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Short-Lived, Big Impact

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Died aged 32. Appeared in only five completed filmsnote  as an adult. And yet, a whole film genre wouldn't exist without him.
"It's people like that who make you realize how little you've accomplished. It is a sobering thought, for example, that when Mozart was my age,note  he had been dead for two years."
Tom Lehrer, introducing "Alma" on the 1965 album That Was the Year That Was

Sometimes a show, performer, or franchise, for some reason or another, doesn't last too long. Perhaps Executive Meddling reared its ugly head and it was Screwed by the Network, perhaps someone Died During Production, or maybe it was simply ahead of its time. However, a few years down the road, the genre that it belonged to explodes in popularity, and when you interview the creative minds behind the genre, they ALWAYS put that particular work front and center as their biggest influence. Quite simply, it was a Short-Lived Big Impact.

This trope is about something having left a noticeable impact on its genre, even though the work/artist was cut short. Short works that were great but have not influenced their genre a lot yet don't go here.

In serial media (comic books, anime, western cartoons, etc.), this trope can manifest as a work that was cut short or simply not meant to be a Long Runner, but the impact it left on the genre is still felt.

In music, this is not a One-Hit Wonder: a Short-Lived Big Impact musical act might actually have multiple hits before they left the scene, or even no hits at all. One Hit Wonder usually refers to an artist or act that left no impact beyond the popularity of their one hit, a Short-Lived Big Impact's effect on their genre is still felt.

Can overlap with Dead Artists Are Better, Too Good for This Sinful Earth and Too Cool to Live. May be the subject of a Celebrity Elegy. Some of the examples in One-Book Author fit here too. Contrast Small Role, Big Impact, which is where something is only in a work or series of works for a relatively small amount of time, but ends up being very important to the work as a whole.

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Other examples:

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  • This Cheerios ad caused controversy due to it featuring an interracial family in spite of that having nothing to do with the commercial itself. Even through all of the hoopla that caused it to be pulled after a limited time and it becoming more well-known due to the reaction of the public, the little girl actress appeared with her real-life interracial parents in interviews and took the backlash in stride, it soon was followed by a sequel commercial (where the mother was pregnant), and it gave way to a significant increase of other commercials with "untraditional" families and couples, which was considered quite uncommon until that time.
  • While was one of the many victims of the dot-com bubble in the late '90s and early 2000s, the sock puppet used in their advertisements has kept a considerably high profile since then, having sold Bar None insurance for over a decade.
  • "Where's the Beef?", an advertising campaign for the fast-food chain Wendy's, lasted for less than a year. However, the ads are still well-known to generations too young to have seen them, and "where's the beef?" has become a common phrase for questioning the "substance" of a concept or idea.

    Acting and Modeling 
  • In 2016, Chadwick Boseman played Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, and went on to become the Ensemble Dark Horse of the film. The Black Panther solo film two years later made him the first actor of color to lead a Marvel Cinematic Universe film. The movie in question grossed over one billion dollars, restoring faith in the viability of POC leads in superhero films, and also became the first superhero film to get nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Outside the MCU, he also gave memorable performances in historical films about black men who were trailblazers for other African-Americans, such as Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and Thurgood Marshall. By the time of his death from colon cancer in 2020 at the age of 43 (a diagnosis that he had managed to keep secret for four years, making it that much more of a shock to his fans and the public), he had been pegged as one of the best actors of his generation and one whose success had opened countless doors for black actors in particular.
  • Gia Carangi's career as a professional fashion model only lasted six years (1977-1983), and when she died three years later at age 26 of AIDS-related complications, she was largely forgotten, but her legacy in the fashion world lives on. Cindy Crawford, who rose to prominence the same year Carangi died, was nicknamed "Baby Gia" due to her resemblance to Carangi.
  • John Cazale only acted in five films during his career before dying of lung cancer in 1978 at age 42. However, his work is some of the most enduring in Hollywood history: Those five filmsnote  were all nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and are all seminal classics of the "New Hollywood" era.
  • James Dean had a four-year TV career of mostly-forgotten roles on the then-popular Genre Anthology series of the day. He then starred in just three Hollywood films and died in a tragic car crash at age 24 shortly after finishing the third one, but his performances in East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause (especially the latter) defined the "misunderstood bad-boy teen" image of the era.
  • Jean Harlow died in 1937 at the age of twenty-six, having only been in the film business for about nine years - and she had worked only as an extra for two of them. Yet she was the most famous blonde bombshell of the day and went down as an iconic sex symbol (her scene in Hell's Angels is the Trope Namer for Slip into Something More Comfortable). There was even a national day of mourning in the UK when she died.
  • Grace Kelly herself wasn't particularly short-lived but her career was short; she only appeared in 11 films between 1951 and 1956 before giving up acting for good to become the Princess of Monaco. However, several of her films became classics, she won an Academy Award and in 1999, the American Film Institute included her among the top 50 greatest screen legends in American film history.
  • Former adult actress Mia Khalifa is still enormously popular among fans despite being a performer for a mere three months between 2014 and 2015. She managed to use her popularity to launch a career as a sports commentator and social media celebrity.
  • Heath Ledger was just 28 when he died, but with his performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight, he became the first actor to win an Academy Award (as Best Supporting Actor) for a comic book movie.
  • Bruce Lee earned fame as Kato on The Green Hornet and starred in only five films, and died at the age of 32, but he is widely credited with introducing martial-arts films to the United States, and popularizing East Asian culture. His fighting philosophy still lives on to this day, and he has inspired dozens upon dozens of Bruce Lee clones.
  • Jean Harlow's Spiritual Successor Marilyn Monroe lasted a little longer - dying at thirty-six - but her career was pretty short too. Although she had been working in films since 1947, her big break as a sex symbol didn't come until 1953 and she would be dead less than ten years later. She's a pop culture icon and one of the most famous stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood (even if she technically came in around the end of it).
  • River Phoenix was a child actor who after starring in the hit film Stand by Me was able to transition into more sophisticated and critically acclaimed roles such as My Own Private Idaho and Sneakers and was also an activist for many environmental, animal and human rights. Sadly, he passed away from a drug overdose at the age of 23, but his influence still lives on in many actors of his generation and beyond, including his beloved and equally talented kid brother.
  • Filipino comedian Rene Requiestas was one of the country's top-grossing comedy acts owing to his gaunt, nearly-toothless appearance. Rene was often cast as sidekicks or as Comic Relief in various comedy-dramas alongside prominent actors of the '80s and '90s, though he has also played major roles especially in the unauthorised Batman musical pastiche Alyas Batman En Robin where he appeared as Joker. Apparently his career was just too good to last, succumbing from tuberculosis at the age of 36, though he is still well-remembered as a comedy legend alongside the likes of Dolphy. Such was his legacy that an independent filmmaker hired a Requiestas impersonator named Gilbert Orcine (who previously joined a lookalike contest in It's Showtime) in a parody trailer of the 2019 film Joker entitled Alyas Joker, in reference to Requiestas' role as Joker in Alyas Batman.
  • Filipino actor Rico Yan was one of the country's biggest heartthrobs at the time of his death at the age of 27 on March 29, 2002. His showbiz career lasted for 7 years and was known for his relationship with Claudine Barretto.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Azumanga Daioh only ran for three years (1999 to 2002, resulting in only four volumes' worth of material), and the anime adaptation had only 26 episodes. It's still considered a classic, with it being well known for influencing the Slice of Life and Moe genres as well as being the Trope Codifier for Schoolgirl Series.
  • Cowboy Bebop. Much like Evangelion, this is a 26-episode series which is frequently hailed as one of the best anime ever created, if not the best, even by those who don't like anime.
  • Dear Brother only ran from March to September in 1974, and the 1991 anime adaptation is only 39 episodes long (though it also greatly fleshes out the plot and characters compared to the manga). Despite this, this series has still had a considerable influence on both shoujo and yuri works (especially works where both overlap).
  • FLCL, from the same studio that made Evangelion, consisted of only a six-episode miniseries prior to the airing of its equally-short pair of sequel series in 2018, but it's often cited by American anime fans as probably one of the best anime comedies thanks to its memorable characters, impressively high-quality and experimental animation, and a catchy soundtrack. [adult swim] also often states that FLCL is probably their favorite anime (thanks to the show's humor being somewhat in line with what Adult Swim likes to do with their own shows).
  • The Heart of Thomas was serialized for only seven months (May to December 1974) and wasn't well-received at first, but it became one of the most popular manga in its magazine by the end of its run. It was also a huge influence on shoujo manga as a medium, with many of its stylistic and narrative hallmarks becoming staples of shoujo manga going forward, as well as being an early landmark of the Yaoi Genre.
  • Kuso Miso Technique was just a one-shot manga. Its impact in the form of the "yaranaika" meme and helping to bring the Bara Genre to the attention of the anime fandom came... 20 years after its publication.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion only lasted 26 episodes (which is only half of what most other mecha anime would get at the time), but is widely considered one of the greatest and most iconic anime series in existence. Its success after first airing actually saved the anime industry from the verge of bankruptcy (there had been several high profile box office failures beforehand), and it inspired a wave of more ambitious original anime projects in the years to come.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica may have lasted 12 episodes, 2 compilation movies, and a sequel film, but to most anime fans (especially in the West), it is one of the most memorable (still very popular up to this day) and successful anime of all time, probably due to it being a Darker and Edgier take on the Magical Girl genre, the complex plot, the memorable characters, and the fantastic soundtrack. It also turned Studio Shaft and Gen Urobuchi into Household Names among anime fans.
  • The Rose of Versailles was serialized for only a year and a half (May 1972 to December 1973), but it was the first shoujo manga to achieve mainstream critical and commercial success; beforehand, most shoujo manga series were simple stories aimed at elementary school-aged girls, but Berubara proved that teenage girls and young women were also a viable demographic for manga.

