This article contains mentions of sexual assault.
While some series often stay largely the same within their genre, there are other series that expand, evolve, and change what genre they take place in. This can be for many reasons and can be jarring or confusing for viewers. A recent example is the superhero series Legends of Tomorrow, which started as a drama in season 1, switching to a sillier comedic take in season 2.
One user started a Reddit thread for fans to discuss and analyze the many genre shifts among popular TV shows. This is not a new trend, as the thread mentions series as old as Dark Shadows from the 1960s. It continues through today, with recent series like Legends of Tomorrow, Archer, and Orange is the New Black.
10/10 Orange Is The New Black
The user monsieurxander had this to say about Orange Is The New Black, “Orange is the New Black was originally nominated in comedy categories, before switching to drama after its first season.”
While Orange is The New Black does have comical moments, the series did get far darker and more dramatic as it went along. For example, season 3 featured a harrowing prison rape-by-prison guard storyline, and the series became even darker in season 7 when the focus shifted to an ICE detention center. The series was long-running, so viewers must have accepted the change in tone.
According to OhWhatATimeToBeAlive “Archer went from modern spy-comedy to noire, adventure, and space comedy, while also becoming less funny.”
Starting in season 5 Archer, the show started to shift its premise every season or so. First, shifting the agency to a spy cartel, and then having Archer go into a coma resulted in a variety of different genres and premises. This resulted in a darker tone that was less funny, particularly during Archer Dreamland which was film noir, and Archer Danger Island which was adventure cereal inspired. Archer has been running for 13 seasons, so it seems that fans accept and likely appreciate the tonal changes.
8/10 Dark Shadows
Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows made a big change according to cory120 “The 60s show Dark Shadows started off as a fairly grounded Gothic drama such as Jane Eyre…they introduced a vampire and ratings skyrocketed, after that it becomes a full-on supernatural/occult story.”
The introduction of Barnabas the vampire caused the series to become a lot less grounded in reality and become in many ways more creative. Other supernatural characters and elements such as ghosts, witches, werewolves, alternate realities, and time travel were introduced. This broadened the appeal of the show to not only soap opera fans but horror and sci-fi fans as well. The extremely popular series ran for six seasons and continued with two movies in the 1970s. Due to its long-lasting popularity with fans, there was also a 1991 series revival, a pilot for a reboot in 2004, and a 2012 Tim Burton film.
7/10 Look Around You
The British spoof series Look Around You (which featured Olivia Colman) shifted what it was parodying says Efficient_Paper “Season one of Look Around You was a spoof of 70’s educational videos…Season two was a spoof of science-focused variety shows….they are basically different shows.”
The shift in tone creates two equal but different retro science show spoofs. Both series, however, feel very authentic to their 1970s setting but with ridiculous non-accurate science. This allows both series to stand on their own and not feel stale since they each have their own distinct identity.
6/10 Boy Meets World
The earlier seasons had storylines played mostly for laughs in typical sitcom fashion. Topanga’s crush evolved in later seasons into a serious relationship, and then marriage with Corey. The fans of the show aged with the characters, so the storylines became more adult. Season 6 was one of the most serious, dealing with plots such as Topanga’s parents going through a divorce and Chet (Shawn’s father) dying of a heart attack. The series has remained popular with fans despite the changes, even earning a recent reboot in Girl Meets World.
5/10 Melrose Place
The user monsieurxander says this about Melrose Place: “Melrose Place started out as a straightforward drama about young people finding themselves… that bored everybody to tears so the second season was revamped into a nighttime soap closer in tone to Dynasty.”
The series was a spin-off of Beverly Hills 90210 and was very close in tone to the show it spun off of which was light-hearted drama. However, the introduction of the character Amanda started to cause a shift to a soap opera. Although she was credited as a guest star she essentially became the main character with plots revolving around dark and dramatic storylines such as faking her death to escape murder charges. The series became more popular with fans with the inclusion of soap opera elements.
This series took a supernatural turn according to cory120 “Millennium started off as a serial-killer-of-the-week in the vein of Seven, occasionally hinting at a spiritual reason for the darkness of the killers, but in s2 it becomes a full-on supernatural conspiracy story.”
The constant shift in tone every season was a result of every season getting a different showrunner – all of which had unique conceptions of what direction the show should go in. Fans found the show difficult to keep track of with the constantly changing bizarre themes. The series only ran for three seasons.
3/10 Legends of Tomorrow
This DC time travel series began in season 1 as more of a straightforward sci-fi series, however, from season 2 onward the series combined sci-fi with more wacky fantasy elements. One example of just how strange and silly this series got is Beebo the Furby-like toy that the Vikings worshiped as a god. It ran for seven seasons, so fans must have enjoyed the more comedic turn the series took.
2/10 Baywatch Nights
Reddit user KamSolusar has this to say about Baywatch Nights: “First it was a normal crime procedural spun off from Baywatch, then it got retooled into a supernatural monster-of-the-week show.”
The first season of Baywatch Nights focused on a different main character than the second season. Originally it was focused on Sgt. Garner Ellerbee, who was a police officer on Baywatch, but then in this series decides to quit his job and become a detective, along with David Hasselhoff. As it aired around the same time as the X-Files, however, the series was completely retooled, and Sgt. Garner Ellerbee was replaced by paranormal expert Diamont Teague. Fans didn’t seem to take to the change in tone, as Baywatch Nights only ran for two seasons.
1/10 Family Matters
The series was originally a spin-off of Perfect Strangers focusing on Harriet Winslow and her husband Carl. This completely derailed the introduction of Steve Urkel, who soon became extremely popular. The series was completely changed to revolve around him – and often his sci-fi antics and his sometimes borderline creepy obsession with Laura. The focus on Urkel must have worked for Family Matters because it ran for nine seasons from 1989-1997. A 2022 animated musical Christmas special called Did I Do That to the Holidays? A Steve Urkel Story will again feature Jaleel White as Urkel.
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