With the second retool of 3-2-1 Contact in 1986, the seasons 2-4 cast was relegated to a few cameo appearances.
The last season of 3rd Rock from the Sun sees Tommy demoted to an occasionally recurring and not very important cast member, partially because he's off to college and thereby separated from the rest of the cast most of the time. The actors playing Nina and Don were listed as regular cast members starting on the third season, but likewise appeared only occasionally on the last season.
Josh Girard, who was prominent in season one as Jenna's male co-star, and reduced to an almost anonymous staff writer.
The 100th episode lampshades this with the new actor Danny having replaced Josh on the show-within-a-show as the "other guy", no explanation for Josh's complete departure is given, and everybody keeps forgetting Danny wasn't the "other guy" that was with them from the beginning (even Danny starts to mix himself and Josh up under the effects of the gas leak).
Josh actually reappears briefly before that, when he throws a fit over how he's been neglected and ignored and quits - then later, auditions for his own old job back and loses to Danny. Danny ends up befalling the same fate anyway.
Cerie Xerox in the last two seasons. This is explained near the very end of the series when the entire staff of TGS quits, and she reveals that she had actually quit two years prior. However, it's not explained why she continued to show up.
Nikki is a regular character in Season One and the Sibling Triangle involving her, Shawn and Danny is one of that season's major story arcs. However, she makes only two appearances after that. In Season Two's "Life Interrupted", she is seen in the fantasy world created by Alana. She eventually marries Danny and they have a daughter in that world. In Season Three's "The Home Front", Nikki visits the 4400 Center to ask Shawn to heal her father, who has terminal cancer. After he does so, she tries to rekindle their relationship but he pushes her away so that Isabelle won't hurt her.
Linda, Tom's estranged wife and Kyle's mother, is a major supporting character in Season One. In "White Light", they work together well in hiding Kyle from Warren Lytell and it is implied that they may even get back together. In "Wake-Up Call", however, one year has passed and they have gotten a divorce after trying and failing to patch things up. Linda's only subsequent appearance is in "Hidden" in which she again helps Kyle to hide from the authorities. She is barely even mentioned in Seasons Three and Four.
This is zigzagged with Danny. He is a regular character in Season One and a major recurring character in Season Two. His only appearance in Season Three is at a celebration marking Shawn and Isabelle's upcoming wedding in "The Starzl Mutation" but he returns to prominence with his three appearances in Season Four, particularly the final two episodes "Tiny Machines" and "The Great Leap Forward".
Maia. She was one of the most prominent 4400s when the show began, but eventually her role was reduced to being Diana Skouris's daughter and Morality Pet, along with the occasional prophecy. This is likely due to a couple of reasons. One of which is the mysterious nature of the show, and as Maia's abilities became more powerful she would essentially be able to solve most of the shows big mysteries in minutes instead of over the course of several episodes. The second reason is child labor laws...
The Affair: Some characters become much less prominent in the second season as the setting mostly moves away from Montauk, such as Bruce and Oscar.
On Angel, Cordelia spent a good portion of her last season in a coma despite nominally being in the opening cast.
Between Series 5 and 6 of The Apprentice, Karren Brady (ascended) exchanges roles with Margaret Mountford (demoted).
Two of the most-seen recurring villains in the first season, the Raiders and the Home Guard. The Raiders' lack of presence is due to a number of major defeats they suffered in the same episode where the Shadows are seen for the first time, though they begin to appear again later on. The Home Guard get one mention in season 2 before not being seen or referred to again, although former members show up in a group of pro-President partisans during the Earth civil war.
Despite being credited as a regular, Na'Toth in the first season appears in only five episodes, usually quite prominently. In the second season, thanks to a new actress with a noticeably softer voice, she appears only twice, gets a handful of lines, and disappears for the rest of the series (except a guest appearance in the last season, played by the original actress). She's credited as a regular for the entire season, though.
It's hard to know where to categorize Warren Keffer, a character created at the insistence of the network (they wanted a hotshot pilot/Han Solo-esque character) very much against the wishes of J. Michael Straczynski. He did create the character, and in his first outing, made sure to make him a prominent part of the episode. After that, he was seen rarely, only turning up in five more episodes, usually as a cameo. He was killed in the season finale. So, in effect, he was demoted to extra just as he was being made a character.
To a lesser degree, Lou Welch, one of the low-ranking security guards on the station, gradually disappears in season 2 as Zack Allen begins to get more and more screen time.
Leoben, in the last half season of Battlestar Galactica. He wasn't even used when they needed background Cylons. A deleted scene does imply only one Leoben remained after the civil war began, but it's never stated directly in either cut material or in on-screen canon.
He does get a larger role in The Plan, the feature length episode produced after the main series had finished. It was, however, set before the end of season 2, so quite what happened to Leoben (and the other Twos) is never addressed.
Beat the Clock is a rare example of both Ascended Extra and Demoted to Extra. The 1970s version was originally hosted by Jack Narz, with Gene Wood as announcer; Narz stepped down, with Wood taking over as host and Nick Holenreich announcing. A later revival from 1979 to 1980 had Narz as the announcer and Monty Hall as host.
Sorceress Jagul suffers this; in the original series Juukou B-Fighter, she was the creator of Shadow / Black Beet and became the final enemy of the series who resurrected and absorbed multiple monsters in order to empower herself into a stronger form. In the U.S., her rule as Shadowborg's creator was given to Vexor, and her suits were used for two (male) throwaway monsters: one who tried and failed to hypnotize the Hillhurst monsters, and Borgslayer, who was created by fusing multiple resurrected monsters into a completely new one acting on behalf of Nukus, who would become the new Big Bad in the show's second season.
Similarly, the second season reduced Mother Melzard, the Big Bad and monster maker of B-Fighter Kabuto, to a pair of throwaway monsters who only appeared near the end of the series; her elder son Raija was adapted into the aforementioned Nukus.
