Follow TV Tropes

Please don't list this on a work's page as a trope.
Examples can go on the work's YMMV tab.


Uncertain Audience

Go To

"At times it's far too childish for RoboCop fans, and at other times it's a little too dark for the kids! And in the end, it really appeals to no one."
Smeghead concluding his review of RoboCop 3

Uncertain Audience takes place when producers have not positioned a certain enough target for their work's release.

Occurs when a form of media seems unaware of its target demographic, attempting to appeal to a wide range of different people. While these attempts are made to reach various audiences and thus ensure greater financial success, they often result in alienating groups with opposing tastes. It can be a candy-coated Squee with a squick center for some people (like a Tootsie Roll lollipop for those who don't like chocolate, or prefer real chocolate) or vice versa (like salted peanuts that you can't eat until you bust 'em open). For chocolate-munching, peanut-swallowing people on the other hand, this genre blend can be the perfect flavor for you. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, though, your best bet is to stay away from this.

Food metaphors aside, it can appear in various forms:

Compare and contrast Multiple Demographic Appeal, where a work deliberately appeals to different audiences (usually with better success), and Audience-Alienating Premise, where it's the actual concept that has trouble finding an audience rather than the executionnote . Compare Bathos, where the juxtaposition of incompatible genres or moods is done deliberately for humor, and Values Dissonance, where a work has an audience in its native country but falls between the cracks when exported elsewhere.

As a reminder, this is not to be used for Complaining About Shows You Don't Like.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • This commercial for salads from Domino's Pizza mocks people who enjoy salads as buzzkills who ruin pizza night by making everybody get salads instead, yelling at them to "Eat a pizza once in a while!" It’s unclear whether they want to appeal to people who dislike salads and enjoy pizza, nullifying the point of adding salads to the menu, or people who dislike pizza and enjoy salads, which is the demographic the commercial mocks as "soulsmashers". It also completely ignores anybody who may enjoy both pizza and salad.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Akame ga Kill! is relentlessly dark, with main characters dying left and right, but at the same time there are heavy comedy elements that can seem very out of place, such as Lubbock's constant flirting and Tatsumi's Clueless Chick-Magnet tendencies, as well as lots of fanservice. Not helping is that the whole Gray-and-Gray Morality part of the story is more of an Informed Attribute, making it hard to tell if it's supposed to be for older audiences looking for a darker Shonen series, or a lighter-themed Shonen series for younger audiences. Older audiences found the humor distracting and felt the story didn't properly handle the darker elements it implied were important, while younger audiences found the show's themes a bit extreme and hard to get past, alongside the show's heavy amounts of violence and distracting fanservice. Due to this, neither the anime or manga gained a large audience, and ended without much fanfare.
  • Appare-Ranman! was a flop with general audiences despite its good critical ratings—it revolves around a cross-country race in a Steampunk-inspired setting very loosely based on turn of the century America, but despite the over-the-top setting, characters, and action, the series also has multiple character arcs and backstories revolving around serious topics such as women's rights and the folly of revenge. Viewers who tuned in to see colorful, ridiculous action a la REDLINE found it hard to tolerate the angsty backstories and morals, and those who might have been interested in the characterization found it hard to take seriously because of the more out-there elements, and the series' sales suffered because of it.
  • Back Arrow was a notable flop despite the reputations of its creators, and most of it can be attributed to the creative styles of director Goro Taniguchi and writer Kazuki Nakashima clashing. While both creators make superficially similar anime—high-concept, flamboyant Mecha works, the actual content of their stories can't be more different: Taniguchi uses his mecha as a front for geopolitical intrigue and weighty character-driven depictions of war, while Nakashima is a firm purveyor of old-school Super Robot stories, where flashy, ridiculous action and pure idealism lead the way, and this anime attempts to do both styles at once to disastrous results. There's classic Super Robot tropes like robots that run on pure willpower, Combining Mecha, New Powers as the Plot Demands, Bloodless Carnage invocations of The Power of Love and The Power of Friendship, and stuff that's just plain goofynote  out the wazoo, but this is combined with dark and serious elements such as a weighty War Is Hell storyline, the protagonist and his Ragtag Bunch of Misfits rubbing elbows with generals and princesses and eventually becoming a great power nation themselves, and the protagonist's Superpowered Evil Side killing hundreds. These events constantly occur back-to-back at the same time, leading to a tone so schizophrenic it can almost seem like you're watching two shows at once, such as when a battle filled with angst from the heroes about having to possibly kill is ended by a literal friendship powerup where Everyone Lives, only to immediately be followed by a riot stirred up by the Big Bad that ends in a civilian massacre. It's not a surprise that the show never did great numbers, since it requires tolerance of both the most extreme seriousness of a Real Robot anime and the most ridiculous silliness of a Super Robot one, something that few fans have the ability to do.
  • Part of the reason Berserk: The Golden Age Arc ultimately underperformed is that it tries to strike a balance between being a Gateway Series that can serve as an introduction to the rest of the franchise by adapting the acclaimed Golden Age series, and a Truer to the Text adaptation that finally throws longtime fans a bone after the prior major adaptation (Berserk (1997)) ends on a cliffhanger, leaving some important characters and moments Adapted Out. However, it ultimately struggled with both groups. To longtime fans, the films (barring the presence of those Adapted Out characters) feel redundant when a well-liked adaptation of the same material already exists (which also sparked immediate, oft-unfavorable comparisons between the two), especially since there are plenty of other stories and characters that fans had been dying to see in animation for decades. The film approach of only covering important plot points (a consequence of adapting fourteen volumes of manga into about five hours of material) also leaves the plot feeling rather rushed and missing a lot of the slower, more introspective moments, so newcomers end up missing out on a lot of the story's thematic content and character interplay, and thus a lot of the original's appeal. Consequently, while the films do have their fans, those fans tend to see them as more supplementary to the manga version rather than a good replacement or introduction to it.
  • An often discussed reason Boruto took a while to really gain an audience was that the early part of the story lacked a hook for newcomers or long-time series fans. For long-time fans of Naruto, it's a story focusing on the children of the characters from the original manga, said parents being characters fans have followed for nearly two decades and therefore like more than their kids. They also find the concept of a story that is supposed to be set after the long history of war was seemingly ended to be a Happy Ending Override. Non-Naruto fans had no desire to watch it, simply because it's a continuation of a long-running series with a certain level of infamy among the anime community for Filler, and thus lack any emotional connection to it that might have hooked them in. This isn't helped by the fact that newer fans simply won't know much about Naruto if they haven't seen the original series, as Boruto doesn't do much to inform newcomers on the setting.. While the series eventually gained a bigger audience, the initial lack of a compelling reason to look into the series caused it to not take off at first with any particular audience.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card can't seem to decide whether it's intended for kids who are new to the series or adults who grew up watching and reading the original run. On one hand, it is still serialized in the very same Shōjo magazine as the original run, and the anime adaptation aired in a kids timeslot, but on the other hand, since it's a direct continuation, it requires familiarity with a work that's over 20 years old, and all of The Merch are things like collector-grade figures and replicas, as well as expensive cosmetics and clothing, with very few things kids could afford or would be interested in.
  • Case Closed failed when it was broadcast on late nights on [adult swim] in the United States because of this uncertainty, combined with Values Dissonance: it was too childish for [adult swim], yet too violent for CN's then late-afternoon Toonami block, having brutal murders and complex plots involving suicide, drugs and business dealings, but also many childish comedy moments.
  • Cells at Work! CODE BLACK is a spinoff of an Edutainment Show (admittedly one that can get pretty gory and depressing by Western standards) aimed at children, and is even more Anvilicious about the importance of healthy living than its parent series. Yet the manga runs in a Seinen magazine, and it isn't afraid to show the negative consequences of unhealthy habits through its Crapsack World setting where Anyone Can Die, and it doesn't shy away from graphic depictions of health problems like drug addictions and sexually transmitted diseases, which, combined with the sheer bleakness of the setting and likelihood of the main characters to either die or end up in situations even worse from when they started, makes it too dark and dramatic for the child audience of the parent manga to enjoy. Meanwhile, the show's heavy-handed commentary about the health effects of bad habits fails to appeal to most adult readers, since the series doesn't offer any insight that couldn't have already been found in a self-help book or Google search. It's been commented that the only people the manga could appeal to are the adult Periphery Demographic of the original series, since they already know the franchise's M.O. when it comes to morality plays and edutainment.
  • Much of the reason DARLING in the FRANXX is a fairly controversial show—it's often described as the fusion of Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gurren Lagann, as it absolutely borrows stylistic cues from both. Consequently, it has a high-concept, sexualized, inherently silly premise of robots with pilots sitting at the controls in doggystyle, but the series itself, for most of its run, is relatively slow-paced and serious, focusing on interpersonal drama, love triangles, and tragic backstories. A lot of people interested in bawdy, farcically over-the-top action were wondering when the show would stop focusing on sad teenagers, and found the show's conflict hard to get hyped about. Meanwhile, the people who liked the show's character focus and drama were either unable to get past the premise, or were driven off by later episodes bringing the silly stuff to the fore—culminating in a lady the size of the planet fighting space aliens.
  • Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?, despite having a group of young female protagonists, is a standard isekai that can get very dark at times. Its anime adaptation tried to play up the Four-Girl Ensemble nature of the main cast to draw in slice-of-life fans, but that failed to appeal to them as the dark elements that were kept from the original books caused Mood Whiplash and they found the show much too dark to be a good Moe anime. Meanwhile, fans of the original series were not amused at the amount of content that got cut from the adaptationnote , and fans of isekai weren't happy with the Mood Whiplash either, finding it to resemble an Indecisive Parody more than an actual entry in the genre.
  • One of the issues surrounding Digimon Adventure: (2020) is that it's unsure whether it wants to appeal to newcomers or fans of the original Digimon Adventure. The show simultaneously acts as a Continuity Reboot that takes creative liberties with the original while also requiring new viewers to have knowledge of the previous incarnations of the franchise.
  • Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA suffers from an uncertain audience due to being a combination of genre and setting: A Magical Girl story in an Alternate Universe of Fate/stay night following Illya and her friends. From the perspective of fans of the Magical Girl genre, it lacks anything really unique about its setting, coming across as a Cardcaptor Sakura clone for much of the early part of the story, which means fans of the genre simply lack a reason to watch it if they aren't fans of the Fate franchise. For fans of the Fate series, it's a strange and out-of-genre work that doesn't mesh well with the complicated lore and themes of the greater franchise, and only later starts bringing out more heavy and complex aspects of the setting. Even beyond that, the fact it's part of the Fate franchise means it automatically alienates some viewers simply because of how complicated the series is for outsiders. It also suffers from having Lolicon elements (especially in the second season, 2wei, which turned off readers/viewers who were able to look past it), meaning people who are fine with everything else in the series were uncomfortable with all the fanservice focused on characters who are young girls in elementary school. And for the few fans who actually liked the magical girl parody and referential humor of the first couple of seasons, they were put off by the third season's shift into Darker and Edgier territory, which went to the point of completely jettisoning Illya and her supporting cast to focus on an Alternate Universe version of Shirou going through a bleak storyline with as much if not more suffering than Heaven's Feel.
  • F-Zero: GP Legend, an anime adaptation of Nintendo's F-Zero racing series, failed due to unclear appeal. Among general audiences, the series was full of dark themes and moments such as the villains being explicit murderers, alienating younger viewers, but the characters were too over-the-top for older viewers. Even fans of the games didn't take to it as it played too fast and loose with the source material (and considering that F-Zero didn't have much lore to work with in the first place, that's saying a lot), while other Nintendo fans would ignore it due to F-Zero being obscure outside of Captain Falcon's appearances in Super Smash Bros.
  • .hack//Legend of the Twilight's anime adaptation: On one side, it‘s considerably more light-hearted and childish than .hack//SIGN, with more comic relief and cute monsters. On the other side, it also has more Fanservice and Implied Twincest between the two main characters, such that the series has become infamously immortalized because of it.
  • Heike Monogatari suffers from the unfortunate combination of being a retelling of a literary classic from a different perspective that also crams a Door Stopper of an epic poem into eleven episodes. As a result, despite the critical praise for its art and animation, it suffered heavily from this: viewers who weren't familiar with the epic or the historical events behind it were confused by the large amount of characters and major events that get quickly glossed overFor example  while viewers who were familiar with the poem were also disappointed with all the creative liberties the series took with its source material.
  • Heroine Taru Mono!, the fourth anime adaptation of the Confession Executive Committee series, was noted by reviewers to have this as a problem: it doesn't shy away from showing the unsavory aspects of the idol industry (unwanted attention from the media and Loony Fans, personal scandal, putting on fake personalities for the camera, and coworkers who can't stand each other, just to name a few). That said, it also plays a lot of otome game/shoujo reverse harem tropes completely straight, and ultimately ends by having the Plucky Girl protagonist getting the idols to start getting along through nothing but her determination, and casting the same Loony Fans it decried earlier on as actually passionate and supportive all along—thus making the show unappealing to viewers who wanted a darker, more deconstructive take on the genre.
  • It's unclear just who Higurashi: When They Cry Gou is supposed to appeal to. While new fans may be interested in it as being an alleged reboot, it's actually a Stealth Sequel. The first half of the series, which consists mostly of adaptations of the original sound novels, contains lots of references and plot thread dropping that require knowledge of the original series and will likely leave them wondering what is going on. Returning fans who would likely be interested in a sequel, however, will likely wind up frustrated by having to watch twelve straight episodes consisting largely of stuff they've already seen, and will tune out long before the Wham Episode starts bringing new content to the fore.
  • This trope was a contributing factor to the cancellation of IGPX: Immortal Grand Prix, with the tone of the Humongous Mecha races being viewed as too outlandish for older audiences and the series also containing lots of material that ranged from uninteresting to inappropriate for younger audiences. Neither Cartoon Network nor [adult swim] could keep the show alive.
  • The original Interspecies Reviewers manga is noted to have this issue by fans: the series has an extremely raunchy premise (a group of sex-addicted adventurers having sex with various Cute Monster Girl prostitutes in a fantasy world), which involves a lot of frank and explicit discussion of sex and fetishes, some of which can get very niche. This obviously excludes younger demographics and comedy fans who aren't interested in something so lewd...yet, despite its premise, the manga is extremely tame in terms of Fanservice, as the sexy stuff is only discussed in speech and writing and left up to the readers' imagination; in fact, it takes multiple volumes to show one instance of partial nudity. This, as you can imagine, turns off ecchi fans who go in expecting explicit imagery from the series' premise, only to get none. While the anime adaptation's Hotter and Sexier content led to it being removed from several TV networks and streaming sites for being too raunchy, it also makes its target audience much clearer and it ended up getting a bigger fanbase that way.
  • Jewelpet Sunshine is often accused of having an uncertain audience. It's a wacky kids' school (specifically the last year of high school, meaning all the major characters are at least 18) comedy that deals with issues such as incest and zoophilia.
  • Kakushigoto: My Dad's Secret Ambition, just like any other Koji Kumeta manga, comes with a healthy dose of his trademark Surreal Humor. While the gags work fine in isolation and wouldn't be out of place in one of his more out-there stories, they really don't gel with the slow-paced slice-of-life tone of the manga, which is heavily implied to be autobiographical. The result is heartfelt parent-child bonding and philosophical musing on parenthood and growing up being interrupted by wacky gags, which is jarring to say the least. The manga fares a tiny bit better by keeping the weird moments in separate chapters from the down-to-earth ones, but the anime plays them back-to-back and includes a Sudden Downer Ending which makes the Mood Whiplash even worse. The result is a series that's not bizarre enough for Kumeta fans who love his trademark style of writing, but too bizarre for those not familiar with his series who would otherwise be interested in a slow-paced slice of life with family themes.
  • Missions of Love can't decide if it's a mature shoujo romance or a shounen moe sex comedy. And it's serialized in Nakayoshi, a manga magazine for young girls, further confusing things.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi starts out looking like a harem comedy, then takes a hard turn into a fighting series in volume three. Afterward it remains a fighting series, albeit with Harem Comedy elements left in it. Readers who came for the earlier harem comedy can get put off by the gradual change to a battle series. Conversely,fans looking for shonen action would get put off by the occasional veering towards harem antics. note 
  • This was the main reason why Mobile Suit Gundam AGE underperformed, as it couldn't decide whether it should cater towards its intended younger demographic, or traditional Gundam fans. For Gundam fans, they were turned off by the more "kiddie" art style and the toyetic nature of the show. For its target audience, they were alienated by the increasingly darker tone, and the sudden change in cast each arc.
  • The anime adaptation of Nekopara was kneecapped by not being able to figure out if it wanted to appeal to younger or older fans. The anime is a slice-of-life spinoff revolving around a Canon Foreigner that downplays the games' Harem Genre elements, supposedly so series creator Sayori could watch it with her children. However, the anime also requires heavy knowledge of the visual novels, something that kids will not be able to have since they are H-games, and it also contains many examples of family-unfriendly content in the form of blatant Male Gaze and barely-disguised sexual innuendo. As a result, it flew under the radar with younger audiences due to the nature of the franchise it was adapting, and the adult audience of the visual novels found it to be much too saccharine and juvenile for their tastes. The anime became the lowest-selling part of an otherwise extremely successful franchise.
  • Despite its massive popularity, Neon Genesis Evangelion falls into this trope. It has mecha play an important role in the plot, but is also heavily focused on interpersonal character drama — the audience for the two contrasting elements is very different. This might be why the series is so divisive.
    • Petit Eva is even more confusing. It's a school AU spinoff in Super-Deformed style, without any of the self-awareness or (however momentary) actual character drama seen in similar Evangelion spinoff media like Shinji Ikari Raising Project and Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days. This seems to imply that it's targeted towards children, but even more permissive Japanese parents wouldn’t want to introduce children to a series as dark as Evangelion.
  • Sailor Moon Crystal was seemingly targeted at fans of the original Sailor Moon manga, as it claimed to be a faithful adaptation of that material... But then it made several changes to the end of the first season that upset that particular demographic. Then the third season attempted to court fans of the original '90s anime by changing the art style and the cast's personalities to more closely resemble it, but fans of the original anime had already been turned off by the lack of focus on the ensemble cast vs. focus on Sailor Moon herself, a facet of the original manga. The series seemingly also failed to attract new fans, as a fourth season hung in limbo for years and underwent yet another art change before finally being retooled into two movies, Sailor Moon Eternal. Sailor Moon Eternal then tried even harder to cater to fans of the anime, further driving the original audience away.
  • Shugo Chara! has a young female protagonist, adorable fairy mascots, and sparkly Magical Girl battles, since the manga ran in Nakayoshi, a shoujo magazine for young girls. It also deals with some surprisingly dark and mature subjects (including one character having a Big Brother Attraction), many characters have deep psychological issues, and a huge part of the story is the elementary school-aged heroine's romance with a boy in his late teens (who openly returns her affections). There's also lots of moe elements in order to appeal to otaku. This may be why no licensing company wants to pick the anime version up.
  • Time Paradox Ghostwriter runs into this problem. Despite being serialized in a shonen magazine and even focusing on publishing manga in that very same magazine as a plot point, the story tackles themes that would be much more relatable to adults than the intended audience of teenage boys; this includes the difficulties creators go through to live off their work, the issues inherent in the manga industry, and even the morally grey dilemma of Teppei passing off White Knight as his own work despite feeling guilty about it. Along with Teppei coming across as Unintentionally Unsympathetic due to his plagiarism, this is likely part of the reason why the manga was cancelled after only three months of serialization.
  • The Vision of Escaflowne:
    • Although it became a famous case of Multiple Demographic Appeal done right, though it did infamously bomb when it first aired in Japan (finding much more love overseas and then being Vindicated by History), partly because the idea of an anime not being a clear-cut Shōnen or Shoujo series (nor being based on a pre-existing manga) was unheard of at the time.
    • It also initially struggled when it first aired in the US under Fox Kids, who tried to market it exclusively to young boys but kept a lot of the romance elements beyond the unaired first episode, which might have contributed to it being much better received in other English-speaking countries (particularly Canada) and being quickly pulled from syndication. Vision of Escaflowne Abridged discusses and lampoons this in its opening episode.
      Van (to Hitomi): The reason you're confused is that the network skipped the first episode. It seems that... certain elements... didn't test too well with that crucial "has a penis" demographic.
      Hitomi: And they thought that was more important than maintaining continuity and the plot?
      Van: You're watching Fox.
  • Yoshi no Zui kara, Satsuki Yoshino's first manga released after Barakamon was canceled after only three volumes thanks to an Uncertain Audience. The premise of the story is an incredibly personal and surprisingly dark tale about a struggling manga author who unexpectedly creates a hit and has to deal with the unexpected life changes, mental health issues, and impostor syndrome. At the same time, the story also includes a lot of rural-themed slice of life chapters (including having characters that fill similar roles as Naru and Hiroshi did in the author's previous series), seemingly in an attempt to draw in the fanbase of Barakamon. Needless to say, the two tones didn't mix, and readers interested in the premise were turned off by the slice-of-life, which they viewed as pointless filler...but slice-of-life fans weren't inclined to pick the manga up thanks to its dark premise and first few chapters.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V: By some accounts, about half the creators wanted it to be an idealistic show and a Milestone Celebration about the joy of being an entertainer and making people smile, and the other half wanted it to be a gritty Deconstructor Fleet with heavy War Is Hell themes. Needless to say, these two concepts got in the way of each other a lot, and towards the end, the series had gotten too grim and cynical for people who liked the goofy stuff, and too saccharine and annoying for people who liked the darker stuff. For a particularly egregious example, the series' infamous Battle Beast arc shows a traumatized boy reduced to an animalistic level and trained only to kill off multiple named characters, only for the protagonist help him turn over a new leaf and learn to have fun after he plays paintball with him.

