Cam Mitchell: Easy, just bring in a character to replace him.
[everyone looks at Cam in silence]
Cam Mitchell: ... What?
A character who joins the cast as a replacement for a character who has left the show due to real-life distractions (contract negotiations, death, etc.) despite being integral to the plot or concept of the series. Invariably, this character fills the Stock Character slot left vacant by the departed, whether that be comic relief, intellectual, or musclebound bruiser.
Often, the character has some twist or gimmick to make it seem as if the character is unique, and the writers aren't actually grasping at straws to salvage the year's worth of scripts already written.
Some shows will take risks in such replacements, making the replacements truly different characters, rather than a similar character with a twist. That is much harder on the writers, since they can't simply tweak the scripts they had already written for the old character. Usually when this happens it is very intentional on the part of the production.
The vast majority of these replacements still take up the role of the previous character but how much they resemble their predecessor varies widely.
A Suspiciously Similar Substitute is dangerously prone to becoming hated by the fanbase, creating a Replacement Scrappy, and for a very understandable reason. If they're too similar, fans may become annoyed at the removal of a well liked character if their replacement is just the same guy with a different name and face. They may wonder why the character needed to be replaced if the story can still be told with the previous character, and get annoyed at the unneeded change of character.
For very suspiciously similar substitutes, see Backup Twin. Compare Discard and Draw, which does the same sort of thing with superpowers instead of characters and Legacy Character, where the new character actually adopts the persona of the old one. The inversion, where the same character fills a different role, is Same Character, but Different.
See also: Expy, Convenient Replacement Character, Temporary Substitute, The Other Darrin, The Nth Doctor, Put on a Bus, Dropped a Bridge on Him, Role-Ending Misdemeanor, Replacement Goldfish, Long-Runner Cast Turnover (the result of Several Suspiciously Similar Substitutes over time), Anti-Hero Substitute (when the substitute is Darker and Edgier), Suspiciously Similar Song (substitute in the form of a song), and Meet the New Boss (for villainous examples).
Contrast with the Contrasting Sequel Main Character.
- Played for laughs in Munchkin, where whenever a player 'dies', everybody else at the table gets a chance to loot the 'body'...and then the same player simply carries on with a notionally new character of the exact same level, race, and class as the old one.
- Monty was once called Robotman, but the syndicate wanted the creator Jim Meddick to remove the Robotman characternote . That done, fast-forward several years, and Monty is befriended by the mysterious eccentric scientist Doc-and his robot sidekick E. B. So far there's no sign that the syndicate wants to dump this new robotic character.
- Originally in For Better or for Worse, Lynn Johnston had intended to pair off Elizabeth with Christopher Nichols, but when that family was placed under embargo for reasons she took his design, slapped freckles and glasses on him, and created Anthony Caine, her Wesley.
- The End of Ends: While he looks like Robin and has the psychic powers of Raven, Copy Cat's namesake ability, to copy the forms of others, is reminiscent of the missing Beast Boy. Guess what happens once Beast Boy is Killed Off for Real.
- In Vapors this is invoked by the Third Hokage when he replaces the late Sakura Haruno with the newly-discovered Karin Uzumaki partly out of convenience, and partly as an attempt to help them cope with what happened.
- In Incarnation of Legends, Lusserina Luzumin is the Empire's strongest mage and is known as the "Witch of Flowers", much like Nasuverse Merlin's epithet as the "Magus of Flowers". It's little wonder that she's accompanying Artoria on their trip to Altena. Lampshaded by Kojiro, who asks if there's any relation between her and "him". The Radiance scoffs at this, calling her adorable next to "him".
- The Invader Zim fanfic In Short Supply is set a few years after the show, so it wouldn't make sense for Zim and Dib to still have Ms. Bitters as a teacher. Instead, we get Ms. Airy, who is just as weird, cruel and depressing. There's also Ms. Fhtagn, an Ambiguously Human guidance counselor who's similar but a bit more unique.
- In the Supernatural/Wynonna Earp crossover series "Told That Devil To Take You Back", Sam spends some of this series essentially viewing Waverly as a 'substitute' for Charlie Bradbury, both being young women with an initially academic interest in the supernatural who bond with Sam in a manner that he compares to a younger sister, but he tries to appreciate Waverly as her own person even before Charlie is brought back to life.
- In Spider-X, when the students at Xaviers first get the chance to meet some of Peters old friends, various characters note that Flash Thompson and Mary Jane are remarkably similar on a superficial level to Duncan Matthews and Jean Grey respectively, although this isnt a particularly big deal as Peter rarely interacts with Duncan and has no romantic interest in Jean.
- Some time after Bellatrix is (accidentally) prevented from becoming Voldemort's most devoted (and psychotic) lieutenant in Wind Shear, her aunt Walburga joins him instead after being cast out of the family. She even spouts similar lines, such as refusing to believe the "blood traitors and their lies about Voldemort's greatness".
- Young Justice: Darkness Falls: The final battle on War World takes place fighting a Nigh Invulnerable alien with yellow skin who can shrug off most of what the heroes throw at him, but who's beaten by some quick thinking. Now are we talking about Mongul or Steppenwolf?
- Empath: The Luckiest Smurf has two of them for Gargamel. In "The Enchanted Evergreen" (which is adapted from the comic book story "The Little Tree"), Evil Marduk was created to take Gargamel's place since the story adaptation was now set when the Smurfs were still Smurflings. In "Brenda's Boy Trouble" (which is adapted from the cartoon show episode "Scruple's Sweetheart"), a character named Severus was created to take Gargamel's place in the story while Jeanty from the comic books stood in for Scruple and Rascal Fuzzbucket for Azrael.
- Brian Johnson was brought into the band AC/DC after Bon Scott's death primarily because he had a voice very similar to Scott, making him a substitute of a sort. Notable for the fact that, unlike most established bands, their popularity increased with the singer change.
- Averted when Vince Neil had a falling out with the rest of Mötley Crüe, John Corabi came in to replace him. He was picked largely because his voice had an extremely different tone to Vince's, and Nikki Sixx, the primary songwriter, wanted to try a different direction. The album they recorded together didn't sell very well, and Vince returned to the band not long afterwards. Nikki has stated that they briefly toyed with the idea of having two singers, as John became a close friend during recording.
- Randy Meisner was the bass-player and high-voiced backing vocalist in the band Poco. He left to join what would become Eagles (filling the same role) and was replaced by Timothy B. Schmitt, whose distinctive features were also the high vocals, long hair and slight metrosexual vibe. When Randy left Eagles, guess who replaced him? The fact they're both introverted serious family men (as opposed to other band members who were party animals in their time) helps a lot too.
- Deep Purple's career is characterised by many line-up changes, but avoided any Suspiciously Similar Substitutions. Instead, they recruited new members with their own distinctive sound, resulting in significant changes in the style of the band's music from one line-up to the next.
- Judas Priest's Rob Halford left the band in 1992, and was replaced with Tim "Ripper" Owens in 1996, who had ironically sung in a Judas Priest tribute band, who sounded nearly identical to Halford in some songs. Owens parted amicably with the band, and Rob Halford re-joined them. This story was the inspiration behind the movie Rock Star.
- Also, when Tim went to join Iced Earth, a few casual fans thought that Rob had joined the band.
- Averted when American Idol contestant Chris Daughtry declined band Fuel's offer to replace their lead singer in favor of having his own band, Daughtry. Daughtry has recorded several huge hits since.
- Phil Collins got to replace Peter Gabriel in Genesis mostly because their voices were so similar.
- After Mick Jones got fired in 1983, The Clash brought in two guitarists to replace him. One of them, Nick Sheppard, looked enough like Jones that they could easily have passed for brothers. Jones had the last laugh, as the new Clash lineup broke up after only one album while his new group Big Audio Dynamite was an instant success.
- Subverted with The New Pornographers. Kathryn Calder serves as the female lead vocals on tour, but only when Neko Case (also a member, but a major solo singer in her own right) isn't available to tour.
