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Lighter And Softer / Live-Action TV

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  • Black Mirror: In a show known for being incredibly dark, Black Mirror: Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too is by far the lightest episode so far (besides possibly Black Mirror: San Junipero), with its more comedic and satirical tone. The premise of the episode is essentially a Black Mirror Parody of Hannah Montana and also features Miley Cyrus herself.
  • The E! True Hollywood Story used to be an incredibly depressing show that documented a certain celebrity's fall from grace or detailed their grisly murder or suicide. However, in recent years the show has shifted its focus to the latest hit reality show or celebrities who are at their current peak of popularity.
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  • The Following Due to media watchdog groups and parents complaining about the violence the show was toned down and made more family friendly.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Arya witnesses far more carnage in the Riverlands, suffers more personal degradation, and kills more people in combat as well as in cold blood in the books.
    • The young characters are all aged up in part so that all this sex and violence isn't happening to even younger characters.
    • Bodily mutilations are less pronounced for practical reasons. For example, the Hound's scars are less grotesque, and Tyrion and Rorge both keep their noses in the series. This is Lampshaded in "Valar Dohaeris," where there were rumors that Tyrion had lost his nose during the Battle of Blackwater.
    • Some of the murders committed or ordered by characters the showrunners wish to keep more sympathetic are omitted or at least given a veneer of self-defense.
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    • While certain villains such as Ramsay are not given anything resembling a Adaptational Heroism treatment, their actions and traits are somewhat scaled down. Ramsay's Hunting the Most Dangerous Game for example, while extremely disturbing on the show, is still particularly more gruesome in the novels. The other changes is that Ramsay has Adaptational Attractiveness and engages in consensual relationships with women, some of whom become Monster Fangirl and he sends them on hunts when he gets bored of them, whereas in the books, all his victims were innocent women.
    • A number of characters receive Adaptational Heroism, removing some of their more villainous characteristics or actions and making them more sympathetic. Examples include Tywin, Tyrion, Renly and Sandor.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures is mostly this, but still retains some of the key 'scary' elements that Doctor Who has... it's just more likely to be off screen. Russell T. Davies has said "there's still death and despair" but added that there's "more hugs".
  • Doctor Who itself has made tone shifts in a lighter direction several times — sometimes during a Doctor's tenure, sometimes when Doctors were switched out.
    • The seventh season, the Third Doctor's debut in which he was Earthbound and working with UNIT, was quite dark at times, with some brutal fist- and gun-fights, a prickly relationship between the Doctor and the Brigadier, one story ending with the Doctor being disgusted by UNIT massacring a group of sentient non-humans who might have been willing to make peace, and another story featuring the Doctor failing to prevent the complete destruction of a parallel Earth. Over the next season, the tone gradually became lighter, with UNIT becoming more Mildly Military, the stories generally having happy endings, and the violence becoming more fantastic.
    • In Season 14, the character of the Fourth Doctor was made Lighter and Softer. The writers gave him more silly setpieces, funny lines and moments where he would be really cute, and fewer terrifying impossibly-old alien bits, debates over the morality of genocide and, well, performing outright murders and laughing about it. The writers apparently did this because they hoped it would let them get away with still inserting as much gore, horror and death as they wanted without facing as much objection from Moral Guardians fooled by the lighter tone. It worked... for a little while, anyway. A good example of a story with this tone is The Robots of Death, which is one of the goriest and most violent stories Tom Baker ever did, but unlike the similarly violent The Deadly Assassin, the Doctor behaves flippantly and childishly about it throughout and the villain is vanquished in a very silly way.
    • The most extreme example comes with Seasons 15-17. Just after the show had reached the height of its "dark and intelligent" phase, it was derailed and audiences were treated to three lighter and softer seasons that verged on comedy. As soon as Philip Hinchcliffe quit as producer his replacement Graham Williams was called in by BBC executives and bluntly ordered to reduce the amount of graphic violence and horror, which had caused high-profile condemnations of the show by moral purity campaigners, led by Mary Whitehouse, and the general press during the previous couple of seasons. The Williams era does have die-hard fans, but most of the child audience seemed to regret the loss of the gore and horror.
    • Season 23 was also the subject of executive edicts demanding that it be made lighter than the very grim and violent previous season. In this case, many fans share the belief that Seasons 21-2 had got too crapsack.
    • Moving on to the revival, debatably the Eleventh Doctor is this to the Tenth. While 'pure horror' episodes are more common in Series 5, the series deals with far less serious themes, and the Doctor is portrayed as a slightly mad gentleman waltzing around the universe as opposed to a shell-shocked veteran riddled with guilt from the murder of his own species. Compare "The End of Time" special (the last episode featuring the Tenth Doctor) to "The Eleventh Hour" (the Eleventh Doctor's first appearance). The Mood Whiplash is massive, although quite well pulled-off. This approach is generally justified by the fact that the writers were aiming to make the show more popular and comprehensible to a younger audience, which it did extremely well without alienating older fans. Series 6 got Denser and Wackier and Darker and Edgier, though, and this was partially responsible for its Seasonal Rot.
    • The Twelfth Doctor's era is Darker and Edgier tonally than Eleven's era was, owing largely to Twelve being a Dark Is Not Evil, Creepy Good Byronic Hero. But while outright Breather Episodes are extremely rare (there are none in Series 9, which climaxes with a Trauma Conga Line that temporarily turns him into a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds), episodes like "Time Heist" and "Last Christmas" balance horror/action elements with substantial comedy and whimsy. And post-Series 9 comes the lightest, wackiest adventure for Twelve yet in "The Husbands of River Song", which has a Bittersweet Ending that nevertheless qualifies as Throw the Dog a Bone.
  • The second series of the spin-off series Torchwood actually airs in two versions, one for adults and one for all-ages. There is little difference in the broadcasts, apart from some removal of swearing and gore, such as Alan Dale's character being shot (the all-ages version omitted the squib going off) in "Reset".
  • Newsround is a simplified version of BBC News, with more kid friendly language and some concepts adults would be familiar with more fully explained. It also tends to lack financial news and only goes into politics on rare occasions (around election time for example). It isn't afraid to report on death or depressing topics (it was the news broadcast that broke the story of the Challenger disaster in the UK) but is a bit more sensitive about it, they also might report something which seen as a story of high 'kid interest' that the adult news wouldn't bother with. It was the go-to source for Harry Potter-related news in the UK, less so since Internet access became all but universal. It is also lighter on politics than it used to be. It was the first television programme that some kids saw Michael Howard MP, interviewed at the Rio Earth Summit by a Press Packer in 1992 as Environment Secretary.
  • Stargate SG-1 has gradually taken this course over its ten seasons, getting closer and closer to self-parody in the process.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 7 starts out with a much lighter mood than the dark, dark, dark Season 6 — a deliberate move from the writers to give the audience a break from the doom and gloom. The season did take a noticeably grimmer tone as it progressed.
  • Angel's fourth season was incredibly dark and grim, with a pretty gloomy tone. The fifth season saw a switch to more standalone episodes rather than an arc. While it did feature its share of Tear Jerker moments - notably "You're Welcome" and "A Hole In The World", it was still lighter than Season 4.
  • Charmed:
    • Season 1 was rather dark and bleak. Season 2 lessened the focus on magic, almost turning the show into a Slice of Life where there happened to be demons. More emphasis was placed on the sisters' personal lives, with no Big Bad and the only recurring arc was a Love Triangle between Piper, Leo and Dan.
    • Season 5 was a big contrast to the fourth - which was the darkest season (featuring the deaths of two major characters). Put it in comparison - Season 4 opens with Piper and Phoebe mourning Prue and trying to avenge her death. Season 5 opens with a mermaid trying to find love. Season 5 also introduced more conventional fantasy and fairy tale elements - such as unicorns, wood nymphs etc.
  • Season Four of House is much lighter than the depressingly dark third season. And then it immediately went back to dark and depressing when it was time for the finale.
  • Gordon Ramsay:
    • In The F Word, he's not as much of a bastard as he is in Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares. In fact, he is much more pleasant and enjoys cooking in this one rather than what happens in his other shows. The British version of KN also paints Ramsey in this light instead of the scream hound in the bombastic American adaptation. Even in the instances that he does lose his cool, it's easy to see that it comes from genuine frustration instead of exaggerated ranting.
    • In FOX's summer series of Master Chef, Ramsey was even more considerably friendly; in fact, he was the encouraging judge of the three. While he did show flashes of his usual temper and frustrated mannerisms, he oft-encouraged contestants, even sending one who screwed up on her audition to go home and bring back items from home to make a dish as her own (she went on to compete on the show). Justified in that unlike Hell's Kitchen, these are people not in the dining business to begin with, but normal Joes looking to broaden their love of cooking by becoming a chef.
    • Likewise, Gordon is practically cuddly in the spin-off Masterchef Junior, where the contestants are small children. Here's a comparison video.
  • There was an interesting back-and-forth with The Addams Family across different media. The original single-panel cartoons depicted the characters as genuinely misanthropic monsters who killed random people for the lulz. The TV show, by contrast, depicted them as nice, arty bohemians whose square neighbours were frightened of them because of their weird lifestyle. The cinema films swung the pendulum back towards actual violence and death (though unlike in the cartoons their victims typically deserved it), but the animated kids-TV show spun off from the films went fluffier again.
  • The Practice was a serious legal drama. The same cannot be said about its Spin-Off, Boston Legal.
  • The Adventures of Superman was actually a hard-hitting and violent crime drama in its first season, and featured Phyllis Coates as an especially tough and strong-willed Lois Lane. For the second season, Noel Neill replaced Coates, and played a much softer and more traditionally feminine Lois. The show itself became less violent and more kid-oriented. By the third season, the show had become much more lighthearted and whimsical, with more science-fiction and fantasy elements and less violence.
  • When the Argentinian Soap Opera "Floricienta" was adapted for Chilean viewers as "Floribella", some aspects of the show became this. In example, the original Evil Matriarch was portrayed as very malevolent, but in the Chilean version she's portrayed somewhat more comically. It doesn't help that the Chilean actress is actually known for comical villain roles, which isn't the case with the Argentinean counterpart. The ending was also modified. In the original, Flor's "prince" dies... he gets better in the remake and they get married in the finale. This was also repeated in the Mexican remake of the show, Lola Erase Una Vez.
  • Jeopardy!, to a degree. Until about the 1990s, the clues were often straightforward, and host Alex Trebek was rather stuffy and formal. Over time, the clues have become more whimsical and punny, with occasional pop culture references and Getting Crap Past the Radar (arguably without dumbing the show down). Trebek has also loosened up especially in the 2000s, as he now smiles and laughs more, and gets in plenty of Deadpan Snarker moments.
  • Many game show fans have noticed that Alex Trebek was a lot more laid-back on Classic Concentration (1987-91) when compared to his still-formal hosting style on Jeopardy! at the time. As the show progressed, he also began to wear sweaters instead of suits, further emphasizing his increased casualness.
  • This, along with Reconstruction, may explain the success behind Once Upon a Time.
    • After years of sexed-up comedy shows, reality TV, Darker and Edgier dramas with Black and Gray Morality conflicts, and grisly police/medical/lawyer procedural shows, a straight up battle between good and evil with an intriguing mystery at the core feels so refreshing to audiences in comparison.
    • Once Upon A Time itself experienced this. Seasons 1 and 2 have a notably darker tone than the others - there are far more character deaths, actual sex scenes and some dark subject matter. Later seasons made things much more family friendly.
  • Legend of the Seeker compared to its source material. When your source material includes (among other things) The Big Bad brainwashing a kid then killing him by pouring molten metal down his throat, his Dragon being a serial child molester and murderer, institutionalized gang-rape by the enemy army, and a Serial Killer severing a woman's spinal cord onscreen and then killing her in a manner which made a combat hardened general throw up, a lighter and softer Pragmatic Adaptation is the best you're going to get.
  • Millennium beginning in season 2 and reduced to TV-PG in some episodes instead of mostly TV-14.
  • The Office (US) in later episodes getting TV-PG instead of TV-14.
  • Rizzoli & Isles is much "lighter and softer" than the books it is based on—a more comedic tone, everyone much better looker than their book counterpart, etc.
  • Red Dwarf. Its latest series (Red Dwarf X) is much more easy going, episodic, and not as self serious as the Darker and Edgier adventure-com direction Red Dwarf VII tried to go, nor is it story arc driven, and prison orientated as Red Dwarf VIII was either. It's gone back to its simple, light hearted sit-com roots.
  • Hunter beginning in season 2 when the late Roy Huggins took over as executive producer and toned down the violence.
  • In the 90's, John Larroquette had his own show called, well, The John Larroquette Show. The protagonist was a recovering alcoholic working as the night shift manager of a run down bus station in East St. Louis, and he lived in a one room flop house. Some of the other main characters included a prostitute, a homeless man, and a janitor who took laziness to new extremes. Plots included finding a brick of cocaine in a locker and using it to set up a drug dealer who was trying to extort them. Then the next season came on. John moved to a spacious apartment, started working days, the bum now worked at a newsstand, and the prostitute straightened up, and now owns and runs the local bar. They managed to kill the dark and edgy humor that was the attraction of the original, and the show was summarily canceled.
  • RoboCop: The Series is definitely this trope applied to the franchise. Suddenly things were more cartoony and slapstick, violence is toned down a few notches (as in, RoboCop is not allowed to kill humans), and merchandising has suddenly became Moral Guardians-friendly (you know this trope has struck when the series resulted in a talking RoboCop action figure that tells kids to stay in school and don't do drugs). However, they did keep the parody commercials, so the main draw of the movies are still there, somewhat.
  • Robot Wars: After Season 1, the snarky and often downright rude Jeremy Clarkson was replaced by Large Ham Craig Charles, health and safety rules were beefed up, and contestants were barred from swearing on camera. Also, the show's aesthetic was originally a dark futuristic apocalypse, but that eventually gave way to an aesthetic more like an official boxing or martial arts tournament.
  • The Live-Action Adaptation of Life focuses on the bullying caused by Manami. It completely scrapped Ayumu's Self-Harm habits which are a major part of her character and did away with certain other aspects.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. Even the haters are loathe to admit that the show had some fantastic episodes (the two-parters, especially), but there were aspects of it that were less in keeping with "To go where no man has gone before" and more with a floating fun palace in space. How much time is given to Holodeck pursuits? On a ship which is stranded in uncharted space, one understands the need for distractions, but it always felt like the energy reserves should come first. There seemed a lack of consistency with what was important to the crew outside of just getting home. Voyager was also notorious for coming through battles with Borg Cubes and taking more of a beating than other, larger ships (e.g. Enterprise-D) without so much as a scratch. The stories felt like Voyager was always a day away from the nearest starbase. Red Dwarf took its premise more seriously.
  • Ultra Series
  • Prehistoric Planet was a kid-aimed version of Walking with Dinosaurs that removed (some of) the more graphic content and had narration.
  • Arrow:
    • Season 4 was an attempt at this after a particularly dark season. Oliver finally adopted his comic-book moniker of "Green Arrow", along with a lighter shade of green for his suit, and declared his intention to be a 'symbol of hope' for the city as opposed to the ruthless vigilante he was as the "Arrow". Oliver was in a relationship with Felicity and generally had a more optimistic and agreeable demeanor (dubbed "Ollie 2.0" by Thea). Team Arrow had a swanky new lair that was literally brighter and was more of a family than ever. YMMV on how effective these changes were, especially since the show went on to suffer Seasonal Rot and by the end, things went in a pretty dark direction with Diggle killing his brother Andy, and the death of the Black Canary.
    • In season two, Oliver decided to stop killing criminals in order to prove that he was better then the criminals that plagued the city. This after season one, where he killed a significant number of his opponents, and in the end he manages to stop Merlyn's earthquake machine... only for the back-up machine to go off and cause a great deal of death and destruction anyway. Season two's still a bit dark but an Oliver who only kills as an absolute last resort has much more of a victory against the bad guys.
  • The Flash (2014):
    • The entire series is like this compared to Arrow, with more humor, and the characters still having some Soaperizing but not to the point where things are extremely strained all the time. Even noted in-universe, as The Cowl Oliver tells The Cape Barry that Barry could inspire people in a way that he himself never could. Barry's optimism and willingness to do the right thing even if it seems victory would be better assured by playing dirty is considered one of his best qualities, and is contrasted to Oliver even by Oliver.