    Comic Books 
  • Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld fell victim to this throughout nearly all of its runs after its original and most successful run. The original comic was conceived before the Magical Girl Warrior was codified in the West (to put it in perspective, Sailor Moon would not debut on American television for more than a decade after the original maxi-series) leaving the creators with no idea where to go with a princess character that journeyed between Earth and Gemworld. Their solution was to make the series a full-on horror title that proved extremely unpopular and was quickly cancelled. Several decades later, after the Magical Girl Warrior had been codified, and following a series of well-received animated shorts, DC revived the character for the New 52 relaunch in the pages of Sword Of Sorcery, as an adult targeted title with heavy themes that included attempted rape, while having nothing in common with the shorts. The book proved unpopular and was cancelled after failed attempts to bring in readers. In 2020, a new Amethyst miniseries was published, eschewing Magical Girl Warrior tropes in favor of heavy, complex, and mostly boring political intrigue that once again, proved unpopular with readers. While the surface trappings of a magical princess being Trapped in Another World would repel male readers and older readers, the heavy focus on elements like horror and politics turned away anyone looking for a Magical Girl Warrior series, resulting in low readership and short runs.
  • The Children's Crusade (Vertigo) was a Red Skies Crossover featuring Kid Heroes like Tefe Holland, Maxine Baker, and Tim Hunter - published by Vertigo Comics, which generally skewed towards older audiences and didn't really do intra-company crossovers that much. Those who were not repulsed at the prospect of a multi-part crossover featuring almost exclusively children might have been turned off by the awkward juxtaposition of dark themes (the plot involved a child-kidnapping ring) with humor (the bumbling antics of Charles Rowland and Edwin Paine, who've been hired to find a missing boy despite having little actual detective experience.)
  • UDON's comic book adaptations of the Darkstalkers video games have always fallen into this trope. The games they are based on are relatively obscure so mainstream audiences won't be interested on it, while hardcore or new fans that have just discovered the games are turned off by the many changes to the lore and characterisation. The most infamous example being the poster child of the games: Morrigan Aensland, who is changed from an hedonistic Anti-Hero to a bloodthirsty murderer Villain Protagonist.
  • The New 52 era of DC Comics is widely regarded as one of its worst and most alienating eras for a variety of reasons, with one of the bigger ones being that despite heavily advertising itself as a Continuity Reboot of the DC Universe, it ended up not committing to that promise. Longtime fans were turned off as the sudden reset slashed a lot of preexisting projects in favor of newer revisions and takes that were seen as inferior (primarily with the editorially-mandated edict of making things Darker and Edgier, no matter how inappropriate and overwhelming), but prospective newcomers were turned off as despite promises of there being a complete reset that would allow them to join in without the notorious baggage of decades-long continuity, many editors and writers weren't keen on suddenly abandoning their work and became increasingly magnetized to accepting past continuity as maybe happening, and with no standardization in place to control the habit, the old canon drifted back in and made the state of continuity even more confusing to keep up with, negating the whole point of accessibility (anyone hopping into a post-"reboot" Batman story would have to learn that he's still had four different sidekicks named Robin). It especially didn't help when DC still felt the need to jump straight into massive crossover event comics built on spiking up sales with collective star power, advertised with the promise that they'd be radically changing the status quo, seemingly forgetting that they had no unified status quo, leaving all audiences confused and lost. DC eventually realized they made a worst-of-both-worlds situation that was losing them sales, leading to the DC Rebirth initiative that effectively re-canonized pre-reboot lore, retaining what longtime comic fans wanted from their series while settling down a new status quo for newcomers to hop on board with, which proved critically and commercially more successful.
  • Much of the reason Marvel's The New Universe failed was that it never really figured out who it was for. The entire premise was based on a sort of proto-Cape Punk, where superheroes, created by a Mass Super-Empowering Event, would have realistic consequences on society and the world they inhabited, and the world itself was Like Reality, Unless Noted and lacked Comic-Book Time. However, unlike stories like Watchmen or Squadron Supreme, which had set lengths, a single creative vision, and played their stories pretty po-faced, the New Universe was a comic line with many creators and ongoing books, and was full of traditional comic book antics like mechsuits and Super Serum and downright silly concepts like a superpowered football team—many of its books wouldn't have been out of place at all in the Marvel Universe. This failed to appeal to fans looking for more thoughtful or deconstructive fare, and fans of Marvel's traditional comics were turned off simply because it didn't take place in the Marvel Universe or feature any of its staple concepts. One commentator noted that it seemed like Marvel was creating a second-rate knockoff of itself to compete with its own books. The concept of a "more realistic" spinoff of the Marvel Universe was done far better in Ultimate Marvel, which kept Marvel's characters and concepts to maintain name recognition, whereas Jim Shooter managed to take similar ideas but forge a more cohesive identity when he created the much more successful Valiant Comics.
  • Runaways (Rainbow Rowell), on the one hand, is marketed heavily towards fans of the original series, with references to their past adventures and the various crossovers with other comics (for instance, Victor von Doombot is a recurring guest character, and a recurring subplot is Victor's trauma from the death of his nephew); thus, casual readers may have to read a bunch of lesser-known comics in order to understand all the plot points. On the other hand, the series was meant to appeal to viewers of the Hulu series, and thus a number of changes to the team's dynamics were made, including Xavin and Klara having their roles in the series severely reduced, Gert having a much larger role on the team, and Nico and Karolina being made an Official Couple, as they are on the show. While some of those changes were well-received, a significant number of longtime fans were annoyed by what they perceive as forced synergy with the TV show.

