Abandon the gimmick/hook, then succeed

Sometimes, something in pop culture starts out with a very distinct and unusual gimmick or hook… so that’s “the show with X”, or “the band where X” or whatever.

Sometimes the thing will succeed because of the hook. Sometimes it will fail despite the hook. And sometimes, it will abandon the hook, become far more mundane, and then succeed.

I feel like there are plenty of examples of this in pop culture, but the best example I can think of is actually a video game (yes, I’m aware this is GS not the Game Room). The arcade game Street Fighter, release in 1987, featured a unique control scheme. Each player had a joystick, and two “buttons”, one for kicking and one for punching. But the buttons weren’t normal arcade buttons. Rather, they were big tough mechanical sensors that you were actually supposed to violently hit, and the harder you hit them, the harder your character would kick or punch.

I don’t know how fun this actually was, but they also released a cheaper version, with 3 punch buttons and 3 kick buttons. (Presumably the fancy input mapped to three levels of force.)

This watered-down version did OK, successful enough for a sequel, Street Fighter II, which was a MASSIVE hit, certainly on the short list of most influential arcade games of all time. And there’s no way that SF2 could possibly have worked without the iconic 6 buttons, both because at a high level of play you need to be able to precisely select which kick or punch you will execute, and because plenty of special moves require pressing multiple buttons at once.
I feel like there are some long-running sitcoms that started out with a very specific gimmick and then abandoned it… but I can’t actually come up with one.
What other examples are there?

any show that starts out with cross dressing as a motif… bosom buddies as the main example but theres a few more

The Beatles started out with a distinctive look; mop top haircuts and identical suits and ties. They eventually abandoned that look but obviously remained successful.

The British sitcom Peep Show’s first episodes relied VERY heavily on POV shots and hearing the thoughts of the characters. The gimmick was that the show was showing you the “secret inner lives” of the characters as they went through their lives. This always remained part of the show, but I think the balance shifted a bit after the first series.

Third Rock From The Sun never abandoned the fact that the main characters were aliens, but by several seasons in there were few indications outside of a few story arcs that the main characters were anything but a very eccentric family.

OP, I know what you’re saying (like if Kiss had only really hit it big after they ditched the makeup—except that’s not what actually happened), but I too am having trouble coming up with actual examples.

The Beatles actually did not start with that look. They played together for years before adopting that look.

The Big Bang Theory started out with the nerd falling for pretty neighbor hook, being a vehicle for former child stars Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuomo. And predictions were that the idea had been done to death and it would not last long.

When it became an ensemble show, TV history was born.

This is pretty common, though not universal, in professional wrestling. For example, Triple H came into the WWF with an upper-crust heel gimmick, but by the time he started succeeding he’d dropped the look and affectations of the character. There are so many examples that I’d go crazy trying to mention all of them.

Finn Balor, who is currently floating in between gimmicks called “the Demon” and “the Man,” entered as a body-paint-wearing demon character. Like many other wrestlers, his current character has drifted more and more toward being himself turned up several notches.

Yes, but they had the mop top look when they first became a major success.

Seinfeld, especially in its first season as The Seinfeld Chronicles, really was a show about nothing. By the time it became mega-popular, it was a show about bizarre eccentricities and elaborate sequences of coincidences.

Maverick starred James Garner as a non-violent sheriff in the Old West. Its popularity waned (or maybe never accrued in the first place; I don’t have time to look this up right now), so Garner’s character was killed and Roger Moore was brought in as his presumably more-violent brother.

Kinda only semi-appropriate, but did you know that MTV used to play music videos? Like, all the time!

I think you’ve mixed things up, rendering it a little useless for this thread: the one where Garner was a sheriff – who got killed off, and was promptly replaced by his more-violent brother – was Nichols, which (a) wasn’t a hit with said brother, and which (b) featured Garner as said brother; Maverick did just fine with Garner as a civilian-type citizen who survives just fine, sure as Moore wasn’t brought in to up the violence.

Family Ties was a sitcom about hippy parents dealing with their 80s children - a cute gimmick. But it became a hit when it became a sitcom about Alex P. Keaton, with the hippyness of the parents mentioned far less often.

David Soul, probably most well known for his role as a cop in the TV show “Starsky and Hutch”, initially started his career as a singer. He would perform under the stage name The Covered Man and he actually wore a bag over his head! After he ditched that gimmick he got some acting roles and his career took off from there.

MAS*H started out as a dark war comedy, then became a standard anti-war show. Lasted 11 seasons.

The show Cougar Town started with the premise of Courtney Cox going after younger guys. It quickly (very quickly) abandoned that and became a funny “Hang out” sitcom.

I don’t know by the late 60’s they had turned into stereotype hippies at least 5 years after hippies had become uncool.
Lost in Space started out as a serious science fiction show. After noticing the success of Batman, Irwin Allen decided to make it campy

And actually, Nichols’ brother Frank wasn’t all that violent. He didn’t want revenge for his brother’s killer, he merely wanted to capture him so he could turn him over to the law for trial. Like his brother, he preferred not to use gunplay. The show was canceled after the one episode with Nichols’ brother. He rode out of town on his brother’s Harley.

I was there the day they wheeled that sucker into the arcade. Once the phalanges in my hand were starting to give out, I started using my elbow!

You sort of buried the lede there by not mentioning Alex’s gimmick of being a typical “Young Republican” conservative type.

Ok, was this thread designed to make me feel old?

What’s My Line started off as a show where you’d try to guess the person’s occupation based on a physical observation of the person. The guest would have to do the walk of shame where the panel had the guest perform stunts and examined their clothing. Then, the panel took a guess before questioning began. The show evolved and the skilled questioning of the panel became the primary focus.

The original Beverly Hills 90210 quickly lost the gimmick of the Midwestern transplants living in California and eventually evolved into a soap opera.

Melrose Place lost the gimmick of struggling 20 somethings and also evolved into a soap opera.