The normal course in a long-running TV or movie series is for a popular supporting character to get smarter, better, more sympathetic, etc. Margaret Houlihan on MASH* is a perfect example.
But sometimes the opposite happens. Take Ross Geller on Friends. Early in the show he was emotionally torn from his divorce, but otherwise a relatively intelligent, successful type of guy. By the end of the show he was whiny, neurotic, jealous, infantile and not particularly smart.
I’m specifically leaving out characters who become villains as part of the plot, but there have to be other characters whose idiotic traits eventually overshadowed whatever good qualities they were supposed to have.
So who’s your nominee for the Ross Geller downhill slide award?
George Costanza is an excellent example. In the first few episodes he seems pretty normal, he is a realtor. But towards the end of the show he just gets more bizarre and his bad qualities just get magnified until he is this walking, talking bag of neuroses.
Radar O’Reilly was originally a sharp operator, manipulating the military beaurocracy to get things done. He eventually became a teddy-bear-hugging man-child who pouted whenever anyone pointed out, hey, there’s a war on!
You can judge for yourself whether it’s downhill or not, but Homer Simpson definitely changed over the course of the show, especially the first five seasons. He started out as a mean, negligent dad whose identifying running gag was “choking Bart,” and ended up as a generally harmless stupid bumbler.
One upon a time, Lost in Space was intended to be a serious space adventure show. The main villain was Dr. Zachary Smith, a traitor and saboteur who for his own survival found himself provisionally allied with the people he had intended to kill. He had to keep the Robinsons from finding out about him, while keeping open as an option betraying them if it would save his own hide and get him back to Earth. This held for about the first six or seven episodes when suddenly Smith was reinvented as an impossibly foolish imbecile with the sense and maturity of a two year old.
Roseanne started out as an interesting fiesty blue class womam and ended up a shrieking shew.
Darlene went from bratty kid, to depressed kid, to art school kid. All of which is fine. Who of us hasn’t? But then went to mushy mommy who never wanted to leave lanford. Birth can can do a lot to you but …WTF?
Beckey I can’t dicususs because I don’t know which one to talk about.
David went from a talented, diffiented kid to a doormat. An this was suopposed to to be a good thing.
And Mark when from being the cool guy you don’t want to leave your daughter alone with to simply a doofus.
I was gonna mention Homer too, but for pretty much the opposite reason (although I do reckon we’re both right). In one of the very early episodes, he loses his job, convinces himself he can’t provide for his family, and just about commits suicide. I can’t imagine modern-day Homer seeing job loss as anything but an opportunity to spend a week on the couch.
I’d have to agree with you - early Homer had a short fuse and was violent, but was essentially dim and well-meaning. He tried to do his best by his family and was thwarted by his own idiocy. Late season Homer is sly, conniving and downright nasty in most circumstances.
Mimi on The Drew Carey Show. She was originally written in as a one-time character, but ended up a regular – a singularly unfunny regular. Calling Drew “Pig” – that’s humor? The weak spot in an otherwise great sitcom.
That’s part of the humour, so I don’t think it counts.
Similarly, Blackadder’s station in life decreases with each series- in the first series, he’s a price (who later ends up king, but only for 30 seconds ), in the next he’s Lord Blackadder (and gets assassinated at the end, along with everyone else), in the third series he’s the Price of Wales’ butler (although he does technically become the Prince of Wales at the end of the series), and in the fourth series he’s a mere captain in the British Army trying to avoid becoming a casualty in General Haig’s gargantuan effort to move his drinks cabinet six inches closer to Berlin… which he is again unsuccessful in.*
*Arguably- it is possible that he survived the war; one of the ideas for Blackadder V was set during the Russian Revolution and featued Capt. Blackadder, Lt. George, and Baldrick, all of whom had survived Going Over The Top and were now inexplicably involved in events in Russia…
Chief Inspector Claud Eustace Teal. In the early books he’s Scotland Yard’s most brilliant detective. He’s the one that deduced that the vigilante terror of the underworld The Saint and the outwardly respectable Mr Simon Templar were the same. At one point he had The Saint on the run with enough evidence to secure a death penalty if he is caught. Through the books he gradually becomes less intelligent and easier to outsmart, unrtil in the end the reader is left to wonder how such a useless lump of blubber ever qualified as a detective in the first place.