  • Caravaggio is hailed as the premier Baroque artist, innovative for his use of tenebrism in his works. He only lived to be 38.
  • Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino is considered of the most influential master artists of the Renaissance period, whose works have inspired many others after him. He sadly died of an unknown sickness at age 37.
  • While photographer O. Winston Link lived a long life, having died at the age of 86, his actual career in the photography industry was pretty short, lasting from 1955 up until 1960, a total of five years. Afterwards, he focused primarily on advertisement up until his retirement in 1983. Regardless, Winston is a well-regarded figure in the world of photography not just for producing more than 2,400 black and white photos of steam-hauled trains on the Norfolk and Western Railroad, but also for pioneering night photography.

  • While Bill Hicks started young, most of what's available from him comes from 1988 to 1993, shortly before his death in 1994 from pancreatic cancer at the age of 32. His material has influenced a whole generation of comics such as David Cross, Patton Oswalt, and Sarah Silverman.
  • Mike Nichols and Elaine May formed an influential and ground-breaking improvisational comedy team in the late 1950s but had disbanded by 1961.
  • Another big influence on many modern comics is Mitch Hedberg, especially today's one-liner comedians, despite his short lived career brought on by his death from a drug overdose at the age of 37.
  • Lenny Bruce died slightly older than most examples here (he died in 1966 at age 40), but his rude (and obscene in its day) sets were pioneering and helped set the tone of such comics that came after (as well as contemporaries such as George Carlin).

    Comic Books 
  • Watchmen - a 12 issue monthly comic that ran for just over a year, and initially protected by an editorial mandate from DC forbidding anything from anything else from being written in the same universe (though that ceased being the case in 2012), yet perhaps more than any other comic it made or codified everything about The Dark Age of Comic Books.
  • The Ultimate Marvel line is comparatively much smaller and less-read than Marvel Comics' mainstream output, having ceased publication after "only" fifteen years, but nonetheless has proven very influential in both the film and TV adaptations since the 2000s. It'd take too long to list all of them, but just to name a few Ultimate elements that made it into other media:
  • The X-Men plot line Days of Future Past only lasted for two issues in 1981, yet it is considered one of the most popular and influential plots in the entire series.
  • Jim Steranko's entire Marvel output consists of his seminal run on Nick Fury, two issues of X-Men and three issues of Captain America, a single romance comic, and a horror story, for a total of 29 issues. He's been compared to Jimi Hendrix in how influential his small body of work was.
  • With the exception of Kamandi, most of Jack Kirby's works for DC Comics in the '70s were short-runners, with O.M.A.C. lasting eight issues, the Demon for sixteen and his New Gods series lasting eleven (both New Gods and Forever People) or seventeen for Mister Miracle. Yet they all became colossal influences on the creators to come and the characters became a staple of DCU, with Darkseid being considered one of DC's greatest villains of all time.
  • Todd Mc Farlane's run on Spider-Man lasted from 1988-1991 and contributed a total of 44 issues plus a one-shot mini-story in an issue of "Spectacular Spider-Man" featuring The Prowler, he is still considered to be one of the greatest and most influential artists on the series and his issues are still among the most collected among collectors.
  • God Nose was a one-shot, self-published title done by Jack "Jaxon" Jackson in 1964. It was only a one-shot but paved the way for many other Underground Comics such as the work of Robert Crumb and was even the first real underground comic.
  • Jim Lee's run on X-Men is considered one of the most iconic and influential of the series; he illustrated a total of 25 issues between 1989-1992.
  • The Anthology Comic Amazing Adventures, later retitled Amazing Adult Fantasy, was cancelled after fifteen issues, but its last issue, retitled again to Amazing Fantasy, introduced the world to Spider-Man.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Eddie and the Cruisers is an in-world example: the eponymous band is hailed as the forerunners of modern rock even though the band disbanded after the sudden death/disappearance of their lead singer/songwriter.
  • The Evil Dead film series is considered one of the big names of horror, despite consisting of only five movies (the original trilogy, made between 1981 and 1993, a controversial reboot from 2013, and a fifth movie in 2023), compared to other big horror franchises which often go well into the double digits.
  • French director Jean Vigo directed only two feature films, Zéro de conduite and L'Atalante, before his death in 1934 at 29 years old. He is nonetheless considered one of the greatest directors of all time, and massively influenced French cinema, including the directors of the French New Wave (he was a favourite of François Truffaut). There's even a prestigious award named after him, the Prix Jean Vigo.
  • When the TV documentary film Big Fun in the Big Town was first broadcast on Dutch television in 1986 it had a huge impact on its viewers. It is credited with popularizing Hip-Hop in the Netherlands and inspired the Dutch language hip-hop acts that would follow from the late 1980s, early 1990s on. Amazingly enough, this entire broadcast is only 40 minutes long!
  • Herk Harvey only directed one feature film — Carnival of Souls — but that one film is one of the most influential and acclaimed cult classics of all time, directly inspiring the far more well-known Night of the Living Dead (1968) and earning a spot in The Criterion Collection.
  • King Kong is often considered to be one of the most iconic giant movie monsters of all time, despite the fact that he has only had six solo movies, two of which were remakes of the original film.
  • Michael Keaton only played Batman in two movies (prior to the upcoming flash movie). Despite this fact, his performance is often considered to be one of the definitive on screen portrayals of Batman.
  • While the New Hollywood era lasted just under two decades compared to the several decades of the Studio System and Blockbuster eras (the latter of which is still ongoing), it had a profound impact on how Hollywood operated. New Hollywood was the era in which, at least in the eyes of academics and the American cultural elite, cinema finally secured its status as True Art after decades of fighting for acceptance alongside literature, theater, and music. The old studio system, in which the producers had the ultimate say in everything that happened on set and backstage, was gone for good, and wouldn't be replicated even after they started reasserting their power.
  • Jeff Barnaby only made two features before his death, Rhymes for Young Ghouls and Blood Quantum, but those movies proved to be highly influential in Canadian First Nations genre cinema, to the point where in 2023, a grant was established in his name to fund such projects.

  • John Keats was only 25 when he died in 1821, with only three books of his work published, but is considered one of the Great Romantic Poets.
  • Stieg Larsson, author of the Millennium Series, died from a heart attack in 2004 before finishing what was supposed to be a five-book series. The series became a phenomenon, and many a modern author is already showing influence from his books, especially amongst the Nordic countries.
  • The Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne were extremely successful and influential authors, but they only wrote a total of seven books between the three of them. Also, they all died young; Charlotte at age 38, Emily at age 30, and Anne at age 29.
  • John Kennedy Toole died of suicide at 31 without publishing anything. Years after his death, A Confederacy of Dunces got published, received a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and became a canonical work of Southern Literature. You'll still find plenty of references to it around New Orleans.
  • Arthur Rimbaud is considered one of the most influential poets of the 19th century, despite giving up writing at 19 years of age.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird was Harper Lee's only published novel for most of her life, yet it remains a popular and influential one.
  • The tendency of influential and brilliant mathematicians to die young is discussed in G. H. Hardy's essay, A Mathematician's Apology. He points out that "Galois died at twenty-one, Abel at twenty-seven, Ramanujan at thirty-three, Riemann at forty."note  Hardy himself lived to be seventy, but he, like many others, believed that mathematics is often a "young man's game" and had been afraid that his mathematical ability was declining when he wrote the essay in his sixties.
  • Chaucer died having finished only a quarter of his greatest work, The Canterbury Tales. His work popularized English as the language of writing after centuries of obscurity as a commoner's language.
  • After writing three novels under other pseudonymsnote , Cordwainer Smith (Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger) wrote his first major science fiction story in 1945 although it was not published until 1950. The majority of his science fiction stories were written between 1955 and his untimely death in 1966. They comprise 33 short stories and one novel and have been collected in two volumesnote . Despite this relative lack of quantity, his work was so innovative and influential that it remains in print to this day while many of his contemporaries languish in obscurity.
  • Cyril M. Kornbluth was another pioneer of early American science fiction who wrote prolifically before dying of a heart attack at 34. While not widely remembered today, he influenced many of the giants of the era, and his story "The Marching Morons" remains a touchstone of dystopian literature.
  • Nescio, the pen-name of Jan H.F. Grönloh, is generally considered one of the greats of Dutch literature, on the basis of three short stories published within his lifetime plus a smattering of posthumously-discovered fragments.
  • Stephen Crane died at the age of twenty-eight, yet he was one of the earliest Americans to write realistic literature.
  • Mikhail Lermontov is considered to be one of the greatest Russian poets. His literary career lasted only six years; it was cut short by his death in a duel at age 26.
  • Robert E. Howard, forefather of Sword and Sorcery fantasy and creator of Conan the Barbarian, committed suicide at the age of 30.
  • Georg Büchner died of typhus in 1837, at the age of 23. By this time, he had already written a major historical drama, a beloved comedic satire, and most of Woyzeck, a working-class tragedy more than a century ahead of its time. The critical consensus is that had he lived longer, he'd belong in the same league as Goethe and Shakespeare.
  • Russian poets. Full stop. If a poet dies older than 35, he/she isn't trustworthy. Exceptions are possible for those who had poetry only as a hobby or was a scientist.
  • Dionysios Solomos is revered as Greece's greatest poet, having written Hymn to Liberty, from which the words of the national anthem of Greece (and of Cyprus) were taken. Compared to some of the other writers mentioned here, Solomos lived to a relatively ripe age (58). However, he belongs here because Hymn to Liberty was his only completed work. He left behind a huge trove of uncompleted poem fragments (sometimes fragments of two different poems were left on the same page), but a combination of various family disputes and his being The Perfectionist limited his ability to finish his work. His importance is more in that he invented a style of writing that brought classical Greek poetry into the 19th century world. And besides, Hymn to Liberty, with 158 stanzas, is quite a substantial poem in and of itself (only the first two stanzas are used for the national anthem).

    Live-Action TV 
  • British Brevity means that, by American standards, many classic British TV shows are fairly short-lived. American viewers unfamiliar with this may be surprised when they get into some of these shows and find that they only had enough episodes to fill half a US TV season. Just a few examples:
    • Fawlty Towers: Two batches of 6 episodes apiece, produced several years apart, for 12 episodes total
    • The Office: 12 episodes plus a Christmas special
    • Spaced: Two batches of 7 episodes apiece, for a total of 14.
    • Mr. Bean only ran five years (1990-1995) and fifteen episodes.note  However, well over two decades after it ended, it and the series' eponymous character still remain a memorable fixture in pop culture, with two films, an animated version and numerous subsequent guest appearances throughout the years (including the 2012 London Summer Olympics) under its belt. Furthermore, it is seen as one of the breakout series of the UK that allowed international audiences to embrace the country's style of television, along the likes of Doctor Who, The Benny Hill Show, The Office (UK), Blackadder (another series that featured Rowan Atkinson) and Absolutely Fabulous.
  • Arrested Development only lasted three seasons (at least, before being Uncancelled) but those first seasons had a huge impact on sitcoms, causing them to become more continuity heavy and meta.
  • The Adam West-starred Batman (1966) series defined the Caped Crusader in the public eye for decades (and seemingly permanently in Japan), but the TV show itself only ran for two-and-a-half seasons.
  • Chappelle's Show only lasted two seasons, but it's right up there with South Park as one of Comedy Central's most popular shows, to the point that it's still aired regularly in syndication and on its home channel, and its sketches have reached memetic status. The show was highly influential even after its run (spawning more than a few imitators) and some people regard it as one of the greatest sketch comedies ever made.
  • Dateline's "To Catch a Predator" segment only lasted from 2004-2007 when it was abruptly canceled due to a would-be predator committing suicide to avoid being arrested. Nonetheless, it gave way to greater awareness of internet safety, especially for children, inspired plenty of parodies or knockoffs, made its host Chris Hansen a household name (although he had been an anchor with NBC for over a decade by then) and was referenced in several other television shows, including MADtv (1995), The Boondocks and The Simpsons.
  • The Davy Crockett cultural phenomenon of the 1950s was so huge and pervasive that it's easy to forget that the Disney series that kicked it off was altogether only five episodes within a larger show.
  • Space Western series Firefly aired ten of fourteen episodes Out of Order before being cancelled by Fox, but became a Cult Classic for its memorable setting and characters and sold very well on DVD. It became a Fountain of Memes and spawned continuation comics and novels, the Big Damn Movie Serenity, two editions of a tabletop RPG, and an MMORPG that became Vaporware, and many early Trope Namers on This Very Wiki.
  • The Greatest American Hero: The show only ran for about 2.5 seasons, but is still more or less the go-to show for Superhero parodies. The show lives on today in a comic book, as well as many shoutouts in everything from Seinfeld to The Big Bang Theory to Robot Chicken to Homestar Runner to The Cinema Snob. Of course, having an awesome theme song will do that for you.
  • Considered one of the most popular and influential television series ever, The Honeymooners lasted for only one year.note 
  • In Living Color! was a predominantly black Sketch Show lasted for only four years from 1990 to 1994, but still served as a Spiritual Predecessor to MADtv (1995), inspired rival show Saturday Night Live to bring in more minorities and not underuse them and launched the careers of several of their cast members and writers, such as Keenen Ivory Wayans, Damon Wayans, Tommy Davidson, Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Lopez, David Alan Grier, Kim Coles, and Larry Wilmore.
  • It can be argued that if it wasn't for Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot, Toei would never have considered giving any hero a giant robot period. The show only ran for one 26 episode season, but it was considered by Toei to be their first modern tokusatsu employing all the tropes they still use to this day on Super Sentai and Kamen Rider. It also served as the inspiration for the now more well known Giant Robo: The Day The Earth Stood Still anime OVA which is widely regarded as one of the best mecha OVA's of all time.
  • Lizzie McGuire only lasted for 65 episodes (the cutoff for Disney shows at that time) in two seasons, and one movie, but it helped to codify much of the formula for Disney Channel kidcoms for the next fifteen or so years,note  opened up the teenage demographic to the channel, and helped to make Hilary Duff one of the biggest teen stars of her time.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers continues to endure in public consciousness, even when the franchise has run for far more seasons and is still ongoing. Even that series itself just had three seasons. But the most remembered line-up - Jason, Zack, Trini, Billy and Kimberly (with Tommy later joining as a Sixth Ranger) - were only in the first season. A few episodes into the second, the first three were Put on a Bus and replaced with Rocky, Adam and Aisha, and Kimberly departed in the third to be replaced with Kat. Theirs is the line-up most often rebooted or adapted in comic or film form, and the first one is likely to think of whenever Power Rangers is mentioned. Tommy is more remembered for being the Green and White Rangers in that line up - even though he spent more time as a Red Ranger in Power Rangers Zeo and Power Rangers Turbo.
  • Also premiering in 1966, The Monkees TV series only lasted for two seasons, while the band itself lasted just five years (the original lineup didn't last far past the end of the series), but managed to produce many bestselling albums and singles, introduced the hippie counterculture to prime time, influenced many made-for-TV pop groups (animated and live-action), and introduced mainstream audiences to Tim Buckley and Frank Zappa. The show also helped pioneer the music video and popularized the Moog synthesizer through Micky Dolenz's use of it in the promotional clip for "Daily Nightly".
  • The Morton Downey Jr. Show only lasted two years (1987-1989) but it started the whole "trash television" craze. It also helped establish the "angry, loud-mouthed, uncaring right-winger" stereotype that has persisted to this day.
  • The Munsters lasted two seasons and 70 episodes. Thanks to viewer demand prompted by a rapidly expanding syndication market in the mid-1960s, it managed to become an American pop culture icon.
  • Press Your Luck only lasted three years, not a terribly impressive run for a Game Show, but it's still one of the most recognized in the genre, and often regarded as a Cult Classic even to only casual fans. Many remember the show for the colorful animated Whammys and for notorious contestant Michael Larson, who memorized the board's light pattern to hit them up for over $100,000, and whose life after that was a tragedy worthy of William Shakespeare. The phrase "Big bucks, no Whammys!" has entered the public lexicon, and the show is a constant fixture on the rerun circuit (1987-1995 on USA Network, and 2001-09/2012-present on GSN). GSN also launched a revival, Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck, in the early 2000s and ran a documentary on Larson's episode, and ABC launched another revival in 2019.
  • The Prisoner (1967) only lasted seventeen episodes, yet it remains a landmark of science fiction television, influencing Twin Peaks, The X-Files and Lost.
  • Japanese Spider-Man ran for only one season (41 episodes and a movie), but ended up being the show that established Humongous Mecha as a standard trope of subsequent sentai series. This essentially means that Super Sentai and Power Rangers wouldn't exist — or at least wouldn't be the shows we know today — if Japanese Spider-Man didn't exist.
  • Also premiering in 1966, Star Trek: The Original Series originally lasted for just two seasons, being renewed for a third season before dying completely. It's also a cultural icon, having an immense influence on science fiction, as well as western culture as a whole. Good luck finding someone who doesn't recognize Captain Kirk and Mister Spock, even if they were born long after the series was first aired.
  • That Was the Week That Was was broadcast for just over one year in the UK, with a US version that lasted two whole years. Credited with being one of the most important topical satirical comedy sketch shows, and for being one of the first programmes on The BBC to criticize the political establishment.
  • Thunderbirds: Was cut short after just 32 episodes, mainly because it failed to get picked up by an American network, but back when it aired it was the most popular children's show on British television, and to this day it managed to retain a loyal fanbase. Likewise, it's still considered Gerry Anderson's best work, and other shows still contain references to it.
  • Twin Peaks had only two seasons and 30 episodes, almost half of which are considered dubious by fans. It popularized the Quirky Town genre in American television, having descendants such as Picket Fences and Northern Exposure that ran much longer than Twin Peaks itself. Also, the amount of surrealism, eccentric humor, and horror in it were highly exceptional for a mainstream American drama series of its era, but such elements became much more common in television in its wake in the 1990s and 2000s. It also popularized the use of the Myth Arc in television drama, and David Lynch's active involvement in the show helped break the stereotype that television production was the equivalent of the farm leagues to movies as opposed to a full-on competitor.
  • Ultraman only ran for 39 episodes from 1966 to 1967, but was so popular that it spawned an entire franchise that continues to produce new content, influenced hundreds of Japanese creators, and gets referenced everywhere in Japanese popular culture to this day.
  • The network version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, hosted by Regis Philbin for ABC, lasted only three years. Yet it was huge in its day, prompting legions of big money game shows and a brief yet obvious revival of a slowly dying genre. While a syndicated version lasted for many years afterward, it was the original ABC version that had the biggest impact on the genre despite a short life.
  • The Young Ones only lasted two series and twelve episodes, and influenced a whole slew of Britcoms after it, as well as MTV era sketch comedies, such as The State, and Mr. Show.* Your Show Time lasted six months in TV's early days (Jan-Jul 1949), yet its premiere telecast won the very first Emmy Award.

  • Many contributors to MAD have been this:
    • Basil Wolverton only appeared in nine issues from 1954 to 1970. In spite of that, he's regarded as one of the top artists to appear in the publication, being dubbed "The Michelangelo of MAD Magazine" by The New York Times. MAD XL, a separate magazine reprinting older articles from the main publication, even named him an "Idiot of the Issue" in 2004.
    • Founding artist Will Elder and artist/writer Harvey Kurtzman left in 1958 (except for a brief return in 1984-88), but their prolificacy in the early days (when it was more of a comic book than a magazine) was what helped get the mag off the ground.
    • John Severin quit halfway through the comic-book days, but still had a lot of notable roles in the few issues he illustrated. He later became the flagship artist for rival Cracked.
    • Frank Kelly Freas did most of the cover art in the early days of the magazine era but stopped contributing in 1962. Despite this, he was one of the main illustrators next to Norman Mingo to help codify Alfred E. Neuman's design.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes. Short-lived by newspaper comic standards, running from 1985 to 1995 (with a year and a half of that time spent on sabbatical). Yet over two decades after Bill Watterson's retirement, it remains one of the most beloved and revered modern newspaper comics of all time.
  • The Far Side ran for exactly fifteen years, from 1980 to 1995 (including a sabbatical in 1989). During that time it had a tremendous impact on comics, paving the way for more surrealist humor (which had been completely absent from the papers since Krazy Kat). It also served as an inspiration to scores of scientists who loved creator Gary Larson's biology-based jokes; academics eventually named a species of louse and a butterfly after Larson, and "thagomizer" (taken from a joke about a stegosaurus) has become an accepted scientific term.
  • Although Krazy Kat ran in some form or another for nearly 30 years (note that that is still not a very long time in this medium), the part that is most-remembered – the full-colour full-page Sunday strips – ran for less than ten – a brief stint in 1922, and then from 1935 until George Herriman's death in 1944. It was unpopular during its original run (surviving only because William Randolph Hearst himself was its biggest fan), but has since become widely recognized as the most important newspaper strip ever made, serving as inspiration for nearly every cartoonist to follow, most notably Charles Schulz of Peanuts fame, and Bill Watterson (who counted both Herriman and Schulz among his influences).
  • Bloom County was not a particularly long-lived strip either (December 8, 1980-August 6, 1989), but its mix of topical political humor, surreal fantasy, and memorable characters left a huge impact, with other comics such as The Boondocks clearly taking influence from it. It was also loved enough to receive two spinoff strips (Outland from 1989-95 and Opus from 2003-08, both Sunday-only strips) before getting Un-Canceled in 2015.

  • Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson only ran two minority governments over a total of five years, but the list of things he accomplished is truly remarkable. His government established the modern Canadian flag, established a national healthcare system and pension plan, accelerated Central Canada's industrial development with policies like the Auto Pact, created the Royal Commission that paved the way for Pierre Trudeau's introduction of official bilingualism, created another Royal Commission that helped create legal equality for women, decriminalized homosexuality (with Trudeau as his Justice Minister), built on John Diefenbaker's colour-blind immigration policy, and oversaw Canada's successful 1967 centennial celebrations. Pearson's influence can also be noted by the fact that he recruited no less than three future Prime Ministers into his Cabinet. Trudeau would succeed Pearson, John Turner would succeed Trudeau, and Jean Chrétien would bring the Liberals back to power after the Conservative reigns of Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell. (And through the grandfather clause, one could argue that he gave us four: Pierre's son Justin became Prime Minister in 2015.) On top of that, in his previous tenure as Foreign Minister, he called for neutral troops to maintain a buffer zone in Egypt during the Suez Crisis. Thus he became a principal architect of modern peacekeeping.
  • Gough Whitlam holds a similar status in Australia. In just three years as Prime Minister, he: abolished conscription and the death penalty, introduced universal health care, decriminalised homosexuality, established relations with the People's Republic of China, changed the national anthem from "God Save the Queen" to "Advance Australia Fair", replaced the honours system, got Australia out of The Vietnam War, outlawed racially discriminatory laws with the Racial Discrimination Act, and ended the last vestiges of the White Australia Policy. All of this was despite the fact the opposition controlled the Senate for most of his term. He left an impact even in the manner by which he left office: through getting fired by the Governor-General, the representative of the Queen, an appointed position that many Australians at that point saw as purely ceremonial but which turned out to have a great deal of power that merely went unused until then. In addition to the political controversy that erupted over "the Dismissal", it became a galvanizing moment in the then-nascent movement for Australian republicanism.
  • William Henry Harrison, the ninth President of the United States, has the distinction of having served the shortest term in US presidential history, as he passed away from pneumonia on his 32nd day in office. He was also the first President to ever die while in office. Though he's largely forgotten by history, since he never really got the chance to actually do anything as President, his death briefly sparked a constitutional crisis, as the Constitution was unclear about exactly what action should be taken in the event that a President died, resigned, or was otherwise unable to perform their duties. Thankfully, though, his death led to these issues being resolved.
  • In the case of pre-colonial India, one of the most important and influential rulers in Indian history was Sher Shah Suri who extended the Grand Trunk Road, re-organized the Royal Postal Service, and invented the Rupee, the currency of all later rulers, the The Raj and independent India. Yet he ruled for a mere five years before his death in battle. His innovations would be consolidated, maintained, and extended by Akbar the Great which in turn led to the Golden Age of the Mughal India.
  • When General Boulanger, whom many people tipped to become a Napoleon-type dictator of France during the early years of the Third Republic, gave himself airs in the National Assembly, he was heckled by a deputy with: "When Napoleon was your age, he was dead."
  • England's Interregnum – the period between the execution of Charles I and the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II – lasted only 11½ years, from 1649 to 1660. However, the events during that time had a profound impact on English culture – it showed the English people would no longer take kindly to absolute rule, and was the first of many times Parliament would prove its superiority over the King. The excesses of Oliver Cromwell and his supporters left the English with a very poor opinion of Puritanism (which led to more Puritans going to America, which irreversibly impacted the already rather Puritan culture there). And Cromwell's Commonwealth militia would eventually become the British Army (it's the only UK military branch without "Royal" in the title because it wasn't established under Royal authority; this practice has been copied in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand).
  • Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Ruled Germany for a mere twelve years, causing untold death (around 35 million), suffering, and destruction. The effects of their rule are felt across the world to this day. No one said the impact had to be a good one. To take some positive out of it, it was Hitler's regime and WWII that made (most) of the world give up fascism.
  • Speaking of Nazis, Germany's unconditional surrender to the allies was a decision made by Admiral Karl Dönitz, who became the leader of Germany following Hitler's suicide but only served a few weeks before being deposed and arrested.
  • James K. Polk is sometimes referred to as "America's greatest one-term President", and not without reason. In his one term, he expanded the United States to the Pacific Ocean through one war with Mexico and one act of diplomacy with Britain that prevented a second war. He decided not to run for a second term, having accomplished everything he wanted to do in his first. He also died relatively young, at the age of 53, only 103 days after the end of his presidency.
  • John F. Kennedy only served two years, 10 months, and 2 days as US President before he was assassinated. Shock and disappointment over his unfinished agenda helped push his successor, Lyndon Johnson, in a more progressive direction, and he is still revered as an icon by the American left. His family (most notably his brothers Robert and Edward) would proceed to play a huge role in American politics as well, in part by appealing to his memory. He was also the shortest-lived President, dying at age 46.
  • Robert F. Kennedy had a grand total of three-and-a-half years as Attorney General and an additional three-and-a-half years as US Senator from New York before his assassination in June 1968 during his run for president. During his seven years in the spotlight, Bobby became the first major government figure to be very vocal in his support for the Civil Rights Movement. He was also the first person to publicly stand up to longtime FBI potentate J. Edgar Hoover, of whom everyone else was terrified due to Hoover's extensive files on every non-rightwing American with any prominence whatsoever. RFK was also extremely outspoken in his support of anti-poverty programs — he began his presidential campaign in the Appalachian villages of West Virginia, an area infamous to this day for its grinding poverty. He remains to this day a potent symbol for the American left, as an example of What Could Have Been.
  • The Qin Dynasty lasted less than 15 years, but it formed the very foundations of Chinese society, and governance to which future dynasties would base and modify their rule on. They also started the project of building the Great Wall of China and formed the concept of a unified China. The name "China" itself is a European approximation of "Qin", which should be enough indication of its influence. (Ethnic Chinese prefer to call themselves "Han", after the dynasty considered the greatest in their history, while the country itself is called "Zhongguo", meaning "Central State".)
  • Pierre Mendès-France was président du conseil (Prime Minister) for only 8 months, but he ended the first Vietnam War, and is still cited in France as an example of a good politician.
  • Willy Brandt was elected chancellor of Germany in 1969 with one of the slimmest majorities in German history (12 seats out of 518). He was reelected by a big margin in 1972 and resigned over an espionage scandal (a personal aide turned out to be a Stasi spy) in 1974. In those five years, he singlehandedly set the pace for German foreign policy of the next decades. His "Ostpolitik" (Eastern policy) and the "Wandel durch Annäherung" (change through rapprochement) approach set the tone for East-West relations and there are memorable images (Brandt kneeling in Warsaw, Brandt in East Germany and deafening cries of "Willy Willy") are still known to most Germans today. He was the first German chancellor to visit Israel and won a Nobel Peace Price in 1971 (which was announced in parliament during a session). In domestic policy, he helped lower the voting age from 21 to 18, which helped in the aforementioned 1972 elections which he won largely on the youth vote. To this day many influential leftists in Germany cite Willy Brandt as one of their major inspirations.
  • Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus was a young Roman officer and Patrician who survived the Battle of Cannae, where the Roman Republic lost six legions of men in one afternoon while their Carthaginian foes under Hannibal Barca took minimal losses. With one consul dead and the other disgraced, when the Romans entered a state of emergency and began conscripting new legions to replace their catastrophic losses, the young Scipio volunteered to take command because nobody else was willing to go to Iberia and fight a force four times their size. Despite bureaucracy and jealous political rivals seeking to sabotage him, Scipio ended up not only conquering Spain but decisively defeating Hannibal and Carthage at the climactic Battle of Zama, bringing Rome back from the brink and setting the stage for its future ascendency over the Mediterranean and beyond. He refused almost all honors and political authority offered to him after that, including that of Dictator and Consul-For-Life, became disillusioned by the petty politics and character assassination he faced in The Senate, and retired quietly before dying at around 53.
  • Alexander the Great ruled for about 13 years and died at the age of 33. During this time, he created one of the largest empires in history, stretching from Greece to northwestern India. His conquests led to Greek culture being spread to the East, and ideas from the East going back to the West, marking the start of the Hellenistic period.
  • Yuri Andropov only served for fifteen months as leader of the Soviet Union and was in ill-health for much of that time, but scholars are starting to consider that he began the process that would lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Known for his career with the KGB, Andropov decided to prioritize cracking open corruption cases he was not allowed to touch when Brezhnev was in power. These efforts were very successful but the brutal methods used to obtain the truth diminished Soviet morale and news of the widespread corruption existing in the first place tarnished the Soviet Union's international reputation. Andropov also escalated the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan despite believing it was a mistake, and this, combined with his relationship with Ronald Reagan — which was infamously awful, even by the standards of the Cold War — caused America to massively increase its military budget, causing Andropov to commit even more of the increasingly fragile Soviet economy to match it. But most importantly, he set the stage for Gorbachev to take power, both through favoring Gorbachev politically and Andropov's own untimely death.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The Attitude Era is recognized officially as beginning on the Raw episode after WrestleMania XIV and ending at WrestleMania X-Seven, and unofficially as beginning at the 1996 King Of The Ring (more specifically, Steve Austin's "Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass!" promo) and ending no later than Survivor Series in 2001. Only a rough three-five year period, and yet it revolutionized how wrestling was seen in the '90s. The product was Darker and Edgier and broke into the mainstream for the first time since the heyday of Hulk Hogan in The '80s, creating a time when everyone was a wrestling fan or at least knew about it in some way.
  • The 'Four Horsewomen of NXT' - Charlotte Flair, Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch - are recognised as the four hard-working women whose matches and feuds with each other showed that WWE was finally taking women's wrestling seriously. The era is recognised as having begun in 2014 when Charlotte first won the NXT Women's Championship and all four started feuding with each other. Just only a year later, three of the four were called up to the main roster (Bayley being the lone holdout). Becky hadn't even been on NXT for a full year when she was called up.
  • Sable's time on the top lasted a lot less than one would think. While she was around as a valet and on-screen character for a couple of years, her big push didn't come until 1998. Her first match was WrestleMania XIV and by the next year's event, she was already on her way out of the company. Yet she was popular enough to get WWE to resurrect its women's division, revive the Women's Championship and bring in more women wrestlers to feud with her. She sadly also popularised the idea of hiring a non-wrestler to be a Ms. Fanservice and pushing her at the expense of actual trained wrestlers, which wouldn't fully level off until the 2010s.
  • The Shield's initial run lasted two years before Seth Rollins's betrayal. Yet they were one of the most successful trios of all time, not only as a group, but also individually, and were THE major product outputted from NXT.
  • Not counting his time in OVW, Muhammad Hassan's career in WWE lasted from December 14, 2004, to July 24, 2005. Over a decade later, he still has a small but dedicated fanbase and pretty much every YouTube video that features him has countless comments with variations of the phrase "I want him to come back."
  • The Ultimate Warrior's original run in the WWF started in late 1987 and ended at Summer Slam 1991. In that short time his amazing physique and his unique style of promos catapulted him through the Intercontinental title and winning the WWF Heavyweight Title. At WrestleMania. Pinning Hulk Hogan. Clean.
  • Luke Harper 's AEW run lasted just fourteen matches across seven months, from his debut in March to losing the TNT Championship in October, after which he was absent from the company until his death. In that short time he challenged for the World Championship, successfully captured the TNT Championship, and helped elevate The Dark Order into a credible heel faction after they had a rocky start. The influence of his AEW run continued even after his death, as the kindness and respect AEW showed to him and his family made waves in the industry. Notably, CM Punk cited the fact that AEW had been aware of his illness but not one word had leaked to the dirtsheets about it until his passing as the final deciding factor that convinced him that he should come out of 7 1/2 years of retirement to join the company that had treated Brodie so well.

  • Jesus, who only preached for three years and was in his early thirties when he died, has had a significant spiritual impact on the world for more than 2,000 years. On the other hand, for people who view him as the Son of God, he can be seen to have influenced the world since before the dawn of time.
  • Pope John XXIII, at the time of his election in 1958, was 76 years old and in relatively poor health. His papacy was just five years, quite short by the standards of some popes, especially compared to his predecessor Pius XII (1939-1958) and successor Paul VI (1963-1978), but in that time he managed to call the Second Vatican Council, and even though he died before it was finished, he set in motion considerable changes to Catholic worship and church procedures.

    Science & Technology 
  • Dr. Henry Gray, he became a Fellow of the Royal Academy at age 27, wrote the classic textbook Gray's Anatomy at 31, and died of smallpox at 34.
  • Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space at the age of 27, signaling definitively man's transition into The Space Age. He was killed in an (entirely avoidable) training crash the same month he turned 34.
  • Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria(-Hungary) only lived to the age of 30. His life was responsible for: a 24-volume encyclopedia of regional studies (which he initiated and contributed to), ornithology research that are still cited to this day and displayed at Schönbrunn Palace, a collection of minerals, his notes from his lecture by Carl Menger (considered a key document on classical economic liberalism because they provide insight into Menger's theories, discoveries, and interpretation). His death from a Murder-Suicide spawned a Succession Crisis that culminated in World War One. While he's still largely overshadowed by his parents Franz Joseph I and Elisabeth of Bavaria (Sisi), many media properties have featured Rudolf (or a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of him) as a major character: films, television series, musicals, ballets, and a manga.
  • American financer and businessman Charles Yerkes played a pivotal role in the development of Chicago's urban transit system, usually via less-than-scrupulous means. In 1900, he was effectively chased out of the city, and decided to repeat his business in London, where he worked for just five years before he died. In that short time he bought the District Railways, electrified it and created the Underground Electric Railways Company of London to unite ownership of that line with the various other under-construction deep tube lines at the time. He didn't live to see those lines completed, but he effectively single-handedly created the London Underground as we know it today, while the UERL is the ancestor of the present-day Transport for London.
  • Three of the "Big Four" railway companies in the United Kingdom (LNER, LMS, and Southern) existed for less than 25 years, having been created by consolidating several smaller railways, between The Grouping of 1923 under the Railways Act 1921 and the creation of British Rail in 1948. Nevertheless, most preserved railway equipment will wear the colours of one of those railways when not in British Railways paint.
  • The golden age of iconic streamliner steam engines of the 1930s really only lasts from the middle of the decade until 1939, because of the outbreak of war. The LNER A4 Pacific, made iconic by the speed record set by the "Mallard" and the Silver Jubilee train was introduced in 1935 and retired nearly thirty years later, but most of that time was spent in British Railways drab olive green colours rather than the much more famous LNER liveries. Even shorter-lived was the streamlined LMS Princess Coronation - most of the beetle-like casings were removed entirely by the late 1940s - the example that lives in the National Railway Museum is a modern recreation of the streamlining built on top of a preserved Coronation.
  • The ArmaLite company in its original form (the name was later resurrected) only operated from 1956 to 1980, the blink of an eye compared to a lot of firearm manufacturers. However, they designed the AR-15 which would go onto become the basis for the M16, one of the most successful military rifles of all time and the basis for countless civilian spin-offs. They also made the AR-10, another widely successful rifle in the civilian sector and the AR-18, which almost every other assault rifle that is not an AR-15 or AK-47 derivative owes some lineage too. They also were one of the first champions of aluminum and polymers in guns, which are both now considered standard.
  • The StG 44 assault rifle. Went into service in 1943 to select Wehrmacht units by the time the war effort of Nazi Germany had begun to collapse due to decisive battles in favor of the Allied forces, most notably in the Eastern Front against the Soviets, and lasted until their downfall in 1945. While it was not the game-changing weapon that the Nazis had hoped for, the StG 44 has nevertheless left an impressionable mark amongst the Allied forces, especially for the Soviets, who were inspired by the weapon to create their own comparable 'assault rifle' - birthing probably the most famous firearm in history, the AK-47. Nowadays, while possibly not being the first assault rifle to be developednote , the StG 44 is considered to be the "grand-daddy" of the assault rifle, as its influence can be seen in countless modern assault rifles that became a global standard role for infantry rifles by the time the Cold War set in.
  • The original Nintendo Game Boy Advance. While it was quickly overshadowed by the new and improved Game Boy Advance SP (which had a lit screen, something the original GBA did not), the original Game Boy Advance was universally praised for its sleek, comfortable form factor compared to its contemporary competitors the Bandai Wonderswan and the Nokia N-Gage, as well as past consoles like the bulky Sega Game Gear and the Atari Lynx, to the point that some people preferred the original for its form factor alone and even modded their systems to add an internal frontlight and/or backlight so they could have the best of both worlds. Despite being outclassed by the SP only two years later, its influence can be clearly seen in the designs of Sony's handhelds: the PlayStation Portable and Play Station Vita.

  • The Australian Super League war. The first shot was fired on April 1, 1995, when Super League representatives conducted a player-signing blitz. The ARL immediately prevented the upstart league from kicking off by filing a lawsuit regarding the 'non-compete' clause in its player contracts that players who converted had (supposedly) breached. Many players, and their clubs, felt short-changed by the ARL's payment bargaining agreement and broadcast deals, and several players defected to Super League-aligned clubs. Not helping was the fact that the ARL had just admitted four new teams, ballooning expenditure (one team based in Perth had had to agree to foot the cost of travelling to the East Coast for away games, a cost not also borne by other interstate teams) and diluting the quality players. After the NSW Supreme Court ruled the following year that the ARL's non-compete clause was unlawful, the first and only Australian SL season was played in 1997 alongside the ARL season. Both leagues had divided fans' loyalties, the high profile of their schism diminished public interest in them, and the SL had had to create two new teams to make weight (one of which existed only for that season). Finally, on December 19, 1997, a week shy of 1000 days after beginning, the ARL and the Super League signed an armistice and agreed to merge into a new league under the name of the National Rugby League (NRL). But that's not all! 
  • Ernie Davis, running back for the Syracuse football team from 1958 to 1961, helped win Syracuse's sole national championship in that sport and was the very first African-American college football player to win the Heisman Trophy. "The Elmira Express" was in the process of joining the Cleveland Browns and forming what was to be a dynamic running duo with fellow Syracuse veteran Jim Brown, before losing his battle to leukemia at the age of 23.
  • Baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax blossomed into a star in 1961 and retired five years later at the age of 30. Those six seasons won him three Cy Young awards, three pitchers' Triple Crowns,note  and a plaque in the Hall of Fame; and cemented his claim as one of the greatest players ever.
  • Secretariat only raced for two years during the prime of his career and lived out the rest of his life in retirement. He is still remembered as one of, if not the greatest racehorse who ever lived, set records that still stand to this day, and appears in the pedigree of many famous racehorses of this century.
  • Bill Vukovich is remembered as one of the greatest race car drivers in American history despite a very short time in the spotlight. After qualifying for his first Indianapolis 500 in 1951, he would go on to utterly dominate the world-famous race for the next four years. He was on his way to victory in 1952 when his steering broke with only 8 laps left. He won both the 1953 and 1954 races in dominant fashion, and already had a 17-second lead in the 1955 race when he got caught up in a crash involving three lapped cars and was killed. He was only 36 years old. Nobody has ever won the Indianapolis 500 more than four times in the century-long history of the race; Vukovich was only two bad breaks away from winning it four years in a row.
  • Alberto Ascari was only a racing driver for eight years, and a Formula One driver for five years, starting just 32 Grands Prix - but he won 13 of them, including 7 in a row.note  He was the first driver to win multiple World Championships, doing so consecutively, and set several records that stand to this day, including most laps led consecutively (304) and highest percentage of races won in a season (75% in 1952). He was killed in a testing accident in 1955 - four days before Vukovich, and at the same age (36) - and has since been regarded as one of the greatest drivers of his generation.

  • Jonathan Larson died at the age of 35 of an aortic aneurysm, the night of the final dress rehearsal for the Off-Broadway production of RENT, but the show became a cultural phenomenon that ran on Broadway for over ten years and inspired many other musicals.

    Video Games 
  • The Mother series only spanned three mainline games plus a Compilation Rerelease before series creator Shigesato Itoi decided to call it quits, with its long timeframe (1989-2006) being solely the result of how long it took to develop the second and especially third titles. Nevertheless, the series makes up one of the most widely acclaimed trilogies of RPGs, and has been cited as a major influence on a large number of creators across media, from indie developers to let's players to Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The series' nontraditional approach to the RPG genre also had a noticeable influence on later bigger-name games in the field, with urban settings, offbeat writing, and deviations from and expansions upon the gameplay template Dragon Quest set becoming an increasingly prominent element in series from Persona to Pokémon to Nintendo's own Super Mario Bros. RPGs.
  • Similarly to Mother, the Half-Life series only consists of three mainline entries (discounting expansions) spread out over a non-indicatively large timeframe. However, the first two of those games had a profound effect on first-person gaming and the wider cultural landscape, especially online, where the popularity of mods, memes, and fanworks result in a wide-reaching influence that's still visible to this day. Likewise with Valve's other two signature IPs, Team Fortress and Portal, which each only had two mainline games yet are still juggernauts in terms of their online presence and cultural influence (with the second installment for all three series being the most prominent in terms of legacy).
  • In a somewhat more twisted way, the Philips CD-i installments of the Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda series are this, only occupying one and three games (respectively), each released in 1993-1994 and not being particularly well-remembered as actual games, but still carrying a tremendous legacy as fodder for YouTube Poop videos, with the bizarrely-animated and poorly-written cutscenes for these games becoming online cultural mainstays to this day.
  • An example contained within a single series can be found with the Kirby series: while the franchise has trucked on continuously since 1992, the Dark Matter Trilogy, as the nickname implies, only occupied three games: Kirby's Dream Land 2, Kirby's Dream Land 3, and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. Despite this brevity, the three games have had a tremendous impact on the Kirby series since their release, introducing a greater level of "show, don't tell" storytelling, emphasis on more intricate puzzle-solving (compared to the Sakurai-directed games' action-oriented approach), and willingness to delve into surprisingly dark and disturbing imagery and subject matter that later games would follow. This is most noticeably displayed with Kirby's Return to Dream Land and the games that followed its example, which despite orienting the games back in a Super Star-esque direction owe much of their puzzle-solving elements, atmosphere, and storytelling styles to the template that the Dark Matter Trilogy first set.
  • The Sega Dreamcast had a notoriously short life cycle for a mainstream console (It was only in production worldwide for less than two and a half years), but it had graphics leaps and bounds better than the competition at the time, and influential games like Shenmue, Phantasy Star Online, and Seaman as well as faithful arcade ports of games like Crazy Taxi, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and House of the Dead 2. It was also the first console with 480p Progressive Scan support via an optional VGA box (something the PlayStation 2 also supported via component cables, but not very well). Sega also placed a heavy emphasis on its online capabilities, being the first console to include internet capabilities right out of the box with a built-in modem and included internet browser disc. Even the memory card was ahead of its time, as it included a screen and buttons that allowed it to be played like a handheld (and many games included optional minigames that can be downloaded to it), and it could even act as a second screen during gameplay, predating the Wii U by over a decade. While it was quickly outclassed by the PlayStation 2 and even the GameCube, the Dreamcast left a lasting impact on the gaming scene as a whole.
  • In-universe, in Punch-Out!! for the Wii this is the end result of the "Mac's Last Stand" mode, in which Little Mac takes on an endless stream of challengers and then retires after three losses to go out in a blaze of glory. In the grand scheme of things, his career was very short-lived, but it was still the stuff of legends considering just how many people he took on and beat, especially considering all of them have height and weight advantages over him, and even after he does retire he's considered a Living Legend, enough to have an entire wall in a museum dedicated to his short career.
    • Punch-Out!! can also qualify as an out-of-universe example, with only three mainline consoles games; The NES game in 1987, Super Punch-Out!! on the SNES in 1994, and the 2009 self-titled game that came out on the Wii. Yet, the series, particularly the NES game, is among the most iconic in all of gaming. Its protagonist, Little Mac, would not only make his way to the Super Smash Bros. series, but was a Guest Fighter in the GameCube version of Fight Night Round 2, a game that otherwise has a roster made up of real-life boxers.
  • The Robotic Operating Buddy only had two games, Gyromite and Stack-Up. However, it allowed Nintendo to market the Nintendo Entertainment System as a toy rather than a game console, quelling consumer worries due to The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. This let Nintendo gain enough traction to establish themselves as the video game company.

    Web Original 
  • In the early years of video game FAQ-writing, one username stood out above the rest as a good model of how to properly detail gameplay, both in the long form needed for RPGs such as Final Fantasy VII and the short form used for such genres as fighting games: Kao Megura. Sadly, he passed away in 2004, but his influence is seen in FAQs to this day.
  • Pixeloo is an artist who posted only a few pictures on his blog, and whose current whereabouts are totally unknown, but he had a huge influence on the art of "untooning", that is, taking toon-type characters and rendering them in a far more realistic style.
  • The original version of the peer-to-peer file-sharing service Napster only lasted two years, having been launched in 1999 and sued into oblivion in 2001. In those two years, however, Napster revolutionized how people consumed media and, more importantly, expected to be able to do so. It exposed a widespread discontent with the inflated prices that people had to pay for records and singles, and even though the original service was killed off, its legacy lived on with copycat peer-to-peer services and file-sharing websites like Gnutella, Kazaa, LimeWire, The Pirate Bay, and Megaupload. Napster sent the music industry into a decade-long tailspin that it is still recovering from, even now that file-sharing has largely been displaced by iTunes and streaming services — themselves legacies of Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker's service, created to offer a legal alternative to file-sharing that allowed artists and record companies to profit from their work.
  • Monty Oum lived to be 33 years old and died on February 1, 2015. His influence through the world of web animation through Rooster Teeth's Red vs. Blue and RWBY, as well as his own creations like Haloid and Dead Fantasy has lasted to this day.
  • Vine was launched in January 2013 and shut down in January 2017, making it quite short-lived in comparison to other longstanding social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In that time, it created some of the most popular memes (among them Dabbing Squidward, Windows XP, and Damn Daniel) and viral hits (like "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)" and "Panda") of The New '10s, and made household names out of the likes of Shawn Mendes, Zach King, Andrew B. "King Bach" Bachelor, Lele Pons, and Jake and Logan Paul. By the time Twitter announced it would shut down the service in 2016, Vine was one of the must-use social media platforms, and much of the talent bred on the service in its four short years migrated to YouTube and led what came to be called the "Viner invasion," radically altering the site's user base and content focus. Not even two years later, compilations of Vines would still rake in millions of views on YouTube. Vine's influence can be felt in two apps, one of which is a direct Spiritual Successor by one of the original co-founders called Byte, which officially released on January 24, 2020, 7 years to Vine's release day, but as of yet has yet to live up to Vine's success. The other app is, surprisingly, the equally-popular TikTok, as evidenced by the multitude of "TikToks that radiate the same energy as Vines" compilations floating around.
  • Likewise, MySpace's glory days only lasted five years, from its founding in 2003 to its decline circa 2008 as Facebook overtook it. It played a profound role in shaping many of the pop music trends of the Turn of the Millennium, most notably the Emo Music scene.

