TV Shows That Completely Changed Style After The First Season
Photo: ABC / TBS

TV Shows That Completely Changed Style After The First Season

Over 100 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of TV Shows That Completely Changed Style After The First Season
Voting Rules

Vote up the shows that shifted vibes the most from Season 1.

Although TV as a medium is meant to blend novelty with consistency, it's inevitable that a TV show will change over time as writers think of new storylines to explore and actors get more comfortable with their characters. Though many shows will completely change for the final season, sometimes, a show will change much earlier. 

Not every show can find its niche in season one. The earliest installments of a show are often unusual in retrospect, before the creators completely figured out the structure and goals of the show. As a result, many of the most popular shows have drastic shifts in camera, style, genre, character, or tone after their first seasons.

  • 'Parks and Recreation' Stopped Trying To Copy 'The Office'
    Photo: NBC

    Since it was created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, two of the minds behind The Office, it's no surprise that Parks and Recreation took heavy inspiration from the other popular workplace sitcom. Especially in Season 1, the similar elements are emphasized: for example, the mockumentary format, this time set in the city government of Pawnee, IN. The lead character is Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), a socially awkward but enthusiastic employee who is met with less-than-thrilled responses from her coworkers. For fans of later seasons, Season 1 may feel stilted and cynical compared to what the show grew into.

    Fortunately, much like The Office did as it let go of copying the UK version, Parks and Rec let go of copying The Office for Season 2. Leslie moves away from a hollow version of Michael Scott's overbearing awkwardness into the energetic, extremely positive character Poehler plays so well. It also becomes far more of an ensemble show, better spotlighting the supporting characters like Ann (Rashida Jones), Ron (Nick Offerman), and April (Aubrey Plaza). Once the show's identity was established, it grew more and more un with its quirky, optimistic spin for the rest of its seven-season run. Fans still return to this series when they need a heartfelt, re-watchable show.

    73 votes
  • 'Happy Days' Switched From Laugh Track To Studio Audience And Added Way More Fonzie
    Photo: ABC

    Though many fans would notice drastic changes like the disappearance of Chuck Cunningham, one of the subtler changes after the first season of Happy Days was the switch from filming with a single camera and a laugh track to a multi-camera format with a studio audience. Content-wise, the series stars with a focus on Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard), an innocent teenager experiencing high school, family and friendship drama, and normal teenage angst in the 1950s. Arthur Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler), affectionally known as "Fonzie," was only a minor character until ratings dropped.

    Starting with Season 2, Fonzie gradually moves to the forefront of the show, becoming one of the top-billed stars by Season 3. Fonzie is a high school dropout and the epitome of a cool biker dude. Though Happy Days created many beloved characters, Fonzie remains one of the faces most commonly associated with the show - especially since he sticks around as a main character throughout the run, even after Riche leaves.

    48 votes
  • 'Family Matters' Had A Way Different Vibe Before Urkel
    Photo: ABC

    Family Matters was popular throughout its time on the air, and remains one of the longest-running sitcoms with a predominantly Black cast. It was originally supposed to be a lighthearted spin-off of the show Perfect Strangers folllowing Harriette Winslow (Jo Marie Payton) and her family doing everyday things. Midway through Season 1, Harriette's daughter Laura (Kellie Shanygne Williams), goes on a date with the very awkward Steve Urkel (Jaleel White). When the producers realized how much fans loved Urkel, they decided to make him a main cast member at the start of Season 2.

    For the remainder of the show's run, Urkel was a focal point. Though audiences responded positively, many of the original cast members didn't appreciate how he took the focus away from the Winslow family with his constant antics and catchphrase, “Did I do that?” He took up so much screen time that one of the Winslow children, Judy, vanished without a trace after Season 4 to make room for more Urkel. While it's interesting to imagine how Family Matters would've gone without Urkel changing the show's direction, he remains a character that brought a great deal of popularity and success to the comedy.

    53 votes
  • At the beginning of this show adapted from the DC comics character of the same name, Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis), bored of being the Devil, runs a nightclub in Los Angeles, until a murder investigation brings him to work with detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German). The first season is a fairly straightforward magic-infused procedural, as Lucifer uses his powers to manipulate humans to help Chloe solve cases. Even though Lucifer is the ruler of Hell, the larger backstory is largely left alone in favor of basic “case of the week” plots.

    With the second season, the show begins exploring Lucifer’s background further, and then gives other characters like Chloe and Mazikeen (Lesley-Ann Brandt) the same treatment. Lucifer gained a dedicated fanbase over Seasons 2 and 3 as it let go of the grounded detective format and leaned further into the myths and lore behind the world. After Fox canceled the show, Netflix rescued it for three more seasons, and fans rejoiced that they could see if Chloe and Lucifer’s relationship would finally become romantic.

    48 votes
  • 'The Office' Stopped Trying To Copy The UK Version
    Photo: NBC

    Years after it wrapped up, The Office remains one of the most popular mockumentary-style workplace comedies, but most fans agree that the first season is one of the weakest. Since the show was an American remake of the popular UK sitcom starring Ricky Gervais as David Brent, it originally tried to recreate what worked on that show. Michael Scott (Steve Carell) was designed to mimic the uncomfortable, brash humor that Brent was known for, and while Carell gives his all, it's clear that it doesn't quite fit.

    With Season 2, the writers and actors clearly grew more comfortable settling into their strengths. Michael Scott is no longer styled with thinned-out hair and poorly-fitting clothes to make him more unattractive, and his humor shifts from a copy of Gervais into Carell showing off his unique goofy charm. Though some aspects of the inspiration from the UK sitcom remain - for instance, the office romance between Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) is copied from the characters Tim and Dawn - the American Office finds its footing as it embraces its own identity.

    50 votes
  • 'Cougar Town' Became An Ensemble Comedy
    Photo: ABC

    Beloved Friends actress Courtney Cox received her own sitcom a few years later in 2009's Cougar Town. Cox stars as Jules Cobb, a divorced 40-something woman learning how to date and live life again. As implied by the tongue-in-cheek title, Jules dates younger men, though she finds little success. After the first season, the producers realized that perhaps the star vehicle sitcom didn't have to be only a star vehicle.

    Season 2 expanded the focus, sharing the limelight with Jules's friends and family, known as the “cul-de-sac crew.” Though Jules remains the lead, other characters like Laurie (Busy Phillips) and Ellie (Christa Miller) get to shine with hilariously depressing backstories of their own. By letting Cougar Town feel more like a town full of eccentric characters than a one-woman show, the creative team found the right footing, and plenty of fans.

    38 votes