    Fan Works 
  • The fanfiction My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic has numerous violent and dark plotlines (the story constantly advocates Violence is the Only Option and that friendship is worthless while also brutalizing and breaking down several characters including killing Twilight Sparkle off for real), but it also has its share of light-hearted elements (spontaneous musical numbers, the story of a statue learning to be a real boy, wholesale references to shows like Today's Special and Strawberry Shortcake with Power Rangers-esque fight scenes) and as a result, the series is too dark for children but too childish for adults.
  • While Pokémon Reset Bloodlines is far from unpopular, it's undeniably very hard to sell. The story's main draw, a superpowered Ash with a harem, is something that doesn't attract viewers who are looking for a compelling read, while those who do have to contend with one of the archetypal "bad fanfic" plot points. Not helped that this fic also tends to deconstruct said power fantasies as much as it plays them straight, alienating the readers lured by the mentioned main draw.
  • Super Sentai vs. Power Rangers is marketed as "an attempt to stop fan wars" between the two fandoms. However, Super Sentai fans have to see their favorite characters get marginalized or bastardized, while Power Rangers fans have to see their favorites be treated like utter crap by the narrative.
  • Sword Art Online Abridged has this happening to this version of Alfheim Online; the box description zigzags between a child-friendly game about friendship and a more adult game about violence and fighting. Tiffany describes the target audience as being the cast from Lord of the Flies, though he doubts that's a market big enough to profit from. Kirito soon finds out that the game has experienced a recent surge in popularity despite all this, mainly due to a small group of roleplayers finding the game in the bargain bin and thinking it would be a good place to play their planned campaign. It exploded from there, presumably by word of mouth, but it's still clear that it's a chaotic, buggy mess with inconsistent censorship.

    Films — Animation 
  • While revered as a classic nowadays, Disney's Alice in Wonderland had this reaction when it was first released in 1951. Fans of the original novel criticized the Americanized themes, more cartoony character designs compared to John Tenniel's original illustrations, and incorporated elements from the sequel Through the Looking-Glass. Viewers who weren't hardcore fans of the book and wouldn't mind these deviations were turned off by the lack of a proper story.
  • For the Direct to Video film BIONICLE: Mask of Light, LEGO set out to find an animation company that would respect the franchise and not make a Human-Focused Adaptation. The movie was a moderate hit, approachable enough to be enjoyed by casual fans and laypeople, though hardcore fans were less pleased. Characters and concepts were greatly simplified or altered, some things were explained while others were left a mystery. The reason most people don't remember the two prequels, Legends of Metru Nui and Web of Shadows is partially down to LEGO's unenthusiastic marketing (they reportedly gave up on the movies after the second, the third was only made because they already had a contract), but the films also got more confusing, depending on the viewer's familiarity with the lore. Plot points are unexplained or contradictory, there are huge gaps in the story filled in by the comics, books and online animations, yet the corny jokes and simplified characters were still reaching for mass appeal, turning off the hardcore fans. Web of Shadows in particular is surprisingly gloomy for a LEGO kids' movie, with outright horror elements and brutal death mixed with awkward jokes, as the creators indulged in a dark story that they, not the LEGO writing team, wanted to tell. Poor DVD sales ended the series and the films are still controversial among fans.
  • One of the main reasons The Black Cauldron didn't do well was its uncertainty over who it was trying to appeal to; they couldn't seem to decide between making a more serious dark fantasy film that stuck closer to the source material, or a more whimsical and lighthearted fantasy film geared towards children. As a result, they had to edit a lot of the film's more violent and scary content while adding goofier kid-appeal elements, which alienated fantasy fans and especially fans of The Chronicles of Prydain. Even then a lot of the film's content, such as the Horned King and the Cauldron Born, were still regarded as too intense for young children (it was notably Disney's first animated film to be rated PG, and this was in an era when PG meant a whole lot worse than what it means now), which likely contributed to the film's commercial failure. Nowadays, most people agree the movie would probably have been better if they'd gone full Darker and Edgier, as these tend to be the parts people enjoy most.
  • Chicken Little had issues of trying to combine the usual Disney story conventions with a Fractured Fairy Tale slant in the vein of Shrek (the film was the last animated film greenlit by Michael Eisner in the midst of his feud with Jeffrey Katzenberg, right before Disney's merger with Pixar). Though modestly successful financially, the film had both jokes that were unappealing to older audiences and a surprising amount of frightening content for younger ones.
  • Eight Crazy Nights. It has a lot of risqué jokes that make it too mature for young kids...while also being neck-deep in juvenile gross-out humor anyone above the age of thirteen is unlikely to find funny.
  • The Emoji Movie has a style that would mainly appeal to younger children, with a cute, colorful art style, simple character designs, a childish plot, and a juvenile sense of humor. Such an audience is generally not mature enough to responsibly use a smartphone, which the whole movie happens to be about.
  • A common critique of Foodfight! is that the core premise of branded food mascots coming to life is too absurd and nakedly mercenary to appeal to anyone but small children, but the film is so heavy on Parental Bonus-type jokes and plot elements (dated references, blatant Double Entendres, sexual imagery, and the villains being based on Nazis) that it's also completely inappropriate for them.
  • A major reason why Free Jimmy wasn't well-received outside of its native Norway was its tonally dissonant story. It tried to be both a dark comedy with plenty of vulgar, slapstick humor and satire, and a tragic story about an abused elephant trying to escape a circus. Many reviewers felt that those two elements really clashed with each other instead of blending well together, resulting in an uneven tone.
  • Home on the Range may have flopped for this reason. Some elements such as the corny story and lighthearted song numbers feel like they were intended for a younger audience than usual for Disney, but the film also has a "hip" feel to it reminiscent of the Dreamworks Animation films at the time, resulting in a messy film that is generally considered one of Disney's weakest works.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame is generally looked at as a good movie nowadays, but had a bit of an identity problem when it was first released to theaters. At its core, it's a very serious and quite dark story, featuring heavy themes such as religious fundamentalism, sexual lust, and attempted genocide. This would make for a fine movie, but none of it on its own would be marketable to kids (in other words, the main demographic for Disney movies). Quasimodo's wacky gargoyle friends Victor, Hugo, and Laverne are largely there to make it more family-friendly and provide comic relief and slapstick, which the movie devotes quite a bit of screentime to, even at moments where this silliness is completely out of place (most notably when "A Guy Like You" is put on while Frollo is trying to burn down Paris). Even big fans of the movie agree that the wacky gargoyles didn't mesh well with the rest of the movie and serve to bring down the overall quality of the picture - a problem made worse by a perceived lack of effort put into the jokes themselves. The commercials and marketing for the movie (including a poster where the cast is dancing in a conga line) notably played up the comedic and lighthearted elements.
  • Lightyear seemed to confuse audiences given how it was much Darker and Edgier than both the Toy Story films and Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. Buzz is played as a much more grounded, down to earth character in contrast to his loud and bombastic portrayals in Toy Story and Star Command. And with the obvious exception of Buzz himself and Emperor Zurg, none of the Toy Story or Star Command characters make any appearance, further distancing the film from those properties. In addition, the plot also revolves around hard or complex sci-fi concepts such as relativity, time dilation, alternate timelines, and time paradoxes. All of this serves is to make the film less palatable to children, who are supposed to be the target audience. On the other side, Lightyear's connection to the Toy Story franchise gave adult audiences little incentive to give it a chance, as it was assumed it was just going to be another simple childrens' movie.
  • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) was meant to appeal to fans of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic as a Big Damn Movie of the series as well as reel in general audiences who weren't already sold on it, but was mostly shunned by critics and general audiences as lacking any appeal for those not already fans. It fared better with fans of the show, but was still divisive for ignoring much of the show's continuity and Character Development from after Season 4, and the action wasn't a big enough step up to compensate. The series' next movie, My Little Pony: A New Generation, instead focused on general audiences with a new cast and setting, which earned it a better reception on both sides.
  • Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank is an animated children's film that's also meant to serve as a "re-imagining" of the classic adult comedy Blazing Saddles. Fans of the original movie were put off by the premise alone, since a lot of the original's humor was based around Crosses the Line Twice and it's considered a Tough Act to Follow anyways; parents were unlikely to bring their children to a movie based on something so raunchy, no matter how toned down it was; and people who weren't familiar with the source material or the film's origins were turned away once the trailers made it out to be a Cliché Storm, dashing any hopes that it would stand out based on its own merits. All of this (combined with the Troubled Production it suffered) left a film that struggled to appeal to anyone.
  • Pocahontas is a Disney animated film that tries to tackle mature themes such as racism, colonization, Star-Crossed Lovers, and war, and has a rare Bittersweet Ending to boot. But it also has all the requisite bells and whistles of a "kiddie" Disney movie, having animal sidekicks whose slapstick antics take up so much screentime that there's a whole subplot about Pocahontas' raccoon sidekick fighting with Big Bad John Ratcliffe's pet pug. The end result is a movie that comes off as too preachy and serious for children to fully enjoy, but too corny and trivializing of a serious subject matter for adults. The casting of Native American actors to voice the characters suggested an attempt to appeal to Native American audiences. However, the film had no Native Americans in its creative team, played fast and loose with the history and geography, and based its message on a blatant false equivalency by attempting to create a Mirroring Factions narrative between the Powhatan Nation and the British and downplaying the core of the issue as just simply being different from one another, making both Native and non-native critics alike cry "Don't Shoot the Message".
  • The Road to El Dorado couldn't quite shake off this issue when it first came out, resulting in it largely being a Box Office Bomb. It's an animated movie set during the exploration of the new world involving two European friends finding the legendary El Dorado. Despite its wacky premise, it was much darker then advertised, containing blood, innuendos, and not shying away from making the Spanish conquistadors (namely Hernán Cortés) as terrifying as one could imagine. At the same time, it had a lot of slap-stick comedy, quirky songs like a Disney movie would, and in general it was looking like your standard children's animated movie. Without a clear audience, it ended up not doing well, though nowadays, it lives on well online thanks to both of these elements being liked by fans years later.
  • SCOOB! used press releases to assure Hanna-Barbera fans that characters they haven't seen much of in a while are indeed going to be in the movie. The actual movie itself went full on Hanna Barbera Crisis Crossover, retaining the studio's silliness, haphazard crossovers, and playing on emotions of people who already knew the characters. Its only Uncertain Audience point seems to be whether putting it in a modern setting was necessary, which wasn't even that new to HB IP's and, with the exception of Yo Yogi!, wasn't a problem in practice.
  • Son of the White Horse, a surreal Hungarian folktale-based film, was reportedly aimed at 20 year-olds with its abstract symbolism, deep mythological allusions and scenes of explicit nudity, but the plot and characters were paper-thin and more suited to very young kids, and the movie was even stamped with an "ages 6 and up" certificate. This was unavoidable, as censors clamped down on the film's creative process and the director deliberately kept the narrative simple to focus more on tone, visuals and messages. Though not a hard flop, the movie failed to meet expectations, and its Hungarian audience was confused by the film's reinterpretation of the folktale they had all been familiar with. And yet, it developed an international cult following over the decades and is now seen as an artistic milestone in animation by people who are more open to its surreal, "psychedelic" style, deep themes and adult content. As commented on by the director, the audience he had been aiming for took 40 years to develop.
  • Perhaps the main flaw of Titan A.E. was it did not seem to have a target demographic: The harder Science-Fiction elements turned off children from it, and the goofier moments (already hit by the Animation Age Ghetto) turned off Science-Fiction fans. According to a publicist, they were aiming for the 10-13 year old crowd. According to the director's commentary, they were aiming for teenagers. Even the VHS reflected this uncertainty — on it you had a trailer for the first X-Men movie, followed by a promo for Digimon (which was airing on Fox Kids at the time).

  • Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi had a rather divisive reception due to its uncertain audience. The board book design, colorful illustrations, and cutesy rhyming dialogue would make one assume that the book is intended for toddlers, but it uses vocabulary and discusses concepts that are well above a toddler's reading level and understanding. Even if one were to assume that the book is intended as a parenting guide to teach one's children to not be racist, adults have criticized the book's messages on racism for being either vague or oversimplified.
  • The Grimoire of the Necronomicon by Donald Tyson is a book that claims to be the foundation of an occult religion based off Cthulhu Mythos beings... barely. Most Cthulhu Mythos fans don't even believe in their existence, and would unlikely to be amused by Tyson's take, where instead of Earth being an Insignificant Blue Planet it's the main focus of the Great Old One's plans. Said Great Old Ones are In Name Only and instead of being Eldritch Abominations beyond human comprehension they've been shoehorned into becoming deities based off the seven classical planets. Actual occultists are turned off by the fact that the actual Ritual Magic is extremely prosaic and simplified, effectively consisting of a few invocations around a highly minimalist "temple" of some rocks and lines. It's a book seemingly aimed at those who know about neither the Cthulhu Mythos nor occultism.
  • The Legend of Rah and the Muggles is hypothetically for children 6 to 12. However, most of the story is of Teletubbies-like hijinks that most kids this age would find horrifyingly boring. After being horrified by the prologue and backstory notes, which gives a frankly terrifying post-nuclear fallout apocalypse scenario with descriptions of political corruption, escalations into outright warfare, biological and nuclear weapons and eugenics. Yes, eugenics; our sweet child-like Muggles are the mutated offspring of war prisoners, war conscientious and "ethnically impures".
  • The Northern Caves is about the fandom of the fictional Chesscourt series. It's said that Chesscourt began as Children's Literature, but over the course of the series this changed. It could be charitably framed as Growing with the Audience… except it's done so weirdly that the latter books aren't well suited to any age range. It's too complicated for a child to be able to follow, yet not conceptually mature enough to appeal to most adults. The following is a (fictional) book review of book #7 out of #9:
    Charles Adair: As Other Mirrors demands from its reader a certain drab, bureaucratic cast of mind, no child who is fully a child will enjoy it; as its sensibility never progresses beyond that of a precocious adolescent, no adult who is fully an adult will tolerate it. Salby has written what is perhaps a definitive test of abnormal development, but he has written a dreadful novel.
  • Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Most of the stories consist of cheesy folktales and urban legends unlikely to scare anyone above the age of twelve. But the illustrations are horrific and grotesque enough to downright traumatize young children. This could be part of the reason they were re-released with less scary illustrations three decades later.
  • Wario Land 4, Super Mario Bros. 2 (as Super Mario Advance), and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games were adapted into obscure gamebooks in the early 2000s. They're something between novels, choose-your-own-adventures, and strategy guides. The books' narratives are boring, mostly direct play-by-plays of the games, not helped by Wario Land 4 and Super Mario Bros. 2 being 2D platformers with rather thin plots. The gamebook aspect doesn't work because the choices are almost meaningless, and there's only one ending for each. They're not helpful as guides, either, since they don't go in-depth and you have to work out how to defeat bosses and solve puzzles from first-person recounts. The games are pretty good, but experiencing them through these books is a waste of time.
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle is most often marketed to elementary school students, though its plot delves deep into the theoretical physics of time travel that would be more easily understood by a much older audience. This is also true for later books in the series, such as A Wind in the Door, which requires a baseline knowledge of cellular biology to even understand the conflict of the novel.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 1/2 Hour News Hour was intended as Fox News' conservative answer to The Daily Show, but was an abject failure. Fox News has a much older viewership than The Daily Show, and trying to tool the humor intended for the younger generation towards the old doesn't work even if it supports their views. And the younger generation will not watch a news channel (especially one that does not support their views) simply because of a show marketed towards them. The result was one of the most poorly-executed shows of its time and was canned after one season. However, its successor Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld retooled the humor down its own unique path and was more well-received.
  • Especially following the first season, 13 Reasons Why doesn't seem to know what it wants to be: a serious and brutally realistic portrayal of how youth are affected by bullying, sexual assault and suicide, or a melodramatic teen soap opera with crazy plot twists out the wazoo. The (likely unintentional) blending of the two resulted in a show that is increasingly too silly and outlandish to take seriously, but is also emotionally gruelling to watch due to the incessantly grim content and subject matter. Some have further noted that despite being aimed primarily at teens, the show's graphic depictions of violence and rape are so disturbing that it got slapped with 'adults only' age ratings.
  • The second season of the Netflix documentary series African Queens, focusing on Cleopatra VII quickly became one of the worst reviewed things on the platform ever (with a whopping 1% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and only 15% from critics). Firstly, Cleopatra is considered an overexposed figure, alienating enthusiasts who felt the series couldn't offer anything not explored already. Most controversially, the decision to depict Cleopatra as a Black woman, citing the unsubstantiated theory by Hilke Thür that she might have had African heritage. This was done, per Word of God, to provide African-Americans with positive representation, but the majority of Black viewers found the Race Lift insulting, citing numerous Black figures who could have been spotlighted instead (especially given Cleopatra's overexposure in media). The series being presented as a docudrama rather than Historical Fiction, and numerous other historical inaccuracies turned off history buffs who might have been more receptive to it. One review even described it as "too soapy for serious history fans, but not enough of a soap for viewers who like juicy historical dramas".
  • Anne with an E has several episodes and plot lines dedicated to educating kids and young teenagers about societal issues faced by marginalized groups and why diversity is worth celebrating; this sometimes results in a slightly corny, "PSA"-like tone that might make older viewers roll their eyes. At the same time, and probably as a consequence of this, the show presents a remarkably grounded and cynical view of the world and doesn't stray away from dark topics such as discussions of suicidal ideation, PTSD and abuse, which some might find are a bit too depressing for some younger viewers. The writers do their best to balance these aspects to produce a show that can be enjoyed by the whole family, and they mostly succeed, but there are stretches of runtime that will alienate at least some of its viewers.
  • Battlestar Galactica:
    • Galactica 1980 tried to appeal to a new younger audience by being more lighthearted and kid-friendly than its predecessor, while at the same time also trying to appeal to fans of the original series. Unfortunately, fans were extremely put-off and alienated by the show's overly saccharine nature, and the show wasn't even able to attract enough younger viewers, likely because even they found its tone too childish, resulting in the show getting cancelled after only 10 episodes.
    • The original Battlestar Galactica itself suffered from uncertainty over its intended audience. At its core, it's a very serious and quite dark story, with heavy themes such as war, genocide, and religion (never mind Cassiopeia's status as, essentially, a legal, sanctioned prostitute). Despite this, much of it, especially after "Saga of a Star World", plays as a lightweight action-adventure series, with kid-appeal elements such as Muffit the robotic daggit, Boxy's presence period, and plots recycled from classic westerns. Even big fans of the series generally agree that these elements don't exactly mesh well and serve to bring down the overall quality of the series, which is one reason for the re-imagined series fully embracing the darker aspects of the premise, making it more tonally consistent.
  • The Black Mirror episode "Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too" is a pitch-perfect parody of a Disney Channel Original Movie in the show's usual format, but the overlap between the two fandoms is small if nonexistent. As a result, Black Mirror fans lambasted it for being one of the series' lightest episodes, but it's also too adult for the usual demographic the DCOMs are targeted towards.
  • While the Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future toys were made for kids, the show itself was fairly dark, dealing with themes about nuclear war and Nazism, and the title of the show was enough to turn off most adults. The live-action violence didn't help matters.
  • The short-lived police musical drama Cop Rock faced this in spades, which is largely why it was canceled after a single season. Despite an assortment of incredibly-talented musicians and vocal performers, the dissonance of cheery, happy songs appearing spontaneously in an otherwise relatively serious police drama left audiences scratching their heads, particularly in cases of significant subject matter (a drug bust, a captain relating visceral details of shootings to the officers at a police precinct, drug trafficking and prostitution). It didn't help that the show was seen as a Spiritual Successor to Hill Street Blues by its creator, Steven Bochco (to the point of including references and characters from the latter), despite intending to skew far younger in its demographic, and the series continually undercutting its own concept by implying that the majority of the world see the musical numbers as an Unusually Uninteresting Sight.
  • Cursed never really seemed sure who its main target audience was. It was marketed as a Feminist Fantasy retelling of the Arthurian Legend but in practice it has little to do with the Arthurian mythology, merely using it as set dressing for a completely different story (nor does it work as a prequel). The show was also aimed towards teenagers with youthful protagonists, goofy comic relief and young adult-esque drama, yet simultaneously seemed to be trying to appeal to adults (especially Game of Thrones fans) with graphic violence, semi-explicit sexual content and grim subjects like genocide; subsequently, the series came off as tonally inconsistent.
  • Dinosaur Revolution, a never-finished 2011 "documentary" from the Discovery Channel, was originally pitched as a double series, one presenting voiceless vignettes of life in the time of dinosaurs in an extreme over-the-top, comedic fashion, and a sister series explaining the science. In the end, these two were merged and only a third of the intended episodes were made. While the series did appeal to a niche of young, internet-going paleontology nerds, even they were somewhat befuddled at the ridiculous scenes: a dinosaur running around with its head bitten off, animals performing cartoonish double-takes, merciless tonal shifts of dark humor, Looney Tunes-style slapstick and brutal gore, dinosaurs getting high on 'shrooms, very cheesy narration with minimal scientific info, mostly done in questionable CGI. It mixed the overt wacky humor and pop-culture references of your average adult cartoon with early 2010s dinosaur science, passing the whole thing off as edutainment. Background info reveals the creators also had even wilder ideas in mind that didn't make the final cut, such as a pissed-off dinosaur with its skin burnt off slaughtering other animals with its huge claws, a la Freddy Krueger. And as a result of all these details combined, the final product proved too adult and reference-heavy for kids, too ridiculous for adults interested in paleontology, and too cartoony to work properly as a documentary.
  • The makers of the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie seem to have never decided whether they were producing a jumping-on point for the general trans-Atlantic SF/"cult TV" audience, or a revival of the show for hard-core fanboys. As a result, the latter were repelled by such things as the Doctor kissing someone and being half-human and the Master being able to spit corrosive slime for no apparent reason, while the former were confused about what the "Eye of Harmony" was supposed to be and why the central character turned into a completely different person thirty minutes in.
  • It's hard to tell who exactly the target audience of Emily in Paris is: it's about young adults and their professional problems, but done with naivety of a Disney TV movie; it's a Chick Flick, but in the same time tries to be serious and about something else than having new hot date; it's about Culture Clash, but achieved by using every possible national stereotype there isnote ; it's not a series about fashion, but heavily focuses on it anyway. In the end, it appeals neither to teens, being just too serious, nor to adults, being too childish and thematically, it's all over the place.
  • The Fairly OddParents: Fairly Odder seems to be having identity problems right off the bat. While the general marketing tries to appeal to the classic generation of fans, those fans are most likely grown up, and won’t be interested in the more juvenile and low-budget sitcom aesthetic, especially since the last seasons of The Fairly OddParents left much to be desired anyway. But younger viewers probably won’t be too invested either thanks to all the outdated meme jokes (like YOLO), old references to the original show that will go over their heads, and out-of-place adult jokes (including a reference to South Park).
  • The First's premise was largely advertised around "Sean Penn goes to Mars", and centers on a group of astronauts 20 Minutes in the Future preparing to go on the first manned mission to Mars. However, there's very little space travel or even all that many science fiction elementsnote , with it mostly being window dressing as the show seems to be more interested in the conflict between Penn's character Tom and his recovering addict daughter Denise as he attempts to repair their relationship following the death of his wife. This meant that science fiction fans would watch the pilot, realize it was more a normal drama instead of a science fiction show, and become uninterested, while the people who would be into a family drama about a father-daughter relationship would take one look at the premise and be turned off by the science fiction aspects. Hulu would end up cancelling The First after its first season.
  • Girlboss was primarily geared towards Millennials, revolving around a rebellious 22-year old in 2006 who defies the odds and naysayers to start up her own business. However, as pointed out by some reviews, the show's protagonist and a few other characters (intentionally or not) tend to display all the worst stereotypes about Millennials: that they're lazy, spoilt, immature, and expect everyone to cater to their whims (yet it also does little to critique or call out this behavior, even presenting it as Sophia just being 'quirky' or 'headstrong'). A lot of people in the target demographic understandably weren't too impressed by this. People outside this demographic were either too young to watch the show due to the more mature content, or had little interest in the story and characters for similar reasons Millennials weren't into it (it's also been noted that Zoomers - the generation immediately succeding Millennials - generally don't find the 'girlboss' schtick all that empowering or inspirational, so even Zoomers who were closer to the show's target audience didn't find it that appealing). Considering this and other issues, it's not too surprising the show didn't last long.
  • Glee, especially in its first season. It meshes things like oral sex jokes with the teeny angst of Degrassi and the kind of anvilicious messages you'd expect from an 80s kids cartoon along with the cutesy singing appeal of Kidz Bop and The Wiggles. Based on comments from the writers, it eventually decided it was mainly for Tweens.
  • Halo (2022) had issues out of the gate when it was revealed early on that the series would not be following the events of the titular game franchise, but instead branch off on its own alternative "Silver" timeline. This already excluded the avid fans of the games and expanded universe, who had a hard time taking interest. At the same time, all of the changes the showrunners made for the Silver timeline (i.e. adding a subplot about UNSC politics, downplaying the Covenant aliens and most notably showing Master Chief's face) only served to make the series look like any other generic science fiction series with few action scenes, giving potential new audiences very little incentive to go out of their way to pick it up.
  • Hayley Goes..., a BBC documentary series with Hayley Pearce investigates subcultures contains elements of investigative journalism mixed with celebrity prurience, and it's difficult to find a sweet spot in the middle where these two investigate. It's not highbrow enough for people who like documentaries, but not lowbrow enough for people who enjoy showbiz, and there was already a small controversy over the episode where Hayley explores gender identities.
  • Jurassic Fight Club suffers heavily from its inability to decide who it was supposed to be catering to. People who wish to be educated about prehistoric animals and/or want them to be represented realistically are going to be put off by each episode’s end goal being an overblown brawl that oftentimes contradicts real-life animal behavior (to put it mildly). Meanwhile, those that just want a prehistoric slugfest will likely be bored by large chunks of each episode being dedicated to talking heads discussing paleontological trivia (with most of it being inaccurate or not up to date), often by repeating the same point over and over again. Most adults are likely to find this show pretty juvenile and gratuitous due to its Skewed Priorities, while all the excessive Gorn makes it unsuitable for young children. So the only real demographic left is adolescents with an interest in paleontology, who will then see the show’s many errors once they grow up and get a better grasp on the subject that interests them (as many of its current detractors have).
  • At the 2014 Kids' Choice Awards, there was a tribute to Dan Schneider. However, much of the tribute revolved around shows from the 1990s and 2000s such as All That and Drake & Josh. which hadn't had reruns in years. Much of the audience was too young to remember the shows being praised.
  • A major problem with Lost in Space, especially after the first season, is that it seemingly can't decide if it wants to be a straightforward sci-fi take on The Swiss Family Robinson or a goofy Fantastic Comedy in the same vein as I Dream of Jeannie or My Favorite Martian. The end results feels all over the place tonally, which ended up being a major contributing factor to the series' cancellation as audiences eventually couldn't tell anymore who exactly it was trying to appeal to.
  • Love Island normally had an audience who enjoyed it for the fanservice and drama, but the 2019-2021 seasons didn't know who they wanted to appeal to; at times the tone zig-zagged between Darker and Edgier and Lighter and Softer, meaning the show had Cerebus Syndrome for what was ostensibly supposed to be light entertainment. Some people didn't like the fact the show started to include characters discussing a Hard Truth Aesop they'd learnt in some episodes; while the moral wasn't exactly orthodox advice, it may have been relevant to its target audience, but then again, this series wasn't for putting An Aesop across. Participants occasionally gave an Aside Glance, as well, making it too meta for some; in short, these two seasons didn't really know who their target audience was.
  • No Good Nick is a show playing off the Cousin Oliver trope where a Long-Lost Relative who was recently orphaned joins an otherwise picturesque family, except the "orphan" is actually a teenage Con Artist trying to scam them. What might work as something darker and more farcical, it's a dramedy sitcom with a Laugh Track and portrays the dramatic moments entirely straight. The general look and feel of the show emulates the tween sitcoms of Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, but the darker story arc portrays overt criminal behavior, including The Mafia, in ways that wouldn't be out of place in a serious adult drama.
  • Once Upon a Time fell into this in its later seasons. The first three knew very much that they were going for some Darker and Edgier takes on fairy tales - Cinderella making a Deal with the Devil, Snow White becoming a forest bandit to survive, Peter Pan becoming a Machiavellian villain - leaning more towards hard PG. In Season 4, things became much Lighter and Softer - with characters rarely getting Killed Off for Real, sexual references vanishing overnight and a far more idealistic tone. They also started having characters more directly resemble their Disney animated counterparts. This appeared to be an attempt to draw in a family audience, but the result was often a show that would sometimes be Camp and overly sentimental (whereas previous seasons had more self awareness) - which alienated a lot of the initial fans. But the show would still attempt to touch on the darkness of the earlier seasons - resulting in some jarring tonal shifts like Zelena raping Robin Hood to conceive a baby, but getting redeemed via The Power of Love that same season. While it did make it to seven seasons, by around Season 4-ish it was still unsure who it was meant to be aimed at.
  • Police, Camera, Action! had three occurrences of this:
    • "The Man Who Shot OJ", a two-part Biopic episode about Zoey Tur, didn't have the show's title attached to it (the Title Sequence just read "THE MAN WHO SHOT OJ", no POLICE CAMERA ACTION) and it was more like a typical biography, with police footage being secondary. Fans of the shows didn't enjoy the way the presenter links were done, and biopic fans probably felt it would have been better as a standalone series.
    • "Crash Test Racers" and "Highway of Tomorrow" were Very Special Episodes more focused on vehicle safety. Policing was largely Out of Focus, and it was difficult to know who the target audience was.
    • "Drink Driving Special" from December 2008 and the Gethin Jones series of 2010 didn't seem to realize the target audience wanted a more straight, presenter-links-footage series than an investigative documentary. Fans of the series didn't enjoy this, leading to it being Quietly Cancelled.
  • Power Rangers: The TV show is rated TV-Y7, i.e. recommended for children seven and up. The toyline is aimed at 3 to 6 year olds. The show is too violent for toddlers (which is why it aired on Nickelodeon and not Nick Jr), but the toyline is too childish for older kids, due to Super Sentai being marketed to preschoolers nowadays, instead of the 8-12-year-olds it was aimed at in the 1990s. You've already grown out of the show before you're allowed to watch it.
  • Resident Evil (2022) ran into issues because apart from a few vague references to the Raccoon City incident and some name drops, it actually has very little to do with the Resident Evil franchise as a whole and only tells its own self-contained story starring original characters that could have existed without any reference to Resident Evil. In addition, the plot alternates between standard high school drama and Zombie Apocalypse stories, which both Resident Evil fans and general audiences either have no interest in or have grown tired of. Unsurprisingly, after one whole season of abysmal ratings across the board, it was unceremoniously cancelled.
  • The post-2009 reboot Star Trek shows in general seem to have this problem, trying to appeal to a more mainstream audience by being Darker and Edgier with a more actionized tone while also attempting to attract established fans with their many Mythology Gags. This is especially the case with Star Trek: Picard, which attempts to both court old-school Trekkies by bringing back Patrick Stewart and Jeri Ryan and be a blank slate for newcomers (a la Terminator: Dark Fate). This is not helped by the creators' refusal to clarify whether it's a full-on Continuity Reboot or merely a Soft Reboot.
  • One of the problems with the first season of Torchwood seems to have been that the writers and directors were all over the shop about whether they were doing a Denser and Wackier Hotter and Sexier show full of fanboy Rule of Cool moments and fangirl feels ("Day One", "Cyberwoman"), or a grey rain-soaked, Downer Ending-filled, gritty urban cop show with barely-relevant SF MacGuffins ("Ghost Machine", "Random Shoes", "Combat"). This led to some weird juxtapositions between episodes and disturbing results when the two seemed to overlap.
  • Most of the time the Ultra Series falls under Multiple Demographic Appeal, but a few series have suffered from an uncertain audience.
    • Ultraman Ace. On one hand, the show had some of the goofiest and most childish episodes of the Ultra Series and some of the worst special effects in franchise history up to that point, like "Give Back the Panda!", "The Choju is Ten Women?!", "Mystery of the Kappa's Residence", and "Shoot Down that Hot-Air Balloon!". On the other hand, the series is equally notorious for its episodes with kid-traumatizing Nightmare Fuel, extreme Family-Unfriendly Violence, and serious threats that overwhelmed even the Ultras, like "Burn! Choju Hell!", "Behold a Great Transformation at Midnight!", "40,000 Year Choju Appears", and "Ghost Story: The She-Devil of Firefly Field".
    • Ultraman Leo suffered from the lowest ratings in franchise history because of its uncertain audience. While known as one of the Darker and Edgier entries in the Ultra Series, its intense Family-Unfriendly Violence and Anyone Can Die approach (seen in the two-part premiere, the Living Saucer story arc, and "Battle! Leo Brothers vs Ultra Brothers!") often turned children off, as they felt it was too dark. At the same time, the series also had many silly episodes with storylines centered heavily around child characters (like "Mighty Momotaro!", "I'm the Monster General", and "The Rhinoceros Beetle is a Space Invader"), meaning adults often found the series too childish at times.
    • Ultraman 80 really couldn't seem to decide on what kind of Ultraman series it wanted to be. For its first 12 episodes, the series played out as a school series, with Takeshi balancing out his jobs as a teacher and a UGM officer while also having to fight kaiju as 80, which kept the show relatable for kids and adults but also keeping the fun monster fights kids loved watching. But then the series got rid of the school angle to focus solely on UGM's adventures, so kids got more kaiju action, they also had more trouble relating to the adult characters. So then around the 30-episode mark, the show got retooled again to Takeshi helping kids with their problems, except none of the kids were his students this time, so while kids found surrogate characters again, adults could not care for them since there was no real reason for Takeshi to know them. As a result of this constant inconsistency, 80 became the last Showa era Ultra Series, and the franchise would be in a near-death state for the next fifteen years.
  • The revival of the North American Whose Line Is It Anyway? received this at first. Fans of the original American run disliked the removal of the original host Drew Carey, the new games lacked the same impact as the original ones, and the frequent use of cameos each episode became distracting. Newer fans however found themselves watching a show about several old men doing strange comedy improv with there not being really any major reason to keep invested because it was not as appealing. Thankfully, the series picked up steam again and is more liked.
  • The Worst Witch (1998 series) had a spin-off titled Weirdsister College, with Mildred now attending college. It was slightly Darker and Edgier, aimed at an older crowd according to Georgina Sherrington. But the acting and effects were still in line with the parent show — including trying to depict college students acting like grown-up children. And the shift in tone meant that it was a bit too dark for the crowd who had grown up with The Worst Witch — tackling maturer themes like Mildred having a stalker who tries to Mind Rape her, Enid getting thrown out of her college, and Hobbes becoming a villain thanks to trauma from bullying. It does still have its fans though, and some feel it was Too Good to Last.

