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Dropped After the Pilot

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Pilots are unique in many ways. Most notably, while any episode can potentially be a viewer's first if they're just channel surfing or simply watching content on a whim, pilot episodes are our intended introduction to the universe that creators (and networks) hope audiences will be willing to spending time in for the next season or two. Or three. Or ten, if they're really lucky.

However, pilots are also produced independently of the rest of the series, and any number of things can happen between the filming and presentation of the pilot and its subsequent pickup. One of these things may be certain characters. Actors may end up getting parts somewhere else, or an extension on a pre-existing contract, preventing them from committing to the full series. The production budget may be smaller than anticipated, so less important roles may be cut to save on the budget. Or the producers may decide that the character doesn't mesh creatively with what they now wish the final product to be, for whatever reason.

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No matter the behind-the-scenes reason, the character is dropped from the show's actual production run. This can manifest in any number of ways within the show's actual narrative: Put on a Bus, killed off, replaced with a new character, or outright ignored. For more major supporting characters (e.g., the main character's best friend or arch-nemesis), it feels a bit like Early Installment Weirdness because the show spends parts of the pilot building up the character as someone of note for the show to follow, only for them to suddenly disappear from episode two onward. For people introduced as minor recurring characters, this could be a form of What Happened to the Mouse?.

Of course, depending on the work, some viewers may not even be aware that this happened: as we said, the pilot is produced independently of the rest of the series. Depending on the studio, the actual pilot episode may not count as part of that first season order and thus only exist as a proof-of-concept that may never make it to air. This is especially common in Western Animation, where pilot episodes are often much shorter than normal episodes, usually clocking in at around seven minutes in length at maximum. In this scenario, some other episode goes on to take the role of the premiere story, while the original pilot ends up locked away in some vault until it's time to put together special features for the DVD/Blu-Ray release, or someone involved in production uploads it online. At which point longtime fans may find themselves exclaiming "wait, who the heck is that!?"

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Subtrope of One-Shot Character and Second Episode Substitute. Related to Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, Nonindicative First Episode and Decoy Protagonist.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Lupin III Pilot Film (released in the west with the Green Jacket series, but in Japan with the Secret Files) has Detective Kogoro Akechi (the same character as Edogawa Rampo's detective), an established character in the manga series, as a partner for Inspector Zenigata who never appears again in the anime portion of the franchise.
  • There were two One Piece pilots both of which had prototypes of the character that would eventually evolve into Nami. The Nami prototype from the first pilot, Silk, eventually did appear in an anime OVA One Piece: Romance Dawn Story, but her character design was significantly altered to look less like Nami.
    • Subverted in the case of the second One Piece pilot which had Luffy's grandfather who didn't appear when the series got picked up. Eight years into the run of the manga in chapter 431, a Marine Vice-Admiral who wore a dog mask and appeared early on in the series removed his mask revealing himself to have been Luffy's grandfather all along.
  • In the second published Rurouni Kenshin pilot, which appeared first in the collected volumes, Kenshin met an Expy of Kaoru named Chizuru. While Chizuru never appeared in the main Rurouni Kenshin manga, she did make a cameo in the Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection OVA as the girlfriend of Kenshin's son Kenji.

     Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman (1942): Mint Candy, the brother of one of the three main characters who works in military intelligence like the other two, is introduced in the first issue and never seen nor mentioned (at least by name) again.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Jake 2.0 had Darin, Jake's best friend and roommate, who is suddenly transferred out of Washington DC.
  • Covert Affairs introduced Annie to Conrad Sheehan, a fellow CIA agent set up as a potential romantic interest/rival, and Conrad subsequently disappears. In his place, we get Jai Wilcox in the second episode, who takes up that mantle.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine made note of three lower-tier detectives in the pilot: Scully, Hitchcock, and Daniels. While Scully and Hitchcock are still around, Daniels is never mentioned again after the pilot. However, her actress that played Daniels later played "scary Marge", the cleaner of precincts.
  • New Girl: In the pilot episode, Jess's third male roommate is Coach, played by Damon Wayans, Jr. In the second episode was Coach was Put on a Bus and Winston Bishop took his place, literally moving into Coach's old bedroom. This forced the show to acknowledge and handwave its Artifact Title in its very second episode, with Jess being told by the two remaining original roommates that because Winston used to live in the loft previously, Jess is still "the new kid." Wayans had left the show to appear in the second season of Happy Endings. After that show was canceled, Coach returned to The New Girl as a recurring character.
  • The pilot of The Golden Girls had a gay Latin houseboy named Coco, who never appeared again.
    • Speaking of The Golden Girls, spin-off Empty Nest's pilot was made as an episode of The Golden Girls, and almost everything about it was dropped after the pilot, including its premise. The pilot starred an older married couple dealing with the fact that their children had all left home; The series was about a widower with three adult daughters, two of whom still lived at home. The only things which carried through to the series were the main character's job as a doctor and the wacky Drop In Neighbor played by David Leisure (although that character also changed name and career).
  • The pilot episode of Dad's Army had a character called Private Bracewell who never appeared again. Word of God says it was decided that he was too similar to Private Godfrey and dropped.
  • On the short-lived 1997 show Players (which starred Ice-T and dealt with three con men now helping the FBI), the pilot takes place in New York, then moves to Los Angeles for the rest of the run. With the move, the boys got a new handler as well.
  • Seinfeld: Claire, the waitress at Pete's Luncheonette, was intended to be a regular but she was replaced by the character Elaine after the pilot episode. Pete's Luncheonette was also replaced with Monk's Cafe, explaining why Claire is never seen again.
  • Psych gave Detective Lassiter a female partner (Anne Dudek appeared as the competent and skeptical Detective Lucinda, no last name given) with whom he was having an affair and who was suspicious of Shawn's "psychic" abilities. Post-pilot she is never seen nor heard of again, she's transferred out in the second episode because of the affair thing and replaced with Shawn's trusting, less skeptical eventual Love Interest, Junior Detective Juliet O'Hara and is only mentioned once more several seasons later.
  • A two-fer for Weeds in Ep. 1x01 You Can't Miss the Bear. Haley Hudson appears as Silas' cool, down-to-earth girlfriend Quinn Hodes, who is also the daughter of major character Celia Hodes. Similarly, Justin Chatwin appears as a fellow Agrestic drug dealer Josh Wilson, who is also the son of major character Doug Wilson. In Ep. 1x02 Free Goat Celia tells Silas that she sent Quinn to Mexico for sleeping with him, as well as revealing that Quinn had a whole day to tell him this herself, but apparently cared more about the songs on her iPod. She returns for two brief appearances during the Season 4 Finale/Season 5 Premiere. Josh, however, is not mentioned again until Season 4 in a short remark from a stoned Doug.
  • Raising Hope opened with Jimmy and Cousin Mike working at the pool-cleaning business and living in Maw-Maw's house. In the second episode (which takes place the morning after the pilot) they're now a yard-working business and he's left a note stating he met a girl and joined a cult. He reappears for a couple of episodes towards the end of Season 1. (Later episodes also state that they do both yard-work and pool cleaning.)
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures had Maria and Sarah Jane's loud-mouthed neighbor Kelsey, who is set up as Maria's friend and possibly a member of Sarah Jane's newly formed alien hunting squad (despite outright denying the extraterrestrial things she witnessed). Kelsey is never mentioned again note  after the pilot, and her role as the "cool one" is given to Clyde, who ends up sticking around the whole series and providing the Opening Narration. The given reason for this was that the regular cast in the pilot was felt to "skew too female", and replacing Kelsey with Clyde balanced things out, although nebulous rumours stated that the actress was difficult to work with.
  • The pilot of No Ordinary Family is presented in a How We Got Here fashion using P.O.V. Cam as if the various family members are talking to a family therapist, but as of the second episode, it's clear they've never been to therapy or told anyone about what happened to them.
  • Babylon 5: Executive officer Laurel Takashima, chief of medicine Dr Benjamin Kyle and station telepath Lyta Alexander were all dropped after the Pilot Movie and replaced by Susan Ivanova, Dr Stephen Franklin and Talia Winters respectively). The characters' disappearances were explained in-story, and in Lyta's case became a plot point in the Myth Arc. Dr Kyle was referred to several times throughout the series, and Lyta was later brought back as a major character. Word of God is that JMS had contingency plans for replacing any of the main characters just in case.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • Perhaps the most famous example, every character except for Spock was replaced after the first unsuccessful pilot episode "The Cage", and Spock was considerably reworked, being promoted to take Number One's spot as executive officer and having his character as a Vulcan fleshed out. Spock actually grins at one point in the episode. (Majel Barrett, who played the ship's executive officer and helmsman Number One in "The Cage", was later brought back for the series to play recurring character Nurse Chapel.)
    • The second pilot episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before" had Doctor Mark Piper, Communications Officer Alden and Yeoman Smith. They were replaced in the series by Leonard McCoy, Lieutenant Uhura and Janice Rand respectively.
  • The pilot of Star Trek: Voyager features a prominent bridge officer named Ensign Rollins, who commands the ship when the main characters are absent. He is never seen again and is only mentioned in passing once, in Season 2. According to Scott McDonald, the actor who played him, he was dropped because the producers felt there were too many male characters.
  • Hogan's Heroes had Leonid Kinskey as a tailor named Vladimir Minsk in the pilot. Carter was a prisoner making his way through. Vladimir's actor decided the show wasn't taking the Nazis seriously enough and quit, and Carter became the fifth main character for the series proper.
  • The two episodes of JAG that comprised the Poorly Disguised Pilot for NCIS had a character named Vivian Blackadder on Team Gibbs. Come the first episode of the spinoff, she's nowhere to be seen, and her slot on the team is quickly filled by new recruit Caitlin Todd.
  • The character Sonny from My Name Is Earl, until he is unexpectedly (and briefly) brought back in the third season. Earl even lampshades this in the relevant episode.
  • In the unaired pilot of The Big Bang Theory there's a girl named Katie whom Leonard and Sheldon rescue from being homeless and moves in with them, and Gilda, geeky female friend/fellow researcher of theirs with whom Sheldon has had sex. In the real continuity of the show, Sheldon is a No Hugging, No Kissing advocate, hasn't lost his virginity because of it, unlike the more sex-driven Leonard, and recoils at the mere mention of coitus.
  • The pilot of Home and Away features Gwen Plumb as a gossip named Doris Peters. By the time the series proper went into production, the actress was committed to another role: Doris Peter is mentioned several times in early seasons as a local gossip but is never seen again, while Alf Stewart was quickly given a sister, Celia, who functioned as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute.
  • In the pilot of Go On a man named Don is in the group Ryan joins. He disappears after that.
  • On The Finder, Ike Latulippe appears in the Backdoor Pilot as Walter's bartender and pilot. She is never seen after that.
  • In the first episode of The Brady Bunch the girls have a pet cat named Fluffy, who Tiger (the boys' dog) runs after and ruins the wedding reception. Fluffy is never seen again.
  • Breakout Kings:
    • The con artist Philly in the pilot episode was intended to be a regular member of the team. She doesn't appear in the series, replaced by bounty hunter Erica. Her absence is at least explained, as the Marshals discovered she was concealing ill-gotten gains and she was thrown of the program and transferred to high-security prison.
    • The show also has another seeming team-member cut (i.e. sent back to prison) before the end of the first episode, because he pocketed a knife while they were in a restaurant, apparently planning to escape. The guy shows up in a later episode wherein he aids the team from prison.
  • Constantine replaced the pilot's female lead, who was featured heavily in the trailers. Liv was the daughter of a powerful wizard and the pilot looked like it was setting her up to be John's apprentice. Audiences and fans of the comics reacted poorly, so the end of the pilot was rewritten to get rid of her. Zed, a character from the comics, replaced her in the second episode.
  • The pilot for The Office (US) featured several unnamed Dunder-Mifflin coworkers working in the office alongside the eventual supporting cast. Most of them were gone by the next episode and by the end of the season, the only ones left were the now-familiar named characters.
  • On The Following, there's originally a female FBI agent named Jennifer Mason working alongside Ryan Hardy and Mike Weston. She's replaced in episode two by Debra Parker, a specialist on "alternative religions".
  • In "Everybody's Favorite Bagman," the Law & Order pilot, Roy Thinnes portrays District Attorney Alfred Wentworth. When it came time for the series to go into production, Thinnes was unavailable, working on a revival of Dark Shadows. So the role was renamed ("Adam Schiff") and recast (Stephen Hill). There was no on-screen explanation for the change, which really confused viewers when NBC inexplicably aired the pilot as the sixth episode.
  • In the pilot for White Collar, Agent Diana Barrigan is introduced as part of the team; however, in episode two, she is nowhere to be found, and Agent Lauren Cruz takes the place as the female operative. However, in the final episode of Season One, there's a bit of bus shuffling as suddenly Lauren Cruz is never mentioned again and Diana takes back her old position, and remains there for the rest of the series.
  • The pilot episode of ER actually featured TWO Naïve Newcomer medical students—Carter, and a young woman assigned to Doug Ross and intended to be his love interest. But when positive test audience feedback forced the producers to revive Carol Hathaway, the student was given a case of Chuck Cunningham Syndrome.
  • Callie Cartwig from The 100 was councilwoman Abigail's best friend, openly confronted Kane and was an important enough member of the Ark that she served as liaison between the rulers and the people, but she isn't even mentioned past the pilot. Word of God is the character was executed offscreen due to budgetary reasons.
  • Captain Gregson's assistant in Elementary's pilot was a guy named Abreu, but starting with the second episode he's replaced by detective Marcus Bell, who mostly serves the same functions in the story.
  • In the pilot of Arrow we're introduced to Raisa, the cook at the Queen family household, who's presented as a motherly figure to Oliver, a contrast to his aloof biological mother Moira and whom viewers could reasonably expect to be a recurring character. Instead, no mention of her was made until her reappearance in "Fallout," the Season 6 premiere.
  • Mozhan Marnò only appeared in the pilot of Madam Secretary as an image adviser, then disappeared as she got the role of Samar Navabi in The Blacklist.
  • The Flash (1990) dropped Barry Allen's girlfriend Iris West after the pilot and Tina McGee replaced her as Barry's love interest.
  • Eureka: Ally McBeal alum Greg Germann appeared in the pilot as the head of Global Dynamics Warren King, who was replaced by the character of Nathan Stark by the second episode.
  • The Wizard: The aired pilot introduces us to Simon's housekeeper Darcy Stafford, and "occasional assistant" Jack Brooks, a teenager who tries to make his own toys but always ends up failing spectacularly. Episode 2 explains that Darcy was transferred to Alex's old job, and Simon's old friend Tillie takes her place. As for Jack, he's simply never mentioned again.
  • Castle had a fourth NYPD detective in "Flowers For Your Grave" who answered the phone and told the others about developments in the case... and that was it.
  • The first episode of Night Court had Gail Strickland as the original public defender, and was even credited in the main cast. Come episode two and she disappears without a trace, replaced by Paula Kelly as Liz Williams, who only lasted the rest of the season herself.
  • The pilot of NewsRadio had Greg Lee as handyman Rick only to be replaced by Conspiracy Theorist electrician and Homemade Inventions producer Joe Garelli (Joe Rogan).
  • The very first episode of Webster had Art LaFleur as a regular, playing George's co-worker at the radio station. However, since Executive Meddling wanted the show to focus on Webster and not the adults, he was deemed extraneous and never appeared again.
  • Tales of the Gold Monkey: The Gold Monkey of the title never has any importance past the first episode, and only shows up in the background of Louie's bar in the remainder of the season. On top of everything else, it's actually made of brass.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man (1978) began with a Pilot Movie titled simply Spider-Man. Robbie Robertson was featured in it, but made no appearances at all in the subsequent series.
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    Western Animation 
  • In the first episode of Teen Titans, Slade has a butler based on Wintergreen from the comic book. He's never seen again (except for a couple of cameos in the fifth season) and Slade works alone later in the series.
  • The third part of the Five-Episode Pilot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) introduced General Traag and his right-hand man, a grey Rock Soldier named Sergeant Granitor. While Traag remained a recurring character, Granitor never appeared again after his debut.
  • The 1985 pilot for Pound Puppies (1980s) featured several characters who are unaccounted for in the remainder of the series. One notable example is the Puppy Pound's original owner Mr. Bigelow, who in the series is replaced by Holly as owner of the pound in the first season, and by Katrina Stoneheart in the second season.
  • The Cow and Chicken pilot episode "No Smoking" had the Red Guy assisted by Cerberus. The Red Guy's three-headed canine accomplice never appeared in any other episodes after Cow and Chicken became a series, except in this TV promo.
  • Lampshaded in the Family Guy episode Back To The Pilot where Stewie notes that the men drinking at the bachelor party in the first episode are never mentioned again. When he returns to the present at the end of the episode, Peter invites them to the house.
  • In The Tome of the Unknown, an animated short that served as a pilot for Over the Garden Wall, technically has this if you consider a book a character. The short has Wirt, Greg and Beatrice in search of the titular book, the existence of which is completely omitted in the final miniseries. Additionally, the giant goose they found at the end of the short was implied to be a new companion for them, but he never appears in the series.
  • Twelve Forever has Shane and Tristan, who appeared in the original short, but not in the show. Shane ended up being replaced by Todd and Esther (with the former being a straight-up expy of him), and several of Tristan's traits were given to Dustin, Reggie's brother.
  • The Fairly OddParents: A very unusual example. In the first Oh Yeah! Cartoons short Vicky had a younger brother whom we heard screaming over the telephone. We never saw his face and subsequent episodes make no further reference to him, with Vicky's younger sister Tootie being the only sibling she's shown to have.

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