- After The Fall's frontman Mark E. Smith and keyboardist/girlfriend Julia Nagle had a major falling out in the late 1990s, tensions between the two intensified, with the two first breaking up and then Nagle leaving The Fall ca. 2001. Suspiciously Similar Substitute — and Smith's eventual third wife — Elena Poulou became The Fall's keyboardist in late 2002.
- David Gilmour started out as this during his first weeks with Pink Floyd in order to cover for the increasingly unstable Syd Barrett. After Barrett's departure, Gilmour was originally supposed to continue playing guitar the way Syd used to; this lasted until about late 1968 when the band started shifting its musical direction.
- Guns N' Roses has had many members come and go over the years since the dissolution of the "classic" lineup, but many of the replacements were very different from their predecessors. For example, Buckethead is very, very different from his predecessor Slash. However, 2009 rolls around and their newest guitar player wears a top hat, smokes while playing, plays a Les Paul, and is known for his bluesy style.
- Sublime singer Bradley Nowell died of a drug overdose shortly after their breakthrough hit. The band tried to reform over a decade later with sound-alike Rome Ramirez, causing a major argument and eventual legal battle with Nowell's family: The family thought no one should tour under the Sublime name, and the band wanted to finally get to play for all the fans they gained since 40oz to Freedom was released. Eventually the settled on calling the band "Sublime with Rome."
- Arena-rock über-group Journey is enjoying something of a career resurgence, largely in part to having hired Philippines-born singer Arnel Pineda to handle lead vocal duties. And while Pineda looks not-a-lot like their former powerhouse tenor Steve Perry, their similarity in vocal tone is undeniable.
- After blonde bassist/vocalist Peter Cetera left brass-drenched band Chicago in 1985 to embark on a solo career, Chicago responded by hiring sandy-haired singer/bass player Jason Scheff to replace him. Didn't hurt that Scheff's vocal tone was a near cut-and-paste of Cetera's, either. And when Chicago's next few singles included the pseudo-Cetera-sounding "Will You Still Love Me?" and "What Kind Of Man Would I Be?" many casual fans didn't even notice the switch.
- Current Yes vocalist Benoït David sounds quite a lot like erstwhile Yes vocalist Jon Anderson. This probably isn't surprising since they plucked him out of a Yes tribute band. Trevor Horn, who handled lead vocals on the band's 1980 album Drama, also sounds rather similar to Anderson.
- Country music group Shenandoah had a hard time holding a lead singer after Marty Raybon left. However, one of the replacements was Jimmy Yeary, who sounded uncannily like Raybon.
- Though there were guitarists between them, Zakk Wylde appeared to be this for Randy Rhoads when he started playing with Ozzy: both having long blonde hair, white Les Pauls, and great technical prowess, although Randy was more effeminate looking due to how extremely skinny he was. Wylde's distinct Bullseye guitar design came about as an attempt to visually distinguish himself from Rhoads.
- When rotund lead guitarist/songwriter Randy Bachman left The Guess Who, he was replaced by rotund lead guitarist/songwriter Kurt Winter.
- When Jermaine Jackson quit The Jackson 5 in the mid-'70s, the youngest brother Randy (who'd been touring with them as a percussionist) replaced him, having a similar voice (compare Jermaine's "Daddy's Home" with Randy's vocals in "Can You Feel It"). In 1983, Jermaine rejoined for the famed Motown TV special, and they released their final album in 1989, wherein the lineup consisted of both brothers as well as the two oldest Michael Jackson had become the biggest solo artist in music, while middle brother Marlon released an unsuccessful solo album and appeared in a film produced by Troma).
- Broods is a brother-sister electronic Indie Pop duo who sounds almost exactly like Lorde, to the point where some people thought their songs were Lorde songs. There are a couple reasons for this: 1. They're both from New Zealand, and 2. They both have the same producer, Joel Little.
- The creators of Gorillaz made Ace their temporary bassist in 2018 for this reason; since Murdoc was arrested, they wanted to replace him with someone similar, and they figured Ace was the best character that could fulfill this need. Damon Albarn discusses it in this video.