    Multiple Media 
  • BIONICLE (2015), or "BIONICLE Generation 2" was a failed Continuity Reboot of Generation 1 BIONICLE. G1 was made to have a wide appeal, aimed more toward teens. It had a fairly serious and occasionally gritty tone with massive Continuity Porn, and a fanbase of kids and young adults. G2 was partially marketed at older fans, with a booth at New York Comic Con, social media outreach and official contests held on long-standing international fansites. The toys were also more complex than most similar figures from the early 2010s, like Hero Factory. The media content was however child oriented and a lot more toned down than the original, at times veering into comedy or preschooler-level messaging. Attempts were made to hint at a larger lore, but not explored, many characters had no names, personalities or even genders as LEGO thought these would confuse kids, but the lack of cohesion ended up confusing old fans who were used to G1's extensive worldbuilding. Even freelance writer Ryder Windham, who suggested naming the side characters, admitted the story outlines he had to adapt into books and comics were contradictory and thoughtless. G2 was also mistimed, as many older fans were still in high school or collage and couldn't afford the toys. So in the end, kids showed no interest in the toys and nostalgia-nods aimed at older fans and gravitated toward the much more successful series Ninjago instead, while old fans were left disappointed by the juvenile media and lack of an interesting story. Despite an initial promise of a guaranteed 3 year test period, LEGO gave up on BIONICLE G2 almost the moment it had launched, ending it within a year and a half.
  • Transformers:
    • This was one of the main things that made the Pretender toyline from Generation 1 a notorious flop. The intention was to appeal to fans of more traditional action figures (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was at its height then) by creating "Pretender shells", large hollow figures of humans or monsters that could split in two to reveal a Transformer inside. In practice, the shells made for pretty shoddy action figures, being simplistic and hollow and possessing no points of movement besides raising the shoulders, while the Transformer inside ended up being small and heavily compromised to fit inside the shell (most of the early ones barely even have altmodes). Additionally, they were hitting different age groups; the shells, with their bright colors and chunky designs, suggested they were aimed at the "just out of Playskool" demographic, but Transformers, with its small parts and puzzle-based gimmick, tended to be aimed a few years older than that.
      • Hasbro would not give up on the idea of a toyline designed to appeal to traditional action figure fans so soon, with next year's line introducing Action Masters, promoted as figures of Cybertronians who gave up their ability to transform to gain power, including many classic characters, making them just traditional action figures of robots. The transforming feature wasn't fully dropped, as each figure came with a weapon or vehicle accessory that could transform, but the fact that the main figures couldn't do such when the franchise is called Transformers was mocked by the action figure collectors and alienated older fans, being the final nail in the coffin as the the original toyline ended that year in America, and not even Takara imported the line for the Japanese audience like they at least tried with Pretenders. They fared better in Europe, where they lasted another year, amusingly with the last ones including Action Masters that could transform. Nowadays non-transforming figures are still made, but they're placed in sub-lines or sold as display collector items rather than being the main toyline of the year like Action Masters were.
    • This was a major reason that Transformers: Generation 2 ultimately bombed. It showed up at a point where fans of the original Transformers at its height were likely in high school, meaning it came too early to catch the wave of nostalgic adults, but also only a few years after the tail-end of its predecessor, meaning that for kids, it still bore the stigma of the lackluster later lines. Many figures in the line were rereleases of the originals but with new color schemes and weapons, which wasn't great when it showed up at a point where many kids could simply ask their older siblings for those originals. They were also very brightly-colored and gimmicky, which suggested an attempt to appeal to younger kids—yet the comics designed to promote the series, which made up its only real new promotional material, were some of the darkest material in the franchise up to that point.
    • IDW's first attempt at Beast Wars comics get a fair bit of this, due to being primarily focused on characters from the toyline, Beast Wars II, and Beast Wars Neo. Fans of the cartoon are put off because the main appeal to Beast Wars was its strong character work with a limited cast, while the comics have tons of characters that mostly exclude the cartoon's cast outside of cameos. Meanwhile, fans of the anime are put off by the massive amount of Adaptation Personality Change and significant tonal differences, making it feel like the creators were crowbarring its concepts into the American continuity regardless of whether it made sense. This was especially evident with the Beast Wars Sourcebook, which devoted massive chunks of pagetime to obscure characters from Japanese fiction but also rewrote half their personalities to In Name Only levels. It seems like the only people it was made for were fans of Toyline Exclusive Characters like Razorbeast and Torca, who previously didn't have any meaningful followings or characterization. Their second attempt years later is a separate continuity more in line with the original cartoon, after seemingly learning their lesson from this.
    • This is a major reason why the Transformers Aligned Universe was perceived as a failure by its designers, despite many of its individual components being successful. The main branches of it that actually came out and gained solid fanbases ended up being Transformers: War for Cybertron and its sequel (aimed at older fans who grew up with Transformers: Generation 1), Transformers: Prime (aimed at older kids and teens introduced through the movies and the prior Transformers: Animated, with some nods to older audiences), and Transformers: Rescue Bots and its direct follow-up (aimed at very young children with a Parental Bonus or two). While they all succeeded to varying degrees at appealing to those audiences, any attempt to play with a Shared Universe didn't work out, as fans would invariably be confused and put off by the fact that, Continuity Nods aside, they were watching or playing something unlike whatever they were initially interested in. While the Optimus of all three is broadly recognizable as different takes on Optimus as an archetype, it's very difficult to see them as the same person. Efforts to properly combine the various branches, such as Transformers: Exodus, were consistently unsuccessful and often saw Continuity Snarls or Broad Strokes as a result. This comic sums up how much each entry in the Aligned Continuity can clash with each other in terms of tone, mood and style.
      • Even within the continuity family, Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2015) stands out for being very confused about its audience. It's a direct sequel to Prime, but carries over very few of its characters in non-cameo roles and features a very different aesthetic and tone (being sort of in the middle between Prime and Rescue Bots). To fans of Prime, it comes across as a Denser and Wackier followup that fails to match up in any way, while newcomers are put off by the fact that it is a followup, and spends much of its time trying to build on plot points and ideas introduced in its predecessor, such as Optimus's death, the Thirteen, and Bumblebee becoming a leader. Even among Aligned completionists, it stands out for more or less ignoring the Cybertron games.
      • While Hasbro at least tried in most of the globe, the franchise's other owner Takara-Tomy had no regard for this when bringing Aligned media to Japanese markets. For starters, in an effort to appeal to the Japanese-market more numerous model kit crowd, all Prime toys were re-done as model kits that replaced most paint applications with stickers, which alienated older kids and collectors the toys originally aimed for. The Prime cartoon itself was subject to a Gag Dub aimed at pre-schoolers similar to Beast Wars beforehand, but its grittier tone and atmosphere didn't mesh well with the character quirks and intended audience. The result was that Prime bombed terribly in Japan, having the lowest viewership during its timeslot and the toys selling very low, along other budget mismanagaments. In an effort to recoup loses, the dub decided to rework the season 2 finale into the series finale, ending on a cliffhanger, and then making an original sequel straight-to-video anime series named Transformers: Go!; this not only splits the Aligned Continuity into more branches, but its heavy aesthetic based on Japanese elements like ninja, samurai and yokai don't mesh well with the aesthetic or tone of Prime, even with its gag dub, turning off even the fans Prime had over there. Furthermore the existence of Go! also hurts Robots in Disguise (2015) in this regard further, as when Takara imported it there were no changes to the story, which included references to the third season of Prime, which would further confuse its intended audience and casual older fans unaware of Prime's original dub.
    • The Power Core Combiners line was a notorious underperformer, with many of its figures ending up on steep clearance, and largely for this reason. It was released as a companion to the Generations line, with a similar tech-y realistic aesthetic and filling out price points Generations didn't at the time, which suggested it to be aimed at older collectors. However, the line also relied heavily on gimmicks, being based around Combining Mecha where the limbs transform automatically upon being inserted into huge bright blue pegs on the main body (and in a fashion that renders the arms almost entirely unposeable), something that seemingly implies they're aimed at younger kids. The line also received very little in the way of tie-in media, to the point that it's difficult to parse which continuity it even occupies, and featured few to no existing characters in favor of relying on Continuity Nods. In all, it ended up being too gimmicky for collectors, lacked the star power for general fans, and wasn't particularly appealing to kids.