During the first season of Beverly Hills, 90210, Scott Scanlon is David Silvers' best friend. As David becomes accepted by Brandon and Brenda's friends, Scott is pushed into the background since he doesn't fit in with that group. He eventually develops a liking for country music and accidentally kills himself in front of David while playing with his father's gun in a second-season episode.
Leslie Winkle showed up three times in the first season of The Big Bang Theory, and her character was liked enough that the production team announced her as becoming a regular early in the second season. After about four episodes in, they quickly realized that she worked largely because she was a staunch, stubborn Arch-Enemy to Sheldon with no real room for her own stories or even Character Development. They quietly put her character aside and she shows up more sporadically since.
During the final season of The Bob Newhart Show, there are several episodes where Newhart himself has only one scene, which is not shared with any other characters (allowing him to perform one of his trademark one-sided telephone conversations).
Giulia Farnese barely even appears in Season 3 of The Borgias.
Cheers has a quite literal case. Originally, one of the continuing characters in the ensemble at the bar was a bigoted, wheelchair-bound older woman named Mrs. Littlefield. Played by an actress named Margaret Wheeler, she would be a regular bar patron who would offer caustic, politically incorrect comments on what was happening all around her ... long before the term "politically incorrect" entered the common vernacular. But after they filmed the pilot, the creators realized the character just didn't work — and since she had no actual relevance to the plot, it was easy to simply cut out all her dialogue. So they proceeded to do just that, along with writing Mrs. Littlefield out of the three or four episodes they had already done drafts of for the first season. If you watch the Cheers pilot closely, though, Mrs. Littlefield can still be seen as an extra in most of the scenes. As Cheers writer Ken Levine notes: "Just look for a sweet white-haired little old lady who used to have lines."
"Extra" is probably pushing it but Chilling Adventures of Sabrina gave Salem a drastically reduced role compared to the original comic books and 90's sitcom. This is largely because Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sabrina, is allergic to cats. Salem's previous role as Sabrina's confidant and ally has been transposed to her cousin Ambrose instead.
On Community, John Oliver's character, Prof. Ian Duncan was initially featured in early promotional material as the main professor character in the show, but after a handful of episodes has essentially disappeared, with Senor Chang (Ken Jeong) essentially taking his place. Oliver did return in the first season finale, and took over as replacement anthropology professor in the next season. Despite being featured more than he was in the first season, he only turns up in a handful of Season 2 episodes, and disappeared altogether by Season 3. The showrunners wanted him to appear more, but Oliver was unwilling to move to California (where the show is filmed) due to his obligations to The Daily Show in New York, so his part was pared down. He makes a full return in season 5 as part of the Save Greendale Committee, even getting his own tag.
Jorja Fox on CSI: Sara left, then came back, but though she's credited as a regular, she doesn't appear in every single episode.
Deal or No Deal: The 25 models were the main attraction of the game show, but when the show entered syndication and the prize money was reduced, all but two of the models were replaced with contestants hoping their number would be picked so they can play the game, and if not, the contestants would open the cases during the game (resembling the UK version more than the US primetime version). The two models used in this version were for only spinning the wheel to see who can play and removing cases that were picked.
Happened to a lot of characters on Degrassi: The Next Generation, because the show has Loads and Loads of Characters (and they can only focus on so many of them). The most notable example would probably have to be Toby Issacs. He was a major character in the first 2 seasons. Come season 3, he became more of a background character and his screen time was significantly reduced (only getting a total of two major story lines from seasons 3-7 while it seemed like some characters would have a new story line every other episode). He was even removed from the opening credits during his final 2 seasons, before being Put on a Bus for good in season 8.
In the old days, past companions usually seemed not to exist anymore, even when they'd travelled with the Doctor for a long time, or taken part in important events. The Russell T Davies era made a point of avoiding this, allowing departed companions (like Martha, Jack, Sarah Jane and Rose) to show up again when they ought to.
Roger Delgado's incarnation of the Master. In his first season of Doctor Who, the character turned up in every single serial, from "Terror of the Autons" to "The Dæmons". Then Delgado, while enjoying the show, became concerned that while officially a guest star, many casting directors considered him a de facto regular cast member of Doctor Who and therefore unavailable for other work. So the next seasons dramatically scaled back his appearances, with an eye to making a splashy departure the following season. Due to his untimely death in Turkey, the character was quietly retired for a time.
Harry Sullivan was a companion for Season 12, dropped in "Terror of the Zygons", then appearing in a part amounting to barely more than a cameo in "The Android Invasion". The same cameo also involved UNIT companion Sergeant Benton's final appearance.
Ray's friends were much more important in early seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond, eventually showing up less and less.
Some of his friends were written out of the show entirely, such as Dave (played by Dave Attell).
Family Matters: The character of Judy Winslow, especially in Season 3 until she was eliminated without explanation completely in Season 4; she usually appeared only in scenes involving the entire family or to move a plot along. To a lesser extent, this also happened with Rachel Crawford (Thelma Hopkins, who was involved with other projects), despite making several bit appearances from Season 6 onward.
Jared Padelicki spent most of the start of the fifth season closing out Dean Forester's arc, which acted mainly as a promotional vehicle to keep him in the running for a show on the network the next season known as Supernatural.
invokedThe Good Place: In the the second season Vicky ( the demon whose character was Real Eleanor) is disappointed at having been reduced from a starring player to running a pizza joint in the background, trying to make her role more memorable by affecting a nonsensical limp and inventing a background as circus performer. She's not mollified when told she'll have a juicy plotline in eighty years.
After Richie Cunningham left, his friend Potsie remained on the show in various different roles before getting a job working for Mr. Cunningham. His screen time, however, was greatly reduced and he wasn't present in several episodes because the writers struggled to find things for him to do.
Also poor Lori-Beth, who is a minor recurring character who later becomes Richie's steady girl. When Richie left, she stuck around, getting married to him over the phone, and giving birth to Richie's son when he was away. Eventually, she just stopped appearing entirely unless it was a special occasion, having little way to play off the others.
