The Cousin Oliver Effect (spoilers possible)

Inspired by this post.

Cousin Oliver is fairly widely acknowledged as the poster child for the phenomenon of the addition of a previously unknown relative as a series regular spelling the end of a TV series. Let’s list off other examples of a show’s adding a relative indicating an attempt to stave off the end and failing.

And for funsies, let’s list shows in which the addition of a relative improved the show. In the other thread, Charmed was mentioned for the addition of Rose McGowan. Personally I disagree, because IMHO Charmed is irredeemable regardless of who’s in the cast (it’s also sort of on the edge of the concept since the addition was really a replacement for the departed Shannen Doherty).

I would like to restrict this to added relatives with speaking parts, so in-show pregnancies and births are disqualified.

Just off the top of my head, I’d say the “evil sister/brother” plot device never hurt shows like Bewitched & I Dream of Genie.

Are you going to exclude the same actor playing their evil sibling?

It’s going on right now with Stargate SG1- over half the cast has been replaced, in one swell foop. I’m hoping it’s not a portent of the end.

I wouldn’t disqualify all in-show pregnancies and such. Sometimes (as was the case on Angel) the newly born has a speaking part rather soon after being born (actually, happened more than once on Angel, though the second time it happened was a LOT more extreme). That said, this hardly spelled the end of the show, as it culminated in a couple of my favorite plot twists (years of watching Babylon 5 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer have taught me to never EVER take a prophecy at face-value.)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, now that I think about it, introduced the character of Dawn (Buffy’s teenage sister) out of nowhere in the beginning of the 5th season. Her sudden appearance, complete with retroactive memories of her by everyone who knew her, was later explained though.

Babylon 5 does this a couple of times too, but to much lesser degrees. One example is the introduction of Captain Lochley in the 5th season, who later turned out to be the never-before mentioned ex-wife of Captain Sheridan (his first marriage, no less). In this case, it was explained that they “fell madly in love, got married, and a few weeks later fell madly out of love” getting a divorce, an annulment, and apparantly pulling enough strings to get all evidence of the marriage erased to the degree that Garibaldi (a security/intel expert and a sometimes private eye) wasn’t able to find out about it while actively snooping until he just up front asked Lochley about what connections she had with Sheridan.

As it is, this facet of their relationship never really seemed to become relevant beyond the fact that Sheridan wanted to bring in someone to run the station that he could trust and who everyone else in Earthforce could trust (she was one of the officers who didn’t sign on with Sheridan in the Earth Alliance civil war that happened during the 3rd and 4th seasons of the show)

I’m not sure if you could say this led to the demise of the show (apparantly it only ended when it did because the producer refused to do a sixth season, instead opting for the creation of a new spinoff, Crusade. What caused THAT show’s demise in it’s first season is an entirely different can of beans that has nothing to do with this topic.

Now, ever-so-slightly off topic, but still dealing with the introduction of new characters to a show, you have examples like Law and Order, which currently has NONE of it’s original stars, the entire cast having been replaced by new characters over the course of the show (which works for that show’s format, being that it’s a show about the criminal justice system, but not necessarily the people involved in it) I still love ot watch the newer stuff of Law & Order. In fact, I liked the cast as it was before Jerry Orbach died (RIP Detective Brisco). Who did they replace him with on the show? Asking out of curiosity, as I watch it in reruns.

As long as it’s a new character, being played by the same actor isn’t an exclusion. However, the new character has to be a regular one, so Serena and blue Jeannie wouldn’t count.

May not count if they’re replacements and not additions. Definitely doesn’t count if one or more of the replacements are not relatives of other cast members. I don’t watch the show so I have no idea.

David Spade (easily in the last 10% of actors I’d add to any formula) plays some sort of relative in the ruins of John Ritter’s 8 RULES.

Sandy Duncan as an aunt and later grandpa John Hillerman were added to Valerie after the title character was killed off.

Gimme a Break added Joey Lawrence as a waif when the girls were no longer cute, then his brother when Lawrence was aging and the girls were out of the plot altogether.

All in the Family added Danielle Brisebois as a distant cousin of Edith’s left for her and Archie to raise after Mike and Gloria left.