  • The Acclaimed Flop work of The Beach Boys between Pet Sounds in 1966 and their nostalgia-fueled 1974 revival built around the Endless Summer compilation fell victim to an uncertain audience. The music was too complex for the average pop fan, but perceived as being a bit too lightweight by Progressive Rock fans. This led to their albums being branded as "Progressive Pop". In fact, this uncertainty combined with Brian Wilson's Sanity Slippage during production ended up being a major contributing factor to the downfall of SMiLE.
  • Van Dyke Parks' (famous as an ex-collaborator of Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson) album Song Cycle fell victim to an uncertain audience. It contained too many elements of classical to be considered a pop album (reviews at the time likened Parks to Charles Ives), but it also contained just enough elements of pop music for it not to be considered a proper classical album, leading to the album being unable to find its audience and falling into obscurity (though it has achieved Acclaimed Flop status and is Van Dyke's most celebrated solo album).
  • The Vocalochanger function in the Vocaloid6 software attracts such claims due to its very niche applications attracting little use outside of memes. In theory, it's supposed to take any recording of singing and change it into a Vocaloid's voice, which would be a godsend for people who want to make songs with the software but don't know how to play an instrument. And, if given clean, flawless acapella singing, it does work as intended. Scarily so. However, it's so finnicky that it picks up any imperfections in the original audio, and the output cannot be edited in any way, so the only way to get halfway decent results is to be a professional singer yourself, in other words someone who probably wouldn't need a virtual vocalist in the first place. Even if you wanted to make a cover you would need the original studio stems of the song (something much easier said than done) as even the best vocal isolation software still leaves reverb that trips up Vocalochanger. And while it does have some practical use as a voice changer effect, the fact that the conversion is not real time means it's of little use to people who actually use voice changers like streamers and online gamers, plus the price point is much higher than dedicated voice changers like Voidol. Furthermore, it is not backwards compatible with any past Vocaloid banks (including the most famous one), with Gumi being the only established, popular Vocaloid character compatible with it. Essentially it only sees use among vocal synth enthusiasts who also know how to sing, or as a meme machine.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Why The Muppets (2015) was a one-and-done 16-episode failure for ABC. The premise was a Work Com mockumentary in the vein of The Office (US) and Parks and Recreation, with the Muppets inhabiting the real world. However, the show's humor tilted more adult than virtually any Muppet endeavor before it and struggled to find an audience, landing in the unwanted abyss of being too adult for kids and too childish for adults who weren't Muppet devotees. And Muppet devotees were likely turned off by the changes from previous incarnations, like breaking up Kermit and Miss Piggy. Despite growing with time, the general lack of that trademark Muppet zaniness/goofiness didn't help, making the characters feel very out of their element, and by the time they found that zaniness/mockumentary balance it was already too late.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Knightmare Chess is a chess variant that adds cards with wacky, unpredictable effects. While the game received positive reviews, it is one of the publisher's more niche titles because of its conflicting appeal: a fan of chess itself likely enjoys it for being a highly tactical perfect-information game and won't like the unpredictable cards, while someone who does enjoy random wackiness would probably seek out something else than a chess variant.
  • In the Making Magic article "Twenty Years, Twenty Lessons—Part 3", lesson 15 talks about the pitfall of trying to appeal to everyone and ending up appealing to no one, and highlights the card Molten Sentry as an example of this problem. Molten Sentry could be a 5/2 with haste or a 2/5 with defender depending on the outcome of a coin flip. The idea was that it would appeal to both the "Timmy" and "Spike" Player Archetypes (Timmy being a player who loves Awesome, but Impractical craziness, Spike being one who plays competitively and tactically), as Timmy would find the coin flip fun and exciting, while Spike would appreciate the balance of the possible outcomes. In practice, neither of them liked it: Timmy found it boring because the outcomes of the coin flip were too bland and balanced, while Spike was put off by how the card took what could have been an interesting, skill-intensive choice and left it up to a coin flip.
  • Star of Africa: It's unclear who the Expansion Pack Retkikunnat was supposed to appeal to. The original game mostly appeals to kids and casual players who are unlikely to appreciate the increased complexity, while the expanded game is still enough of a Luck-Based Mission to alienate more hardcore players — assuming they're even willing to give a version of the heavily luck-based original a chance. This likely contributed to the expansion languishing in obscurity despite the popularity of the original.

  • Much of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child's divided reception stems from its inability to decide whether it wants to continue the story of its original book series or tell an original story showcasing a different side of the Potter universe. The play tries to attract longtime Harry Potter fans by its marketing as the official eighth story in the canon and by having many Call Backs to the original series, particularly its Time Travel plot that has Albus and Scorpius trying to alter events in Harry's time at Hogwarts. However, it also targets newcomers by being a Sequel in Another Medium and focusing on Albus and Scorpius rather than the grown-up Harry and his friends. Newcomers wouldn't appreciate the continuity with the original series, and established fans would prefer to focus on the Golden Trio rather than Harry's son and friend.

    Theme Parks 
  • Part of the reason Universal's Islands of Adventure was initially unsuccessful was that it wasn't clear what audience the park was aiming for. Universal Studios Florida, its sister park, was aimed firmly at teens-and-up, with only one area directed at younger children. Meanwhile, Islands of Adventure seemed to be trying to appeal to everyone, leading to an odd mixture of properties: Dr. Seuss, classical mythology, Jurassic Park, Popeye and Dudley Do-Right, and Marvel Comics. It wasn't until the addition of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter that the park really found its feet.
  • This is a major reason why Stitch's Great Escape! became one of the most infamous attractions in Disney Parks history. The darkness, 4D effects, and loud noises mean that it was still too scary for young kids (who otherwise would be absolutely terrified to go on SGE!'s predecessor), but anyone older than preteens were most likely irritated by the unpleasant and gross humor. Lilo & Stitch fans didn't like how the ride put the titular Stitch, one of Disney's most emotionally complex characters, in a very unflattering light; park fans didn't like that the ride replaced the Cult Classic Alien Encounter, and aggressive marketing caused them to view Stitch as a Creator's Pet, a stigma that lasts to this day. The ride's negative reception led Disney to avoid developing any further major Lilo & Stitch attractions in the U.S. ever since, including a port of the better-received digital puppetry live show Stitch Encounter.

  • The LEGO Star Wars set #75098, "Assault on Hoth", received mixed to negative reviews for a variety of reasons, including its uncertain direction. It's in the Ultimate Collector's Series, which consists of big, expensive sets aimed at older LEGO fans and focuses on accuracy and detail above all else. However, the Assault on Hoth set sacrifices these things for the sake of interactive features For example , something which would be understandable in a set aimed at younger builders who treat LEGO as a toy, but less so for something aimed at teenagers and adults who just want a nice display piece. Meanwhile, its high price and UCS label discourage most parents from getting it for their children. There are other issues that contribute to its poor reception, but the play features taking away from other aspects of the set certainly didn't help its reputation.

    Visual Novels 
  • Go! Go! Nippon! ~my first trip to Japan~ is an English-language Visual Novel made in Japan specifically for foreign audiences. However the makers seem to be unsure on what that audience wants... It's about an Occidental Otaku (supposed to be the player himself) going to stay in Tokyo with two cute sisters for a week. In the developers' intentions, this game would be an educational one, a way to learn about actual Japanese landmarks and customs with a funny product tailor-made for otakus. However, these elements do not mix well since the protagonist's wacky shenanigans are too lame and boring for actual otakus and too off-putting for anyone else (since he's usually portrayed as a dorky Manchild) and the educational part is limited at best since you can't even access to all the info you gathered until you have completed the game (besides that, it's all stuff you can find on the internet for free). Plus, despite the fact that the company that made this is specialized in erotic VNs, there's no sex at all, thus alienating their overseas fans. Despite this, being released on Steam and featured in a series of bundles ensured that the title sold moderately well.

  • Sonichu has an uncertain audience. A fanwork taking heavy influence from both Sonic the Hedgehog and Pokémon would be expected to be family-friendly, and the plot and characterizations are simplistic enough. But couple that with references to shows that would fly over kids' heads such as Gilligan's Island and Family Guy, frequent segues into self-indulgent Author Tracts, and increasingly common graphic violence and sex, and you'll understand why it's as infamous as it is.

    Web Video 
  • The 8-Bit Guy brings this up when discussing the 2019 re-release of the Speak And Spell. Young people today wouldn't be interested like children from the 70's as everything can speak nowadays and there's dozens of apps that can do what this toy did. The nostalgia crowd wouldn't be interested as it's not close enough to the original, with its much worse screen and lack of some features, to capture their nostalgic feelings for it. The hacking crowd wouldn't be interested since the new one is completely unhackable owing to being condensed to a single chip on a board. The collector crowd wouldn't be interested since there is such a surplus of originals that you can get them for as cheap, if not cheaper, than the new one in thrift stores and on E-Bay. He ultimately considers it a failure, in spite of the genuine effort they made to make it look and act like the original, because it simply won't appeal to any of the four groups that would potentially want such a thing.
  • Discussed by the Game Grumps during their playthrough of Link: The Faces of Evil when they begin repeatedly quoting the villain's hammy "You must die!" over and over and acknowledge that it's probably going to piss a lot of people off. They point out that they continue to do things that irritate a lot of their fans like "The Butthole Sniffin' Adventure" from INSIDE (2016) and the Grubba voice from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door not to be Trolling Creators but because they never actually know how popular any one bit is and when a bunch of fan complaints are just a Vocal Minority. Arin explained how he gets tons of messages from fans begging him to never do the Butthole Sniffin' Adventure voice again, and yet it's one of the most requested voices from fans who meet him in real life. They then point out how no matter what they do there will be people put off by it, and thus they need to pick a lane, pick an audience, stick with the bit, and hope for the best rather than attempting to please everyone and ultimately pleasing no one.
  • Rerez: Just Bad Games accuses all three of the Tiny Toon Adventures videogames on PlayStation of being this, as they were Point-and-Click Adventure Games marketed at very young audiences but released years after the show was on the air. Fans of Tiny Toons wouldn't be interested in these games as they were now in High School at least, while the intended audience of the game would have no clue what Tiny Toons or who these characters even were.
  • Technology Connections brings this up when talking about LightScribe: CD and DVD technology that allows you to burn a label onto a disk using a laser. While he thinks it's incredibly cool, convenient, and incredibly cheap, its slow burning speed and monochrome limitations made it fall into the crack between the two camps of people burning their own media: regular people would be content to just use a sharpie and write the name on the disk, while professionals would invest in something faster and capable of color or just have their disks pressed.
  • Discussed by Todd in the Shadows:
    • In his look at "Cyberpunk" by Billy Idol for his "Trainwreckords" series, he asked his brother about the album and got the response "who is this for?" The album largely failed to appease Idol's existing fan base from his previous works, and it also failed to win over new listeners. The album also didn't resonate with actual members of cyberpunk subculture, who saw Billy as chasing a trend (the album features a song called "Neuromancer", which Billy had never read and was subsequently called out on it by its author, William Gibson). Despite delivering a hit with "Shock To the System," the album largely failed and Idol's career has never fully recovered.
    • He has brought up several times that it's self-defeating to try to make your music critical of itself (people who like the music will probably be put off by the message, and people who like the message probably don't want to listen to the music). He in part attributes the failure of Madonna's American Life to this, and argues that even if he had bought into Jewel's explanation that "Intuition" is ironic (he thinks she was only using that as an excuse for making commercialized pop music), the song would just fall into that trap. He also says that Katy Perry's underperforming "Chained to the Rhythm" could never have been a hit because it has this kind of premise.
      Todd: Madonna decided the solution was to make her music critical of itself. And what you get is pop music that makes you feel bad for listening to it. You may remember that Katy Perry tried to do the same thing for the same reasons and got the same results. No one wants this.
    • Katy Perry's "Bon Appétit" uses food-based innuendo and a music video about cooking Katy in an attempt to be sexual while sticking to Katy's usual fun tone and tacky video style. He felt that these elements did not work together at all, and just made the whole thing "too gross to be fun" and "way too stupid to be erotic."
    • He says that during the Witness era, Katy tried to appeal to everyone with messages like "it's important to have conversations with political opponents", but it was rejected because she just came off as a squishy centrist and someone too worried about alienating people to get much out of her "message" era.

    Western Animation 
  • This is the reason why The Adventures of Kid Danger doesn't have much positive attention. It's too far removed from its source material to appeal to its fans, while it doesn't do much to draw in new fans, in part because of the Continuity Lockout still requiring some knowledge of the source material.
  • Saban Entertainment ran into this issue while adapting BattleTech into a 90's cartoon. While big honkin' stompin' war robots seems like fine material for children entertainment in the abstract, the show is based on an tabletop game aimed at adults and unlike to have much name recognition to children and, beside a few vague statements in the opening narration, the show doesn't make much of an attempt to walk the viewer through the setting's sprawling mythos. Adult fans of Battletech, meanwhile, would be unlike to accept an animated adaption of the material on principle and recoil at many creative liberties taken toward the lore. And while the series makes a fair attempt to explore mature subject matters such as politics and the cost of war, it still bears many signs of its status as a child cartoon such as the bright blocky design of the Battlemechs (the show was mean to tie into an action figures line by Tyco) and the setting's Grey-and-Gray Morality being dumbed-down into a more straightforward "good Steiner vs evil Clans" narrative. The result is that Battletech only ran for a single 13-episodes season ending on an unresolved Cliffhanger, with later fluff of the board game establishing it as goofy in-universe propaganda.
  • It's unclear whether Big Mouth is aimed more at teenagers going through puberty or adults reminiscing about their puberty. The show is rated TV-MA and features explicit nudity, heavy sexual subject matter, and other details that make it inappropriate for younger audiences. On the contrary, many episodes take an anvilicious educational approach to subjects like sex education and personal identity that seem more like messages to help young teens still undergoing puberty (though adults may still appreciate them). The scenes featuring children's genitals provoke criticism regardless of the demographic - the sexual humor may be too inappropriate for 12-year-old viewers, but adults watching a show with a focus on child sexuality is often berated as creepy. The show itself loves to lampshade this on occasion, almost always in a Hypocritical Humor fashion.
  • Crunchyroll ran into a bit of a bind when other streaming services started offering original shows: Crunchyroll itself had to come up with its own original series to remain competitive, but it's an American site that specializes in streaming Asian shows (especially Japanese anime), meaning it cannot produce the kind of show its primary audience expects. This gave its attempts at original shows quite the uphill climb:
    • High Guardian Spice seems to have a severe identity crisis. Everything from the cutesy art style, simple dialogue, and young protagonists who go to a magic school suggest that it's aimed at a general audience of children or at least families, but the fair amount of cursing and the inconsistent use of bloody violence in later episodes are too heavy for younger viewers, while also being too jarring and tonally incongruous for older ones. According to the show's creator, it was originally intended for younger viewers, but Executive Meddling pushed to add more mature content to Avoid the Dreaded G Rating, resulting in gratuitous blood and swearing that feels out of place.
    • The tone of Onyx Equinox varies wildly. On the surface, it appears to aim for a children/teen audience, taking artistic and storyline cues from shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender. However, this is juxtaposed with explicitly adult content, with the regular presence of gory violence (including on-screen ritual sacrifice), foul language, and sexual content. The content and context clearly seem to be targeting two separate demographics, with no attempt to reconcile the varying tones.
  • This may be why Dan Vs. never got much of a mainstream audience. It's a Black Comedy that occasionally deals with mature themes (such as murder and marital problems), has a Heroic Comedic Sociopath as the protagonist, and sometimes heads into very dark territory (one episode ends with the implication that a character is going to be raped). It's also filled to the brim with wacky slapstick, surreal plots, has little-to-no blood or swearing, and would air in the middle of the afternoon just an hour or two after a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic rerun.
  • In-universe during Cleveland's return to Family Guy in "He's Bla-ack!", when the guys roast The Cleveland Show. It certainly wasn't unwarranted; the show was obviously meant to appeal to black audiences, but it starred a character who was little more than a Token Black Friend in the original who had few jokes that didn't center on his race in some way. It didn't help that the show's initial setup was incredibly similar to Family Guy itself.
    Quagmire: It's not a good sign that this is the first time people even realized you had a show.
    Joe: Your logo was stupid. It looked like a big purple penis and your ratings blew.
    Cleveland: We did about the same as Bob's Burgers.
    Quagmire: That's your bar? Shame on you!
    Cleveland: This is good. This is constructive.
    Quagmire: The talking bear was so bad, Seth MacFarlane stopped voicing him after season 2.
    Cleveland: It's hard to make a talking bear funny.
    Quagmire: Oh-ho-ho! But it sure worked out well in movie form.
    Joe: Who was your show's audience? Y'know, who'd you make it for? Some Black guy who never met another Black guy?
  • A major reason Father of the Pride flopped so badly was that the humour was too raunchy for children but at the same time too unsophisticated for its intended adult audience.
  • One major reason why the Fish Police cartoon flopped; to begin with, it was an adaptation of a comic book of the same name that was In Name Only, meaning comic fans would be displeased with the changes made in the show. That on its own might not have done it in; it was made by Hanna-Barbera in the 90s, and it looked and felt a lot like a typical kids' show at the time. However, the show was marketed as a competitor to The Simpsons, and had some raunchy and sexual content that wouldn't be appropriate for children, either. In other words, children wouldn't be allowed to watch it, but the adults it was being marketed to would've found it too childish. All these factors put together are considered to have put an end to the show after only six episodes.
  • Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet had this problem, being a Darker and Edgier reboot of a series that was itself pretty dark for a children's show but still being marketed as a show for kids in the six to twelve age range. The occasional somewhat clumsy attempt at avoiding censorship didn't help, the most notable example being an episode where the Mysterons are using some kind of Mind Control to make people kill themselves where none of the characters were allowed to say "suicide".
  • The first season of The Looney Tunes Show couldn't decide if it wanted to appeal to sitcom fans or fans of classic Looney Tunes, though the show would come to commit to the former with its second season.
  • Likewise Loonatics Unleashed was originally supposed to be a Darker and Edgier superhero reimagining of the Tunes set in a dystopian future. After public criticism, the first season attempted to include some of the humor of the original shorts, while the second season tried even harder to become more of a comedy-action show. However, it never seemed sure how serious or how funny it wanted to be and neither element was handled particularly well. People who wanted a Darker and Edgier dystopian show were put off by the humour, and fans of the original Looney Tunes shorts didn't get enough humour to justify watching a dystopian superhero show.
  • Magical Girl Friendship Squad seemed to be targeting an audience that didn't exist, or if it did, was too narrow to make the show a success. It was presented in advertisements as an Affectionate Parody of the Magical Girl genre. However, not only did it air on a Science Fiction-focused channel, but in practice, its early episodes were a Shallow Parody that focused primarily on reference and millennial humor instead. Couple that with poor animation, and you have a show that tries to serve multiple groups, but in practice ended up appealing to very few people. It also didn't help that the show went out of its way to insult anime fans, the very demographic the show's premise was supposed to be aiming for.
  • My Little Pony: Pony Life reuses most of the characters and concepts from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic but is set in a comedy-focused Alternate Universe that doesn't establish those characters and concepts within itself, reminiscent of Teen Titans Go! If the show is intended for the younger age brackets, it offers little that FiM didn't; if it intended to bring in new viewers, the show doesn't do much that would appeal to them if they weren't interested in FiM. The result is that Pony Life sits in a limbo where fans of Friendship is Magic are apathetic to it, non-fans who weren't interested in FiM probably won't be interested in the show either, and non-fans who are interested in FiM can start watching any time and would probably prefer it to Pony Life.
  • Peepoodo & the Super Fuck Friends struggled hard at even getting picked up due to the apparent uncertain audience for the show; unusually, the uncertainty was more about what platform it belonged on rather than who the intended viewers were. According to the creators of the show, the show is meant to be a sex education show for older teenagers and young adults that is educational and funny. However, it is extremely sexually explicit and vulgar without being truly pornographicnote , meaning streaming services were uncomfortable in picking it up while porn sites also were not interested in putting it on their platforms. It was finally funded through Kickstarter and hosted on its own website, allowing the potential audience to pay for its production themselves.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (2016) failed in part because it was uncertain whether it was aimed at new fans or returning fans. At first glance, it's a hard reboot with a new Rogues Gallery, tweaked personalities for the girls, and a new Lighter and Softer tone. Yet in practice, it's actually a Soft Reboot, filled with many references and Call Backs to events that occurred in the original 1998 cartoon. For example, the series expects you to already know things such as Mojo Jojo being their archenemy and his involvement in their creation, but also has him Demoted to Extra and used mostly for quick gags. This makes the series unappealing to both new viewers who don't understand the references, and old fans who don't like the new tonal and stylistic changes.
  • Teen Titans Go! has an uncertain audience. Though a comedic retool of Teen Titans (2003) aimed at kids growing up in the 2010s, it features a lot of references and jokes aimed at older DC fans, as well as adores Parental Bonuses and Shout-Outs to pop culture going as far back as the 1960s, despite the fact that even the target audience of the 2003 cartoon would have to look up some of the jokes. It's hard to tell if Teen Titans Go is targeted exclusively at kids or if it's aimed at general audiences, but considering its popularity with kids, it might not matter.
  • ThunderCats Roar runs into the exact same issues as Teen Titans Go, where it's a more kid-friendly comedic reboot of the original series that the fans dislike, but throws in many jabs and references to the original series and 2011 reboot series that only older fans would understand. Unlike TTG and its ilk, however, the Thundercats franchise lacked the Pop Culture Osmosis that other long-running franchises boast, making this trope hit much harder, contributing to the show being cancelled after just one season.
  • Total DramaRama was marketed towards fans of the original Total Drama, which hadn't aired a new episode in three years (four if you don't count the spinoff), but the plots and comedy style are designed to appeal to an audience even younger than the target demographic of the parent series. Those who watched the show as children are now teens or older, and unlikely to watch a spinoff aimed at very young kids, while the very young kids likely didn't watch the original, and the serialized plot and adult humor makes it unlikely that they'd get invested in that series retroactively. Unlike something like Muppet Babies (2018) or Teen Titans Go!, Total Drama isn't even an established franchise property. Even those who think it's a decent show still don't understand why it had to be a Total Drama spinoff.
  • This trope is one of the main reasons why TUGS, the short-lived sister series to Thomas & Friends failed to be sold to American investors and become successful enough to warrant a second season. While TUGS was intended to be for children, the show wasn't able to successfully win over Thomas' target demographic, as TUGS frequently dealt with kid-unfriendly themes such as suicide, death, criminal activities and violence, amongst other topics. However, the show being styled after Thomas meant that older audiences wouldn't find it appealing either, due to the show's sentient vehicles being perceived as being only for young children. In short, TUGS' darker tone clashed too heavily with its Thomas-esque appeal, resulting in a show that lacked both a well-defined audience and mass appeal, causing it to alienate investors and leading to the show's cancellation after just one thirteen-episode season. However, the series has become a Cult Classic among the older Thomas fanbase for the above-mentioned elements.
  • Velma has sparked many debates as to who the hell it's aimed at. The graphic violence, cursing, frank discussions of drugs and sex, and other such content make it inappropriate for the Scooby-Doo franchise's traditional child demographic, while the nostalgic adult fans it's supposedly written for find the Audience Shift either poorly handled and unnecessary or cowardly and limp, and won't appreciate the rather extreme changes to characterization and tone. People who aren't Scooby-Doo fans, meanwhile, will just see yet another mediocre-at-best Animated Shock Comedy crammed full of obnoxious Self-Referential Humor. Furthermore, its status as an origin story for the gang naturally makes it fall into the void between its potential audiences: newcomers don't have an attachment to these characters and thus don't care what their origin is, veteran fans don't want such a bleak and meanspirited story to be these characters' origins, and to everyone in-between the numerous changes to the cast and tone render it incompatible, and thus pointless, as an origin in the first place. Finally, even people who want a Darker and Edgier take on the Scooby-Doo characters aren't hurting for options: official entries like Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, Scooby Apocalypse, and ScoobyNatural already exist as earlier and better-received examples, tons of grotesquely dark skits done by the likes of CollegeHumor, Robot Chicken, Family Guy, The Venture Bros., and The Scooby-Doo Project have done the concept to the point of Stock Parody, and even the fan project Mystery Incorporated (2022) which tackled the idea of a serious adult Scooby-Doo, all of which left Velma with quite literally nothing to offer anyone.
  • This is a big problem with the Spanish Anime-inspired series Virtual Hero. On one hand, the show has a broad comedy of farts, butt jokes, and very immature, sometimes innocent, humor similar to Teen Titans Go!. On the other hand, it has strong language (including R-rated swearing like "fuck" and "shit"), inappropriate scenes like Rubius building a giant penis with Minecraft blocks that comes to life, and starting Season 2, the show gets Bloodier and Gorier at times. Teenagers and adults would not be interested in watching a cartoon based on a YouTuber like ElRubius, his jokes or much less his comic books, and children would likely not be allowed to watch the show due to its raunchiness and graphic violence.
  • Winx Club: Season 8 was a Soft Reboot with a new childish, doll-like art style (a complete Art Shift from the Animesque style that had been the show's trademark) and the return of season 3 Big Bad Valtor. The new art style and overhaul of the show were confirmed by Word of God to have been done to attract new views from children, but first-time viewing kids wouldn't know who Valtor was or have reason to care without going back five seasons, and older viewers who would otherwise be drawn in by the return of a popular villain were repelled by the massive changes made. Unsurprsingly, there are rumors that it may be the show's final season.


ALfheim Online

Who is this game even made for?

How well does it match the trope?

4.84 (38 votes)

Example of:

Main / MisaimedMarketing

Media sources: