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Trope Namer

  • Seinfeld, the Trope Namer. Everything revolutionary about it from its observational humor to its Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist cast is now the standard for every Sitcom made since. In fact, even if Seinfeld was revolutionary it still makes use of a Laugh Track (via Executive Meddling). Ouch.
    • One of the show's biggest indicators of this effect is the episode "The Chinese Restaurant". Now, it looks like a rather standard, funnier-than-average sitcom episode. In fact, in 1990, the idea of three characters standing around in a restaurant, complaining and bantering as they waited for a table in real time for 23 minutes, was considered almost completely unworkable by the network executives. They actually thought that there were pages missing from the script they were given. They fought the episode tooth and nail all the way to air date, fearing that it would be a disaster. Anyone who watches an episode from season 3 onwards of Seinfeld, then an episode from season 2, then "The Chinese Restaurant", would be unlikely to catch the brilliance of that episode, but they will undoubtedly notice a massive shift in quality and humor between the two seasons.
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    • "The Betrayal" was another episode that was unique and innovative at the time, as it started at the end of the story, and progressively jumped backwards to the beginning. At the time this was a unique and fresh approach to TV story telling. Now that same gimmick has been done to death in countless other Sitcoms. The episode "The Betrayal" is an homage to Harold Pinter's 1978 play Betrayal. Both the play and its 1983 film adaptation use a reverse-chronological plot structure.
    • The show's frank discussions of sexuality were edgy, and beyond what was the norm of Sitcoms at the time. Now it's not as obvious what a big deal it was for a primetime comedy to discuss, and make jokes about homosexuality, pornography, masturbation and diaphragms.
    • The famous bass-heavy musical cues are another example. Today, it's pretty standard for sitcoms to use minimalist musical cues and relegate them almost entirely to scene transitions. But, in 1990, this was something completely new, as sitcoms at the time generally used more elaborate scene-transition music and had special mood appropriate music reserved for dramatic moments (something Seinfeld was almost completely void of).
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    • Seinfeld is even responsible for popularizing Product Placement on television. Back when the series was first in production, the idea of name-dropping real brands instead of using a Bland-Name Product made up for the show was so foreign that, in an interesting reversal, the show had to pay the companies to use their products. Now, of course, real-life products are used and/or shilled (depending on whether they're going for realism or commercialism) in just about every live-action series in existence.
    • The "it's a show about nothing" refrain may not have been how the show was actually pitched, but it sure was how the show was perceived in its heyday. In the 80s, most sitcoms lived and died by their gimmicks, usually being family comedies set apart by some kind of unusual idea like a generational divide or an alien. Seinfeld stuck out because it didn't have a big crazy gimmick; its characters were just a circle of close friends without any kind of high concept or deep-seated idea. The series seemed to be selling itself entirely on its strong writing when everyone else was coming up with increasingly wacky ideas and twists, and hence, it was "about nothing" because it seemed to have stopped at every other show's starting point. Nowadays, the gimmick sitcom that Seinfeld pointedly wasn't is nowhere near as universal as it once was, and so audiences wonder why "Slice of Life comedy about a group of friends taking place in New York" ever seemed so defiant of classification.


  • As explained by TV critic Jaime Weinman, a number of jokes common in television comedy were originally subversions of other jokes, but have since become just as stale and formulaic, to the point of being parodied themselves. For instance, a character complaining about another character, then asking, "He's Right Behind Me, isn't he?" was originally a clever Lampshade Hanging on the older recurring device where a character would walk within earshot just as another character was complaining about him or her. Now it's considered hacky, leading to parody on Futurama and CollegeHumor.
  • When premium cable networks began to emerge in the 1980s, the idea of TV series featuring explicit sex scenes, nudity, extreme violence, and language (and sometimes all of the above) were considered cutting-edge and "very, very adult". Today, with sex, violence and language all but universal on made-for-cable and streaming series (other than those specifically made for children), and with mainstream commercial networks occasionally exceeding the explicitness of broadcasters like HBO 20 years ago, viewers and critics have begun to note how such content is become rather blase and no longer as edgy as it used to appear.
  • People watching Alias today may be put off with the show's continual hand-holding about its Myth Arc, with a lengthy opening narration on every episode, regular As You Know dialogue, and even a Clip Show within the first season. At the time, however, a lot of viewers really did find this necessary, being unprepared for having to remember so many details in a genre that tended to be just fun fluff for an hour, especially given that home video releases of TV shows (which made long-running story arcs easier to follow) were still a novelty in the early '00s. In a way, it was a victim of its Show Runner J. J. Abrams' success, as a few years later, he created Lost, which went in the opposite direction when it came to how much it would hold the viewer's hand.
  • When Norman Lear made the pilot for All in the Family, he decided to use videotape instead of film to give the viewing audience the sense of being in the studio. Then every sitcom used videotape for the next 20 years and it became associated with hackneyed, lowbrow productions, an association that was so ubiquitous that some sitcoms that were videotaped were reformatted in syndication years later to make it look like they were shot on film. All in the Family is neither hackneyed nor lowbrow, but the production value tells a different story. Also strikingly averted in that the show's frank discussions of prejudice, politics, and racism are still considered edgy even by today's standards. The fact that the very first scene is a censor-trolling sound of a toilet flushing, on the other hand, will likely get a shrug.
  • Reichen & Chip winning Season 4 of The Amazing Race might not seem like a big deal now, but in 2003 a pair of Manly Gay guys in a loving, stable relationship excelling at a physically and mentally based competition was a huge deal, to the point that it was one of the the main story lines of the season, especially near the end, and their kiss at the Finish Line was hugely controversial, and was even censored in many places. In comparison, when gay couple Brent & Josh kissed after winning Season 21 in 2012, people barely batted an eye at their relationship or their kiss at the Finish Line. CBS allowing them to call themselves a married couple was similarly before its time. It was a year before Massachusetts became the first state to allow same sex marriage and twelve years before it became legal all over the US. Now there are several married same sex couples on television so it may not seem like a big deal but there was not another “married” same sex couple on television at the time.
  • While talent shows existed, none would reach the popularity of American Idol. American Idol paved the way for many other talent shows, each with varying levels of success. Today, many people who didn't grow up watching American Idol don't see the appeal of a group of teenagers and young adults singing in front of judges.
  • America's Funniest Home Videos allowed average people to send in funny home movies for all of America to see. Revolutionary in 1990 but as the Internet expanded throughout the decade, it made sending videos to the show seem dated in comparison to uploading them online. Bob Saget himself even mentioned this before he left the show in 1997, saying that people were finding websites (even before YouTube) for sharing their funny home videos. Despite the show still being on the air to this date, he felt the show had become pointless by the time he left and he honestly didn't think it would last much longer.
  • Babylon 5 has slowly seemed less and less innovative as the traits it pioneered or popularized spread among sci-fi shows:
    • It was the first major American sci-fi show to have major long-term story arcs planned in advance. While British and Japanese shows had been working with story arcs lasting multiple episodes for a long time by that point, American sci-fi television still largely hewed to an episodic Monster of the Week format. Babylon 5 was written from a full outline for all five seasons, nearly unheard of at the time, and while real-life production difficulties did force some changes at various points, by and large it stuck to the plan.
    • It was the first sci-fi series (and one of the first, if not the first, series of any genre) to be filmed in widescreen.
    • It gave the Darker and Edgier future and Used Future, in contradiction to Star Trek's utopia, a heavy boost of popularity (though it was nowhere near first with these).
    • It gave Character Development and character-driven drama unheard-of levels of focus for a science-fiction TV series. While there obviously was some of this in past series (e.g. in the two previous Star Trek iterations), none quite put as much focus as B5 until DS9 - which ran concurrently and was its friendly rival for the same audience.
    • It intentionally avoided the former trope known as "Cute Kids And Robots". In fact, the term was coined in reference to B5 in order to describe what J. Michael Straczynski was declaring war on within TV sci-fi.
    • It pioneered the use of CGI effects, especially for anything involving spaceships. To put it in perspective: the producers of Deep Space Nine scoffed at B5's CGI and proudly announced that they would continue to use models. When Voyager launched, it not only used CGI, but used the same production house as B5 to make it. Deep Space Nine itself also switched from necessity once they started doing mass battle scenes.
      • The main issue for B5's pioneering CGI was that it was early CGI. When compared screen-for-screen with the pure-CGI that turned up later in DS9 and Voyager, B5's CGI looks poor (and even looked poor at the time, especially in any sequences involving human-scale interactions). This is the primary reason CGI was disregarded - it needed to come up in quality or the difference from miniature-led effects would've been far too jarring. B5 was a pioneer, but came a little too early for its CGI imagery to be really anything impressive.
  • Becker was about a cantankerous doctor... no, not that one... not that one, either. The character - and show - were eclipsed first by John C. McGinley as Perry Cox in Scrubs, then by Hugh Laurie as Gregory House. It's easy to forget that Becker had a respectable life span of six seasons and was one of the better sitcoms in a lean period after Seinfeld but before Arrested Development, either version of The Office, 30 Rock or Community.
  • Despite now being remembered mostly for its Narm Charm, Beverly Hills, 90210 actually dealt with some pretty heavy issues for a teen show during the early-90's. While Canadians were enjoying Degrassi High's honest depictions of teenage angst, Americans were (at least on television) limited mostly to light and goofy depictions of high school life like Saved by the Bell. 90210, when it premiered, was very controversial for the way it sympathetically depicted serious issues like sex and cocaine addiction, as before then, characters who engaged in such activity on teen television were generally either demonized or made to quit after one episode. Today, given how much high school dramas have evolved ever since, the show is remembered mostly for its hideously dated fashions, blatantly obvious Dawson Casting, and heavy amounts of melodrama.
  • Blake's 7. Before there was Babylon 5, The X-Files, Firefly, and the Darker and Edgier Battlestar Galactica reimagining, there was this. In 1978, your sci-fi show protagonists were heroic, and landed firmly on the good morality scale. The villains looked like idiots at the end. Everything was supposed to be shiny, and the future was supposed to be better. Even if you had rebels fighting an evil empire, they were supposed to strike and win! Instead, we had a bunch of criminals, mercenaries, and a failed revolutionary stealing a ship and using it for a personal vendetta. The "rebellion" never got above seven people, the villainess was one of the most cunning characters to strut across a screen in stiletto heels, and the whole thing ended on one protagonist murdering the other and getting a summary execution from the Federation troops. However, it doesn't seem like anything shocking after gorging on anything made past 1992, where every sci-fi setting is a Crapsack World, the "heroes" are dubious at best, and the best ending you'll manage is a Bittersweet Ending.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World (specifically the School of Adventure aspect), as well as the Half-Arc Season with its own personal Big Bad, and not just a general Myth Arc with a singular Big Bad behind the entire series. Supernatural hews closest to this structure, with the revamped Doctor Who following close behind. The 1992 movie had already trodden that ground in establishing the origins of Buffy herself, but not so many people saw that flick at the time. The Reveal that shallow, popular Cordelia was actually an ace student was a surprise joke at the time. Now it is a cliché to have the seemingly Book Dumb ditzy, shallow girl in the cast be much brighter than she seems. Also the Buffy/Angel romance. Back then it was an unusual take on the whole Beast and Beauty theme. Then we got Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries...
  • The show referred to as "Canadian Seinfeld", Corner Gas, got this reputation. At the time, it was groundbreaking to have a rural setting with normal, suburban characters, and the fact that they had no relationships or hookups within the single, adult main cast. It's also the first major Canadian sitcom to make an impact in the US, and the first sitcom to feature the country's head of state appear while in office (Prime Ministers Paul Martin and Stephen Harper as well as Governor General Adrienne Clarkson) and used many, many Cutaway Gags. Nonetheless, younger viewers see it as boring and unfunny.
  • The Cosby Show suffers greatly from this trope. With all the shows that patterned themselves after it (if not ripping it off outright), younger viewers might openly scoff that this is the show that saved the Sitcom format when it debuted (especially if they've seen only the latter seasons, where Seasonal Rot set in). Nowadays, it's known less for how it revolutionized television and more for sitting under the cloud of Bill Cosby's real-life personal troubles.
  • Though Criminal Minds wasn't the first show centred around the law enforcement practice of criminal profiling (Profiler predated it by almost a decade, and The Silence of the Lambs also centred around a criminal profiler), CM was the first show that popularized it as a viable police procedural format. Its popularity arguably helped spawn similar shows like The Mentalist and The Blacklist (the latter using an actual criminal who profiled other criminals) and led to today's police procedural reality where every show has at least one "profiler" on staff.
  • CSI. With the ongoing slew of crime procedural TV shows, it's difficult to realize that when it came out, a plot involving crime forensics and laboratory work was considered as fresh and clever. Then you realize that Quincy, M.E. was doing that long before CSI came out, predating both that and Bones by decades, just without all the gratuitous gore tossed in.
  • The Prime Time Soap genre arguably rose to prominence in the 1980's thanks to the success of Dallas and Dynasty (1981), two long-running shows that focused on the power and glamour of being rich, backstabbing, shocking plot twists and lots of sex. While some of their main cliffhangers are still well-remembered (Dallas's dream season, Dynasty's Moldavian Massacre), it's difficult for modern audiences to understand what the big deal is when the subject matter looks downright tame and restrained compared to the tidal wave of imitators in the years afterwards that went much further with their shocking storylines and sexual content. Even the teaser trailer for the rebooted Dallas emphasizes sex scenes with more skin than anything the original series ever showed. Other primetime soaps would get this treatment as well:
    • Central Park West was hyped as the most risque and shocking series of the 90's, with more violence and sexual content than any other program on television at the time. Nowadays, it's difficult to look at the series and see what the big deal is, when shows like The O.C. and Desperate Housewives have done everything CPW did and more.
  • David Letterman. His whole comedic sensibility (Middle American pop-culture-obsessed smartass, with a dash of intellectualism) was incredibly fresh and innovative in the early '80s, and exactly the kick in the pants that the stale TV talk show format needed. These days it's hard to find a talk show not heavily influenced by Letterman (even his short-lived 1980 morning show has Spiritual Adaptations like Ellen), so people really take him for granted now.
  • Degrassi Junior High (and its sequel series, Degrassi High) were critical and commercial darlings when they premiered in the 1980s. Degrassi was the first Teen Drama that dealt with teen pregnancy, underage drinking, and other such issues without censorship, Deus ex Machina happy endings, or the over-the-top melodrama of an Afterschool Special. It also amazed critics that the adults aren't always right, or that when they are, a teen might not listen to the Golden Moment speech. Plus, it put in just enough Soap Opera and continuity to make you care about the characters. More recent Teen Dramas (largely influenced by Degrassi itself) go much further with all of this, until the older show looks like the very sort of Afterschool Special it was rebelling against. Fans of Degrassi: The Next Generation often find the older show quaint.
    • The sequel series ended with a Darker and Edgier Grand Finale, "School's Out", that attracted controversy for showing nudity (a single shot) and a Precision F-Strike ("You were fucking Tessa Campanelli?") during pre-watershed hours. In the intervening years, cable television has gone much farther with swearing on television, to the point that anyone watching "School's Out" would fail to see what the big deal is. Better yet, the mature subject matter (exemplified by two of the characters getting into a car crash and a man cheating on his girlfriend with another classmate) has been continually topped by Degrassi: The Next Generation.
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show is a well-written, well-acted, classic American sitcom, but modern audiences would probably find major cliches in every episode because every plot involves many major sitcom tropes and conventions. However, those tropes still would have been pretty new in the early '60s, and the plots develop the sitcom tropes a little more than later sitcoms would.
  • Doctor Who. Some of the older stories were thought-provoking, mesmerizing, and quite frightening to their audience. But now, they might be looked at as having poor pacing and production values. And anyone who thinks Doctor Who is a very lame sci-fi cliché and dumbing down of the genre should be asked to remember that it premiered in 1963.
    • Tomb of the Cybermen is a textbook example made all the more interesting because it was, for almost 25 years, a Lost Episode. It was one of the many victims of the great BBC purges in the 1960s. During the time it was lost, it achieved a legendary status among the Doctor Who fandom, being hyped up as the holy grail of '60s Doctor Who, a masterpiece that was tragically destroyed. In one of the most surprising finds in the history of the series, in 1991, a complete copy of the serial containing all four episodes was found in Hong Kong. Immediately, the BBC rushed a VHS release of the serial... which was promptly thrashed by critics. They found it too slow, methodical, and contemplative, with cheesy acting and not nearly enough action... which was the norm for '60s science fiction. It also didn't help that a lot of the racial politics within the serial, while perhaps unremarkable for the mid-'60s, hadn't aged well either.
    • The Season 2 finale, "The Time Meddler", was a Wham Episode at the time because it was the first story pitting the Doctor against another alien force in a historical period - up until then, historical stories and science fiction stories had been entirely discrete, so The Reveal that the Monk is another time traveller was a huge twist that broke the established rules of the show. Of course, the 'historical' (a story taking place in a historical period with no sci-fi beyond that of the time travel itself) is a format all but abandoned after the William Hartnell era, so modern viewers checking out his stories often find it more surprising when the Doctor goes into the past and aliens don't show up.
    • The story "The War Machines" nowadays gets viewed by many fans as an uninteresting example of very generic Doctor Who, with the Doctor fighting a mad computer on contemporary Earth with the backing of the British military. At the time, it was the first story ever to feature most of those features, with the only previous story set on contemporary Earth being "Planet of Giants", whose whole gimmick was that Team TARDIS were shrunk to insect size and couldn't directly interact with the human characters.
    • It's quite difficult for viewers whose only knowledge of Doctor Who comes from the revival series to understand why it was such a massive source of fandom rage when the Doctor had The Big Damn Kiss with his companion in The TV Movie. Ever since the revival series, the show has been very romance-focused, and fans who grew up without the old series' No Hugging, No Kissing have real trouble imagining the show without sexuality. In fact, those fans may look at the romance between the Eighth Doctor and Grace as very subtle and low-key in comparison to what the show gets away with now, since it's transitory and based around heat-of-the-moment feelings - compare to the character-arc-dominating romance between the Tenth Doctor and Rose, or how the Eleventh Doctor not only has a lot of offscreen sex with various female characters and leers over other ones but even gets married...
    • On a similar level is Jack Harkness, the first openly LGBT character on-screennote , and a scene where he kisses the Ninth Doctor in the Series 1 finale "The Parting of the Ways" in 2005. At the time it was a source of major controversy. However, after the mass of more explicit sexual references and humour in the New series, with openly homosexual and bisexual characters, Jack's LGBT status doesn't seem such a major thing. The S1 finale scene feels quite subdued, especially as it comes right after Jack kisses Rose in the same way and not much attention is drawn to it.
    • Sometimes people criticise the theme music for having a cheesy B-Movie alien Theremin-like sound in the intro (such as this comic). While the theme music used in the new show is a significant change from the theme used in the 1960s and 1970s, the original Doctor Who theme is held in great esteem by musical historians as a pioneering and classic piece of Electronic Music that invented a whole bunch of new techniques. It should also be observed that the melody was played partially on modded tone generator equipment intended for electrical testing as the synthesisers on which it could be easily achieved now had not yet been invented - not to mention that it dates back to before the cliche was a cliche. The use of it in the modern orchestrated theme is as homage to this, even though it may come off as jarring in the context of the music to new fans with no history with Doctor Who.
    • The Second Doctor invented the clownish, Comical Overreacting Doctor stuck in some really dark settings - the characterisation that every single Doctor after him drew on to varying degreesnote . He remains very popular, but some people find it difficult to adjust to such an unironic funny-Doctor if you're familiar with the funny (but scary and stark-raving bonkers) Fourth Doctor, or the funny (but deeply repressed) Eleventh Doctor.
  • Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian, one of the first American celebrities to do so, and later that year her character Ellen Morgan came out as a lesbian on the TV show Ellen, making Ellen DeGeneres the first openly lesbian actress to play an openly lesbian character on television. This was a huge controversy which would not be a controversy at all today.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond, when it first premiered in the Fall of 1996, stood out among other family sitcoms in that its focus was more on the parents than on the children. In fact, the children were, in many episodes, just Living Props (even the intro points this out, with Raymond assuring the audience "It's not about the kids"). Given that many family sitcoms thereafter have focused more on the parents than on the children, the series doesn't seem quite as unique now as it used to (being that, aside from this one crucial difference, it was actually a pretty run-of-the-mill sitcom for the most part). Another groundbreaking aspect was introducing the Ugly Guy, Hot Wife scenario (until then only present on Newspaper Comics and cartoon shows) which quickly replaced the Model Couple paradigm prevalent until then.
  • It's easy to forget that Frasier was once considered a pretty unconventional show, especially for a comedy. In a time when the "standard" sitcom setting generally involved a middle-class family dealing with relatable day-to-day issues, Frasier dared to be unrelatable; instead, it centered on an overeducated upper-class bachelor who also happened to be a local celebrity, and it derived most of its humor from how out-of-touch he was with the people around him. On top of that, it regularly made highbrow jokes about esoteric subjects like history, literature, and classical music—which was practically unthinkable for a major network TV show in its day. But in the era of streaming and premium cable, when television is filled with all sorts of niche shows with esoteric subject matter, it can be hard to see why Frasier was such a big deal.
  • As noted in The Nostalgia Chick's review, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was initially considered ambitious because it was "edgy" for its time (at least, compared to other Black Sitcoms). Nowadays, it's seen as somewhat goofy (though still critically respected).
  • While Friends is still regarded as funny, and a benchmark that other comedy sitcoms try to reach, the impact it had is largely forgotten after the slew of other shows that followed.
    • At the time, it was unique for a show to have a cast of young people who could be romantically paired up in many different ways. Nearly every heterosexual combination between the main cast was explored during the series (except for Ross and Monica, of course). This type of series premise has since become the norm.
    • Friends was, at the time, also unique for delving into the trials and tribulations of twenty-something life, a demographic that had, until then, been mostly ignored by television and was just gaining cinematic recognition through movies like Reality Bites. Today, at least half of all prime time sitcoms are about people in their twenties and early thirties.
    • Things like the coffee house, now a cliché, were actually considered 'too hip' by the executives, and they had to be talked into accepting it.
    • When the Pilot was filmed, NBC actually screened audiences to see if they thought Monica having sex with Paul on a first date would make her seem slutty. Given what women on network television get away with these days, it's hard to believe such a thing was cause for concern among network executives in 1994.
    • Ross and Rachel. Thanks to a combination of Values Dissonance and "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny, a lot of younger fans who got on board after the show was cancelled are watching their relationship pan out and questioning what made it so popular. While it's easy now to pinpoint everything that was wrong with them as a couple (pettiness, having very little in common, jealousy issues, etc.), during the mid-'90s, such a relationship was seen as fresh and unique. Before then, the Give Geeks a Chance trope was rarely (if ever) represented in television, and even in film, it was still seen as a refreshing break from the predictable "pretty boy gets the hot girl" trope so prevalent until the mid-'80s. Today, with the Give Geeks a Chance trope being more-or-less played out and the culture as a whole taking a much more cynical view of the Dogged Nice Guy, it might be hard for younger fans to really appreciate how significant the Ross and Rachel romance was nearly 20 years ago.
    • We find out in the pilot that Ross' ex-wife Carol is a lesbian. Their son Ben is raised mostly by Carol and her partner Susan. In the second season, Carol and Susan get married. At the time, 1996, same-sex marriage was illegal in every state,note  and no country in the world yet had full marriage for same-sex couples (the first was the Netherlands in 2001), yet there were no references to this in the show. No characters, aside from Carol's unseen parents, object to the wedding save for Ross - and he's only upset because he still loves Carol. (In a sweet moment, he ends up walking her down the aisle.) A few network affiliates refused to air the episode, but it was the highest-rated program that week. Today, same-sex weddings and couples raising children are becoming increasingly commonplace on TV, for example in Modern Family—and perhaps more to the point, are legal everywhere in the U.S. and basically unremarkable across the country (especially in places like New York).
    • Of course, everything Friends did, Cheers did first. Sam and Diane are the Trope Codifier of Belligerent Sexual Tension and Will They or Won't They? of American sitcoms. The writing was so good it withstood being in last place in its time slot til it was discovered widely. (Cheers was also built on the bones of Taxi, and would spin off Frasier.)
  • Girls has gone from being one of the most talked about shows of the early 2010's to this. When it first premiered in 2012, we were already used to sympathetic yet unlikeable male protagonists thanks to shows like The Sopranos and Mad Men. However, the idea of a female protagonist that we sympathized with but didn't actually like or respect was brand new territory for television (as, even on those aforementioned shows, women were often portrayed as the moral center or at least wiser of the two genders). Thus, throughout its run, Girls was among the most hotly debated shows on television, with people both loving and hating the show for its deliberately insufferable female lead and her equally insufferable circle of friends. Since then, however, shows like Killing Eve and Orange Is the New Black have followed in the show's footsteps and portrayed deeply flawed (or, in some cases, full on Villain Protagonist) female leads. To the point that, today, it's hard to see why Girls was so controversial during its run.
  • The Golden Girls was among the first sitcoms ever to feature a main cast composed only of women (there was only one recurring male character—Stan, Dorothy's ex-husband—in the first five seasons, and even he didn't show up in that many episodes), all of whom were not only single, but very sexually active and not afraid to discuss it. The actors later theorized that part of their ability to get away with such frank conversations/depictions of sex was their age—since all four of the women on the show were grandmothers (and in Sophia's case, old enough to be a great-grandmother), it was less shocking than younger women in the same scenarios. Shows like Living Single, Designing Women, Desperate Housewives, Sex and the City (in this case, the similarities have been frequently lampshaded), Girls, and even The Real Housewives owe Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia a debt.

    To a lesser extent, The Golden Girls was also among the first shows in the 80's to feature recurring LGBTQ+ characters, including frequent references to Dorothy's (never-seen) Wholesome Crossdresser brother Phil, Blanche having a gay brother of her own and occasionally expressing interest in women, and homosexuality in general being an everyday reality, rather than something that was only dealt with in a Very Special Episode featuring a Long-Lost Uncle Aesop. The girls were even supposed to have a gay cook in the show, but Estelle Getty's unexpected popularity as Sophia led him to be cut so she could become a main character.
  • Hell's Kitchen. Originally, one of the greatest appeals of the show was that the main chef, Gordon Ramsay, was unafraid to yell at the contestants for screwing up, as opposed to the insufferably nice chefs that were common in the genre. Now, thanks to the popularity of the show, such rough chefs are now considered the default in the genre, and as a result, it can be difficult for a new viewer to see what once made the show unique.
  • Hill Street Blues was a series that literally rewrote the rules on how to tell a dramatic story on television. It won a truckload of Emmy awards, spawned a host of imitators, and launched Dennis Franz's career, as well as the catchphrase "Let's be careful out there." Even more importantly, NBC chose to renew it despite (like Cheers) terrible ratings because it was so damn good. Just about every subsequent police procedural program (Law & Order, The Wire, Blue Bloods, etc.) owes its existence to Hill Street Blues. While the show was revolutionary in 1981, it can seem downright quaint to the modern viewer. Blues turned the idea of the "cop show" on its head. At the time, police dramas usually focused on a couple of partners (each the polar opposite of the other) and their demanding or possibly understanding supervisor, and each episode would focus on the case of the week. Other officers in the squad primarily existed for the lead pair to interact with. No matter what happened, you could rest assured that the lead cops were diligent, hard-working and usually got their man, and no one ever died unless an actor was leaving the show (and rarely even then). Hill Street Blues, on the other hand, had an entire station house focused on, and the cops weren't necessarily all friends, a few of them even actively disliked each other. The characters all dealt the daily reality of getting shot, and possibly killed. Cases could last for several episodes, and often ended still unsolved. While the cops were mostly good people, the show was unafraid to portray them as flawed, with many personal issues to deal with, not always good cops, lazy, violent, occasionally tempted into corruption, and frequently not "getting their man", or getting the wrong one. Department politics and bureaucracy was also a heavy feature. The idea, on television, at least, that cops were just people was pretty unheard of at the time. Now it would be borderline impossible to come across a cop show that doesn't show this.
  • Homicide: Life on the Street. When it started, it was acclaimed for its gritty, realistic depiction of police politics, rule-bending, and personal lives, as well as for making good use of arc stories. Nowadays, all of these things are standard in TV dramas in general, not just Police Procedurals.
    • There is that other acclaimed '90s police drama, NYPD Blue. When it debuted, it was ground-breaking not just for being character driven and gritty in much the same way as Homicide, but for being willing to push the envelope with things such as violence, sex and nudity, and profanity. Whilst network series have been reluctant to try the same things since the show went off the air (all this envelope-pushing incurred ABC some heavy FCC fines), all the things that NYPD Blue is notable for can be seen almost ubiquitously on Cable television.
  • The Honeymooners was groundbreaking when it was created. But it has produced so many imitations, including ones like The Flintstones aimed at demographics far younger than what the original was aimed at, that most new viewers of the show are likely to be familiar with the ideas behind it before they ever see it. This naturally dilutes the humor, particularly the pairing of Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows. Gleason himself said people would never believe a pretty woman like Alice would marry a guy like Ralph. It's so common nowadays, it's a trope.
  • I Love Lucy is perhaps the oldest surviving television sitcom. It was the first one recorded on film for posterity, which means that its three-camera setup, which was revolutionary at the time and was developed by producer and star Desi Arnaz, looks completely unremarkable to us today as it is the format used for virtually every sitcom ever since. The fact that it was filmed, instead of broadcast live, also allowed the invention of the rerun; Dezi came up with the then-mindblowing idea of broadcasting a popular episode a second time to cover for the fact that Lucille Ball was recovering from the birth of their second child. Additionally, many of the situations used in the series have also become standard stories in every sitcom made since: character getting pregnant and people rushing like idiots to get her to the hospital when she is about to give birth, men and women changing jobs for a day, travel episodes... Back then, these ideas were brand new, but nowadays they look literally like the clichés that later shows made them into.
  • Kamen Rider. There's a similar argument for this franchise as well, or maybe a subversion. The Showa era formula (cyborg/scientifically augmented human battles the terrorist organization that altered him) has been done to death and is now avoided in the Heisei era shows, to the point that either part of the phrase "Masked Rider" sometimes doesn't apply to a specific series (though some of that is more resulting from the factor of Bandai needing to shout "BUY OUR TOYS"). Which makes the Showa Riders revival manga Kamen Rider Spirits so appealing: it takes the phrase "Kicking it old school" and runs with it. Recent series have more played with Elements of Showa-era Kamen Rider, with W, Fourze and Drive In example being built from the ground up as modernizations of Shotaro Ishinomori's Motif's and ideals.
    • Within the franchise itself: Ryuki. It's Battle Royale "riders fighting each-other" plot has been done in most series that followed it, and the fandom as a whole are sick of it as the grand majority of them have been *AWFUL*. The irony in this case is most of the series to follow Ryuki actually did it better than Ryuki did, mostly because Ryuki, from concept to execution, was made in open contempt for the shows before it, while the ones after Ryuki actually tried more to respect the franchise's legacy and core ideology. Thus, for many, Ryuki is obsolete; especially in the face of the Super Hero Taisen movies where their watch-word seems to be "Make every character that was supposed to be a Paragon of heroism into a twisted reflection of their own Villains", which has only decreased many fan's enjoyment of that entry to all-new lows.
    • Kamen Rider Decade was well-seated with the fans initially but after subsequent crossover movies keep portraying thetitular rider leading the villainous army to kill all Riders and/or destroying the world and yet he is always right anyway for the sake of plot twist, the series plummeted to slightly above Wizard in terms of popularity.
  • When Law & Order first appeared in 1990, it was unthinkable to have a show so willing to discuss controversial topics such as abortion, racism, corruption and child abuse. Since then, shows like The Wire have gone further with the "Crime Drama as a social platform" concept than anyone could have imagined.
  • Lizzie McGuire: Disney has copied its format (female protagonist, female best friend, male best friend/possible love interest) for every one of their shows, but it was different from all the shows on the Disney Channel back when it came out. The trio dynamic with the Just Friends love interest looks pretty old hat now that iCarly, Zoey 101, Victorious, Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, Phil of the Future, and even Western Animation such as Kim Possible and Danny Phantom all have identical or near-identical dynamics as Lizzie McGuire did for their friendship and eventual romance arcs, and all of them started after Lizzie McGuire. What many don't realise is just how pervasive Slap-Slap-Kiss-styled couples were in the late '90s (and how lacking Just Friends couples were), such as in Harry Potter which was already four years old by the time Lizzie McGuire started, Hey Arnold! which started in '96, or The Nanny.
  • Married... with Children: In a world with South Park, Family Guy, and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, it's pretty hard to imagine a time where this was on the cutting edge of irreverent, politically incorrect comedies (and FOX's first successful sitcom). Part of the problem was that, even in its day, Married With Children was something of a Rule-Abiding Rebel, happily sprinkling in plenty of Middle American cornball humor (it was set in Chicago, after all) with the edgier stuff. No matter how rude or sexually explicit your show is, if you throw in talking dogs and slapstick gags that are literally out of cartoons, it's going to be hard to truly take you seriously. Married With Children went through an evolution. It started out as a more serious comedy, but it couldn't compete with Roseanne for when it came to a dark Dom Com about a dysfunctional family. Mild Flanderization in the first season turned into major Flanderization in subsequent seasons.
  • Almost as much as the Trope Namer, The Mary Tyler Moore Show has fallen victim to this trope. When it aired during the early 1970s, it made an enormous cultural splash in its depiction of a single 30-something-year-old woman who was more interested in having a fulfilling career than landing a husband, garnering the outrage of Moral Guardians and significantly contributing to the infamous Rural Purge. The show's critical acclaim and insanely high ratings were even cited as key factors in the rise of feminism during the 1970's. However, it may be difficult for modern audiences accustomed to much riskier shows like Sex and the City and Gilmore Girls to understand just how revolutionary and controversial The Mary Tyler Moore Show was when it first aired. To see how far network television has come in terms of risky content, one needs to look no further than the Executive Meddling that surrounded the reasoning for Mary being single. The original intent was for her to be newly divorced. However, the network felt such a plot would significantly diminish the show's family appeal (remember, this is when divorce still had a very negative stigma attached to it), so it was retooled to Mary being single by virtue of a broken engagement. Seems pretty quaint, given what women on network television (let alone cable) are capable of doing today, huh? Another reason the divorcee angle was dropped was because Mary Tyler Moore was coming off a long run on The Dick Van Dyke Show and there were fears that viewers would misinterpret the show's premise as "Rob and Laura got a divorce". (This was one of the reasons Van Dyke himself wasn't picked up as newly divorced Neat Freak Felix in the film version of The Odd Couple.)
  • Miami Vice: That the show now seems to be chock full of '80s clichés belies the fact that it invented those clichés: the use of designer fashion for the leads, the cinematic visuals and montages, and famously, the no-earth-tones color palette. In 1984, when the pilot episode aired, it was downright revolutionary. No TV show had ever used a whole contemporary pop song that way, or seemed so much more like a movie than a TV show.
  • The Monkees, believe it or not, was extremely influential, as the group’s television-music combo format was seen back then as a brand new way to market music for their teenage audience. It worked almost too well (they sold over 35 million records in 1967 alone, beating out The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined that year!), as nearly every other popular music franchise would copy this. Their televised "music videos", or "romps", are considered by many to be the first of their kind. In fact, The Monkees had influenced a lot more in this genre than most people realize. In the late 1970s, Monkee Michael Nesmith took this concept and created some of the first music videos, leading to the very first music video program PopClips, which aired in 1979–81 on a then (very) young Nickelodeon. Apparently, Nesmith’s ideas were so brilliant that the powers that be stole and warped his series to create a "certain network" which was launched in 1981. The Monkees by their very presence was revolutionary on TV in another way, in the sense that at the height of The Vietnam War and the youth counter culture, the show "brought long hair into the living room". The expressions, fashions, slang, and philosophies of the subversive, free-thinking, countercultural, anti-war, proto-"hippie" teenage youth as heroes of a sitcom on American TV show was a refreshing change of pace from the conservative pace of most TV shows of the time. Micky Dolenz later commented that long hair was back then synonymous with "crimes against nature", and as they took more control of the show they allowed the revolution of The '60s to enter Middle America.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus was, in its day, a genuinely innovative, intelligent, and surreal sketch comedy show which pioneered several comedy techniques, including subverting the form by running credits at the "wrong" point in the show, putting spoof entries in TV listings magazines, having sketches without a punchline, and poking fun at typical comedy clichés. Those that it didn't create, it certainly popularized, to the extent that plenty of others lacking the panache and originality of the original ensemble have shamelessly aped their work. It says much that a highlight and selling point of a 20th anniversary compilation was that it didn't contain the (in)famous Parrot Sketch, which many people can quote by memory, even if they would at this stage rather forget it. Also, much of the verbal humor doesn't translate cross culturally. This ultimately led to a subversion of the Dead Parrot sketch in the troupe's famed Secret Policeman's Ball 1989 performance After John Cleese proclaims that the parrot he just purchased is dead, Michael Palin examines it, then agrees, gives him his money back, and the sketch ends. This trope is explained as well as anywhere by Terry Jones:
    "One of the things we tried to do with the show was to try and do something that was so unpredictable that it had no shape and you could never say what the kind of humor was. And I think that the fact that 'Pythonesque' is now a word in the Oxford English Dictionary shows the extent to which we failed."
  • Mr. Robot has an in-universe subversion. Leon has only recently discovered Seinfeld and is blown away by tropes that so many people have long since internalized. He then moves on to Mad About You and declares Paul Reiser an unheralded comic genius.
  • Police Squad! has aged a lot better than many of its contemporaries, but much of that is in how utterly unlike most of its contemporaries it is. There was an extreme focus on Rapid-Fire Comedy through clever wordplay, Visual Puns, and sight gags, no Laugh Track to break up the stream of gags or tell the audience when a line was witty, and a cast where every single character said nonsensical and absurd dialogue in the solemn tones of hardboiled lawmen. At the time, it was cancelled by the head of the network after just six episodes because he believed that comedies which required the audience to pay attention didn't work on TV. Nowadays, all the things in Police Squad are very common: many successful comedies don't use laughtracks, the idea of cramming as many gags as possible is standard practice, and a character saying silly things in utmost seriousness is a well-worn idea. While the show remains funny on a pure gag-to-gag basis, it's hard to describe how different it was from its fellows, when now it just seems like an above-average TV comedy.
  • Oz. Aside from being HBO's first one-hour drama, it was shocking in 1997 to have a show which so blatantly depicted drug use, male-on-male rape, extreme violence, and deeply reprehensible protagonists. Since then both The Sopranos and The Wire have outshined it in acclaim thus dooming the brilliantly acted, well written series to being known for its more superficial elements and retroactive recognition of famous cast members.
  • The Real World, among the very first Reality Shows. It was just a Reality Show, no other gimmick, just a bunch of kids sitting around in a house acting pissy at each other. Revolutionary in 1993, every Reality Show you've ever seen today. Same thing has happened to Real People, which became a Wednesday night staple on NBC between 1979 and 1984.
  • Rich Man, Poor Man was the first miniseries, an exploration of long-form storytelling that's become completely standard today. As well, one of its biggest selling points was its frank depiction of sexuality, with the Moral Guardians up in arms over characters talking about "nailing" each other and a white woman considering an affair with a black man. Nowadays, of course, all that seems remarkably tame.
  • Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. Although these days it seems pretty predictable and safe, in the late 1960s it was very decidedly neither. Moreover, if there wasn't Laugh-In first, we probably wouldn't have had Monty Python or Saturday Night Live.
  • RuPaul's Drag Race managed to do this to itself. The early seasons were notable simply for the fact that drag queens were being shown in a realistic light rather than just being shown as stereotypes. As the series went on, the quality of drag fashion has increased considerably, to the point where many of the looks on the earlier seasons look dated by comparison. For example, Tyra Sanchez won Season 2 wearing what was effectively a one-piece bathing suit with a cape around the waist, something queens get absolutely roasted for if they try it today. Case in point: Raja. Her runway looks during season 3 were revolutionary, and she was really the first queen to show that drag could be fashion-forward and creative. Nowadays there have been so many high-fashion queens on the show that Raja's looks aren't nearly as groundbreaking as they used to be.
  • St. Elsewhere had doctors and hospital staff that did drugs, slacked off, made mistakes that cost patients' lives, sometimes had patients die despite everything the doctors tried, were often forced to deny patients care due to lack of coverage or hospital funds, fought medical bureaucracy, occasionally would even just be bad people, cheating on their spouses or committing rape. Sounds very similar to a number of medical dramas that came later, but at the time, the idea of doctors on TV as anything less than life-saving superheroes was practically unheard of. It did for doctors what Hill Street Blues did for police (see above).
  • Saturday Night Live: In its early days, it was considered revolutionary, groundbreaking, and taboo due to its willingness to just say and/or do anything crazy, stupid, and/or controversial and hope the censors don't crack down on them. Through modern eyes, those old episodes can seem terribly dull thanks to SNL's many dueling shows that try to capture its humor (i.e., Fridays, In Living Color!, MADtv, Mr. Show, etc).
  • Saved by the Bell: The show that started the whole "tween" show craze (heck, that word didn't even exist back then). Lizzie, Hannah Montana, iCarly, even Power Rangers - they all owe their existence to this show.
  • S Club 7 and their TV show popularised the idea of a modern musical TV series. While a Band Toon was nothing new and The Monkees had a similar TV series, S Club 7's TV show was something quite new. In 1999 musicals were essentially for old folks and the idea of combining the genre with current music and tacking on sitcom hijinks was something different. And of course a cast of attractive young singers. The musical numbers in this amount to the band either performing their own songs on a stage or singing them during trippy scenes. Yet the likes of Glee and High School Musical who explored this format better were likely heavily influenced by it.
  • SCTV. Speaking of network TV sketch shows that suffer from Seinfeld Is Unfunny syndrome, when it premiered in Canada (and later, the United States), the sketch comedy show was a critical and commercial hit. By mixing deconstructive parodies of popular and lesser-known works with absurdly specific Canadian-centric humor, the show won over a lot of fans (it also helped that SNL had plunged into Seasonal Rot in the 1980s, so shows like SCTV and Fridays became favorite substitutes for SNL). The show was lauded for having a stellar cast (who would all go on to successful movie and television careers, making it a who's-who of comedy talent, much like SNL), and being a trailblazer for new concepts in sketch comedy (i.e. running gags that spanned the entire episode, long camera shots in sketches, and more absurdist humor than what one would find on SNL or even Monty Python). Today, many viewers would look at the series and think it's either too quaint or boring (because the nature of the sketches and jokes — which reference late 1970s and early 1980s subculture — fly right over their heads), even though the series essentially created the foundation of modern Canadian comedy shows.
  • Sesame Street. Every single children's television show today owes a tremendous debt to this program for blazing the trail. Now that everybody does it, it's hard to remember that Sesame Street invented quality, research-based, curriculum-based, educational, and most importantly, entertaining children's TV that has a visibly ethnically diverse cast and doesn't talk down to its audience.
  • The 1992 Australian Reality Show Sylvania Waters suffers the same fate as The Real World.
  • Much of the humor, even the political bits, of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour seems so dated and unfunny today that you would be forgiven for thinking CBS was trying to spare the audience by censoring them. But even doing some of the political bits was risky enough for most TV at the time, which steered clear of anything political. Thanks to Tom and Dick, it's routine now. That said, the show's also a subversion, with some portions that were censored in reruns decades later. Infamously, the punchline to a sketch featuring the first interracial marriage was the priest asking for a noose instead of the wedding ring.
  • Smallville still has its fans to this day, but it would probably be mostly forgotten if the main character weren't named Clark Kent. Its existence may seem a lot more impressive when you remember that it began in 2001—barely a year after X-Men hit theaters, and well before Spider-Man followed it. In a time when serious superhero adaptations were still exceedingly rare, the idea of an ongoing Superman TV show aimed explicitly at non-fans was practically unthinkable. And absolutely nobody expected the writers to dip deep into DC Comics mythology and introduce the Justice League in Season 5. It may not seem like much today, but it was pretty exciting in a time before The Dark Knight Trilogy and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and modern superhero shows like the Arrowverse probably wouldn't exist without it.
  • When The Sopranos came out in 1999, it was rather unusual for a television show to feature a morally questionable protagonist, especially a criminal. For instance, Profit had also dabbled in the concept just a few years before, but was cancelled after just one season. It was so unusual that David Chase had to fight HBO about whether or not Tony could commit a murder in the fifth episode of the series because HBO was scared of putting off fans. Over the years, series with anti-heroes and villain protagonists have become a dime a dozen, with popular series like The Shield, Dexter, Deadwood, House of Cards (US), and perhaps most of all, Breaking Bad (which has all but eclipsed The Sopranos' place in popular culture) all featuring protagonists that commit criminal acts up to and including murder on a nearly weekly basis.
  • Star Trek:
    • The original series has a camp reputation, and has been endlessly parodied and mocked. People forget that Star Trek was THE trailblazer that has influenced every science fiction series after it (and even influenced non-sci-fi shows as well) up to this day. In 1967, three of the five nominees (including the winner) for the Hugo Award (awards for science fiction and fantasy) for Best Dramatic Presentation (which at the time included both television episodes and movies) were episodes of Star Trek. In 1968, the show did even better: all five nominees for Best Dramatic Presentation were Star Trek episodes. In fact, society has changed so much that some of the most radical and innovative things it did are now almost entirely overlooked. A black woman, as a military officer? Said black woman, kissing a white man, at a time when that kind of thing would get you arrested (or worse) in large parts of the United States? note  The show's portrayal of race was so far ahead of its time that when Nichelle Nichols considered leaving the show to return to musical theater, Martin Luther King Jr. himself insisted to her that she needed to stay, telling her that the show's depiction of ethnic relations was not only unprecedented, but exactly the kind future he dreamed of, and that Star Trek was the only show he and Coretta let their children stay up to watch. The original pilot had a FEMALE first officer. It also avoided (see Babylon 5 above) "Cute Kids And Robots", at least among the regular cast, which was one reason science fiction fans at the time considered it a better, more serious show than much of the science fiction on television.
    • On the other hand, the German(-French) seven-part series Raumpatrouille - Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion (French title: Commando spatial), which was produced at the same time (its first episode was aired on German TV nine days after that of Star Trek in America), is regarded by many German fans as equal to the original Star Trek in many respect and superior in some, most notably the roles played by its female characters. Raumpatrouille also gradually acquired a bit of a camp appeal as, due to its own budget limitations, some prominent spaceship parts are not hard to recognize as household implements.
    • Hell, even The Next Generation. At its time, it was noted for taking everything about the old series and modernizing it (as well as adding some twists of its own). Nowadays, with spinoffs doing the same thing and other shows going further where it could never go, the only thing it has going for it is Patrick Stewart. Also, it's hard to understand how hard-hitting and terrifying the Cliffhanger ending of "The Best of Both Worlds: Part I" was, since the subsequent Trek spinoffs started making regular use of such endings.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is often under-recognized as an early pioneer, particularly in heavily serialized science fiction storytelling, and even for tv in general, when it was more common for self-contained episodes, and arcs that were a matter of episodes, not seasons, to be the norm.
    • DS9 not only had a black man for its lead, it was notable as well for being willing to engage with morally ambiguity, dark themes, imperfect characters, and explorations of topics like religion and sexuality, in ways that Star Trek hadn't really done so before, and that were even pushing the envelope for television at the time.
      • Later shows like Battlestar Galactica, which shared a writer/producer, took heavy influence from its example, and current Star Trek shows like Discovery and Picard owe more in tone and structure to its later season, than the Original series or even TNG.
      • Additionally, episodes like the one where Jadzia Dax kisses a woman, or where the Mirror!verse version of Kira Nerys is implied to be bisexual, read as dated or cliche in current context, but they were fairly notable for the era, as well as the character of Jadzia Dax herself, who can be argued as somewhat analogous to a trans character.
  • The State was actually a pretty controversial show for its time, and pushed the envelope for what could be shown on TV, even cable. It actually attracted quite a few negative reviews in the media for this alone, of which it marketed itself off. Today though it looks pretty tame, and not much worse than the more raunchy sketches on Saturday Night Live. In fact despite the horrendous Network Decay since it's been on, The State doesn't really go much further in controversy than most current programming on MTV, and it's safe to say anyone in the target demographic today probably won't see what the big deal is.
  • The Super Sentai franchise (and to a lesser extent, tokusatsu shows in general) suffers from this, but not because of imitators but rather, itself: it has lasted for so long that it takes genuine effort to create an original premise and sustain it. This is likely why so many of the newer series eschew tech-driven stories in favor of fantasy, along with the advent of CG over People in Rubber Suits.
    • Within the franchise, Himitsu Sentai Goranger is this trope - there's no giant robots, the suits aren't made of spandex, the lack of a Sixth Ranger, and the lack of sparks from when a ranger gets hit by an enemy attack. Admittedly, most of these changes were introduced after Goranger, and in the case of the special effects, it's more because at the time, Goranger couldn't do said effects due to them not being within Goranger's budget, but overall, time has not been kind to this show.
  • Survivor. A decade after its first American broadcast, it's hard to imagine that it was ever considered shocking or innovative. Viewers found it horrifying that people were Voted Off the Island based on politics instead of merit, with the "evil alliance" being some of the most hated people in TV history. Every media critic in America, whether they loved Survivor or hated it, regarded it as a sign of deep troubles and neuroses within modern Western civilization. After all the Follow the Leader clones, people take it for granted that you can get people to do disgusting or amazing things just by waving one million dollars in front of them. Even the squarest of suburban Americans are now hip to the show's "morality", and the "villains" have for them gone from being truly offensive to being characters they Love to Hate.
    • Even amongst Johnny-come-lately Survivor fans, it can be difficult to get into the earlier seasons. If you watch Borneo and The Australian Outback (the first and second seasons, respectively) you'll notice the game was majorly different back then than it is now. The Tribal switch was actually seen as the big twist of Africa (season 3). Nowadays it's in almost every season of Survivor, partly because it made things a bit less one-sided at the merge. (The game was dominated by the remnants of one team at the merge in Borneo and The Australian Outback. When the power shifts, it becomes more interesting to watch.) When one takes into account that there was nothing like hidden immunity idols or Exile Island... the first two seasons were actually kinda bland, weren't they? However, at the time, the main draw of Borneo and The Australian Outback was still the premise itself (being stranded on a deserted island, being stranded in the wild, et cetera).
    • Jerri Manthey references this phenomenon in the Heroes Vs Villains season. When Jerri first appeared in the Australia season, American viewers hated her - she schemed against other players, and was the first certifiable "villain" of the show (so much so that when she appeared on that season's reunion show, she was booed off the stage). In the following seasons, other players would up the stakes in terms of villainy, culminating in Corrine Kaplan's run in Gabonnote  and Russell Hantz's run in Samoanote . Even at her worst, Jerri was never as nasty as Corinne or Russell, and her "villainy" is now run-of-the-mill - practically every player backstabs their fellow teammates at this point.
      • It can be argued that Richard Hatch was the original villain. In Borneo, Hatch was seen as a gay guy with an ego. But he was more known for his scheming to the point he created his alliance to ensure that his group wouldn't be voted out. In addition, Rich was stark naked at times. And his celebration after winning a key individual immunity challenge? Tame by today's standards. Jerri simply copied some of Richard's schemes though accusing a fellow contestant of cheating by eating a candy bar was seen as a new low.
    • The American version of Big Brother also gets this said about it, especially since there originally was no "power of veto" and there were almost no "twists" to speak of in the first two and three seasons. Considering how radically different it is, it can be very hard to appreciate the concept of the early Big Brother seasons. And not just in the American version where it's more competitive. (There was some degree of competition in the Brazilian Big Brother still.)
  • With the barrage of crime comedy dramas set in quirky rural or urban (or really any highly localized) settings that have hit the airwaves in German television nowadays, it is hard to imagine that setting a crime drama in one specific place (and frequently alluding to the specifics of said place) was actually new and innovative when Tatort first came up with it. Workplace banter and flawed private lives of the cops (to say the least) were also so controversial at first that they were only very gradually introduced. Now some shows have to resort to the main character literally having been in a coma for twenty years to make at least some of those tropes new and original again. If someone who did not grow up in the Eighties watches a Schimansky Tatort today, they will ask how getting hit in the face and replying with Scheiße was such a big deal it basically built the movie career of Götz George.
    • The Coroner being a major character is now also such a major "It's Been Done" that people won't realize how revolutionary (and downright wacky and illogical if you look at it) the team Thiel/Börne of the Münster Tatort was when it was introduced. They had to jump through some hoops to make it at least somewhat plausible. Börne and Thiel have flats next to each other in a house Börne owns (IOW he is Thiel's landlord) and the murders just so happen to involve quite a bit of forensics on a regular base (and if they don't Börne's high society skills come in handy). The writers still felt the need to give Thiel a regular cop sidekick initially, who has since been written out. Nowadays, there is even a series about the guy who cleans a murder site after the crimes.
  • At the time Taxi premiered, Danny DeVito's height wasn't well known, so he spent most of the pilot inside the dispatcher cage, and when he stepped down the stairs he got a big laugh from the audience.
  • Many classical Telenovelas were kind of edgy at the time, like El Derecho de Nacer and its oblique references to abortion, the heroines empowering themselves by studying and working like Simplemente Maria instead of merely marrying into riches like every other one, villain protagonists like Rubí, and "bedroom scenes" consisting of two characters merely embracing together with a Modesty Bedsheet (quite scandalous in the era of Sleeping Single). Today, those stories are hardly edgy. Many remakes of old telenovelas have to set the action on rural areas instead of the urban setting where it originally took place, because even the broadcasters have to acknowledge that nowadays those are the only places where people would be Genre Blind enough for the plot to work.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959). The original was shocking. The best episodes still are, but once the show was known long enough for everyone to expect a Karmic Twist Ending Once per Episode, the writing had to be that much better for the episodes to still work than they needed to be first time around. And the ante keeps getting upped, because viewers get savvier with the conventions and because other works go ever farther... At the time that The Twilight Zone aired, American TV was saturated with anthology series showcasing one-off dramatic or science fiction teleplays. The Twilight Zone gave period viewers a new take on what they saw all the time, its biggest innovation of all.
  • The Ultra Series suffers particularly badly from this. To some (especially outside of Japan), the franchise on the whole looks goofy and stereotypical, but its influence on anime, kaiju movies, Toku, and video games in Japan is mindbogglingly enormous. Many reoccurring tropes associated with Japanese media like the Humongous Mecha, the Kamehamehadoken, the Henshin Hero, and even Mons were established by the Ultra Series. As such, its impact can be difficult to appreciate. Part of the reason for such is that it failed to cement itself outside of Japan, unlike similar franchises such as Godzilla and Power Rangers, so to outsiders, the Ultra Series looks like pretty insignificant (hence the common assumption there is only one long-running Ultraman show that ended a long time ago).
    • Ultra Q, the first entry in the franchise, was enormous in Japan back in 1966, with the nation's highest ratings and the highest budget of any TV show ever at the time (its More Popular Spin-Off Ultraman beat both those records quickly afterwards). It paved the way for Toku as a TV genre and had production values that were found only in movies in 60s Japan (its optical printer was so expensive only Disney and Toho had one). Nowadays however, with a lot of flashier-looking TV shows in both Japan and the west, and Toku being more about superheroes than Sci-Fi Horror, Ultra Q looks to many as a mere Twilight Zone wannabe and is usually thought of as a footnote to Ultraman.
  • Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and The Weakest Link both introduced the Dramatic Lighting and Music that would be used by every prime-time game show that came after them (1 vs. 100, Deal or No Deal, Minute to Win It, et cetera). At the time it was quite epic. Now it's so common it's actually a trope. Millionaire also popularized dragging out The Reveal to increase suspense, and especially using a Commercial Break Cliffhanger to do so. The masses of imitators doing the same has turned this technique into a cliche and a Discredited Trope.
  • Will & Grace is considered offensive by some people for its portrayal of gay men as shallow and superficial. It was the first American TV show to have gay leads. Without it, more serious gay live media (The L Word, Brokeback Mountain, etc.) would never have gotten off the ground.
    • Before that, Soap also had Billy Crystal as a gay lead, in a much less cliche role. The character later went straight.
  • The Young Ones was considered anarchic and subversive in the early 1980s. In comparison with their successor Bottom, many of the violent scenes (Vyvyan destroying something or hitting Rick over the head) can seem rather tame today.
  • The concept of professional partners eventually developing a romantic relationship is almost a requirement in crime dramas/FBI procedurals nowadays, but in the days of The X-Files' Mulder and Scully, it was a new idea. And it goes back further than that. Moonlighting was the first to have partners hooking up, but other shows had similar Will They or Won't They? tension.
  • People who grew up with more recent kid-focused sketch shows may have a hard time appreciating how influential You Can't Do That on Television was. In addition to being the show responsible for creating "green slime" (which would be a staple on Nickelodeon for quite some time), the show was one of the first successful sketch comedies to feature an all kid cast (plus two adults in the form of the late Les Lye and Abby Hagyard). The show was also notable for pushing quite a few boundaries in terms of taste (for a kid show, at least), with toilet humor and Getting Crap Past the Radar moments a'plenty. It was Nickelodeon's most popular show until 1986 (when Double Dare (1986) overtook it) and, even after its cancellation in 1990, remained in constant reruns until it was firmly taken off the air in 1994. Unfortunately, the popularity of its spiritual successor All That, along with other Nick shows that followed its basic mold, seems to have seriously put a damper on the public's recollection of the show. A matter not helped by the fact that, after reruns were taken off the air, Nick has rarely made any further mention of the series (despite still utilizing its most famous running jokes during their annual Kid's Choice Awards) and has yet to release the series on DVD (although the first batch of episodes are available for download on Today, the show is, somewhat strangely, remembered mostly for being where Alanis Morissette launched her showbiz career, with many forgetting the impact it had on children's television in the 80's.


  • On American TV shows of the mid/late 1960s and early 1970's, boasts of "in color." Viewers who have grown up on color TV are likely to have a reaction of, "Um, okay?" In the mid-1960s, however, many shows were still in black-and-white, making the changeover to color significant. Reruns of shows from that period generally leave off the "in color" intro. The real motivation for this kind of thing was to let people who still had black and white TVs know just what they were missing - at least, when the point had been reached when the "in color" boast continued to appear while everything was in color anyway.
  • The mid/late 2000's and the early 2010's saw programs boast, "Now in High Definition" for exactly the same reason. Though "high", being a relative term, will surely age even worse than "in color" as future technology surpasses it. "Presented in HD" was the norm for a short time back when channels being aired in high definition was groundbreaking. Nowadays, nobody really thinks about it due to a lot of channels being broadcast in HD.
  • "In Stereo Where Available" was used quite often from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s when television sets were being produced with stereo speakers and it was considered groundbreaking at the time since more dynamic sound added to the immersion of the program or movie people were watching. "In Surround Sound" was also used when home theater sound systems took off. Nowadays, nobody bothers making announcements that their programs have stereo or surround sound since such features are standard now.
  • "This program is closed captioned for the hearing impaired." Since it is legally required for many programs, most networks in America don't bother with a logo denoting a show was captioned any longer, and only the Turner networks still use the National Captioning Institute's "screen and speech balloon" logo, which was nearly ubiquitous in the 80s and 90s.
  • SAP/Simulcast En Espanol is the new Closed Captioned. With the increasing number of native Spanish speakers in the United States more and more broadcasters are employing Secondary Audio Programming to provide a Spanish translation of English dialogue.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: In the age of online streaming, digital releases, DVD collections, and even DVR, it's hard to imagine just how big it was to be able to tape a TV show or a movie that aired on TV. There was even a fight for a while over whether "time shifting" should even be legal.


  • The Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss used to routinely garner press attention and controversy, probably most notably the Roseanne episode "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" which ABC initially tried to bury before the controversy led them to promote it. As more and more LGBT characters are lead and recurring characters across television, the idea that their expression of sexuality via kissing is shocking is no longer the case and series are starting to explore the romantic and sexual lives of their LGBT characters in depths similar to those of their straight characters.


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