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  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Buffy's level of angst, Xander's level of competence, Spike's level of Evil, Cordelia's level of maturity, and how exactly magic works in the Buffy-verse oscillate back and forth depending on who's writing them this episode. This was especially true in the sixth season.
    • See also the vampires. Are they demons who just look like you and share some of your memories, or are they you with the morality taken out and a desire to eat people? Add into that Spike in S5 doing the Right Thing several times...
      • Part of this problem is the fact that they say that vampires are always evil by default due to their lack of a soul, but they really don't explain what that means in this universe. Obviously, there are plenty of people who have a soul and yet commit evil acts, so what makes the vampires special and what does it mean that they "have no soul"? One explanation could be that the vampires "having no soul" means that they are on par with robots or zombies -they are just reanimated corpses with an unwavering instinct to kill and spread their kind, albeit with higher reasoning powers filtered through the personality of their host. This is validated with Buffy's explanation early on that the demon is wearing your friend's corpse, but your friend isn't there anymore, and would also explain why other demons dislike vampires so much. However, other writers have contradicted this with pathology and self-reflection on the part of specific vampires, especially Spike and later, Russell Winters.
      • This is further complicated when Spike gets his soul back. Angel and Angelus are treated as distinct personalities to the point where it appears Angelus is actually smarter than Angel. With Spike, there's very little difference between his personality before and after other than his feeling guilt for past actions. Even without a soul, he was capable of feeling love of some sort.
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    • Buffy and Spike's romance was a particularly bad case. The production staff have openly stated that there were harsh disagreements over who to portray as the aggressor and whether it was genuine love. So everyone just wrote it their preferred way when their turn came around, with no thought as to whether it made any sense with what came before or would come afternote .
    • There are several episodes which imply Drusilla isn't quite as insane as she's perceived, that at least some of her craziness is faked, and that she's actually much more lucid and cunning (in her own way intelligent) than she may appear. Most simply portray her as an unintelligible loon who can't see what's in front of her. It also varies whether she genuinely loves and cares about Spike, or if she simply sees him as a favorite toy to manipulate and use. While the second half of Season 2, "Lie To Me" and "Lovers Walk" seem to support the latter theory, other episodes like "Crush", "School Hard" "Fool For Love" and pretty much all the comics write Drusilla as a heartbroken ex-lover who really does love Spike, albeit in her own, strange way.
  • Darcy Edwards from Degrassi: The Next Generation is the only religious character on the show, and it's painfully obvious that the writers weren't sure how to write a religious character. Even in episodes with the same writer, she's different every time. She's been a snob, a saintly Trickster Mentor, shy and insecure, a girl who feels the obligation to be perfect but wishes she could rebel, etc.
    • In Degrassi: The Next Generation in general, the show's fondness for the Face–Heel Turn and Heel–Face Turn can sometimes causes this. The characters adjust to the new personality so quickly (often forgetting the old one ever existed) that even when the character had a sensible reason to turn, it can feel like they changed completely out of the blue.
  • Practically every example of Continuity Drift in Star Trek has this trope to blame.
    • Captain Archer on Star Trek: Enterprise. On alternating episodes he'd go back and forth between no-morals-hardass and morals-are-the-most-important-thing paragon. One episode he threatened to shoot someone out of an airlock and in the next episode he refused to do something that was far more justifiable.
    • Same goes for Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. Rebel? By the book? Violently gung-ho? Depressive and self-recriminating? No matter what she decides (usually without conferencing with her officers beforehand, something which Picard did regularly), the script will be on her side. Kate Mulgrew, a talented actress, was rather displeased with the way her character would change from script to script. She commented once that she thought Janeway had some sort of mental illness, namely Bipolar Disorder.
      • Neelix is another example. Some days he's a Bunny-Ears Lawyer whose expertise is invaluable to the crew despite his annoying them, other days he's dangerously incompetent at everything he does and contributes absolutely nothing to the crew besides bad jokes.
      • B'Elanna's anger issues either define her entire personality or don't exist, depending on whether or not her getting angry at another crew member would advance or hinder the plot of a given episode. Additionally, there are some episodes where she's largely indifferent or even hostile to Klingon culture, and others where she goes to great lengths to fulfill obligations under Klingon culture ("Barge of the Dead", for example).
      • The Kazon are also victim of this. Sometimes they're portrayed as Genius Bruisers who are frequently able to trick the main cast. Other times they're the epitome of Dumb Muscle, to the point that their idea of holding someone captive is to draw a line on the floor and tell the intended prisoner not to cross it. Eventually, Seven mentions that the Borg took a pass on assimilating them because they considered it a step backwards in their quest for perfection.