    • There's the Flashpoint reality. Elsewhere, Flashpoint and its Animated Adaptation Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox are about the world becoming a total Crapsack World with global destruction imminent due to the war between the Amazons and the Atlanteans (with Aquaman and Wonder Woman as competing Big Bads in a war over who will Take Over the World. In the end, everyone loses.) In the show, the episodes "Flashpoint" and "Paradox" show the altered reality to not be so bad. However, that makes restoring the old reality once Wally is mortally wounded in battle against The Rival much more of a sacrifice.
    • Season 4 has a lighthearted and comedic tone after the darkness brought by Zoom and Savitar.
  • Supergirl (2015):
    • The show is produced by the same team behind Arrow and The Flash, is notably less serious than either one of those shows, with the prospect of superheroics being treated in a very fun and free-spirited fashion, without as much major emotional baggage that the other two shows have had to deal with. In much the same way, it's also less serious than the last live-action iteration of the Superman mythos, Man of Steel.
    • The Freeze-Frame Bonus mentioned below gives us an In-Universe justification for the tone, as well - while hardly utopian, the reality Supergirl occurs in appears to be a good one.
    • That said, it's lighter and softer with teeth, as the DEO - especially Kara's sister - often use deadly force to bring down villains (a heartbreaking example when Alex is forced to kill Astra) and a couple of episodes have addressed whether Kara is capable of doing the same if necessary.
  • Power Rangers does this due to having breather seasons instead of Breather Episodes. RPM's setting was a Post Apocalyptic Terminator-meets-Mad-Max fusion, Samurai had monsters that were basically living torture devices, Megaforce featured villains trying to destroy the entire universe with the Sixth Ranger being the Last of His Kind, and the former two series proved that so long as you mostly skip the word you can have good people stay dead in a kids' show. So while we don't go all the way into comedy or skimp on Character Development, Dino Charge pulled some Revisiting the Roots, with dino-powered teenagers with attitudes making being a superhero look as awesome and fun as possible. (Also, the hilarious tongue-in-cheek Ninja Storm followed the serious In Space thru Wild Force.)
  • Once Upon a Time's first season was a Darker and Edgier take on fairy tales, giving a lot of characters a Family-Unfriendly Death and featuring a lot of dark themes (Regina sacrifices her own father to cast the Dark Curse, a werewolf accidentally eats their own lover, the Huntsman became the Queen's sex slave). In the Storybrooke portions the tone was closer to a procedural, with things like a murder frame up and sex scenes between Regina and Graham. While Seasons 2 and 3 did have some of those dark themes, the show took a much more family-friendly direction by Season 4. Main characters rarely died, there was no brutal violence, villains were much hammier and references to sex vanished overnight.
  • Schitt's Creek was so similar on the surface to another edgy sitcom about rich jerks going broke critics often called it Canadian Arrested Development. However, after the first few episodes, it becomes clear that the main characters on Schitt's Creek are far kinder and the show's humor, while sharp, isn't nearly so cynical.
  • Kamen Rider has had several lighter entries, and while not excatly all sunshine and rainbows, are more lighter than the darker entries. Generally speaking, while still having more character deaths and being darker than Super Sentai, recent series have had more kid-friendly content.
  • The Boys (2019): Definitely, in comparison to the comics. Whilst the show still features brutal, graphic violence, and still shows the depravity of the supes, it doesn't go anywhere near as extreme as the source material. Part of the reason for this is the many changes that were made to the storyline, and the fact that the number of superheroes that appear has been dramatically reduced (with The Seven being the only ones getting any real screen-time), which in turn eliminates much of the sexual depravity that was present in the comic, as well as cutting out the many graphically-violent confrontations that The Boys have with the supe community.
  • Super Sentai is generally more lighthearted than Kamen Rider, though varies when compared with Power Rangers. Sentai usually represents teamwork among Rangers and frienship, where numerous episodes teach an important lesson, and with many recent series, the endings tend to be kid-friendly dancing. Granted, numerous of those seasons tend to become serious as the stories go on, yet they never lose any sense of hope and determination.


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