Micah in Season 3 of Heroes. He goes from being a series regular to only appearing in a few episodes of Season 3 after his storyline was dumped from most of the show.
Kay Howard on Homicide after her promotion to Sergeant, especially in Season 5 where she does nothing until the season finale, after which she's Put on a Bus. To a lesser extent, Munch from Season 4-on and Bayliss for most of Season 7.
On House, Doctors Cameron and Chase were fired from the title character's team at the end of Season 3. In Season 4 they were shown to have taken new jobs at the hospital, while House recruited a new team.
Season 6 has a lot of demotions: Cameron becomes a long-distance extra, while Chase found his way back into the cast.
Christina Gallagher has a fairly prominent role as Peter Russo's girlfriend/assistant in Season 1. In Season 2, she's kept around by becoming Chief of Staff Linda Vasquez's assistant, but with no real arc besides Claire briefly using her to manipulate the First Lady and strain Walker's marriage. After Frank manipulates Linda into resigning, Christina is very quietly transferred out.
The head of the Underwoods' Secret Service detail, Edward Meechum, had a subplot in Season 2, is largely reduced to silently escorting people around in Season 3. He is given a little bit more to do in season 4, and then is promptly killed off a third of the way through the season when he's shot by Lucas Goodwin in an assassination attempt on Frank.
Since Season 4 of iCarly started, Freddie's mom Mrs. Benson, was used sparingly. It's possible that Gibby being promoted to the main cast is the reason for this.
Once Yutaka Ishinabe, Roksaburo Michiba, and Koumei Nakamura retired from their positions as Iron Chefs, they were demoted to extras, only appearing for specials.
JAG: Andrea Parker was the female lead in the Pilot Movie, but wasnt liked by the network so she was only a recurring character in a few first season episodes and in one season six episode.
In Kamen Rider Kiva, Basshaa is the only character to not get a specific arc, and never gets a Fever attack when Kiva upgrades to Emperor form. In the next series, Kamen Rider Decade, Basshaa gets his ass blown away effortlessly in each fight—in the second, he doesn't even get a single shot off!
Jack McCoy on Law & Order after getting promoted to DA. Interestingly, this was at Sam Waterston's request—when Fred Dalton Thompson left, Waterston campaigned pretty hard for McCoy to get the promotion.
While it was understandable that Captain Deakins of Law & Order: Criminal Intent was not used as heavily as other Captains/Lieutenants in the Law & Order universe (as his actor, Jamey Sheridan, lived on the West Coast while all the scenes were filmed in New York and he eventually left the series due to stress of traveling and health issues), ADA Ron Carver gets this trope pretty badly. Within the first four seasons, he worked alongside Goren and Eames as the competent and by-the-book (if not underused) "Order" side to coincide with the "Law" aspect of the series. However, gradually within season four, namely with the return of Detective Mike Logan, he would share a scene or two with whichever detective team was in that particular episode just to inform them of what they legally can't do in a case and offer a suspect a deal before being written off the show without a clear reason.
In the first half of the first season Eliot Stabler's four children were regular characters, however after that they became infrequent recurrers showing up about once season. Two of his daughters have not even been seen since the seventh season and between that and the first they had about 3 appearances each. This oldest son (who is the twin of one of the daughters) has remained showing up about once a year and later had A Day in the Limelight, and his middle daughter had a subplot about her being a bipolar thieving drug addict.
The entire rest of the supporting cast has fallen victim to this. Most noticeably are Munch, Fin, and Huang, who used to get entire subplots in every episode and now don't even appear in half of them. Cragen might have a scene or two, and Liz might have a line per episode. Nowhere near the screentime of Stabler, Benson, and the ADA (Alex, Casey, or whoever the rotating one may be).
The Lawrence Welk Show: The legendary bandleader always liked to spotlight many of his new stars of his orchestra during a given show, giving them solos. Legend has it that Welk used this as a probation period for his new stars, and used audience reaction (both in-studio and viewer mail) to determine if the band member was worth keeping. If they were, they were featured more prominently ... and sometimes, even given longer solos. If not, ... well, the unlucky band member regardless of his actual talent began fitting the trope before being fired.
Unfortunately, possibly due to budget from the TV show, not all off The Letter People got to be seen much and few such as Mister Z and Mister V were Put on a Bus. In the Classroom version, they appeared more and you were allowed to use a Letter Person or more into a story or lesson as much as you desired. The same happened with the Word Machine. In the TV Show, he only appeared in one episode and was invented by Professor Foghorn. In the classroom version, we don't really know where the Word Machine came from, but he appeared more then just one story and he needed the Letter People to help him make words rather then just simple letters like in the TV show. Plus, alot of the Letter People got involved in the Runaway words mishap then just Miss O.
Carrie Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, who went from a major character in the first four seasons, to walking scenery during the next four. She was lucky to get a line once an episode... then once a month... then once a season.
Though still listed as a main cast member, Desmond was commuting on a bus to make brief appearances in a few episodes in the fifth season. Still listed as a main cast member (on the episodes, not in the press releases) in season six... he showed up in the first episode, but didn't show up again until the second half of the season.
Frank Lapidus was also Demoted To Extra. He was a pretty major character during Season 4 and most of 5, but when Season 6 came around he seemed to have gotten lost in the shuffle and became an extra body and frequent cheesy One-Liner. Pretty ironic considering Jeff Fahey wasn't promoted to the main cast until Season 6. Made worse by the fact that we never really knew who Lapidus really was or where he came from, as he was one of the few main characters to never get his own flashback episode. The one flashback he did get was in an episode that he shared with several others, and all it did was explain how he got onto the freighter that came to the island.
Happened to Rene David in Season 2 of The Lunchroom. Despite being Will's love interest and the closest thing to a female lead the show had in the first season, she only has a few minors scenes before disappearing without explanation.
In Seasons 1-5 of The L Word, Kit was one of the main characters. In Season 6, she existed primarily to say "Girl!" about once per scene. After two seasons of being a core member of the cast, Jodi also fell into the background during Season 6.
Kristen Prout (Char) was demoted to recurring status on The Lying Game. Sharon Pierre-Louis (Nisha) was also demoted but she had never really been a major character in the first place. Neither appeared at all in the second season.
After Katey Sagal's tragic miscarriage on Married... with Children, where the producers had written her pregnancy into the storyline before being being forced to backtrack, the character of Peg Bundy was instead subjected to this trope during the second and third times Segal became pregnant during the show's run. Both times, Peggy was sent out in search of her missing father, and was only shown in voiceovers talking to her family on the telephone, or only shown in scenes where she didn't have to do anything strenuous and the viewers couldn't see her pregnancy. Happily, Segal's later two pregnancies were both successful, and when she was ready to return to work the producers brought Peggy home, much to Al's chagrin.
M*A*S*H started off with a whole bunch of characters in the pilot, many of which were ported over from the movie. Aside from the familar leads (Hawkeye, Trapper, Henry, Hot Lips, Frank, Radar) the pilot episode has a closing sequence that announces the personnel assigned to M*A*S*H 4077: the list includes Karen Phillip as Lt. Dish (who lasted only one more episode); G. Wood as General Hammond (two more episodes); Timothy Brown as Spearchucker (five more episodes); and Patrick Adiarte as Ho-John (six more episodes). All had major moments in the pilot, and were clearly being set up to be recurring characters — but they were given little to do in future appearances, and were gone by the end of the first season, if not sooner. Note that the character of Spearchucker was supposedly written out for greater historical accuracy, as the writers claimed there were no records of African-American surgeons serving in Korea. (There were, in fact, black doctors in Korea, and Spearchucker was based on an African-American doctor that Richard Hornberger heard about at the 8055.)
Then there's Knocko. In the original M*A*S*H novel, Lt. Bridget "Knocko" Mc Carthy is the extremely competent, no-nonsense head of the O.R. nurses, who is more respected (and is actually a more prominent character than) her superior, Major Houlihan. In the movie, Knocko's a very minor O.R. nurse character with only a few brief scenes, played by Tamara Horrocks. And for the TV series? Sharp-eyed viewers will note the pilot episode credits Laura Miller with playing Knocko — but you'd have to be psychic to figure out who they're referring to, as the character is never addressed by name, and has no lines. Only by getting hold of the actual production script can you figure out that Knocko is one of the masked nurses assisting in the O.R., and is also a nurse seen at the party, dancing with Trapper and wearing a red Chinese gown.
Odessa Cleveland as Nurse Ginger Bayliss also had a showcase credit at the end of the pilot, and actually stuck around through the early fourth season. But in what was maybe the show's most literal case of Demoted To Extra, Cleveland's occasional appearances on M*A*S*H became shorter and more infrequent over time, and by her last few appearances, she was uncredited and had almost no dialogue.
Other pilot characters were virtual extras to begin with: Ugly John and Lieutenant Scorch were not really identifiable behind their masks and had very limited dialogue in the pilot. As well, the actors portraying these roles didn't receive any special audio billing in the closing, unlike the other characters intended to be regulars. However, both John and Scorch got a little more development and exposure early in season 1 ... then faded slowly into the background as the season continued. Ugly John had disappeared completely by season's end; Lt. Scorch made it all the way to the first episode of season two before going the way of Chuck Cunningham.
Especially in Season One, the show had a habit of taking the names of reasonably significant Arthurian characters, like Pellinore, and giving them to random knights, who were then killed.
In series four and five, Gaius is given virtually nothing to do except provide exposition and exist as a sounding board to Merlin. True, that was always his role, but he was also given several character-centric episodes in the past. This was not necessarily a bad thing, as the introduction of the knights of the Round Table at the end of series three meant that the show was juggling Loads and Loads of Characters, and one of the themes of the season was passing on the torch to the younger generation.
Gwaine became this in series four and five - oddly enough, he got more screen-time and characterization as a guest star than as a series regular.
Bob was a regular for the first season or so of The Middle, but after the show began to focus more on the Hecks' lives and less on Frankie's job, he had little use on the show and was relegated to the end credits.
Bob in series two, where the lack of a zoo setting gave him no real reason for being around. He gets a bit better in series three where he becomes the owner of the club the Boosh frequent, but only slightly.
In the radio version of "Mutants" Joey Moose adventures alongside Vince and Howard throughout it and proves to be a competent ally, while in the television version he's killed in the opening scene and his body parts are used to make the mutants.
Mindy's best friend Gwen was a series regular at the beginning of The Mindy Project, but only appeared in the occasional episode before being written out entirely. Danny also had increasingly sporadic appearances throughout season 4.
Steven Hill was originally the main star of Mission: Impossible, but partway through the first season (after, among other things, his returning to his roots of Orthodox Judaism meant that he refused to work after sundown on Fridays) he was downgraded to only appearing in a couple scenes per episode. And then he became the first - but not the last - member of the IM Force to fall victim to Chuck Cunningham Syndrome.
Following Richard Hunt's death, Scooter was used far less often - not appearing in most productions and having minimal screentime in others. The 2011 movie appears to reverse this. During the 1990s, he was damn near unpersoned. Other characters without performers (like Rowlf, Dr. Teeth and Janice) at least made token unspeaking cameos, but Scooter was nowhere to be seen for just shy of a full decade.
In the 1960's, Rowlf was pretty much the main star and leader of the Muppets, with Kermit being more of a second-tier character. In the 1970's, when Kermit officially became a frog and his personality was fully-realized, Rowlf turned those leadership duties over to the frog and became more of a secondary character, yet he remained a prominent character in Muppet productions. After Jim Henson's death, his appearances became limited to mostly brief non-speaking background cameos. When Bill Barretta started performing the character, he gradually returned to regular speaking roles and core character status.
In the Sex and Violence pilot the show was hosted by Nigel. When The Muppet Show became a series, Nigel's role was that of the orchestra conductor, and while he was seen fairly often in all five seasons, on the show he only had dialogue in three episodes total, all from the first season.
Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, throughout the '90s - with only Animal maintaining a steady presence and involvement in stories. Likely a result of Jim Henson and Richard Hunt's passings.
Beauregard used to be a prominent character on the show, movies and TV specials, but fell out of use because the scriptwriters, while liking him as a character, had problems with finding material for him. (The problem, according to one of them, was that Beuregard "has no desires; he doesn't want anything.") Nowadays, you're lucky to find someone who remembers him. note His last major role was in The Muppets Visit Walt Disney World, a special that's been rarely seen since is initial broadcast due to Jim Henson's death ten days after its premiere. In the special, he's paired with Miss Piggy, tricking her into riding thrill rides instead of shopping and dining. This gets a reference in the 2011 movie, where he's spent all the time since the group had a regular show in the theater wondering where everybody went.
If your familiarity with the Muppets is only with the movies, it comes as a surprise to see what a major character Link Hogthrob was on the Muppet Show proper. He only had cameos in the films (he has a very brief speaking role in The Muppets Take Manhattan, and then is reduced to background character until an equally brief role in Muppets Most Wanted).
Dr. Julius Strangepork didn't appear much on the show outside of PIGS ... IN ... SPAAAACE! anyway but has made a few background cameos here and there.
Bean Bunny after the early 1990's.
Clifford was the last Muppet designed by Jim Henson and it seems they had something planned for this guy. But after Muppets Tonight went off the air...
Johnny Fiama and Sal Minella, after 2005. In fact, most characters created for Tonight disappeared entirely once the show was cancelled; Johnny, Sal and Breakout Character Pepe are notable for sticking around at all.
Giselle in Season 1 of The Next Step, after being brought down to B-Troupe. Eventually the same thing happens to both Tiffany & Stephanie as of Season 2.
Towards the end of Night and Day, Will appears to take on a much reduced role often appearing in a background or supporting capacity until hes unceremoniously killed off when, during an argument with her virginity fairy (dont ask), Kate accidentally drops the Complete Works of Shakespeare on his head.
Brian in The Nine Lives of Chloe King. In the books Brian knew that Chloe was a Mai, and was a member of the order trying to kill her. He also didn't die in the books.
Jimmy Cooper as of season two of The O.C.Tate Donovan still received an And Starring in the opening credits, but Jimmy didn't really do anything other than hang out on his boat.
Two of the poker buddies, Vinnie and "Speed", appeared in less and less episodes in later seasons of The Odd Couple (1970).
As Once Upon a Time kept introducing more characters from outside Storybrooke, everyone who wasn't part of the Snow-Charming family started getting reduced to cameos. This gets a Lampshade Hanging in season 5: Leroy/Grumpy says the dwarfs will join the quest to Camelot because they're tired of not being involved in things. They proceed to get written completely into the background of the Camelot storyline.
In season seven, set several years into the future, this happens to all the main characters except for Regina and Rumplestiltskin, who play new cursed versions of themselves, and Henry, who is played by a different actor. An alternate version of Hook is a main character, but the original Hook, along with Emma, Mary Margaret/Snow, and David/Charming are only minor characters here.
Following Episode Three of The Pacific, Colonel Lewis Puller makes a sole appearance when the 1st Marines is relieved by the 5th after the disastrous attack at Bloody Nose Ridge.
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: This started happening to Kimberly in season three. Notably, she was the only one who didn't go to Edenoi during the season premiere (AKA the Poorly Disguised Pilot for Saban's Masked Rider) due to a cold (though she made use of reduced screentime awesomely, being the only Ranger left on Earth when Rita and Zedd sent a new Monster of the Week), and had her powers drained halfway through after being captured by Kat Hillard. Since Amy Jo Johnson had actually told Saban she was going to quit beforehand, instead of clumsy camera tricks and an abrupt Fake Shemp, half the season was spent slowly easing her character out of the Pink Ranger position and setting up her successor.
Bulk and Skull start getting less screen time as time went on. First in Turbo they were turned into chimps for a good portion of the series (behind the scenes, this was prompted by the actors being away to shoot a pilot for a spin-off series). It wasn't until In Space that their screen time was cut significantly due to the focus being on space travel and the rangers having little time on Earth. Aside from one small cameo, the duo are mostly absent through the series middle episodes with the bulk (no pun intended) being at the beginning and end of the series.
After Skull was Put on a Bus in Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, the writers apparently had trouble coming up with material for Bulk on his own. He only appears in a few episodes (he does get last billing in the title sequence in those episodes though). He would not have a recurring role again until Power Rangers Samurai 12 years later.
In Power Rangers S.P.D., the Omega Ranger was demoted compared to his Sentai counterpart DekaBreak. Disney wanted to save on production costs and would have eliminated the character entirely, but he was so prominent in Dekaranger that cutting him out of all the Stock Footage would have been impossible. They decided that the next best thing would be to come up with a Hand Wave to justify hiring a voice actor rather than a regular actor to play the rolenote he's a Time Traveler, so when not morphed he manifests as a ball of light to enforce Never the Selves Shall Meet. In the end, Disney were the only ones happy with this decision: the writers resented being saddled with such a bothersome plot element and thus used the character as little as possible, and viewers hated him because he was little more than a living weapon with no personality or development.
A multi-series example: Power Rangers seasons are usually 10-12 episodes shorter than Super Sentai seasons, so some of the later seasons have one episode where all the otherwise unused Sentai monsters attack the heroes at once in one big fight scene. Or to just get fed to the Battilizer. Other times they show up in the background of places like the Onyx Tavern. Neo-Saban and Hasbro seasons, however, simply axe the monsters entirely.
From a Super Sentai standpoint, there are multiple cases where the Big Bad is reduced to being a simple Monster of the Week, a giant form controlled by the American-made Big Bad in the finale, or just plain reduced to a sidekick. These include:
Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger: Dai Satan is turned into Lokar, who is merely an associate of Rita's, though he does serve as an integral part of Rita's schemes in two separate two-part episodes.
