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Fleeting Demographic

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"I pity a lot of the kids, who are probably looking back on this with embarrassment by now."
Diva, on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Coming Out of Their Shells

A show intended for a certain audience with a clearly defined demographic. Essentially, this means the audience may begin to watch the show at a certain age, but at some point will abandon it later, presumably in the future. This applies to many shows for children. The "original" target audience simply outgrows the show.

Such shows usually do not provide any deliberate treats for a Periphery Demographic. Because anyone watching will not do so for a long time, the showrunners can be tempted into repeating many premises they know the current audience will consider "new".

If the show is particularly long-running, it's not unusual for one generation of viewers to grow out of it, then years later they have children who become fans of the show themselves. The parents may tune in for the first time in 10+ years and claim that the show was better in their time, even though it still pleases the target audience, a clear case of Periphery Hatedom.

Often a consequence of the work being a Unintentional Period Piece. Contrast Growing with the Audience, when the series/franchise matures as its audience matures. If the franchise tries to appeal to a current generation and fails somehow, that's Totally Radical.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Takara & Sunrise's Brave Series of Super Robot shows is an interesting case, as they originally set out to produce something that would attract a new generation of kids each year, but wound up developing a dedicated fanbase anyway. Though the sixth series, The Brave of Gold Goldran, the most "kiddie" of the bunch had the highest TV ratings, it was unpopular with longtime fans and was apparently a merchandising disappointment as well. After that, the final two shows went for Multiple Demographic Appeal, first with Brave Command Dagwon, where the robots were piloted by a team of teen heartthrobs in an attempt to cash in on the earlier Samurai Troopers series' Periphery Demographic success with teenage girls (a scheme Sunrise would again pull, this time with much greater success with Mobile Suit Gundam Wing). Then came GaoGaiGar, a giant love letter to the last two decades of giant robot anime which found much more success with the otaku crowd than it ever did with schoolchildren.
  • Doraemon remakes its anime series and, occasionally, movies every decade or so for precisely this reason.
  • Much of the longevity of Pokémon: The Series can be attributed to the target demographic cycling through about every five years, so the fact that the same general plot is used every generation only serves to annoy some older fans (mostly outside Japan) and no one else. This was taken to its utter extreme in Pokémon: Genesect and the Legend Awakened, where the legendary Pokémon Mewtwo was featured. Although the series had a pre-established and unique Mewtwo character, this movie chose to introduce a brand-new Mewtwo and have no connection to the original, presumably to make things easier for the young children of the day to understand. Yet they brought back Ash's Charizard from the same era anyway.
  • The Pretty Series tends to have a new series every four years or so because of this trope.
  • Astro Boy gets a new series roughly every 20 years.