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    • This kind of thing goes all the way back to Spock in Star Trek: The Original Series; sometimes he was portrayed as an earnest pacifist unwilling to use a phaser and uncomfortable with the idea of hurting others under any circumstances, and sometimes he was portrayed as a cold tactician who was willing to Shoot the Dog at a moment's notice, if such an act was for the greater good. (Also, his Vulcan disdainfulness of anything human or illogical was sometimes played up to the point where he could, at times, enter Jerkass territory.)
    • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Picard will do everything imaginable to avoid violent conflict, even with entities or aliens that seem to be nothing but Card-Carrying Villain, he will make certain that violence is the only way before resorting to it. Amongst other things he refused to commit genocide against the Borg, and this was after he was made into Locutus. 'Movie' Picard, however, considers diplomacy that obligatory 'stop or I'll shoot' line, before proceeding to go about killing.
    • Q, as SF Debris points out, was strongly subjected to this. He could either be detached and sinister ("Encounter at Farpoint", "Q Who", "True Q", "All Good Things..."), wild and silly ("Hide and Q", "Qpid", and his subsequent appearances on Deep Space Nine and Voyager), or a third personality in that of the educator ("Tapestry" where Q teaches Picard something about himself or "All Good Things..." where Q is actually trying to help Picard, without the other Q actually knowing about it). Then again, this is Q we're talking about.
    • The application of the Prime Directive by various captains also qualifies. Sometimes, it means not interfering in the affairs of only pre-warp civilizations; other times, it means not interfering in the affairs of any civilization. It was also inconsistent internally; supposedly you could break it to prevent an injustice to one member of your crew, but at the same time it's considered so important that you should sacrifice your entire ship to preserve it! In the original series, there was a specific exemption for saving cultures from natural disasters; in later series policy was to let them die even if the whole race is wiped out. The latter interpretation was also a plot point at the beginning of Star Trek Into Darkness, so even the reboot TOS doesn't remain consistent with its source material.
    • During TOS, the crew used English units of measure exclusively until "The Changeling", where they start using metric. However, for the rest of the series, they went back and forth. Starting with TNG they used metric exclusively.
  • Rodney McKay of Stargate Atlantis changes personalities constantly for the first three Seasons, sometimes competent and worried, sometimes an incompetent whiner, sometimes brave, sometimes a coward, sometimes an egotistical twit who saves the day but won’t shut up. Season Four, he makes the transition to reluctant hero. McKay is the guy that the writers forgot that walked 6+ miles just from the Stargate and back and forth and back for a total of at least 24 miles without breaking a sweat or falling behind while carrying a heavy rifle and bearing a full fifty to seventy pounds of field gear in Season Three’s Vengeance -— with the writers constantly poking fun at him for being out of shape in dozens of episodes. There are times that you can actually like the guy instead of wanting to sacrifice him on a suicide mission. There are other times... such as when the writers can’t resist bringing back the whiny old Rodney-type from Seasons 1 to 3 to later Seasons in episodes like Season Five’s “the Lost Tribe” after you’ve gotten used to the “new and improved” reluctant hero model that’s had the impurities burned away. It’s like he’s had his reset switch hit, right back to Season One. Poink! Instead of character derailment, it’s more like jumping the tracks at random, for five years running.
    • Add to this his portrayal in Stargate SG-1, where the cockiness was Up to Eleven and the whininess was all but nonexistent. Once SGA debuts, he (and everyone else) acts like he was always his SGA self whenever he pops up in SG-1. Several years pass between his original SG-1 appearance in season 5's 48 Hours and his first Atlantis appearance in Rising, which is the equivalent of season 8 of the former show. Plenty of time for off-screen Character Development to occur.
  • This is one of the biggest complaints about Alexis on Ugly Betty. Alexis was a shadowy Big Bad figure for the first half of season one. Then she had a Heel–Face Turn while retaining her aggressive, competitive personality. From then, it was on. The writers just couldn't decide if she was a good guy or a bad guy. This got so bad that Rebecca Romijn - the actor who plays Alexis - decided to quit the show. Romijn has said that
    "They made a tremendous amount of changes, especially with the writing staff [during the writers' strike]. And while I know I'll be coming back next season, with all the changes, I'm not sure they can take care of my character they way they have been. So I'll be leaving, back in a recurring capacity, but time for me to leave and find something else."
  • Doctor Who, as an extremely Long Runner with a lot of writers, has tons of this. It is especially prominent in the Classic series, which had a more relaxed approach to overall creative control, meaning characters would often shift wildly between storylines. The New series tends to be more consistent, but has still gone into this once or twice.
    • As stated in this character analysis blog, the Doctor in general (depending on the incarnation) can be an angry, grumpy, callous, arrogant, ruthless Jerk with a Heart of Gold Anti-Hero ; a fun-loving, eccentric, clownish, childlike alien with an unscrupulous, manipulative streak who pulls a bumbling idiot façade; a dashing, charismatic, heroic Cultured Badass Ace with Insufferable Genius traits or an Adorkable, sensitive, vulnerable, fallible Nice Guy with a keen intellect.
    • Susan had originally been intended as a Creepy Good Action Girl with Psychic Powers but was ReTooled into a "normal girl" after the unaired pilot. The result of this is that her character fluctuates wildly between scripts: in "An Unearthly Child" she is a nice girl who wishes she was normal but shows a little Nightmare Fetishist behaviour ("I like walking through the dark. It's mysterious.") and physically attacks a massive, armed caveman to save her friends; in "The Daleks" she is a Kiddie Kid who displays exaggerated fear about walking through the dark and the few times she's allowed to speak it's to make stupid suggestions ("First we all lie down and pretend to be dead..."); in "The Edge of Destruction" she drifts around in a long dress, babbles about creatures inside her and threatens to shred Ian with a pair of surgical scissors; in "Marco Polo" she is a Totally Radical sixties teen who thinks everything is "gear"; in "The Keys of Marinus" she is a Distressed Damsel; in "The Aztecs" she has nothing to do; in "The Sensorites" she has a fight with her grandfather and saves the day with her telepathic powers; and then in "The Reign of Terror" she refuses to attempt to escape from a prison when she and Barbara are due to be guillotined because she's scared of the rats and then develops a fever for plot convenience. It's such a horrible mess you can tell the writers were relieved to start again with a blank slate when she got replaced with Suspiciously Similar Substitute Vicki.
    • First Doctor companion Steven Taylor started with a fairly consistent personality but devolved into a cypher due to necessity - at the time, the production was falling apart (new producers, a new technical team, tensions throughout the crew, and a lead actor who was struggling with mental health problems and couldn't remember his lines) and so the writers had to adapt scripts intended for recently departed characters for Steven, and adapt them to de-emphasise the role of the Doctor as there had been talk of completely removing his character and ReTooling the show around Steven. As a result his character ended up filling whatever niche it needed to - funny, serious, an Action Hero, a Distressed Dude, a sexy romantic lead, a quirky Kiddie Kid, and so on. At a chaotic time for the show, Steven's chameleon personality kept stories ticking along well enough that regenerating the Doctor - and thus ensuring the show would continue for decades - eventually became possible.
    • The mechanics of regeneration change a lot. The Doctor often mentions the process is random but several Time Lords seem to be able to control it, including Romana in "Destiny of the Daleks" and The Master in "Utopia". One of the Doctor's bodies was even chosen for him by some third parties in "The War Games", and K'anpo in "Planet of the Spiders" is able to warn the Doctor's friends about the personality of his upcoming incarnation, suggesting he knows what it's going to be. The TV series normally portrays regeneration as being limited to humanoid shapes but the Expanded Universe portrays it as potentially being able turn someone into an Eldritch Abomination. The Second Doctor claimed that he could only regenerate in the TARDIS, and that regeneration was linked to the TARDIS in some way, but in other stories it is an innate biological process, and often takes place outside of the TARDIS. Some incarnations require external pushes to gain enough energy to regenerate, and others can do it as easily as hitting their head on the console. The New series states that a new incarnation is the Doctor subconsciously signalling to themselves what they need to be more like, but this is pretty difficult to reconcile with some incarnations of Time Lord characters.
    • Robert Holmes' Doctor always tends to be a bit more prickly and abrasive than others', and he went on record as saying he wrote them all the same on the page and let the actor deal with it. Compare the way the Doctor is written in (say) "The Krotons", "Carnival of Monsters", "The Sun Makers", "The Caves of Androzani" and "The Mysterious Planet" - bar the odd Catch-Phrase or gimmick and the maturing of Holmes' writing style, they're all unmistakably the same character, even if played by five different actors.
    • The Time Lords as a collective culture have wildly varied in their depiction according to writers' tastes and political attitudes, from benevolent, god-like protectors of the universe to pompous but weak old codgers who can't actually do much to an almost completely self-serving and ruthless Deadly Decadent Court to a full-blown Omnicidal Maniac culture. The Doctor did point out that the last one was a result of the Time War, and was later said to only refer to the government (and even then, some were against it). The books and Big Finish audios also sometimes portray the Time Lords as an Eldritch Abomination civilization, in comparison to just being very technologically advanced. There's also inconsistency over whether all Gallifreyans are Time Lords, whether Time Lord is a rank or a genetically-modified subspecies, and which traits are universal and which are Time Lord only.
    • Third Doctor companion Jo varies a lot in her level of intellect and competence depending on the writer, ranging from being genuinely The Ditz to being a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass to engaging in outright Obfuscating Stupidity.
    • Whenever Robert Sloman wrote a Third Doctor script, he became a Warrior Poet in a very obviously Buddhist mould.
    • The Master. Like with the Doctor, regeneration can be used to explain their changing personality between incarnations, but the whole of the Classic series uses a single incarnation of the Master (stealing various bodies after the deaths of his old ones) - the Pratt/Beevers, Ainley and Roberts incarnations are supposed to be the same 'incarnation' as the initial Delgado character. Even so, their personality, goals, humour level and power sets vary wildly, significantly more than the Doctor's does between their incarnations. It borders on Same Character, but Different in many cases.
      • Anthony Ainley's Master, in particular, suffers from this: he wanted to play the character as cold and calculating but, with the exception of his final appearance in "Survival", in which he was allowed to do that, the production staff insisted that he lay it on thick with the old mustache twirling and psychotic laughing.
      • The Master in The TV Movie is portrayed as a ghostly CGI snake that continually spews corrosive acid. No explanation for this is given in the film. As noted above, this was supposed to be the same incarnation as the Delgado Master, an Affably Evil humanoid with hypnotic powers. He retains the slit pupils he gained in "Survival", but only to reinforce his new Animal Motif based on snakes (annoying, since the slit pupils were gained from a virus that converted people to cats).
      • The Simm Master under Russell T. Davies is extremely Ax-Crazy, sexually predatory, and obsessive, talking about the sound of drums implanted in his head by the Time Lords. His story implied this was the reason for his initial insanity. When picked up again by Steven Moffat, he becomes a more composed and ironic individual with a personality much closer to the original Delgado incarnation, even dressing in that character's iconic standup collar/goatee/widow's-peak/eyeliner combo, and being the butt of a joke about this. His sexuality also comes off as pathetic and nerdy rather than attractive, as he attempts to hit on his future self and gets rejected. The drumming is never mentioned, though it remains in his Leitmotif.
    • Sarah Jane Smith. This character is a feminist, and she was featured at a pretty chaotic time for feminism, so the character completely changes depending on the current author's attitude to women and/or feminism. She varies from a Straw Feminist to a Plucky Girl to The Load to Adorkable (like the author is saying feminists are sooo cute with their silly little ideas!) to You Go, Girl!. That she continually came across as intelligent, able to take care of herself, and able to stand up to the Doctor, points a lot to Elisabeth Sladen's skill.
    • Steven Moffat once criticised Tom Baker for this, saying his performance was 'thunderously effective' but he 'completely reinterpreted his character to fit that week's script', saying it's impossible to tell that the Doctor in "The Seeds of Doom" and "City of Death" are supposed to be the same person. Moffat since disowned this criticism, but there is a grain of truth in it, especially early on: In "Robot", he's a genuinely funny and goofy Cloud Cuckoo Lander who doesn't care that much about anything, even Sarah; in "The Ark in Space", he's a fearsome and aloof Byronic Hero and very openly fond of Implied Love Interest Sarah; in "The Sontaran Experiment" he's all Obfuscating Stupidity and foul temper; in "Genesis of the Daleks" he's all wisdom and righteousness and the potential for Dirty Business. "The Seeds of Doom" makes him a cold and violent Tuxedo and Martini Expy, "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" makes him into a bohemian and methodical Sherlock Holmes Expy, in "City of Death" he's somewhere between Zaphod Beeblebrox and Dirk Gently and in "Warriors' Gate" he's a Wizard Classic. There are times in his tenure where he's an Invincible Hero who loves everyone and never ever shows any vulnerability, and times when he's a brooding and fallible Anti-Hero who genuinely struggles with his fear of the monsters, and sometimes swings into the opposite between stories. Tom Baker's performance holds the whole thing together, though arguably less from skill (his skill is in being able to pull off all those different personalities in the first place) and more from sheer force of personality.
    • In Chris Boucher's Fourth Doctor stories (especially his books), he is a passionate atheist who has Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions. He's a lot more respectful of religion and superstition in other stories, even going so far as to call astrology "a science" (to Sarah's annoyance) in "The Masque of Mandragora".
    • Leela was a particularly bad example. When first introduced by Chris Boucher and Robert Holmes she was relatively uncivilised but in fact highly intelligent (she is shown as abandoning all superstition when the Doctor explains science to her). In "The Robots of Death" (also by Boucher), she immediately understands what's going on with Poul, but lacks the cultural context to articulate it to any characters other than the Doctor. In "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" by Holmes, she caught on the nature of the villain almost as quickly as the Doctor. Bob Baker and Dave Martin, on the other hand, saw her as just uneducated and stupid and struggled to use her - in "The Invisible Enemy" she's described as 'all instinct and emotion', and in "Underworld" by the same writers she gets hit by Stun Guns and spends most of the story acting stoned as comic relief. Compare to "The Sun Makers", in which she is also comic relief for most of the story, but able to understand fairly sophisticated economic situations.
    • Matthew Waterhouse complained about Adric being written like this, particularly "Four to Doomsday". From that story's notes (quoting Doctor Who Magazine):
    My performance varied from script to script, particularly after I drew the conclusion that there wasn't going to be any continuity with Adric. Then what I did was that every time I read a script, I re-developed it—as far as I'm concerned in each four episodes he was a new individual. Every time I developed a gut feeling about him, about what he should do and think, it was contradicted in the next script.
    • In Russell T. Davies' tenure, the Doctor's moral standard varies for better or worse depending on the current writing staff. Partly justified when the change happens between regenerations; at the end of "The Christmas Invasion", he gives a speech about how each time he changes he becomes a different type of doctor in personality terms as well. Mainly, the question is this: How "technical" is this Technical Pacifist? Usually he fits the definition perfectly, but we've had I Did What I Had to Do moments to the point he doesn't even qualify even if he Does Not Like Guns, and we've also seen him hold to principle even when the greater good will not be served by it. This is not always a thing that changes with regenerations but consistent within each incarnation, either. The Tenth Doctor was notably darker, but it's hard to know what's intended with him, as the moments that most made viewers say What the Hell, Hero? were things we're clearly expected to agree with (see Harriet Jones) and the times characters said he was getting too scary, he'd usually just saved their butts in a way they didn't like (hey, it was the spiders or the Earth!)
  • Supernatural:
    • Dean can either be a complete bimbo or just playing dumb depending on who writes him.
    • Sam can either be Determinator, passionate about getting things done at any cost but sometimes making mistakes, or a complete loose cannon guaranteed to mess things up if Dean is not there to supervise him every second.
    • Castiel's original nature as a fish out of water now often suffers from flanderization from writers who knows he says quirky things, but don't quite seem to understand the difference between quirky and idiotic.
  • Done to a frustrating degree in the last two seasons of Dawson's Creek. Take your pick from the supporting cast: Charlie, CJ, Eddie, or Natasha will happily go back and forth between being kind, sweet and understanding and complete jerks.
  • On the latest BBC series of Robin Hood, Guy of Gisbourne can range from a sadistic, remorseless killer to a tortured Byronic anti-hero. Sometimes he's both in the same episode.
  • The Shield has this by the barrel: Shane Vendrell, villain or morally conflicted anti-hero who possesses the self-awareness that is completely absent in Vic Mackey? Claudette Wyms, the only character with a conscience on a show filled with moral ambiguity or a hypocritical bitch who is willing to let corrupt cop Vic Mackey do as he pleases (let alone cover up her own partner's complicity in corrupt antics) so long as Vic doesn't do anything to threaten her own Alpha Female status. Vic Mackey, who can go from anti-hero to heroic sociopath to villain, within a matter of a couple of episodes.
    • Arguably, the show never tried to differentiate between any of the possibilities on purpose. That all were possible at the same time (this being a very crapsack kind of show) is entirely likely, given the persona each character would have to have for the given situation and the circumstances around them.
  • The very nature of the universe in Andromeda varied depending on the writer. Inconsistencies existed from the start, but they were really severe by season three, when most of the show's original creative staff was gone. The remaining original writers continued writing it as a hard science fiction series, while the new staffers wrote it as a way-out space fantasy whose physics and technology (and often plots) were a hodgepodge of TV sci-fi cliches. Things like faster-than-light communication and forcefields would exist in one episode and be nonexistent the next.
  • Prior to Season 6, House could either be a simply eccentric curmudgeon/Jerkass spouting sarcastic one-liners ("Yes, feel free to exclude any symptom if it makes your job easier!") to a Wangst-filled Nietzsche Wannabe with no regard for anything but solving the puzzle ("If your life's no more important than anyone else's, sign your donor card and kill yourself."). Fortunately, these fluctuations could be easily Handwaved away as the side effects of his Vicodin addiction.
    • Sadly, these fluctuations seemed to have come back in Season 7, this time Handwaved away by House's alcohol use and subsequent return to Vicodin.
  • The transition from season 1 to season 2, with different writers and more Executive Meddling, left a few characters in Carnivàle out in the cold:
    • Stumpy was a rather complex character in season 1, but during season two he suddenly developed a gambling addiction when the (new) writers felt they needed something to pad out an episode or two, and became a straw racist when the writers suddenly realized that they'd never bothered to write a black character with any degree of complexity and needed to cover their arses.
    • Similarly, Ruthie, a well-written, subversively sexual character (considering she's past a certain age), became a cliched recipient of Lodz's ghost, leading to lots of hammy acting and the elimination of any vestige of the effectual presence she used to have in the story beyond being something of a MacGuffin.
  • Dr. Temperance Brennan of Bones can be anywhere between a Deadpan Snarker who makes fiery political commentaries and an Emotionless Girl with No Social Skills who can't get a simple joke. Within one season.
  • Friends: Almost inevitably given it ran for 10 seasons, with numerous different writers.
    • Phoebe, the Granola Girl and Cloud Cuckoo Lander, is often just 'weird enough to justify any conflict'.
    • Monica is usually a loving wife and Team Mom, but has occasional episodes where her Control Freak nature and OCD is turned Up to Eleven to create issues, which normal Monica would be sensible enough to solve, not cause. One episode has her saying people can only eat cookies over the sink and telling them off for putting their feet up, even though almost every episode has the gang eating all over her apartment and using all furniture as footrests.
    • Chandler could go from a guy who was hopeless at attracting women to a flirt who was just bad at keeping up relationships. For example, one episode features Joey asking Chandler and Ross (who was fairly consistently portrayed as being poor with women) how to kill a budding conversation with women, while another episode features Ross being jealous of Chandler and Joey's ability to flirt.
    • Joey's acting skills could range from "surprisingly good" to "horrendously bad".
    • On some episodes, Ross was the nicest guy of the bunch, on others he was a Butt-Monkey and Jerk with a Heart of Gold at best, going crazy over the pettiest things.
    • Chandler's history with his parents falls into this. At times it's implied that they cared for him deeply but were Amazingly Embarrassing Parents, at other times Chandler says that they were too busy fighting with each other to care about him.
  • The Big Bang Theory: It pretty much applies to all of the characters over their core personality:
    • Sheldon Cooper. Since he is "the crazy" character, he can jump from one type of "crazy" to the other. He can swing wildly from being an extreme contrarian who disagrees with every tradition and social convention ("Why should we give presents on birthdays? It makes no sense."); or be a crazy-obsessed, ultra-defensive authoritarian capable of rationalizing everything. ("Going to the movies and don't buy popcorn? Are you out of your mind?"). Also, The Other Wiki mentioned that Howard can be either extremely elated over no longer being Sheldon's friend (the Friendship Algorithm),or hurt and offended when he's deemed simply an "acquaintance" (the Bozeman Reaction).
    • Leonard can range between being a sympathetic, cheerful nice guy who almost always does the right thing, stands by others and simply has trouble asserting himself. And being a whiny, short tempered, holier-than-thou horndog who has no problems mocking and dismissing his own friends, putting up with anything if it means there's a chance he will get sex out of it, being totally willing to sell out his own beliefs and likes the moment it will benefit him and going around acting as if the world owes him something.
    • Penny is either a sweet, kindhearted woman of average intelligence who is simply fun loving and assertive. Or an arrogant, hypocritical, ungrateful, aggressive, dismissive, potentially alcoholic brainless beauty, who expects good things to just come to her, happily mooches off her friends and has no problems bullying and manipulating others into going along with her plans.
    • Howard is either a misguided sympathetic fun-loving man who just wants love and intimacy, but has very little idea or understanding of how to act around women and a loyal friend, or a completely misogynistic and perverted jerk, who just wants to have sex with anyone and has little to no regard for women as people, who will happily abandon or turn on his friends the second he feels it will benefit him. The writers fixed this with some major Character Development, making him neither.
    • Raj is either realistically lonely and slightly desperate for affection, as well as being in touch with his feminine side. Or a completely whiny and potentially delusional jerk who blows all his good luck by turning arrogant to a level beyond Sheldon's the second things start going well for him.
    • Bernadette is either a sweet, kindhearted, highly intelligent young woman, who is understanding, cheerful and friendly, but is not afraid to assert herself or put others in their place, or a pint-sized arrogant, condescending ball of fury, constantly ready to break down anyone who annoys her, and is potentially abusive towards her spouse.
    • Amy is either slightly less socially awkward than Sheldon, more or less normal but still posing a few quirks here and there or seemingly more normal, but really just as loopy underneath it all.
    • The characters have become more consistent over the years due to character development, but they still crop up now and then.
  • Glee, so much. The show's writers don't seem to communicate at all, and it honestly feels like you're watching three separate shows. Characterization, continuity, everything changes on a dime. From the main trope page: "Brad Falchuk is writing a bittersweet dramedy about people who want to be special, Ian Brennan is writing a black comedy, and Ryan Murphy is writing a quirky Ryan Murphy show."
    • This can even fluctuate in episodes written by the same person—in "A Very Glee Christmas", the school's hatred of the New Directions is rather clear when they go around caroling ("YOU'RE MAKING ME HATE CHRISTMAS!"), but by "Prom Queen" they're the ones performing all the music, and the crowd is going wild. Both episodes written by Ian Brennan.
    • Characters who get this the worst are definitely Quinn, Will, Puck and Sam.
    • Rachel Berry is pretty consistent from episode to episode: irritating, ambitious, conceited, but well-meaning and she knows when she's reached the Moral Event Horizon. The way the other characters react to her is a different story.
    • Sue Sylvester. In the first season, her Pet the Dog moments count as Character Development, showing the human side beneath her cold facade (culminating in the season finale where she ensures the glee club remains intact despite losing Regionals). From Season Two onwards, she'll completely change personality between episodes, and occasionally within the same episode, without motivation beyond Rule of Funny. For one example, she goes from concerned, sympathetic teacher/principal who expels Karofsky for bullying Kurt (in "Furt"), to threatening to launch Brittany out of a cannon two episodes later.
  • iCarly and how it flits between The Power of Friendship and Comedic Sociopathy.
  • Main character Karl in the Norwegian sitcom Mot i brøstet is a great example. Is he an everyman or a snotty upperclass jerk? Is he a semi-successful businessman or a delusional idiot no one takes seriously? Does he like or hate soccer and other low-culture nonsense? It all depends on the episode. Henry has also changed from brilliant manipulator to senile idiot, but I guess we can blame that on him turning old.
  • Sometimes happens in Shake It Up!. Cece and Rocky often switch between Tomboy and Girly Girl. Also, Cece may be just Book Dumb or she may be unable to add.
  • Merlin (2008): Due to their Hidden Depths, Merlin and Gwen are the only two characters who have managed to sustain some degree of consistency, as most of the time they come across as shy and humble, but can take charge when the occasion calls for it. As for the others...
    • King Uther will either respond to the threat of magic with scepticism and bluster or with paranoia and deadly force.
    • Gaius will either be urging Merlin to keep his head down and not interfere with anything, or telling him to step up and embrace his destiny.
    • Arthur can be intelligent and sensitive, or an idiotic bully.
    • The male writing staff write Morgana as a gleefully evil Femme Fatale, whilst the show's sole female writer Lucy Watkins tries to give her some shades of grey.
  • In Heroes, the characterization of Sylar changed from episode to episode. Firing all the writers in Season 4 and bringing on a new team certainly didn't help matters. He was constantly shifting between hating what he'd become and trying to be better, and rediscovering that Evil Is Cool. He was on the good side of the Heel–Face Revolving Door when the series ended.
  • Blake's 7. In the later seasons. It's particularly noticeable because in the first season, each script was written by the showrunner with assistance from the script editor, so the characters tended to be internally consistent and have nice, smooth arcs. Then things started to disconnect: Servalan's priorities and competence, the state of Avon and Vila's relationship (it's always argumentative, but its balance varies widely; sometimes they trade barbs, sometimes Avon simply insults Vila, and sometimes they casually team up to scam a casino). Vila's intelligence also varies - in Terry Nation's scripts he's highly intelligent and competent, but will play the fool to avoid dangerous situations. In Chris Boucher's scripts he's an incompetent alcoholic. Tarrant's character lurches from being the cold and calculating mercenary he was originally conceived as, to heroic and chivalrous, and back again. Cally is either a passionate fighter or a passionate pacifist, depending on the script. At actor Michael Keating's request, Chris Boucher wrote the third series episode, "City at the Edge of the World". While Vila's fearful nature is still in evidence, the episode also features him at, arguably, his most intelligent and skilled as a safecracker. He's even the romantic lead in the story, and does some genuinely heroic acts.
  • Young Dracula: How evil is Ingrid? Sometimes she's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, and other times she's a bloodthirsty, power-mad lunatic.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The character's views on, and the show's message about justice, rehabilitation and psychology change drastically from one episode to the next. Sometimes they say rape is always about control, where sometimes it's about sex. Sometimes they're outraged by the notion of people being locked up when they've done their time and/or may not reoffend, sometimes they act as if rapists can't be helped and should be locked up forever.
  • Gossip Girl had this in spades, though it can almost be said to be a case of Depending on the Showrunner. Josh Safran, writer turned showrunner, saw Dan Humphrey as his self-insert and wanted him to be with Blair (the most popular female character). However, Blair was already in a relationship with Chuck Bass and Chair was by far and wide the most popular ship on the show. Safran solved this problem by having Chuck trade Blair for a hotel so that they would break up and people would dislike Chuck. After that point, the characters became yo-yos depending on who was in charge of writing them. Chuck alternated between being loving/supporting and possessive/petty. Dan alternated between being a judgmental hypocrite and being always in the right. Blair went back and forth between seeing Chuck as her soulmate and not wanting to be around him, and seeing Dan as a friend and just as an annoying minion. The latter half of season four and the entirety of season five suffered pretty badly from trying to retcon previously established characterizations and plotlines in an attempt to shoehorn Dan and Blair together, while still having occasional episodes that wrote the characters the way they'd been prior to this. Then Safran got fired and the sixth season focused on re-establishing the Chair relationship and bringing back Dan's negative character traits and cranking them up to eleven. The finale makes it all even more confusing with the revelation that Dan is Gossip Girl and [[everyone suddenly forgives the eponymous character they've all hated.
  • The television adaptation of the Sweet Valley High tended to swing back and forth on Jessica Wakefield. While some elements of her character were consistent - her vanity, boy craziness and laziness - she could range from a cunning and ruthless Alpha Bitch, to a Lovable Alpha Bitch with a hidden good side to pea brained comic relief depending on the episode.
  • On The Office (US) how sympathetic Michael is depends on the episode. He can range from a Jerk with a Heart of Gold to an Innocent Bigot, to being just plain unintelligent.
    Gene Stupnitksynote : There are lots of different versions of Michael Scott. Some writers would write him as childish, others would write him as incompetent, some would write for the version of Michael Scott when he was at his best.
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: Illya is usually fairly indifferent to heterosexual romance (and sometimes even implied to be a Celibate Hero) — but when Alan Caillou is writing him, he suddenly becomes interested in girls.
  • Kamen Rider Fourze: Yuki Jojima has two primary character traits: her compassion and her love of outer space, but exactly which one gets emphasized depends on who wrote the episode in question. Showrunner Kazuki Nakashima focused on the compassion, writing Yuki as The Heart of the Kamen Rider Club and the Ego of the Power Trio, balancing out Gentaro's passion and Kengo's smarts. Riku Sanjou focused on the love of space, portraying Yuki as a goofy Otaku who waves around a hand puppet of the Hayabusa space probe. Unfortunately this also had an effect on her intelligence: in Nakashima episodes Yuki's knowledge of space travel legitimately impressed the show's Big Bad, himself a former astronaut; in Sanjou episodes she's a ditzy airhead who (in one very unpopular story arc) started praying to the "space gods" in the middle of an aptitude test.
  • On Charmed, Paige is the most gung-ho about magic—so much so that she's going to dedicate herself to doing magic full time! The only problem is that she has no life outside of magic...jeez, maybe she should get a job. Which she will then quit to spend more time on magic.
  • Earlier seasons of Brooklyn Nine-Nine cannot seem to decide whether Gina is an overly blunt and self-centered but ultimately decent Jerk with a Heart of Gold who, in her own way, looks out for her friends and colleagues, or an out-and-out narcissist whose genuine lack of esteem for anyone but herself is played as Comedic Sociopathy. Later seasons seem to mostly have settled on the first option, though.

Example of: