going off to find the real world. The whole series turns into an intelligent and elaborate parody and Take That! of Youtube and everyone who uses it, raising questions about whether anyone's Youtube persona is actually the real them at all and if the very presence of a camera fictionalizes everything it records. Also it has lizard monsters, which may or may not be figments of Cornelius' imagination.
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  • The Saga of Tuck has been accused of this, though the dark points of the plot have been implicit since day one. This didn't stop some fans from jumping ship.
  • Awkward. starts off as pure grossout humour but turns quite dramatic and serious as the series progresses.
  • Not even porn is immune to this. Summer Camp by Nick Scipio started out as an episodic, sex-laden Coming-of-Age Story about a boy being initiated into sex by his mother's best friend; but now, 4 volumes and a million words later, most readers are onboard primarily to find out who he marries and who died. (The interesting bit is that Nick planned it this way: the very first words of the story are a Framing Device in which both the wife and "Aunt D" are introduced but not named.)
  • Atop the Fourth Wall started out as an average geek reviewing bad comics on his futon and eventually made its way to said geek grappling with self-doubt, dethroning a multiversal conqueror, and commanding a massive starship. He still reviews bad comics on his futon, though.
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  • Ah, the Anti-Cliché and Mary-Sue Elimination Society. Started up by three British girls with way too much time on their hands, with enough crack to make Scarface jealous. Now? It recently hit the two hundred story mark, with maybe two dozen writers, has an actual, slightly epic, plot, and (depending on the author) angst. Puh-lenty of angst. There's still a copious amount of crack, though.
  • Both New Prime and The Last Scene by Olan Rogers undergo this. The Last Scene started as just a nonsensical dialogue parodying action movie cliche`s in against a white background. Soon this white background became a plot point, and eventually it (almost) starts to take itself somewhat seriously. More so with New Prime, as it has now included plot twists, a (kind of) serious plot, with characters being Killed Off for Real. However, this trope is not entirely played straight as the series never lose their humor. New Prime takes itself more seriously than The Last Scene, as the latter moves more towards an Indecisive Parody than the original straight Affectionate Parody. New Prime 5 pretty much goes all the way.
  • The Web Video series Le Visiteur du Futur begins as a succession of one-shot episodes where a time-travelling Cloudcuckoolander harasses the same everyday-guy, then quickly turns in a real plot, when antagonists (the Time Police) appears and the episodes lentgh increases. It makes the series become a bit more serious, although it is still comedic.
  • Demo Reel got hit with this fast and on purpose. After the pilot — which focused half and half on movie parodies and brushing the surface of the characters — was released to mixed reception, Doug pulled the actual second episode and released the third in place of it. This one advanced the SWAG-as-Big Bad storyline and delved into the main characters' Dark And Troubled Pasts. The following episode, a bromantic version of Lost in Translation, was even heavier on the emotions and got mass praise.
  • For another Doug Walker series, there was The Nostalgia Critic, which started out with just the Critic being an asshole, and later got into heavy detail on the Critic's hatred of his job and himself. While still being funny, impressively.
    • The Un-Cancelled series focuses more on the story aspect of the sketches as a hold-over from the aforementioned Demo Reel, with more development for the side characters and their arcs, though the amount of legitimate plot in each episode varies. This can be seen in certain storylines like the earlier Hyper Fangirl episodes, and especially in each year's final Christmas episode, which are typically story-heavy and always involve a Tear Jerker and some sort of moral about the holiday spirit.
  • Subverted in Treading Ground. After a number of opening strips starting as a sitcom, it seemed to turn into a big story about assassins. Then that turned out to be an unrelated side story and the main plot continued unabated.
  • Filthy Frank started out with simple racist and grossout humor; as well as shenanigans from his various housemates. However, after Lord Chin-Chin appeared, there was something of a small plot about one of the characters getting kidnapped and Frank and co having to save him.
  • Funny Business is written all as one chapter, note  but still undergoes this trope. The first part seems like one of those utterly forgettable children's books where the main character has magical powers. Once certain adults deduce the nature of the main character's powers, they interrogate her and she reveals that her cheery personality is fake and she has spent her whole life hating herself for something she did as a toddler, and which was easily fixed, to boot. The story of the main character's life then goes From Bad to Worse.
  • The progression of Noob can be summed up as such: Season 1: Affectionate Parody. Season 2: Knight of Cerebus. Season 3: First Wham Episode. Season 4: So far bottled up feelings coming out right and left.
  • Welcome to Night Vale is today, as it has always been, a Mood Whiplash mix of off-the-wall social satire, Dadaist humor, and existential creepiness. But while the earliest episodes are almost entirely Monster of the Week stories with a breezy, matter-of-fact tone, by late Year 1 there was a much stronger focus on Story Arcs and Character Development. By the second half of Year 2, the series had even developed a recurring villain and Myth Arc.
  • OnCinema: Apart from the occasional disagreement, the podcast and the first web video season of On Cinema lacked any generally dark subject matter and mostly solely focused on critics giving every film they reviewed a positive score regardless of its actual quality. Season 2 is when the series gradually begins with a more dark tone starting with Tim's health issues and later deals with matters such as abortion, child death, alcohol/drug addiction, and manslaughter
  • Your Favorite Martian started out entirely comedic, with song ranging from stalking your mother to getting buzzed on orphan tears. "Friend Zone" was what got them to be serious at first, being a song about unrequited love played straight, and they had very few straight-up comedic songs since, most either being Dramedy or complete drama, such as songs about being bullied in school ("Alien") and being in a borderline-emotionally abusive relationship ("Complicated").
  • Downplayed with Cracked. Though it is still primarily a humor website, since 2013, some of its list-based articles have been surprisingly serious, incorporating current events and "True Life" fact pieces from freelance writers far more often than they ever had before. Though the site's articles have always tried to be at least somewhat informative, many of the ones written since late 2013 have tackled such mature subjects as being homeless, working as a prostitute, the life of a Somali pirate, and the worst parts of growing up in a Scientologist family. One of their articles about the shady practices used by the producers of The Biggest Loser (published after an interview with Season 3 runner-up Kai Hibbard) was deemed "important" enough that the Huffington Post later wrote an article calling attention to Hibbard's claims. Not bad for a humor website that prides itself on the quality of its dick jokes.
  • The Music Video Show is becoming this. Watch episode 6. Now watch episode 42. Though, it's still comedic, something has changed. And then there are Episode 49 and Episode 50. Brought back to Lighter and Softer by season 3.
  • Downplayed. Although Folding Ideas was always more serious and analytical than comedic. Jokes were more frequent within Season 1. While jokes still pop every now and then, it's pretty rare.
  • Matt Santoro's videos started off being mostly comedic, but later became educational, with comedy being a secondary theme.
  • Three of the SCP Foundation's strange, unsettling, and particularly serious items are the Aquarium, the Dreamtime Whale Shark, and the Jumbo Shrimp... and all three are linked to the Shark-Punching Center. Yes, the group created as a one-note joke about misspelling the initials 'SCP' is now a serious part of whatever passes for canon in the Foundation universe.
  • Board James, a board game-themed spinoff of The Angry Video Game Nerd, started off as a relatively harmless, light-hearted display of James Rolf's board game collection. While Episode 8, "Mr. Bucket" was the first in which darker themes were played with (with the titular bucket coming to life and trying to assault the characters), things really officially took a 180-degree turn in tone upon Episode 19, "Dream Phone." After the obligatory demonstration of the game, the plastic pink phone that comes with the game comes to life and brutally murders Mike and Bootsy. James destroys it, only for the police to arrest him for the murders. From there, subsequent episodes have played off this series of events in a very dark and surreal way, centering around James' heavily hinted insanity and homicidal streak (heavily hinting that James might have been the one to kill his friends after all, and that the phone coming to life and other similar instances were all hallucinations), and the crew's dealings with death... while still playing board games.
  • The most recent installments of the steampunk music podcast The Clockwork Cabaret are more dark comedic than the earlier ones, possibly due to the arrival of present co-host Lady Attercop whose persona is more anti-heroic than the previous ones.
  • The introduction and the first arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! East Academy are both fairly standard Yu-Gi-Oh! fare, with rivalries and friendships developing and generally a fairly light-hearted roleplay. Then the second arc rolls around...
  • Destroy the Godmodder: Began out as just a goofy game that was for fun and didn't have much of a coherent storyline. Act 2 of the second game hits and suddenly, *collective gasp* there's an actual plot. Complete with downers, sudden twists and the like. Admittedly it almost strayed here near the end of the first game, but it quickly went right back into light-hearted and silly. And it wasn't sudden, it happened gradually as several players started roleplaying and coming up with actual ideas. The Split Personality disorder craze didn't help any either.
  • Ulti's Bar & Grill began as a simple hang-out roleplay, with no actual story-line or plot. However, it slowly became more and more plot driven as characters enlisted each others help and more stories took place outside the central location from the name.
  • Rock, Paper, Anything downplays, then subverts this. The game started from silly to having a small subplot, but then a Reset Button is used, and the universe shenanigans is completely ignored thereafter.
  • The Massive Multi-Fandom RPG's Season One began as a silly free-form game with various characters from all over the multiverse hanging out in the strange City and interacting with each other, other with humorous results, amplified by the off-the-wall "curses" happening every day. Then increasingly deadly villains started popping up, and the tone became increasingly serious. The subsequent seasons had the plot and settings getting increasingly convoluted and dark.
  • Red vs. Blue's first five seasons consists of the wacky hijinks of two enemy teams of soldiers, including two of them becoming ghosts, one being impregnated by an alien, a Spanish speaking robot, and a few cases of them teaming up to fight a pacifist doctor sharing a body with a maniacal AI. Seasons six through ten reveal that they have been lied to by everyone; they're really simulation soldiers being put through these tests by a egomaniacal man who tortures AI, and killed many of his subordinates by trying to make the next super soldier, and they go on a hunt to kill him. Seasons eleven through thirteen tell the story of the main characters being stranded on a planet after a ship malfunction, discovering the existence of a civil war, and then uncovering that the civil war was manufactured by two mercenaries trying to commit genocide.
    • Subverted somewhat by keeping up a fairly consistent stream of the absurdist and cynical humor that the show was originally known for, even if it’s in situations that are otherwise serious. Lampshaded and Discussed in-detail by several of the characters in later seasons, most notably Tucker and Sister’s story arc in Season 15 revolving heavily around missing the days where nothing important ever seemed to happen and there seemed to be no consequences.
  • One of the running gags in the Chinese historical-fantasy web-TV series Go Princess Go is that the series' only sponsor is a fictitious herbal Viagra-equivalent named "Golden Armor" that is blatantly name-dropped and placed into scenes for no apparent reason because the show needed the money. With the onset of this trope, late in the series one of the king's concubines is caught in adultery, and Zhang Peng Peng uses the presence of Golden Armor as evidence to banish the concubine and sentence her lover to death.
  • The Veronica Exclusive starts out as a Black Comedy, but after Kurt and Ram die, a lot of the humor goes out the window. The last three episodes have barely any humor at all.
  • Downplayed in World Domination in Retrospect. The story remains a hilarious Black Comedy, but since its inception has moved from barely-connected small stories to story arcs that even have legitimate moments of drama.
  • In Soylent Scrooge Inspector Bucket's final visit to Scrooge's home is the only thing not played for laughs, as he goes into detail over what he found in his investigations and tries to have him arrested, but Scrooge has more power than he does and has him killed.
  • Tales From Dev Null has the occasional serious story. Fortunately it displays a giant red warning if you're about to read one.
  • The introduction of lore in the CPU Championship Series} caused the series to become far more lore based than anything else on Alpharad's Youtube Channel.
    • Season 1 had very little lore. Nothing outside of a few offhand references to Vincent and the Tournament aspects of the series.
    • Season 2 introduced more Lore Aspects, like Toyconvict's arc, Sponsorships, The Rivalry between the Incineroars, Linus' arc, and Assist Trophies.
    • Season 3 introduces Dark Vincent and his alternate universe full of evil characters. He took over his universe and appears in our timeline to replace this Vincent.
  • The Minecraft machinima series Mystreet was originally conceived as a Lighter and Softer alternate series to Minecraft Diaries from the same creator. Then Ein and werewolf lore hit the scene, and it's just gotten darker ever since.


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