Gosei Sentai Dairanger: Shadam's monster form is used for Mondo the Magician, a Monster of the Week (though he fares better than the totallyAdapted Out Gara and Zydos.) In addition, Garouki (monster form of Demon-Fist Master Jin Matoba, the main rival to Ryuuranger), was also demoted to the Monster of the Week known as Skelerena. Monster of the Week Four Head was also originally the combined form of a set of Arc Villain characters known as the Gorma Four Heavenly Kings, and even gets to stick around as a background monster in several episodes of the following season! Two more Monster of the Week types, Jaws of Destruction and Nimrod the Scarlet Sentinel (and AC & DC, for that matter) were also originally the Arc Villain characters High Priest Riju and the Three Ladies. Doomstone was originally part of a Quirky Miniboss Squad that even got a HeelFace Turn, and the other two members were given the axe completely.
Denji Sentai Megaranger: Dr. Hinelar's Big Bad role is given to Astronema (who doesn't have a direct counterpart; however, the Megaranger Monster of the Week-maker is also human-looking woman.) His monster form is used for Furio, a general in the following season. The Mooks are reduced mostly to training dummies used by the heroes, and are replaced by the Quantrons.
Mirai Sentai Timeranger: Don Dolnero's role is given to Ransik; his suit is used for Gluto, who is pretty much just comic relief among the villains.
Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger: Tau Zant's role as Big Bad is given to Lothor; his gigantic Tau Zant Ultimate Form is used for the Lothorzord. Also, Manmaruba is around from day one, with future-reading abilities that make him very crucial to the villains' mission, while Motodrone is a later addition who's not as important to the story. His second form is degraded all the way down to Monster of the Week status as Eyezak.
Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger: Wicked Life God Dezumozorlya's role as Big Bad is given to Mesogog; his gigantic Invasion Garden Ultimate Form DezumoGevirus form is used for the Zelzord, a giant mecha piloted by Zeltrax.
Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger: The Big Bad is Deboth, who appears in his original dinosaur-slaying giant monster form (first in episodes 22-23, and later via a series of clones in episodes 41-42 and a final time in episode 44) and evolves into a form better suited to wiping out humanity near the end of the series. In Power Rangers Dino Charge, his original form is reduced to a mindless Monster of the Week and its similarly mindless offspring; his final form is Adapted Out. Also, Chaos is the Dragon-in-Chief for most of Kyoryuger as Deboth is dormant for much of the series; in Dino Charge, his counterpart Arcanon is the last and shortest-lived of the Big Bad revolving door, though he is a very important villain and responsible for most of the backstory. Deathryuger, Icerondo, and Killbolero were given a similar treatment, with Icerondo being split into two monsters.
Shuriken Sentai Ninninger: While his counterpart Tynamon appears in only four episodes (though a definite case of Small Role, Big Impact), Tsugomori debuts immediately after the fall of Ripcons counterpart and as such is one of the longest-running generals in the series. Meanwhile, Ariake no Kata outranked both Tsugomori and Odiuss counterpart Kyuemon, to the point of being Dragon-in-Chief for an arc, and using the fear energy the villains were collecting for herself instead of storing it to revive the Big Bad, thus creating friction. Her counterpart Badonna, while in nearly as many episodes, just doesnt make as much of an impact, being Dragon Ascendant Madame Odius loyal right hand and never rocking the boat.
In the seventh series of Red Dwarf, Arnold Rimmer only appeared in person in two episodes, then was relegated to flashbacks, dream sequences and—in one memorable case—a theme park ride based on his own diaries. The actor playing him, Chris Barrie, had decided to leave the show and had a very limited schedule, so he agreed to appear in a handful of episodes (and sequences that could be filmed out of order, such as ADR or flashbacks). However, he was written out in a memorable fashion rather than simply vanishing, so he actually appeared more than expected for a character whod been given an explicit sendoff.
In Robin Hood both Much and Allan-a-Dale, who were hugely important characters in seasons one and two, ended up being lucky if they got three lines each in season three. They were shunted aside in favor of Kate.
Serial-specific example in The Sarah Jane Adventures episode Whatever Happened To Sarah Jane: Clyde gets about three minutes of screentime in part one, and is a background character in part 2. In addition, due to being Ret-Gone, Sarah Jane is only seen sparsely throughout the serial, Luke only appears at the beginning and end of the story, and Mr Smith only appears at the end of episode 2.
Happened to Yvonne Hudson. She was fired along with most of the ill-fated 1980-81 cast, but hung around as an extra until 1984.
Ever since season 32 note 2006-2007 season, Seth Meyers hasn't been in any sketch outside of Weekend Update, possibly due to becoming a head writer. He has appeared in some sketches (like in the "Original Kings of Catchphrase Comedy" pretaped sketches as Boston Powers note A comedian who dresses and talks like Mike Myers' Austin Powers character), but it's rare.
In universe in SCTV, after Johnny LaRue's crane shot from a made for TV movie causes the station to go over budget.
The Secret Circle. Nick was Cassie's love interest in the books. In the series he is quickly killed off and replaced by his older brother Jake (who wasn't in the books).
Jane was also prominent in the first nine episodes. Since then, she's only appeared a couple of times before getting killed off like Nick.
Though he isn't a huge character in the book, Mr. Palmer is only briefly featured in one scene of the 1971 Sense and Sensibility Mini-series - the ball where the Palmers are first introduced - and is never seen again. Therefore, we get none of the character development from the novel when the Dashwoods become better acquainted him during their stay at Cleveland.
Forgetful Jones has not been given any prominent roles on Sesame Street since 1992, but has made recent nonspeaking background appearances. The character's initial retirement was due out of respect for Hunt's death.
In Sharpe, because the TV version of Sharpe's Rifles introduces Teresa early, Major Blas Vivar's role is downplayed in her favor. In the books, Teresa debuts in Sharpe's Gold.
In Series 3 of Sherlock, the main focus is how John and Mary's marriage has changed the dynamic of the show. Lestrade's still in all the episodes but he doesn't do that much plotwise.
Roger was seen far less often in Season 5 of Sister, Sister. Marques Houston was part of development for a new show (which never got picked up), but he also took time off because of his mother being diagnosed with cancer.
Starting in Season 14, Danny Bonaduce, Leif Garrett, Frank Stallone, and Tonya Harding have been featured less and less, to the point that one or more of them may only get in one comment/joke during the entire hour.
In-Universe example on Sons of Anarchy: Rane Quinn went from being the president of the Nomads charter to being a low ranking member in Indian Hills, a chapter that's only been around for two years and was started via patch over.
Lorenzo Barese. After he is sent to jail in the season 1 finale he only appears from time to time, but maintains his captaincy throughout the series.
Father Intintola is a major character in the first season, makes only punctual apparitions after it.
Irina Peltsin is Tony's regular mistress until he dumps her. She makes continues to make occasional appearances over the next couple seasons, but her role is greatly reduced.
Under cover FBI agent Deborah Ciccerone is introduced in season three and has a major role through a number of episodes in season four. We even get scenes from her point of view with her husband and child. Once her cover as Adriana's friend is blown, however, Adriana gets a new handler in Robyn Sanservino. From that point on, Deborah only appears in a few brief office meetings and has no further effect on the plot.
On Space Cases, Commander Seth Goddard suffers an accident that leaves him in a healing coma for most of the second season as part of Nickelodeon wanting to make the show Younger and Hipper.
In season 2, Sandra Benes went from being one of the senior staff to barely having any lines when she appeared. That is, if she was even supposed to be the same character. Oddly, she was called Sahn during season 2. Her original role seemed to be given to another Asian character named Yasko.
Robert Mathias did.
The Spanish Princess: Elizabeth of York, protagonist of the previous series, only plays a supporting role this time, before dying in the first episode.
Cindy Makey on Spooksville. In the books, she was one of the main characters, but in this series, she is only in one episode. Same goes for Bryce Poole. In both cases, this is due to them not having the budget to hire the actors for many episodes.
Ever since ESPN and the NHL parted ways, hockey highlights have now become few and far between on SportsCenter. According to Deadspin's weekly "Bristolmetrics" article, which breaks down the show's coverage of sports and athletes in terms of time spent on a subject, the NHL averages only 15-20 minutes of highlights per week during its season. The hardest hit were Gary Thorne, the chief hockey announcer during that time, and Barry Melrose, who left Bristol for a small time to become head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning...that didn't last long.
Though Elliot, Kim, Chris, Dave and Will were always supporting players, they were usually allowed to participate in Aaron Sorkin's banter throughout each episode of Sports Night. Starting in Special Powers, and continuing through most of the season, they were relegated to bit player status, just saying things like, "Sound's up on 23."
Richard Dean Anderson's final season as a regular on SG-1 had him promoted to general where he had vastly reduced screen time.
Stargate Continuum opens with an over-the-shoulder shot of Pentagon liaison Major Davis walking down the corridors of Stargate Command. He was a fairly major recurring character in the earlier seasons of the TV series, so you might expect him to have at least one scene, but nope, the camera quickly cuts to the main characters, and all you see of Davis in the movie is the back of his head for several seconds. The director did this as a joke, according to the DVD commentary.
Teal'c is the only member of the original SG-1 who did not appear in Stargate Universe.
Meanwhile, of all the characters who survived the original movie, Feretti is the one the writers forget exists. In fact, despite dying in the first regular episode of SG-1, Kawalsky makes far more appearances than Feretti (Kawalsky gets Time Travel, Alternate Timelines, Parallel Universes, illusionary worlds. Feretti gets... one brief appearance in the first season finale, one mention in season three, and never, ever has his existence hinted at again.) Feretti's lack of appearance was initially attributed to the actor having other commitments, but SG-1 far outlived Brent Stait's role in Andromeda, and Brent Stait has even appeared in Stargate Atlantis as someone who was not Feretti. He's been treated much better by Fan Fic: the show's sheer lack of love for him kept him on the minds of enough fans that he's got plenty of fanwork dedicated to him.
On Stargate Atlantis Weir and Ford did this before being dropped entirely. Weir's actress could not return to do any more episodes (despite the writers having plans for a longer arc involving her), so they pulled (another) The Other Darrin on her (the character's 2nd time) before having her Put on a Bus. Ford just wasn't very interesting to them, so despite bringing him back several times he was eventually dropped.
As Seven of Nine got more focus on Star Trek: Voyager, Chakotay was one of the characters to lose it. Reportedly became a cause for complaint from his actor.
Dr. Vijay Kochar was a regular during season 1 and 2 of St. Elsewhere, only billed as a guest star thereafter.
Step by Step: The character of Brendan Lambert, the youngest son of family patriarch Frank Lambert, was given fewer plots and lines before being eliminated completely by the sixth season. To a lesser extent, this was also the case with Mark (the nerdy middle son of Carol Foster), although Mark would continue to appear sporadically until the series ended, usually given one-liners or in family scenes whereby his absence would be conspicuous. These reduced appearances were perhaps in part due to the shift in focus on the female siblings, especially one-time tomboy Al (after Christine Lakin grew in desirability as she became an adult); while many of the remaining stories were 5-year-old Lily (who was born in 1995 and was age-advanced to create "little girl" stories).
Guy Blank was part of the main cast in Season 1 of Strangers with Candy, and recurring in early Season 2 before being...
Stranger Things: While Chief Hopper remains one of the most beloved and important characters, deputies Powell and Callahan become increasingly irrelevant after the first season, to the point of rarely appearing anymore in season 3.
The fate of some of the professional dancers who weren't asked to partner celebrities in the 2010 series of Strictly Come Dancing; those who agreed were put into a "professional dance troupe". The following year the dance troupe was removed, although Ian Waite is apparently too popular to lose altogether as he still regularly appears on It Takes Two and occasionally partners celebrities in special charity or Christmas editions.
Strike Back had first season leading actor Richard Armitage demoted to extra by the time season 2 Project Dawn has been created. This demotion is justified since Armitage was already involved with filmingThe Hobbit when Project Dawn was announced. Due to the filming demands of The Hobbit requiring Armitage's full attention, his character John Porter was McLeaned in order to facilitate Armitage's exit from the show.
The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and The Suite Life on Deck: Maddie and Carey, who were part of the original main cast on the former show, appeared occasionally on the latter show, which switched the main setting from a Bostonian hotel to a high school on a cruise ship, justifying the demotion. Also, possibly a Justified Trope with Maddie, given her presumed age (being three years older than the boys) would make her a college student in the first season of On Deck.
The original version of Survivors did this with several characters as the focus of the show shifted from season to season. Jenny in particular started out as one of the principal characters, faded away almost completely, then came back to star in the third and final season.
Takeshi himself in most of the foreign dubs of Takeshi's Castle, to the extent that he practically qualifies as The Ghost. Since his main role was as narrator in the Japanese original though, this was kinda inevitable.
John Burns had a couple of episodes centered on him early on Taxi, but he became increasingly ignored, being written off after the show's first season. This was lamp shaded in his second-to-last episode ("Hollywood Calling") when John took a week off to study for his finals and practically no one seemed to notice.
In Three's Company's 5th season, Crissy was reduced to a brief cameo at the end of each episode, on the phone, with her scenes all filmed in isolation from the main cast. This was in retaliation for Suzanne Sommers' prima donna behavior on the set.
In The Tomorrow People (1973), the character of Tyso Boswell was introduced in season 3 with great fanfare, along with several quirks that allowed for strong character and story development (a close friendship with Stephen, claustrophobia, extra-sharp senses, a possible growing-up arc, his Romani backstory, etc). However, after Tyso's second serial World's Away, many of these facets were dropped. Come season 4, Tyso was only just saved from obscurity with the occasional line of dialogue. He was dropped from the series altogether at the end of that season, leaving fan fiction writers to fill in the blanks later on.
In latter half of season 1 of Total Divas, Jojo is barely featured at all.
Despite being a strong character in the third season of True Blood and central to the plot in the fourth, Holly Cleary's significance is quickly reduced from then on to simply being Andy's girlfriend. It is telling that she hasn't done anything magic-related since the fourth season.
Mathur, 24 (India)'s version of Jovan Myovic. Most of his duty is done by the unnamed counterpart of Jonathan Matijevic.
Johnny Horne, Audrey's brother, appears in a few early episodes of Twin Peaks before disappearing until a late season 2 cameo.
Jake, starting with Season 10, when he left to join the military and only appeared sporadically. Even before that, his role slowly started to diminish. By Season 11, he has officially left the show entirely.
Evelyn only appeared in one episode in Season 10, and four in Season 11. She gets more screentime in Season 12, though not as much in earlier seasons.
Judith started to become this in Season 9, before being officially Put on a Bus.
In season 3 of The Vampire Diaries, Katherine appears sporadically for the first half of the season, then takes off after Homecoming. Returns to a significantly more important role as of the second half of the fourth season.
In the comics, Donna was around for the first arc and a half before being killed.
Doctor Stevens played a vital role in the Woodbury arc in the comics, but only had a couple of scenes with a few lines on the show.
Very prevalent in the weird final season of Welcome Back, Kotter. Mr. Kotter only makes fleeting appearances, due to actor Gabe Kaplan not being very happy with the show. No one acted as though it were at all unusual that Mr. Kotter hardly seemed to be around any more. In fact, Gabe Kaplan still got top billing. At least Barbarino, who was also absent that season because John Travolta was doing movies, was explained away as having dropped out of school. To preserve some semblance of familiarity, the previously stay-at-home Mrs. Kotter became the Sweathogs' new adult supervisor in her role as the school secretary, or something.
Much of the main cast from the first 4 seasons were Demoted to Extra as the presidential race took precedence over the running of the White House in the latter seasons. Of particular note, perhaps, is Toby, who was summarily dismissed by the president, and appeared in less than half the episodes of the final season, and those for very small amounts of time (despite Richard Schiff being paid for all of them...).
Abbey Bartlet in Season 7, where she no longer appears in the opening titles unless she appears in the episode. She's also absent for quite a while in Season 5 as she is in New Hampshire, helping Zoe recover from her abduction and blaming Jed for Zoe being a target.
Jimmy McNulty in season four, going from being the defacto star in the first three seasons. Dominic West wanted some time off to do film and theater and spend time with his family, this was explained in series by McNulty deciding to leave the Major Crimes Unit after his adversary was killed before he could take him down, becoming a patrolman and mending his ways while he was at it. He got off the bus in season five, though.
In the fifth season, many of the supporting (and even major) characters from the previous seasons appear during several episodes of the series, largely as a reminder that life in Baltimore keeps on going, even when the major plot arcs end. Roland Prezbylewski, the other three main child characters from season four, Cutty Wise, Nick Sobotka, Bunny Colvin and several others show up in different scenes. More notably, however, various characters who were glimpsed in previous seasons also return, including Clay Davis' limo driver, several dock workers (who are now homeless) and former members of Avon Barksdale's gang who were prominent in the first and second seasons.
Similarly, since the fourth season dealt with the school system, this inevitably led to less focus being spent on the actual police force.
Wee-Bey after he's sent to prison. He does have some more screentime in season 4 due to one of the plotlines revolving around his son Namond.
Poot in season 5.
Beadie after season 2.
Namond Brice is a central character in season 4 but only appears briefly in one episode of season 5.
Tiana "Black Widow" Noguchi on WMAC Masters, despite the fact she was supposed to be the women's champion but she was never seen competing. Her brother Cyclone had it almost as bad but he was finally given a match in the last episode against The Machine. The two also barely used backstage.
Wonder Woman: Steve Trevor (Jr.) during the last leg of the CBS era, where he was made Diana's boss instead of field partner; the never-materialized fourth season probably would've written him out entirely.