- After 2 well received albums (as well received as alternative acts did, anyway), Sad Lovers & Giants broke up in 1983. Several years later, the band reformed, but without the original guitarist Tristan Garrel-Funk. Instead, his place was taken by certain Tony McGuinness. As luck would have it however, Tony's style of playing and approach to writing was uncannily similar, so the band's sound did not change all that much.
- When John Foxx left Ultravox in 1979, he was replaced by Midge Ure, whose singing voice was uncannily similar to Foxx's, but not to the point of being identical. When Ultravox disbanded in 1988 and returned in 1992, it received an almost completely different lineup save for the inclusion of keyboardist Billy Currie; this lineup was then axed and replaced (again, save for Currie) in 1994 and lasted until the band's second breakup in 1996. The lead vocalist in the second 90's lineup, Sam Blue, displayed a singing voice that sounded like an amalgamation of Foxx and Ure's.
- Mr. Saito to Professor Tanaka as Mr. Fuji's tag team partner.
- Amazing Kong debuted as a suspiciously similar substitute to Aja Kong. Previously she wrestled under the ring name "Vixen" but her billing was changed to get away with Wolverine Publicity, as the promoter had only promised "A Kong" rather than "Aja".
- Lollipop was a suspiciously similar substitute to Krissy Vaine when the latter wasn't available for bookers who wanted to use Team Blondage.(there were still two members besides Vaine, but they hated each other and wouldn't have worked for the Mean Girls vibe the team was going for)
- Muhammad Hassan and Davari were suspiciously similar substitutes to Rodney Mack and Theodore Long. Having a light skin black man fight against whitey just didn't seem as shocking with a war no one but the presidential administration really wanted raging. So their role went to two Farsi speaking men fighting Arab prejudice.
- Epiphany debuted as a suspiciously similar substitute to Beth Phoenix. She was even billed as OVW's "new" Glamazon before that title ultimately went to Paredyse, who was very much unlike Phoenix.
- Subverted in Ring of Honor with Taeler Hendrix, a former jobber Truth Martini dug back up when Seleziya Sparx was banned from entering the United States, to serve as the violent female managerial assistant in his House Of Truth. The first hint was in Hendrix's first violent act. While Sparx was known for Tranquil Fury, and usually had some rationale, however flimsy, for attacking anyone, Hendrix suddenly lost her temper and beat up a HOT trainee for not telling Martini "thank you". As time went on it also became clear that while Sparx was a Femme Fatale tease, Hendrix was a flat out vamp. While Sparx was a nice girl with a Friendless Background who just so happened to fall in with a bad crowd in the HOT, Hendrix had become very bitter during her hiatus from ROH. She'd be the perfect foil if not for Sparx being banned from the country and all.
- Comedian Artie Lange replacing Comedian Jackie "The Jokeman" Martling on The Howard Stern Show. Somewhat averted in that while the two did have similar hobbies and character traits, Lange was specifically hired as an on air personality, whereas Jackie was only sometimes on air, with his main job as writer.
- Jack Allen from Adventures in Odyssey. After addressing the Replacement Scrappy issue head-on by openly admitting that he could never replace Whit... he replaced Whit. He was generally well-received, though, and after resolving some storylines that hinged on "Whit's" presence, he developed into his own character.
- In The Navy Lark, Troutbridge's Number One in the first season, Dennis Price, was replaced by Stephen Murray in all the following seasons. They were different characters, but shared some of the same knowledge and responses.
- In The Jack Benny Program, there were several cast changes over the years: Bob Crosby for Phil Harris; Dennis Day for Kenny Baker.
- The first Big Finish Fourth Doctor Adventures set - "The Hornet's Nest", "The Serpent's Crest" and "The Demon Quest" - was originally written with the Brigadier as the companion, but when Nicolas Courtney fell ill the part was rewritten for UNIT Captain Mark Yates.
- In the first two series of The Men from the Ministry, the "One" of General Assistance Department was Roland Hamilton-Jones, played by Wilfrid Hyde-White. After he left "One" became Deryck Guyler's Deryck Lennox-Brown for the rest of the series. The two were practically the exact same characters with different names, and the show never acknowledged the change.
- The change also happened in the Finnish version of the show, but only much later (in that most Lennox-Brown episodes have been translated with Hammilton-Jones in his place) and only due due the actor Kauko Helovirta's death in 1997.
- In Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, a Dark Sun epic destiny has the main character become a hero template, and killing off the lead character would simply bring in a mechanically-identical replacement with the same powers and abilities.
- Actually noted In-Universe in Vampire: The Requiem with the Ventrue and their Roman Era counterpart, the lost clan of the Julii. Literally the only difference between the two is in their Clan Weakness, and even then they're just different flavors of the same "particularly detached from Humanity" motifnote . It's commonly accepted by vampires that the Ventrue are either a mutated form of the Julii, or a Julii Bloodline that eventually outbred the original Clan.
- On a more meta level, if a game uses class where player characters have tight certain mechanical roles, the death of one PC often leads to this trope. "Well, our Fighter died, so we need another front-line guy." The prevalence of this trope depends on how much a game mechanically reinforces the need for players to fill certain roles for the group to be effective. If the game makes it so a group is stymied and locked out of part of the game without certain classes, then this applies.
- For example, Shadowrun has players generally fitting very specific niches. If the group's only decker (hacker and cyberoperations specialist) gets killed, the group is mostly frozen out of that entire aspect of the game. So the runners will probably go looking for a decker in need of employment. There happens to be a player in need of a player character right there, so...
- Very prevalent in Dungeons & Dragons and its many children, nieces, and nephews. Generally speaking, the roles are healer, front-line fighter, magic and brains, and skills and stealth, with ranged combat and group face floating between those four roles. If the character was the group's skill character, the group is frozen out of that part of the game unless a replacement comes along.
- The extent to which this applies to D&D varies heavily based on the edition.
- Not exactly an apt trope for plays, but there's a very similar feeling in Othello: Brabantio, father of Desdemona, has a role in the first act, then does not follow when the action moves to Cyprus; then in the last act Gratiano, his brother, shows up to announce Brabantio is dead and generally stand in for him as a Venetian authority figure. Heightened in some small productions where the two characters are played by the same actor.
- Homestar Runner
- It made fun of this trope when, on an episode of the Show Within a Show Cheat Commandos, Gunhaver has to go on a secret mission to the moon for an undisclosed period of time (and if he ever comes back his voice might be different), and is replaced by Agent Chimendez, who is certainly not writer A. Chimendez implementing himself in the show.
- There's also "Onion Bubs," and the various other versions used to replace "Original Bubs."
- Acknowledged and actually a big part of the plot in Red vs. Blue, where the original Church (actually the AI Alpha) dies in season 6 and is replaced by another Church in season 7 (actually the AI Epsilon, who's made up of Alpha's memories). The two look and act almost exactly the same.
- Deconstructed in Seasons 11 and 12 after Epsilon-Church is Put on a Bus with Washington and Tucker. In Season 11, Washington takes over as leader of the Blues and tries to emulate Church's leading style, but it results in him behaving like an asshole and alienating his teammates, particularly Tucker, who views him as a Replacement Scrappy. Washington eventually comes into his own, but is captured at the end of the season, leaving Tucker to take over in Season 12. Tucker is clearly resentful about this and struggles with insecurity, but ultimately steps into the role of leader and actually develops several traits similar to Church. Then, when Church returns, the two start to clash when Church tries to reassume his old role, since Tucker is both accustomed to being the leader and pissed about Church leaving him to fill in his shoes.
- RWBY Chibi: Winter Schnee plays the role of the strict female authority figure in this series, which belonged to Glynda Goodwitch in RWBY proper.
- Dreamscape: The Overlord of Evil shares a lot of qualities with the Master of the Dammed, and not just in the case of names and looks. Both of them are powerful liches who have a world they either rule or desire to rule over, have an army of Mooks, and have another villain (or villains) under their command.
- Lampshaded in The Chronicles of William Bazillion here.
- L.D., the ruthless wolf CEO of HerdThinners in Kevin & Kell, only seen as a pair of slavering jaws, died in the first year and was immediately replaced by R.L., a ruthless wolf only seen as a pair of slavering jaws.
- In Sonichu, the character of Sandy is introduced almost immediately after the death of her mother Simonla. She had all of the same abilities as her, too.
- Discussed in The Order of the Stick when Tarquin claims that, after he kills Roy Greenhilt and Durkon Thundershield, Elan will have a Terrible Interviewees Montage and end up hiring "Rob Redblade" and "Murkon Lightninghammer." This references the tendency in Dungeon & Dragons campaigns where a lost party member will be quickly replaced by another character with the same class and level (to maintain party balance), and because they're played by the same person, often the same personality too. It also references the On the Origin of PCs book, wherein Roy hires Haley, Vaarsuvius and Belkar through a Terrible Interviewees Montage.
- Played with in (x, why?) when substitute teacher Quinn Jonas comes in for Ken.
- Awkward.: The departure of Ernie and Henry resulted in new characters turning up to fill their shoes: Henry (the therapist) is replaced with Dexter (the sage), and Ernie (the douche) with Jermaine (the mega-douche).
- There's a Muppet Web TV show, The Muppets Kitchen With Cat Cora that has Cora working with a new muppet, Angelo, an Italian chef. His role as a cook and his heavy Italian accent inevitably invite comparisons to the Swedish Chef (although Angelo speaks intelligibly and is actually competent), and viewer comments indicate that at least some see him as a Replacement Scrappy.
Beauregard: Hey, didn't you used to be Swedish?
Angelo: That's-a the other guy!
- Discussed in Doug Walker's "Disneycember" reviews of the Disney cheapquels—aside from "Ursula's crazy sister" in The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, he was actually really annoyed when he realized that the prequel's villain wasn't a young Ursula, but a new character with the same backstory and a similar appearance.
- Done in The Nostalgia Critic itself as Rachel Tietz was replaced by Tamara Chambers when Tietz left for acting jobs in California. Chambers and Tietz are somewhat similar looking although Chambers is a little more chubby. They never play the same characters though.
- Botar in the BIONICLE web serial Federation of Fear is killed by a villain, but the author still needed Botar's power of teleportation and simply replaced him with another one of his kind. The replacement had no name or character, merely serving as a Plot Device. Fans often joke about the event's pointlessness, as not only did Botar have a companion who could have been killed in his place, but another type of teleportation was introduced around the time anyway, and the ramifications of there being a whole species of such immensely powerful and exploitable beings were never brought up. More importantly, it turned out Botar was alive after all, he just didn't teleport back to where the story was taking place.
- A police officer who was the leader of a British charity was replaced by his twin brother after he was killed in the line of duty.
- Also the Polish president. And there's Fidel and Raul...
- Twin footballers Rafael and Fabio Da Silva both played the same position on Manchester United for some time.
- It can often seem a bit like this in professional team sports, when a particular 'role' is 'recast.' In particular, the identities of the fourth line (aka the goon line) of one's favourite ice hockey team seem to change about as frequently as Diana Ross's outfit. Sometimes it happens with more well-known players - eg. if a soccer/football team replace their tall, hulking, head-the-ball centre forward with another player who does the exact same thing, leaving the fans to wonder what exactly was the point of the exchange.
- Brand name products can be expensive. It's not uncommon to see shelves at home stocked not with brand name Cheerios, but with store-brand imitations like "Tasteeos."
- PepsiCo has the rights to distribute the 7 Up soft drink in every country except the U.S. (where the rights are held by Dr. Pepper). There, Pepsi instead sells the suspiciously similar soda Sierra Mist.
- Mr. Pibb was Coca-Cola's version of Dr. Pepper, mostly sold in places where Coke bottlers don't bottle Dr. Pepper. Then its formula was changed and it became "Pibb Extra". Nonetheless, many generic versions of Dr. Pepper exist, usually with "Dr." somewhere in the name (Pibb was originally "Dr. Pibb", but Dr. Pepper sued Coca-Cola for that.)
- There's also Russian-produced Old Pepper's Crew, with almost copycat design of logo. It has a website (in Russian, which strongly enforces similarities.
- Drayton Manor Theme Park in England has several knock-offs of Disneyland rides for people who can't afford to go to Disneyland Paris.