Follow TV Tropes

Following

Spiritual Antithesis / Live-Action TV

Go To

  • All in the Family was one to the sitcoms of the 1950s-60s. The Bunkers were a lower-middle class household while most 60s-era sitcoms featured almost-upper-middle class characters. Their political conflicts also made the ones from previous sitcoms seem trivial. Not to mention the first episode began with the sound of a flush whereas years earlier toilets were basically forbidden on TV.
  • ABC's 1987 miniseries Amerika was born as this to their 1983 Made-for-TV Movie The Day After. A 1983 column by Ben Stein suggested that, since The Day After depicted the horrible what-if scenario of a nuclear attack on America, a movie should be made depicting the equally horrible what-if scenario of America being conquered by the USSR, the ultimate threat that had led to the US' maintenance of a massive nuclear arsenal (to keep this impossible in the short term) and a series of disposable allies/buffer states in Western Europe and East Asia (to keep this impossible in the long term). The head of ABC paid Stein a quitclaim fee for coming up with the idea for the miniseries.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bates Motel is a Spiritual Prequel to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. However, the original film was so groundbreaking and iconic because of its unprecedented Halfway Plot Switches that viewers would never see coming. Bates Motel, on the other hand, is a Tragedy because, due to Pop-Cultural Osmosis, viewers know exactly what's going to happen.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003) was a Darker and Edgier show than the original '70s version, but Show Runner Ron Moore intended it mainly as an answer to contemporary Star Trek, most of all Star Trek: Voyager, having briefly written for that show before quitting in frustration with the direction that its producers were taking it. For the Battlestar Galactica reboot, he used a lot of ideas he had for Voyager that the producers shot down, most notably a much greater emphasis on realism. The tone and aesthetic were more naturalistic as opposed to pulpy adventure and extravagant alien worlds, with emphasis on the logistical issues that a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits would realistically face as they journeyed across a hostile galaxy. The space battles emphasized realism. While the Borg showed up so frequently that they ceased to be threatening, the Cylons are a truly dangerous menace who largely stay in the shadows. Moore thought that Voyager swept the tensions between Starfleet and the Maquis under the rug after the first few episodes, so he explored the tensions between the opposing groups on the Galactica in full. While Voyager was obliged to stick with a more conventional episodic structure that Moore thought robbed it of much of its drama, Galactica fully exploited its overarching plot to create a tightly-structured Myth Arc.
  • Advertisement:
  • The Big Bang Theory to The IT Crowd. They're both about geeks with No Social Skills meeting a woman who can help them deal with people, but who is lost when they start talking shop. They both also feature a rude character whose exasperation with everyone else's lack of technical knowledge is the foundation of several jokes. But, The IT Crowd is a Work Com that mostly takes place in an unkept basement cluttered with cheap nerdy paraphernalia, while The Big Bang Theory takes place on the characters' apartment, which is always spotless and filled to the brim with valuable collectibles. The characters of Roy and Moss are contrasted with Leonard and Sheldon: Roy is rude because he doesn't care about his coworkers computer problems and never does more than the bare minimum when it comes to work, with his sidekick Moss being shy, awkward and helpful, while Leonard is too awkward to ask a girl out, but always willing to help and explain science concepts, with his sidekick Sheldon being a classic Insufferable Genius and a neat freak to boot.
Advertisement:
  • Black Mirror:
    • A big part of why fans and critics found the third season episode "San Junipero" so unusual was because it was this to the entire rest of the show. Black Mirror had made its name as a Darker and Edgier modern-day Twilight Zone exploring how people could use seemingly awesome up-and-coming technologies for ill, while "San Junipero" is a straightforward, lighthearted sci-fi romance whose plot hinges on a positive use of its central technology. Since then, each new season of Black Mirror has had at least one Breather Episode ("USS Callister" in season four, "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too" in season five) in which technology is portrayed as a force for good rather than an ominous one, and all of the good guys get happy endings.
    • "San Junipero" got its own antithesis that same season in "Nosedive". Both are set in pastel-colored landscapes rooted in retro Americana that are remarkably unlike the show's normally grounded and gritty aesthetic, but whereas "San Junipero", as noted above, was a Breather Episode, "Nosedive" is set in a Crapsaccharine World that, beneath its appearance, is pure, traditional Black Mirror in how its central technology destroys its protagonist's life.
  • Blake's 7 was meant to be Star Trek turned on its head: the symbol of the fascist Terran Federation was even the symbol of the Federation Starfleet turned 90 degrees to the right.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • To The Wire. Both are epic crime dramas about the American drug trade that are mostly set in one city, both have been called two of the greatest television series of all time by several critics, and both are well-known for examining The American Dream at length — but their respective approaches to their subject matter are as different as Night and Day. ​The Wire is a sprawling story about the intertwining fates of the denizens of the East Coast city of Baltimore, most of them lower-class African-Americans, that has so many characters that it doesn't really have a protagonist at all. It rigidly adheres to unadorned realism, and is driven by social commentary on how the the drug trade wreaks havoc on the lives of people just trying to escape the cycle of poverty. By contrast, Breaking Bad is a classical "rise and fall" story set mainly in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the American Southwest, and centered around the white, middle-class, college-educated scientist Walter White. While its plot and characters are a deconstructive take on crime dramas, it combines these with highly stylized elements, taking quite a few cues from genre fiction (like Westerns and gangster films) in its portrayal of Walter's journey from a mild-mannered schoolteacher to a tyrannical drug lord. To put it into literary terms: The Wire is a Dickensian crime drama, while Breaking Bad is a Shakespearean crime drama.
    • It also sharply contrasts with Weeds. Both are about suburban parents who get in over their heads when they try to support their families by dealing drugs, but Weeds plays the premise for Black Comedy (with Nancy Botwin selling mostly harmless marijuana), while Breaking Bad plays it depressingly straight (with Walter White selling seriously dangerous methamphetamines). Nancy and Walt both try to hide their darker sides from their families, but while Nancy's family are willing to call her out when she endangers others, they are generally willing to put up with her criminal behavior. Walt's family, meanwhile, recoils in horror when they discover his secret, completely disown him at the end (to the point where his son Walt Jr. legally changes his name to "Flynn" because he no longer wants anything to do with that name), and his wife Skyler eventually ending up as a prisoner in her own home when she realizes the full extent of her husband's monstrous deeds.
  • Joss Whedon created Buffy the Vampire Slayer because he wanted a blonde female character who, instead of becoming a helpless victim like in most horror films, is a competent heroine who beats the crap out of monsters.
  • Community:
    • To Parks and Recreation. Both are sitcoms that pay incredible attention to detail and canon, and both (like The Office) are centered around the friendship group of a motley crew of lovable misfits. However, they play on opposite ends of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism — the Parks gang climb career ladders throughout the series, often relying on each other to help them up said ladders, while Community is focused on how nobody at Greendale is ever going to make anything of themselves and how the friendship group is, in a way, their only refuge from their crappy lives.
    • Sarah Z has also described it as the "anti-Big Bang Theory". Both were network sitcoms that relied heavily on mining humor out of references to obscure geek culture properties, but while The Big Bang Theory was geared towards mainstream audiences and used those references primarily as flavor for a conventional, lightweight comedy story about a group of roommates (albeit nerdy ones) and their relationships with their neighbors and each other, Community often built entire plots around them and had a sense of humor that rested heavily on postmodernism.
  • Bill Cosby felt that the Blaxploitation genre was deeply rooted in stereotypes, and so he created The Cosby Show, a sitcom about a happy, middle-class Black family, to give young Black people more positive role models instead.
  • Sean O'Neal of The AV Club discussed this with regards to The Daily Show and the Fox News Channel, a pair of TV news 'alternatives' that were both launched in 1996.note  Fox News saw itself as a corrective to perceived bias in the American news media, its audience was dominated by the baby boomers, and its commentary ran on righteous indignation and moral outrage. Daily Show host Jon Stewart, meanwhile, always insisted that he was a comedian rather than a journalist, but regardless, the show came to be seen, especially by the millennials and Gen-Xers who made up most of its audience, as a corrective to the "gut feelings over facts" nature of modern journalism that, during the show's height in the '00s, its viewers saw exemplified in Fox News. Furthermore, while Fox News was a decidedly conservative-leaning outlet, The Daily Show was just as stridently liberal-leaning.

    However, O'Neal concludes that, despite these differences, the two shows were ultimately two sides of the same coin in how they contributed to a blurring of the line between news and entertainment and to a general cynicism of the media and politics, Fox News by getting middle-aged and older people to see liberal journalists and politicians as untrustworthy, and The Daily Show by getting younger people to see all journalists and politicians as buffoons. He held up the debate between Stewart and Fox News pundit Bill O'Reilly in 2012 as the pinnacle of this, with the debate ultimately being as much a spectacle as it was a serious discussion — which was precisely what Stewart and O'Reilly intended.
  • Dark (2017), upon its premiere, was widely compared by critics to a German version of Stranger Things, another Netflix series that premiered the year before. Both are Sci-Fi Horror shows inspired by Stephen King whose plots are kicked off by a child's disappearance and a group of townsfolk (including his friends, his grieving parents, and the local police chief) searching for him, both involve travel between Alternate Universes, and both are set, at least in part, in The '80s. However, as this article by Emily VanDerWerff for Vox explains, those comparisons go out the window as the show goes on. Stranger Things takes place entirely in the '80s in an idealized Everytown, America and is rooted heavily in nostalgia for the decade, all while being a (mostly) family-friendly show that keeps its storylines straightforward and closes off most of its loose ends at the conclusion of each season. Dark, meanwhile, is set mostly in the present day and broadens its Time Travel beyond the '80s as it progresses, and as its name suggests, it is very much the Darker and Edgier of the two shows, with a grim atmosphere, a constantly overcast setting, lots of R-rated content, a more cynical take on nostalgia for the past, and a twisting, convoluted storyline that the viewer is meant to solve. Their respective opening scenes are a case in point: one opens with a man getting killed by a fantastical monster, the other with a man hanging himself in a fashion all too realistic. This interview by Radio Times with Dark's creators Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese goes into more detail on the similarities and differences, describing the show as more or less a Nordic Noir version of Stranger Things (albeit German instead of Scandinavian).
  • Dinosaurs, like Fraggle Rock, was a sitcom starring puppets created by Jim Henson.note  Unlike Fraggle Rock, which was an optimistic show about The Power of Friendship and people (or in this case creatures) of various races and backgrounds coming together and overcoming their differences, Dinosaurs was one of the most cynical things that Henson was ever involved in, a Black Comedy about a family and society of boorish Lower-Class Louts that has doomed itself to self-destruction, with the Grand Finale portraying the extinction event that destroyed them as karma. To quote Bob Chipman:
    The Sinclairs aren't "the bad guys" of the series; but their whole society is and the "background noise" of the entire show is that Dinosaur 'Civilization' is counting down to zero all around them and they're oblivious to it. It's the exact inverse of "FRAGGLE ROCK," which was literally Jim Henson and his crew making a "Here's an allegory for how to understand and save humanity and the world" show. "DINOSAURS" is the older, cynical "You didn't listen, fuck you, final warning" later.
  • Emily in Paris to Ted Lasso. Both are Fish out of Water workplace comedies about a blissfully ignorant American who goes to work in a European country in an industry stereotypically associated with that country, leading to Culture Clash. The titular protagonist of Ted Lasso is a middle-aged male American Football coach from small-town Kansas who was recruited to coach an association football team in a deliberate attempt to sabotage it, and he is forced to adapt to his new English home while being a lot more aware that he's out of his depth. The titular protagonist of Emily in Paris, meanwhile, is a young woman from the big city of Chicago who works in fashion, she wound up sent to Paris thanks to a series of comical mishaps, and she serves as the agent of change who shakes up the French world around her. As this article by Megan Garber for The Atlantic notes:
    Emily treats Americanism as a gift to be given; Ted understands that, for many people around the world — including many Americans — it has worked in precisely the opposite way. Ted may be, like Emily, an avatar of stateside entitlement; he views that entitlement, however, not as something to be accommodated, but rather as something to be overcome.
  • Before the below-mentioned Last Man Standing, All in the Family received another antithesis in Family Ties. Both shows are sitcoms about The Generation Gap and political divide between parents and their children, but the politics were flipped: All in the Family was about the tension between the old conservative Archie and his activist liberal son-in-law Mike, reflecting the discomfort that older generations had with the left-wing student movements of The '60s, while Family Ties was about such between the liberal ex-hippies Steven and Elyse Keaton and their Reagan-loving yuppie son Alex and Valley Girl daughter Mallory (the former explicitly a Republican, the latter apolitical but having inherited little of her mother's feminism), reflecting the more conservative ethos of youth culture in The '80s.
  • Farscape is another anti-Star Trek space opera. Like Blake's 7, it featured a group of scruffy fugitives as the main characters, alternately fighting or fleeing the clean, well-dressed military.
  • Firefly's setting is deliberately a change of pace from the standard Space Western where the main characters are backed by The Federation or some major organization. With protagonists who are criminals on the run from an authoritarian government, it can be seen as the Space Spaghetti Western to Star Trek's Wagon Train to the Stars.
  • Freaks and Geeks to That '70s Show. Two defining Nostalgia Shows of the early 2000s set in small towns in the American Upper Midwest, and nearly set in the same time period (one at the beginning of the 1980s, one at the end of the 1970s). Despite being period pieces, they were notable for avoiding most obvious markers of their historical settings, with both shows revolving around the humdrum lives of ordinary teenagers who rarely (if ever) took notice of major world events. But Freaks and Geeks was a sober and downbeat dramedy that was known for its complex and nuanced portrayal of its characters, while That '70s Show was a raucous and irreverent comedy that gleefully indulged in cartoonish stock character archetypes. Freaks and Geeks largely focused on the social tensions between the bookish and nerdy "geeks" and the cool and rebellious "freaks" (who never associated with each other), while That '70s Show revolved around a mismatched group of True Companions who were shown to be extremely close with each other in spite of their differences.