    Comic Books 
  • Superman comics in the 1950s and 1960s used to repeat the same plots every three to five years, since that was the average length of time a child would read comics. The introductions of Mon-El and Star Boy in the Legion of Super-Heroes are well-known for outright copying earlier stories, to the point where the story that became the Mon-El story was most likely reprinted in the Superman in the 50's book specifically because this made it famous.
  • Archie Comics works on the same premise of recycled plots as Superman, etc; they have kept the Riverdale gang in high school for over 65 years now. About 80 percent of any given new Archie Comic will be stories lifted directly from earlier issues, although with some dialogue and panels edited to prevent Values Dissonance. Strangely, it seems that the majority of its readers nowadays are people who have been reading it ever since they were kids.
  • Treasure Chest, by definition, as it was distributed exclusively through Catholic parochial schools.
  • Fawcett Comics was quite eager to turn Captain Marvel readers into Mechanix Illustrated readers, the logic being that boys (and they saw their audience in The 40s as mostly male) would only read comics for a few years but would read a science/technology/DIY/car magazine for life. The result was that MI often ran house ads in Fawcett's comics and there was even a 6-page "Mechanix Illustrated Adventure" where Billy Batson met a kid who'd built a number of gadgets from plans found in MI.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Mexican-Venezuelan sitcom La CQ was popular among kids and young teens due to its cartoony situations in a live-action environment. However, once the original fans of the series grew up, they look back with embarrassment due to its immature humor and use of high-school clichés. Not helping was the fact that it aired at Cartoon Network at the peak of its Audience-Alienating Era.
  • One of the reasons MTV has maintained its popularity over time is that it elected not to follow its original audience (the teenagers of the 80's) into adulthood, instead opting to always focus its marketing on the current generation of teens. The Simpsons lampshaded this by having a quick reference to Logan's Run that involved microchip-implanted VJs that alerted the execs to send in a new show host whenever the current one turns 25.
  • Disney Channel:
    • Up until around 2007 or so, The Disney Channel had an explicit policy of cancelling shows – animated and live-action – after 65 episodes, regardless of popularity. The first show to avoid the episode-limit cancellation was Kim Possible due to huge fan outcry (and, allegedly, the contract with the German network that ran the show). This concept was an idea held over from the 1980's and the rise of syndication and the early children's cable networks: 65 was the number of episodes you needed for a show to be successfully syndicated,note  and kids will probably watch repeats anyway so why make more? Also, since kids' tastes change so fast, they expected that no child would stick with a show for more than three seasons regardless.
    • The endless tween sitcoms on Disney Channel (the oldest of them only had a span of slightly more than four years) used to go (and occasionally still go) this way as well. Of course, that's also about how long young actors can convincingly play "tweenage" without going into Dawson Casting.
  • Power Rangers: Although the show does have its older fans, the general demographic is young boys who will grow out of it after a few years. This is probably the reason why the show opted to have each season starting with Power Rangers Lost Galaxy be its own self-contained series rather than the continuing storyline of the first six seasons. Power Rangers' Japanese counterpart, Super Sentai, had been doing that all along.
  • In the UK, tween/teen dramas Grange Hill and Byker Grove both had this. Both shows ran for long enough that their original target demographic became utterly periphery, but never completely left the show behind. Unfortunately, the BBC execs decided to shift the target demographic down towards even younger children, resulting in a complete loss of interest from all demographics, and the eventual cancellations of both shows.
  • This is why "classic TV" channels like Nick at Nite and TV Land eventually started including shows from the 90's and even some original content. Their initial target demographic, people who grew up watching TV in the black-and-white and early color years, have been dying of old age. It doesn't get more "fleeting" than that.

  • MAD has lasted fifty years by being read by the newest crop of preteens who initially fall in love with the publication and then a few years later finally grow out of it to complain that "it isn't as funny as it used to be".
  • The more specific the subject, the more likely any line of magazines is to have this kind of demographic. For instance, wedding magazines: Considering the rate at which most people get married (even with divorce rates being so high in our troubled times), chances are most of the sales revenue for the publishers comes from a lot of engaged people buying a few individual issues (or maybe subscribing for the one year leading up to their weddings, and then canceling the subscription once they no longer have a need for it) rather than from the comparatively few wedding coordinators and the like buying the full subscriptions and renewing every year.

  • Hello, Hilary Duff! Or Miley Cyrus! Or... well, pick any tween musician. They're going to be around for a couple years until their current fans get older, at which point the next one comes along. Most of these girls turn out to be their own fleeting demographic.
  • Male teenage pop stars and Boy Bands have a similar problem: The Jonas Brothers were a big teen phenomenon, but their popularity suddenly tanked in 2009 as people started to get tired of Disney shoving them down their throats. This void was filled by Justin Bieber, who became an even bigger phenomenon. Unfortunately, as fast as his fanbase was growing, his hatedom was growing even faster. This turned Bieber into the media's punching bag. Bieber's massive Hype Backlash in turn brought One Direction into the spotlight. The boy band quickly knocked Bieber off of his throne, and once his bad behavior came into play, Bieber fever was over. Justin Bieber had his revenge in 2015, when his comeback album "Purpose" prevented One Direction from debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200.
  • As hinted at above, Disney has made a cottage industry of manufacturing tween pop stars to work like dogs for four years before discarding them for the next kid. This is frequently derided as "the Disney Music Machine" in the press and has been going on for at least 60 years.
  • One of the reasons why "Oldies" radio stations (ie. radio stations devoted to rock and roll made from the mid-50's until about the early-70's) became increasingly sparse around the Turn of the Millennium was because radio executives noticed their target demographic was aging significantly and was, thus, no longer considered profitable. The Popularity Polynomial dictates that oldies/classic rock stations will be roughly Two Decades Behind the current trends. So Hair Metal became increasingly popular on classic rock stations during The Noughties, and now Grunge is taking its place, just like it did in mainstream radio twenty years ago.
  • Hip-Hop music, possibly more than any other genre except teen pop, is heavily tied to the decade of its release. It's not that fans grow out of the genre, it's that they tend to prefer the rap styles from their teenage years over anything that comes later, meaning current hip-hop is exclusively marketed to teens and young adults.
  • Most russ music caters solely to Norwegian high school graduates going through the russefeiring (a celebration that usually involves lots of partying).

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Non-TV example used as a plot point in Pinky and the Brain: Bil Keane's The Family Circus cartoon seems to fall squarely in this section.
  • The comic strip Marvin, about the exploits of an ill-behaved redheaded baby, is designed to appeal to one group and one group only: young mothers. This allows the strip to recycle ideas every few years, and has also lent to its poor reputation among comics fans (this is one of those strips that people love to hate).
  • There are a few newspaper strips that are explicitly made for young children, most notably Bob Weber Jr's Slylock Fox.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Although it is watched by people of many different ages, WWE is aimed at people in their teens to early twenties. The writers take advantage of the fleeting demographic with the seven year rule, which allows storylines to be reused after much of the fanbase has turned over.

  • In-show example: Bye Bye Birdie has a scene where a barely-teenage girl is sad because by the time her idol Conrad Birdie comes back from the army, she'll be too old for him.

    Video Games 
  • Happens with most Edutainment Games, especially the ones specifically made for kids of a particular grade level.

    Web Animation 
  • Chikn Nuggit: Discussed in one short, where Sody Pop claims that he's too old to find fart jokes funny. Chikn Nuggit plays a fart sound on his mobile phone, to which (the presumably older) Slushi struggles to retain her laughter.

    Web Video 
  • The CollegeHumor video EVERY YOUTUBE VIDEO EVER discusses this:
    Emily: 'Cause once you turn sixteen and are smart enough to stop watching my videos, someone else turns twelve and wants to hear me scream about Justin Bieber! (close up) It's like a... fan factory.

    Western Animation 
  • German TV Station Sat1 attempted to invoke Periphery Demographic with Extreme Ghostbusters with the slogan "The Ghostbusters are back", and the time slot of just before prime time on weekdays (7pm, with prime time starting at 8:15pm in Germany). Unfortunately, Extreme Ghostbusters' style clashed with The Real Ghostbusters, and the only opportunity where they could have opted for consistency - using the old voice actors for the returning characters - was passed either out of laziness or because the voice actors in question were too high-priced by now. This led to old fans to dismiss the show, which was quickly shoved into a Saturday morning cartoon slot.
  • Like Doraemon, preschool-aimed cartoons that are Long-Runners tend to recycle plots from previous episodes into newer episodes because of this trope, allowing them to teach lessons done in previous episodes of the show in new ways. One example is Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, which had two episodes on what to do when you get mad that aired three years apart and two Toilet Training Plot episodes that played six years apart from each other. However, this is more noticeable in Season 4, where several of the strategies come from Season 1 episodes, but are altered to be done in a new situation or with other characters.