Seven was added to Married With Children as a regular after the Bundy kids grew up a bit. In the show’s defense, they not only realized he didn’t work and wrote him out but the one mention of what happened to him was one of the funniest moments on the show: in a later episode Al adds milk to his cereal and Seven’s picture is on the carton.
Ted McGinley is the only successful addition to that show (successful meaning “lasting”), and he was more of a replacement for David Garrison. There were plans to add Tim Conway and William “I’m Darryl, this is my brother…” Sanderson to the cast that went nowhere save for guest appearances, and Divine was to join the cast as Peggy’s mom but died before shooting began on the episode.

Scrappy Doo

Yes, but none of the new characters are previously unmentioned relatives of the old characters. We aren’t seeing Carter’s brother, or Daniel’s cousin, or Jack’s previously unknown son from a prior off-world trist or something.

Mid-show, we discovered Teal’c had a wife and a son who later had a couple shows more or less revolving around him, but he was never introduced as a regular, with a speaking role.

Evil incarnate.

Along with Barney the Purple Dinosaur and Wesley Crusher the most evil characters in TV history.


Babylon 5 ended when it did because it had NEVER been intended to run more than 5 years, per the creator/author J. Michael Straczynski. (Cite somewhere on The Lurker’s Guide to Babylon 5, but I can’t find it right now.


Love Boat added Captain Stubing’s daughter and Ace the photographer – but that’s Ted McGinley and he’s automatically a death knell for any TV show.

Married With Children added Seven. Then they subrtracted Seven.

The Cosby Show added Rudy as a granddaughter.

At various times, One Day at a Time married all three Romano women, and Ann eventualy wound up with a 12-year old (not related, though)

Mary Tyler Moore ended up with a mother and a father near the end of her show.

As for relatives who actually improved the show, near the top of the list is Uncle Toonoose on the Danny Thomas Show.

Ok, this is breaking the rules a bit. It involves the introduction of a baby without a speaking role, but didn’t Bewitched tank around the time they introduced Tabitha’s baby brother, Adam, who didn’t have witch powers? Even though I was a kid at the time, I thought it was lame.

And the later spin-off of Bewitched, involving grown-up Tabitha & Adam, seemed doomed to fail.

I suppose it would constitute a whole other thread, whether the introduction of a baby, and its subsequent growing up, killed a show. I generally give up on shows once the cute little infant starts talking and the show becomes all about being new parents.

I never watched the show Boy Meets World when it was first-run but I’ve caught some episodes in reruns. One of the characters, who was from a middle class family when he was a kid and mentioned his sister, later somehow became a kid who not only lived with his single dad in a trailer park but always had, and later somehow had an upper middle class brother (one of the Lawrences) show up as a regular. I’d love to learn how all of the above worked.

Facts of Life added Mackenzie Astin as a neighborhood lad after the girls started getting old for high school. Originally he was a kid from a middle/upper-middle class family (I think he said his dad was a dentist in one episode) but later he remembered that he was an orphan in a foster home and got adapted by the show’s other “Odd, they never mentioned her before” addition, Mrs. Garret’s sister, Cloris Leachman. (Neither tack on appeared in the totally forgettable reunion.)

Not added as a regular, but Star Trek: the Next Generation made a fetish of finding long lost relatives to the regular crew. We discovered:

Troi’s mother
Picard’s brother
Picard’s son
Worf’s son
Worf’s brother (two of them, evidently)
Worf’s stepparents
Geordi’s mother
Data’s “brother”, “father,” “mother,” and “daughter” (Not technically, but they were treated as though they were that relationship).
Tasha Yar’s daughter
Crusher’s grandmother

We used to refer to the show as “Intergalactic Family Reunion.”

In Star Trek, there also was Spock’s half-brother and parents and Kirk’s brother and family and son.

Malcolm in the Middle has been sliding fast since the characters outgrew the show’s premise. I’m not sure if Malcom even goes to school anymore. The introduction of the new baby only underlined this fact. Almost as if to compensate for the additional son, there seemed to be a decision to fold Malcolm and Reese into virtually the same character. I think the writers still have sparks of creativity now and then, but they are obviously struggling to keep the show alive. It’s also a bit odd to see the actors playing Malcolm and Dewey have more trouble delivering their lines now than they did when the program began.

No, Rudy was one of the original Huxtable kids – it was Olivia (played by the actress then known as Raven-Symoné, but billed as Raven in more recent work) who was Denise’s daughter and thus Cliff and Clair’s granddaughter.

Chachi on Happy Days.

Gomer Pyle cousin Goober was added to the Andy Griffith Show as a regular after Gomer got his own series. The show didn’t decline, though.