  • Fresh Off the Boat to The Goldbergs. They are both semi-autobiographical stories about a media-loving boy (film for Adam on The Goldbergs, music for Eddie on Fresh Off the Boat) that grew up in the suburbs with his ethnic minority family (Jewish for Adam, Taiwanese-American for Eddie) of two siblings, an overbearing mother, an easy-going father, and a wise grandparent. However, while The Goldbergs embraces various stereotypes and views the past with nostalgia, Fresh has multiple episodes in which the Huang family point out how stereotypes have negatively impacted their lives and the efforts they take to be seen as real people. Additionally, Goldbergs is set in The '80s, while Fresh is set in The '90s.
  • The aforementioned Cosby Show drew criticism from those who felt that its image of Black respectability was one in which Black people acted as white as possible. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air emerged from this criticism as a Deconstructive Parody of The Cosby Show, its Audience Surrogate being a working-class Black man who proudly hailed from the mean streets of "West Philadelphia, born and raised" and whose Fish out of Water interactions with a family like the Huxtables were meant to show him as more down-to-earth and his family as out of touch.
  • Friends, like Seinfeld, was a highly popular and acclaimed '90s sitcom centered around a group of quirky New Yorkers and the misadventures they get into. But while Seinfeld was more cynical, had Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonists, and was completely comedic with an emphasis on Negative Continuity (its famous motto was that it was "the show about nothing"), Friends was more lighthearted, had more likable main characters, and balanced comedy and drama, with the characters growing and changing over the course of the series.
  • David Shore's The Good Doctor is one to House, M.D., his previous show about a genius doctor with severe socialization problems. Dr. Shaun Murphy is a surgeon, young, idealistic, Cannot Tell a Lie, and has a legitimate neurological condition in Autism. Dr. Greg House is a diagnostician, middle-aged, bitterly cynical, a Consummate Liar, and is a social exile by choice, as he believes he doesn't deserve love or friendship.
  • Good Omens (2019) to Preacher (2016). Both shows deal with the implications of divine forces controlling the world and if God Is Good, evil, or just flawed, but they go about these themes in completely different ways: Preacher is about a cosmic power-struggle centering around a cynical spiritual leader in a small Texan town who was suddenly bestowed with the "voice of God," having to deal with eclectic weirdos and monsters at every turn, while beings on both sides of life and afterlife try to follow a nebulous plan handed down by a narcissistic deity in a poorly-managed Crapsack World. Meanwhile, Good Omens is about two celestial beings, an Angel and a Demon, who we follow through the ages as they become accustomed to humanity's world and their fascinating foibles, and become equally disenchanted with "God's Ineffable Plan" to end the world and work to avert it by appealing to others' better nature and reason. Preacher was adapted from a comic book written by Garth Ennis, an atheist who famously said that Christianity was the worst thing to ever happen to Western society, and he wrote his book as a vicious Deconstructive Parody of a belief system he outwardly had no love or respect for, aiming to offend as many people as possible. Good Omens was adapted from a novel written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, two men who are both believers, as an Affectionate Parody that aims to be respectful, poking fun at certain aspects of the religion but ultimately highlighting the positives of faith and ending on the conclusion that God Is Good.
  • The Good Place, about an egotistical woman who's ended up in heaven by mistake but manages to become a better person, is this to the existentialist play No Exit. A video by Wisecrack even compares the three-person cast of the play to three of the Good Place residents on the TV show.
  • Hannibal to Dexter. Both are TV shows about deranged serial killers who hide in plain sight by working with law enforcement to catch other serial killers. Both series are even based on novels, and both feature a major plot point where the Villain Protagonist is forced to investigate his own murders, and attempts to pin them on someone else. But Dexter plays the premise for Black Comedy, portraying serial killer Dexter Morgan (aka "The Bay Harbor Butcher") as a surprisingly normal and affable guy who lives by a strict moral code of Pay Evil unto Evil. Hannibal, on the other hand, plays it for seriously creepy Gothic Horror, portraying Hannibal Lecter (aka "The Chesapeake Ripper") as a chillingly amoral figure with a God complex who hides behind his superficial charm. Their settings also contrast each other, with Dexter taking place in sunny, urban Miami, while Hannibal mainly takes place in the gloomy, rural Mid-Atlantic.
  • Heartstopper to Euphoria. Both are teen shows with a recognizable soundtrack and a queer romance at the center, with a wide array of queer characters and themes that surround it. Whereas Euphoria is known for its rather dark themes, dramatic tone, hip hop soundtrack (courtesy of Labrynth), raunchy and explicit material, and morally gray characters; Heartstopper is relentlessly optimistic and sweet with its themes and tone, has an indie pop soundtrack, wholesome, and its lead characters are unambiguously good and sympathetic. Where as both are also known for its stylistic choices in directing and photography, Euphoria is know for its beautiful, ethereal lighting and unusual camera movements, while Heartstopper is known for the scribble-like drawings that appear during romantic scenes to further the reference to the comics (especially the leaves that appear drawn around Charlie and Nick).
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia to Arrested Development.
    • Both shows focus on a morally corrupt group of people with a major case of Freudian Excuse who are not allowed to grow as characters. Arrested Development focuses on what happens when a group of wealthy, upper-class jerks' luck finally starts running out and their privileged net collapses on them, while It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia features the day-to-day lives of lower-class owners of a destitute Philadelphia bar who consistently fail at any attempt to better themselves or their situation.
    • Two of the leads are twins, a blonde female and a brown-haired male. The male twin in Sunny is arguably the worst of the bunch, while Arrested Development's is the best.
  • When Russell T Davies created Queer as Folk (UK), he wanted to make a realistic contemporary drama about the lives of gay men in modern (circa 1999) Manchester, but also one that did not discuss HIV/AIDS. By 1999, AIDS was no longer a death sentence thanks to various antiretroviral drugs that had been developed and come on the market, and so he wanted to promote a vision of gay culture that wasn't defined by the disease. When he created It's a Sin twenty-two years later, he went in the opposite direction, making a Period Piece about gay life in '80s London that was all about the AIDS pandemic and how it devastated the lives of countless gay men. This article by Spencer Kornhaber for The Atlantic describes It's a Sin as almost feeling like a direct response to and corrective for Queer as Folk.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Dragon Knight was meant to serve as one to the Power Rangers franchise, to the point where they refused to hire series fan-favorite Jason David Frank for the former. Though both are an American adaptation of Tokusatsu shows, Kamen Rider and Super Sentai respectively, Power Rangers focuses on a team of 3-5 individuals fighting a common enemy while Dragon Knight focuses on one hero finding other Kamen Riders manipulated by the Big Bad. In Power Rangers, the Monster of the Week is usually a creature with a gimmick who interacts with the heroes and sometimes spouts jokes and threats, while the monsters in Kamen Rider have no voices or even names. While Power Rangers does take itself seriously in certain seasons, it still remains light-hearted and idealistic. Kamen Rider quickly let go of its comedic tones in favor of more serious story telling.
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid feels like one to its predecessor, Kamen Rider Ghost. Both are series from the same franchise, with kind protagonists that use devices to take on the forms of other beings to use their powers. However, while Ghost uses mystical devices meant to harness the spirits of historical figures, Ex-Aid uses mechanically-created devices that let him take on the form of fictional characters within their universe. While Ghost's suits have mainly dark colors with black visors, Ex-Aid's suits are bright and colorful, with expressive Animesque eyes for the visors. While the main goal of Ghost was to bring Takeru Back from the Dead, Ex-Aid focuses more on the idea of moving past deaths and when the option of Death Is Cheap is brought up, the characters question the ethics of such practices. The villains in Ghost were invaders from another world that became immortal by putting their bodies into a state of immortality, while the villains in Ex-Aid were invaders from video games that can cause one to become immortal with the right technology. Ghost has its protagonists get over their flaws during the first half to work together later on, while Ex-Aid has the protagonists struggle to work together, only growing past their flaws over the course of the series. The Hero of Ghost dies multiple times, with each death treated with sadness and often requires outside interference to bring him back, while the one who dies in Ex-Aid multiple times is the former Big Bad, with each death being treated as comedic due to how easily he can revive himself. Ghost's core message is about how one can take their life to control their fate and do great things, with the lack of understanding this by many villains making them misguided at worst, while Ex-Aid's core message is how the lives of others are not one's to control, with those disregarding the value of life being treated as amoral at best and utter monsters at worst.
  • Last Man Standing has been cited as both this and a Spiritual Successor to All in the Family. Both shows are sitcoms about conservative patriarchs who find themselves confounded by changing social mores, and often butt heads with their politically left-leaning wives and kids. The difference comes in who the audience is supposed to side with. While All in the Family's Archie Bunker received a large Misaimed Fandom of people who agreed with his views, show runner Norman Lear intended him as an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist, a boorish reactionary who shut out views he disagreed with, often by Blowing a Raspberry to the people voicing them in order to make them shut up. While his wife Edith, daughter Gloria, and son-in-law Mike (the last one being Archie's main comedic and political foil) weren't perfect themselves, the show generally sided with their worldview, and even Archie himself softened his ultra-conservative viewpoints in later seasons. Last Man Standing, meanwhile, is more likely to take the side of its protagonist Mike Baxter, portraying him as genuinely tied down and constrained by the increasingly politically correct world around him (with his worldview being shaped by decades of traveling the world and experiencing different cultures), with his liberal daughter Kristin and son-in-law Ryan, while well-meaning and sometimes having good points, portrayed as ignorant due to their sheltered upbringings and hypocritical in their views more often than not. Also, while the Bunkers on All in the Family were working-class New Yorkers, with Archie employed as a foreman, the Baxters on Last Man Standing are an outdoorsy, upper-middle-class family from suburban Colorado, with Mike employed as a marketing executive and his wife Vanessa a geologist.
  • The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to The Colbert Report. Both are comedic late night talk shows starring Stephen Colbert (obviously), with a liberal stance on politics. However, Colbert Report had Colbert portraying an exaggerated parody of conservative Fox News Channel pundits, while Late Show has Colbert acting As Himself and expressing his own views.
  • Married... with Children was this for The Cosby Show, contrasting the loving, upper middle-class, black Huxtables with the dysfunctional, lower-class, white Bundys. In fact, Married's working title was Not the Cosbys.
  • Maude, a Spin-Off of All in the Family, was this to both its parent show and the happy-go-lucky "beautiful people" sitcoms that Family was itself also an antithesis to. Maude Findlay was consciously created as a foil to Archie Bunker, just as opinionated but whose politics were staunchly liberal and feminist and whose lifestyle was more upper-middle-class and professional. She wasn't an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist like him, either, the show sympathizing with her politics even if it often presented her undermining them with her forcefulness, ego, and insensitivity. Also, while the Bunkers were fairly tight-knit as a family even if politics divided their household, the Findlays were far less so, to the point where they often felt like a family only in name.
  • Patrick Jane in The Mentalist is the polar opposite of Adrian Monk. Both are consultants to the police, with completely different personalities. Monk is a socially awkward recluse with Super OCD, while Patrick is a confident, arrogant, and highly observant man who can easily read people's habits and behaviors.
  • The Middle, like Malcolm in the Middle, is about a lower-middle class family struggling with everyday life. While Malcolm is rather mean-spirited to downright cynical in its portrayal of family life, The Middle has the same amount of bad stuff happening to them but manage to always end episodes on a lighter note than its predecessor.
  • The Ministry of Time to Doctor Who. Both are European (Spanish and British, respectively) television series featuring time travel, but execute that core premise in very different fashions. Doctor Who is a light-hearted series that has the Doctor and his Companions travel through space and history (both British and otherwise), while The Ministry of Time is a much more mature series that has its protagonists travel through Spanish history and preserve it from malevolent forces. In addition, TMOT intentionally disposes of classic Doctor Who tropes such as travelling to the future and aliens, and instead focuses on the realities of history.
  • Misfits is a Spiritual Antithesis for Heroes, with its working-class, local setting, deliberate avoidance of world-threatening storylines, mockery of high-flown philosophy or grand gestures, and open contempt for any idea that people with powers have a moral responsibility to become superheroes. Especially given that all of the protagonists are young criminals serving on community service.
  • The Munsters was this to The Addams Family. Both featured unusual multi-generation families with Nightmare Fetishist tendencies and a manchild patriarch, and they premiered within a week of each other in 1964. The Addams Family, however, featured a wealthy, harmonious, and (mostly) human family who were coded as patrician WASPs (or at least assimilated, upper-middle-class Catholics or Jews), with the Nightmare Fetishist tendencies emphasized, and Gomez' eccentricities making him rich rather than detracting from his competence. The Munsters, meanwhile, featured a working-class Dysfunctional Family of horror movie monsters who were heavily inspired by postwar Eastern European immigrants, with Herman depicted as a Bumbling Dad. The families are also contrasted by their views on the rest of the populace: the Addamses tended to believe that they were "normal" and thought that everyone else was strange, while the Munsters didn't think they were any different from anyone else and were often confused by people's frightened reactions to them.
  • Reg Watson conceived Neighbours as the antithesis of most Australian soap operas that came before it, including his own Sons And Daughters and Prisoner: Cell Block H: a more grounded show that told smaller stories about middle-class suburban people who have a sense of community with their neighbours. While occasionally throwing in darker elements such as murder, rape, and drugs, it is comparatively idealistic and inspired a legion of shows that copied its tone.
  • The Office (UK) and The Office (US). The former is far more bitter, showing characters that have abandoned their dreams in meaningless dead end jobs. The latter shows a World Half Full where what's best in your life can be found in the things (and people) you most take for granted.
  • And in turn, Parks and Recreation is this to The Office (US). While the general tone and foundation are similar, the setting of Parks is deliberately made into the polar opposite of The Office. The Office is set in a dead-end private sector job where the protagonists constantly struggle with one another, while Parks is set in a first-step public sector job where the protagonists constantly struggle with the general populace but go out of their way to uplift one another.
  • Within the Power Rangers franchise, Power Rangers Dino Thunder is this to Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Both of them have teenage superheroes fighting against evil with dinosaur-based suits and weapons, both had an arc abut a Sixth Ranger who starts out evil but becomes good, and both feature Ensemble Dark Horse Tommy Oliver as a main lead. However, that is where the similarities end. While the Mighty Morphin team were True Companions before becoming Rangers, the Dino Thunder team are a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits who likely never would have crossed paths, let alone become friends, if not for them ending up as Rangers. While the Mighty Morphin team were idealistic and heroic to a rather unrealistic degree, the Dino Thunder Rangers are more flawed. Even Tommy's roles in both seasons differ greatly. In Mighty Morphin, he was the sixth Ranger and later leader, while in Dino Thunder he's The Mentor. Finally, while the enemies of the Mighty Morphin team were aliens from outer space, the villains of Dino Thunder are monsters made due to a scientist's hubris.
  • The highly obscure duology of documentary specials Dino Lab is this to Prehistoric Park. Both are about facilities in the modern day containing prehistoric life. However, that's where the similarities end. Prehistoric Park takes place in a large reserve implicitly in Africa with large wooden-fenced enclosures, and contains not only dinosaurs, but animals from both the Cenozoic and Paleozoic, while Dino Lab takes place in an indoor labratory in Canada with the dinosaurs contained in concrete and glass pens for the tests. How the dinosaurs are in the present is never explained in Dino Lab, while not only is it is and shown in Prehistoric Park (time travel), but its the main plot of it. There aren't any central characters in Dino Lab until one handler named Dave in II, while Prehistoric Park has Nigel Marven as a central character and host who does adress the camera and audience. Finally, Prehistoric Park's main educational parts come from the characters in-universe, coming off almost as a science fiction series, while Dino Lab primarily has actual palaeontologists for this in seperate talking head sequences.
  • The Problem with Jon Stewart is this to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Both are news programs with a humorous streak hosted by Jon Stewart, but whereas The Daily Show was intended as a late-night comedy program first and foremost as it covered many of the day's news events in a manner akin to a half-hour version of Weekend Update, The Problem is closer to advocacy journalism that emphasizes deep dives into various subjects.
  • What was said earlier about The Mentalist being an antithesis to Monk could also be said for Psych, which preceded The Mentalist, with even a USA Network ad showing Shawn and Monk debating over numbers. Psych also tends to have a good deal of humor and doesn't take itself too seriously compared to Monk and The Mentalist''.
  • The Quantum Leap episode "Lee Harvey Oswald", meant to demonstrate that Oswald could have and most likely did act alone, was made in response to the Oliver Stone film JFK. Show creator Donald P. Bellisario actually knew Oswald when they were both in the Marines, when he found him to be a disaffected communist oddball, even writing in a scene that really happened of them interacting.
  • The Righteous Gemstones, like its HBO stablemate Succession (with which it airs together on Sunday nights during the summer), is about a Big, Screwed-Up Family with way more money than sense. Succession, however, is a dramedy about a family from New York that controls a global media empire (based on the real-life Murdochs), while The Righteous Gemstones is a comedy about the family of a crooked televangelist from the Deep South.
  • Seinfeld was a reaction to the Dom Coms of the mid-late '80s like Family Ties and The Cosby Show, being set in the big city (New York, no less), featured unsympathetic characters and adult humor (something unusual at the time), and enforced the "no hugging, no kissing" rule.
  • In a few interviews, Steven Moffat has said that he considers Sherlock to be this to his tenure on Doctor Who, with his take on Sherlock Holmes essentially a dark Foil of The Doctor. Doctor Who is about a long-lived alien time traveler's relationships with his beloved mostly-human friends who keep him "down to Earth", whereas Sherlock is about a human detective who shuns emotions and friendly relationships. Where The Doctor is a powerful alien being who's afraid of losing touch with his "human" side, Sherlock Holmes is an ordinary human who wants to prove to the world that he's something better than human (as Moffat phrased it, "The Doctor is an angel who wants to be human, and Sherlock is a human who wants to be a god.") Doctor Who is a whimsical, light-hearted science-fiction series that's known for its dark undertones, and Sherlock is a gritty crime saga that's known for its whimsical undertones.
  • Star Trek:
  • Jacky St. James felt that the novel Fifty Shades of Grey portrayed an abusive relationship as a realistic, romantic depiction of BDSM. As a result, she co-created the Showtime erotic series Submission to serve as a rebuke to it and show a more honest and faithful look at the BDSM lifestyle.
  • Succession is a darker, real-world version of Arrested Development. Both shows center on an uber-rich Big, Screwed-Up Family of Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonists who are constantly engaged in backstabbing and petty in-fighting, while trying to keep the family business afloat. There are even character parallels: Logan is George, as the family's terrible patriarch; Kendall is Michael, as "the dutiful son" and the only child with anything resembling a conscience; Roman is Gob, as the resident agent of chaos; Shiv is Lindsay, as the only daughter and the child with a career in politics; Connor is Buster, as the weird, harmlessly insipid half-brother of the other three children; and Greg is George Michael, as the youngest and most naïve/innocent of the characters.
  • The Thick of It can perhaps best be described as "The West Wing's evil British twin". Both shows have essentially the same premise, as they're both political Dramedies detailing the day-to-day struggles of the frequently overlooked staffers in the ranks of government, but they're as far apart from one another on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism as it's possible to be. The West Wing is a famously optimistic portrayal of American politics focusing on smart, idealistic young staffers trying to reconcile their principles with political realities; The Thick of It is a cynical portrayal of British politics focusing on morally bankrupt people who will do absolutely anything to get ahead. The West Wing gives us an idealized American President in Josiah "Jed" Bartlet, a fearless intellectual who stands by his ideals at any cost; The Thick of It never even shows us the British Prime Minister, but makes it clear that he's an unreliable Slave to PR with no real power in the grand scheme of government.
    • Interestingly, The West Wing almost used the same technique in its portrayal of the President: he originally wasn't supposed to be shown at all, then Aaron Sorkin decided that he should be a recurring character (with about three to four appearances per season), then he was made the show's protagonist after Martin Sheen unexpectedly stole the show in the pilot episode. If the writers of The West Wing had gone ahead with their original plan, the two shows would be even more similar.
  • Tomica Hero Rescue Force and Tomica Hero Rescue Fire contrast Rescue Heroes by both having personal antagonists and having the main characters actually stop the disasters with their super weapons and mecha instead of being as tiny and insignificant as the hapless civilians they're trying to save.
  • Veep (a loose American remake of The Thick of It, incidentally) is the photo-negative of Parks and Recreation. The shows share the basic premise of being comedies about female leads surrounded by misfits trying to cope with the behind-the-scenes antics of government, but that's where the similarities end. Parks and Rec focused on the actions of a determined, idealistic public servant whose co-workers quickly became inseparable True Companions, tackling every obstacle with Third Options or someone (usually Leslie) falling on their sword For Happiness. Conversely, Veep centered around a group of unrepentant narcissists, ranging from amoral sycophants to total sociopaths, who can and will say or do just about anything to keep their jobs one more day. While Parks and Rec poked fun at the bureaucracies of politics, it always showed the heroes achieving some amount of success through hard work, creative thinking, and a little bit of luck. Veep's comedy was far more mean-spirited, with its "heroes" taking two steps back for every foot forward, with the little accomplishments usually coming from someone being thrown under the bus. Incidentally, Veep protagonist Selina Meyer had black hair, whereas Parks and Rec protagonist Leslie Knope is a blonde.
  • The West Wing to House of Cards (UK), with President Jed Bartlet trending far more towards idealism versus Francis Urquhart's Machiavellian scheming. And in turn, House of Cards' American remake is the antithesis of The West Wing, with Lindsay Ellis describing it as running Aaron Sorkin's idealism through a shredder.
  • The Wire can be seen as a Dickensian foil to The Shield, just as Breaking Bad was a Shakespearian foil to The Wire. They're both character-driven cop shows that premiered in 2002 (The Wire three months after The Shield) which focus on close-knit task forces within city police departments. The Shield has the arc of a tragedy, with the Strike Team falling apart due to the chain of consequences that come about when team leader Vic Mackey murders a fellow cop who sought to turn evidence against him and the Strike Team. The Wire, meanwhile, uses the Barksdale (later Stanfield) task force as a springboard for exploration of the city of Baltimore and the underclass in the city and the corruption of various institutions that exploit their power to persecute the power and crush those who seek to reform the system. The Shield presents many police officers in an unsympathetic light, delving into the reasons why police officers go bad; by contrast, The Wire presents many criminals in a sympathetic light, delving into the reasons why the poor use and sell drugs. Also, The Shield tends to go big with a wide variety of villains and criminal conspiracies, while The Wire largely stays grounded in reality.


Top