    Western Animation 
  • The professional arch-rivalry between Disney and Warner Bros. was fairly civil and all a brief span in the history of American animation, lasting only from the late 1930s to the mid-1950s. To this day, though, it's considered one of the most famous rivalries in Hollywood. It has had such a lasting impact on pop culture that many people tend to refer to it in the present tense, unlike almost all of the other classic Hollywood rivalries. It helps that, unlike most of those other classic rivalry players, Disney and Warner are still very much in business. This rivalry is kind of making a comeback, since WB are the owners of DC Comics, while Disney owns Marvel. Both companies' respective cinematic universes are hot competition right now.
    • Tex Avery's tenure at Warner Bros. was brief, only lasting seven years. However, in that short period of time, he spearheaded the studio's transition from lackluster Disney imitator to pioneering cartoon studio with its own identity. Along the way, he mentored up-and-coming talents like Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones and created and/or developed the studio's biggest stars: Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, and Bugs Bunny.
      • Speaking of Looney Tunes, there's two characters named Marvin the Martian and Tasmanian Devil, appearing in just five Golden Age shorts each, but later became mainstays to the franchise. Taz would become the first Looney Tunes character to get his own full-fledged TV show, discounting earlier compilation shows like the The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show. Both would also be extensively featured on Looney Tunes merchandise. Whenever one thinks of Looney Tunes today, both characters, especially Taz, are usually among the handful of characters to come to mind.
      • Michigan J. Frog as well, who appeared in only one Golden Age short, which would eventually get a sequel in 1995, 40 years after the original. But Michigan became the mascot of the WB network, and while he's not quite as popular as Marvin or Taz, he's still very popular for someone that has only starred in two shorts.
  • UPA [United Productions of America] barely lasted more than a decade as a theatrical cartoon studio, during which time their stylized approach to the medium profoundly changed the way cartoons looked for the next few decades (for better or worse). Even today, their influence, direct or indirect, is felt in shows as diverse as Dexter's Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, Beavis and Butt-Head, Samurai Jack, Home Movies, The Simpsons and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
  • Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures managed just 19 episodes before it was shut down in a controversy fueled by Moral Guardians and isn't widely remembered by non-animation historians. However, the cartoon was highly influential on later animated series, including John Kricfalusi's The Ren & Stimpy Show (which itself would go on to spawn its own imitators and become the Trope Maker for Grossout Show). Additionally, it was one of the first examples of "creator-driven animation"note  on American television since the birth of the Saturday Morning Cartoon format almost three decades prior.
  • Betty Boop debuted in 1930 and lasted only nine years before The Hays Code struck. Despite this, she remains as one of the most iconic characters of The Golden Age of Animation and is regarded as the first example of Ms. Fanservice in the medium.
  • The original, prime-time version of The Jetsons ran for just one season in 1962–63, but syndicated reruns on Saturday mornings kept it popular enough for a revived version in the '80s and Jetsons: The Movie in 1990. It is still the go-to reference for newscasters in the US when discussing "futuristic" concepts such as the High Speed Rail, despite the property currently being one of the least utilized in the Hanna-Barbera library.
  • Super Mario World lasted 13 episodes before falling victim to NBC's Saturday morning lineup overhaul. Its status in YouTube Poop form has become legendary.
  • 2 Stupid Dogs did not last even two years in its original run on TBS, but managed to endure a healthy syndication life on Cartoon Network and Boomerang and its formula served as a Spiritual Predecessor to the successful and long-running Cartoon Cartoons. As of late, it's been popular to create charts demonstrating how many shows over the years have roots that date back to this show in some form.
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack is a cult classic at best, that lasted only 3 seasons and 46 episodes. However, three of the storyboard artists went on to create three shows that not only brought Cartoon Network out of its Audience-Alienating Era, but also renewed interest in Western Animation in the 2010's. Also former Flapjack screenwriter and storyboard artist Alex Hirsch, would go on to create Gravity Falls.
  • Gravity Falls only lasted two seasons and a total of 40 episodes, which is short for a Disney cartoon. Nevertheless, the series is one of several that contributed to the revival of Western Animation during the 2010's after an infamous dark age during the 2000's, and set a high bar with its tightly serialized narrative that future cartoon series would follow suit. The series also helped launch the careers of successful animators such as Matt Braly (creator of Amphibia) and Dana Terrace (creator of The Owl House).
  • Kent Rogers, a voice actor who worked for Warner Brothers, MGM, and Walter Lantz, he originated the roles of Beaky Buzzard, Henery Hawk, and Junyer Bear for Looney Tunes, was the second voice of Woody Woodpecker, and among other roles he voiced nearly all the male celebrities in the short Hollywood Steps Out, he joined the Air Force in World War II and tragically died in a plane crash at the age of 20, many of the characters he voiced continued to appear long after his death, and he’s inspired many voice actors over the years including Rob Paulsen, Maurice LaMarche, and Tom Kenny.

  • Évariste Galois, as a teenage mathematician, invented what would become the foundations for Galois theory and group theory before being killed in a duel at the age of twenty in 1832. He is almost certainly the shortest-lived mathematician to have a field of mathematics named after him.
  • The Pony Express transcontinental mail service only lasted for a little over a year and a half before telegraph lines made it obsolete, but it had such a profound impact on the public consciousness and became so tied to The Wild West (which mostly came later) that it inspired books, movies, and television shows long after the fact. It's interesting to note that the first U.S. postage stamp not to depict a dead Founding Father chose a representation of a Pony Express rider as a showcase of American technical accomplishment.
  • For that matter, The Wild West era itself. The average timespan has it lasting from 1848 (when the USA took possession of California from Mexico) to 1890 (when the US Census Bureau officially declared the frontier closed, and also the date of the last major Indian battle at Wounded Knee), a little over forty years. A stricter definition puts the start around 1868 (when the Civil War had ended and the Transcontinental Railroad allowed more people to move into the frontier), barely twenty years. To watch any American media, especially stuff made prior to 1970 (when The Western was still a viable genre), one would believe that the era lasted much much longer. Romanticism for this era — or rather the perception of it — is to this day one of the major bedrocks of American culture.
  • The Golden Age of Piracy. As the traditional age of swashbuckling rogues, buried treasures, and hook-handed-pirates sacking in the Caribbean, it is omnipresent in pop culture. In its very own period too, piracy greatly impacted the way European powers dealt with the New World, seeing as how the Pirate Republic of Nassau got to a point where it nearly brought the Imperial grip on the Caribbean to a screeching halt. Despite this, by most estimates, that golden age lasted only about six to ten years (1714-1720/24). As such, most of its iconic figures follow suit:
    • Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard, terrorized the West Indies for only two years before being killed during a fight with colonial authorities in what is now North Carolina. To this day he is still the poster boy for the age.
    • "Black" Bartholomew Roberts, sometimes described as the most successful pirate captain with over 400 successful captures, and his flamboyant, fancy, and heavily made-up look inspired the likes of Jack Sparrow. Operated for three years as a captain before being killed in battle.
    • Black Sam Bellamy, the classic Just Like Robin Hood romantic pirate which is the historical pillar of every Lovable Rogue pirate in fiction. He was a pirate for two years, and a captain of his own ship for about one.
    • Calico Jack, famous for designing the classic pirate flag. Operated for two years as a pirate, and one as a captain, before being captured and executed.
    • Anne Bonny and Mary Read, the mothers of the Pirate Girl trope and Heterosexual Life-Partners, also romantically linked with the aforementioned Calico Jack. Also active for two years before capture.
    • Even Henry Avery, the pirate sometimes credited with kickstarting the golden age and the Ur-Example of golden age piracy, and often dubbed "The King of the Pirates" for his success, was only active for three years.
    • The Pirate Republic of Nassau itself only existed for roughly 12 years.
  • In an example related to the golden age of piracy, there is Woodes Rogers, who ended the age when he took Nassau by force, restructured it into a functioning government, fought off a Spanish invasion, directly and indirectly led the capture and death of many of the iconic pirates of that time (such as Blackbeard and Calico Jack), and stopped a malaria outbreak while he was at it. He did all of this in three years as governor.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most well-known and important activists for Civil Rights, he gave one of the most famous speeches of all time, and his influence is credited with the creation of laws against segregation. His national fame occurred in a fairly short window; both his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" and "I Have a Dream" speech happened in 1963 and he was killed less than five years later at the age of 39.
  • Likewise, Malcolm X, who rivaled King as the alternate face of the Civil Rights Movement, was also assassinated when he was 39.
  • Al Capone was only a Chicago crime boss for seven years, primarily during Prohibition, and the undisputed boss of organized crime in Chicago for only two. He is still the Real Life inspiration for depictions of The Mafia and other organized crime entities in the United States. To this day, since 1932 after Capone went to prison and since his death in 1947, Chicago's government is still trying to overcome the image of a Vice City that Capone and his associates left behind.
  • Charles "Lucky" Luciano was only in de facto command of his own crime family for five years before being imprisoned and subsequently deported. During that time, he more or less created a national syndicate for organized crime and turned the Mafia from what was yet another ethnic crime gang in a city full of them into the organized pervasive group it is known as today.
  • Billy the Kid: Committed all his major crimes between his 17th birthday and his early death at the age of 21. Nevertheless became the most legendary outlaw of the Wild West.
  • Søren Kierkegaard died at the relatively young age of 42. He did, however, leave behind an extensive corpus and became one of the leading figures of Existentialism.
  • The Bavarian Illuminati was founded in 1776 and lasted for roughly a decade, with the Bavarian government's crackdown against them in 1785 marking the beginning of their final slide into irrelevance and eventual dissolution. Since then, numerous fraternal organizations have claimed descent from the Illuminati, conspiracy theorists have alleged their hand in every world event since The French Revolution, and they have served, to an arguably greater degree than the longer-lived Freemasons, as the inspiration for just about every shadowy, ominous secret society in popular culture, many of which reference them by name. Not bad for an organization that failed to outlive its founders.
  • Penn Central existed all of two years before filing for bankruptcy (at the time the biggest corporate bankruptcy in US history) and was folded into Conrail (a state-owned freight railroad) six years after that. It arguably single-handedly led to the creation of Amtrak and the biggest bailout in the US up to that point as well as the closest the US ever came to nationalizing a major industry in peacetime.
  • The Hub was only around for 5 years before evolving into Discovery Family, yet during its short lifespan single-handedly revolutionized modern children's television by broadcasting an eclectic mix of modern and classic TV shows and launching the Brony craze with the runaway success of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
  • Although he had already been a portrait photographer for several years, Matthew Brady became noteworthy with the first exhibition of Civil War photographs in 1862. The war's end in 1865 saw a downturn in his fortunes, and he was forced to sell his studio after the anticipated purchase of his photographic plates by the government failed to materialize. In that time, however, he created ten thousand plates documenting the war, and effectively invented photojournalism.

Alternative Title(s): Short Run Wide Influence