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Beloved TV Characters That Got the Short End of the Stick

Updated on September 9, 2015

It’s common knowledge that TV shows rely on conflicts and hardships to make you care about its characters. Protagonists and side characters that get their behinds proverbially kicked is so common that viewers have become accustomed – sure, it gets tense at the hands of the right scribe, but fans in general know that specific characters will still come out on top in the end.

Except when they don’t.

Throughout the history of TV, there have been fan favorite characters that metaphorically got the short end of the stick – in the sense that they’ve been treated unfairly and without any hope for recompense. Here are some of the most notable ones:


#5. Pinky and the Brain

A collaboration between Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation, Pinky and the Brain follows the eponymous genetically enhanced laboratory mice as they spend their days living in a cage at Acme Labs’ research facility. Pinky is the nice yet feebleminded one, while Brain is egotistical and manipulative. Each episode centers around Brain’s plans to take over the world, which usually fail due to Pinky’s ineptitude.

What Happened to the Characters

In the late 90s, Warner Cartoons wanted to retool the show into something closer to a traditional sitcom format, and they wanted to achieve this by toning down the story elements involving Brain’s ambition to rule the world. Their first big move was to force the writers to include Tiny Toons’ Elmyra and a musical number every episode.

The writers were able to squeeze Elmyra into the story by having a villain hunt down Pinky and the Brain, which forced the duo to go into hiding – accidentally getting themselves trapped in Elmyra’s room. Anybody who knows the Elmyra character knows what happened next: she refused to let the mice go. And since the series was canceled before the writers were able to resolve the storyline, we can only assume that Pinky and the Brain had to let go of their ambitions and resign themselves to a life of slavery under Elmyra.

#4. Doctor Who’s Amelia Pond

Amelia Pond was the doctor’s companion during Matt Smith’s turn at the timelord hat (or Fez, if we’re going for accuracy here.) She was an eccentric girl who chances upon the doctor when he first regenerated into his 11th incarnation (technically 12, if you count the War Doctor in the numbering.) The doctor left her to give the TARDIS a kickstart but messed up and returned years later, when Amy has already grown into a woman and filed her memories of the doctor away as mere imagination. She eventually hopped on board along with her boyfriend Rory Williams and accompanies the timelord on some of the most important events in his life to date.

What Happened to the Character

Most people would point to Adric’s death as the meanest thing to happen to a doctor who companion, but don’t forget the title of this hub, and don’t forget that fans actually hated Adric. Amy, on the other hand, had a lot of fans (and many new fans of the franchise were introduced to the series during Amy’s tenure.) So why did Amy get the short end of the stick?

First, she spent her formative years being misunderstood – at best, she was thought of as a liar, and at worst, misdiagnosed as having mental issues simply because she clung to her happy memories of the doctor. Then she had to give up and believe everyone.

Things got worse when the doctor returned. In no particular order: parents erased from existence, boyfriend erased from existence, trapped inside a box for a century, had a parallel version trapped for years in an alien planet AND then abandoned and summarily executed, went through a messy divorce, had her baby forcibly taken and brainwashed into a murderer, basically fired as a companion, went through a messy divorce and just when they’ve actually patched up, sent back through time with her husband and forced to live the rest of their lives away from everything they knew. This is particularly mean considering that the character has been written as someone with a massive wanderlust, and would have enjoyed many more years in the TARDIS.

(also, let’s not forget that her sendoff episode was one of the particularly weakest episodes of the entire Smith run.)

#3. The Brady Bunch

Considered as the last of the classic style sitcoms, The Brady Bunch aired from September 26, 1969 to March 8, 1974 on ABC. The sitcom focused on the titular blended family consisting of the father Mike, who has three sons – Greg, Peter, and Bobby - from a previous marriage, and his new wife Carol, who has three daughters – Marcia, Jan, and Cindy – from a previous marriage. Housekeeper Alice and family dog Tiger round up the cast. The series is your typical family sitcom – wholesome episodes focusing on problems such as sibling rivalry, puppy love, responsibility, etc.

What Happened to the Characters

CBS revived the show with the original cast in the early 90s, and even though fans most likely expected the network to retool the show into something more contemporary, they didn’t expect a retooling that goes so far beyond what is needed that it turned the show into a depressing mess.

Part of the retooling involved older sister Marcia being turned into a depressed alcoholic, Little Bobby into a paralytic after a racing accident, Peter involved in an abusive relationship, and every other extended character either being an unemployed couth or a poor slob who is one bad decision away from going crazy.

The show was so bad that it got canceled after six episodes, and there was no longer any interest to revive the show with the original cast. Thankfully, there was a movie with an all new cast that tried to reboot the franchise.

#2. Quantum Leap’s Sam Beckett

Quantum Leap is a show about a scientist who got into an unfortunate accident involving a time machine, which sent him through random points throughout history where he enters people’s bodies and tries to do good, all the while looking for a way to get back to his own timeline.

What Happened to the Character

The series ran for five years and garnered a decent following, but the network canceled the show abruptly, leaving the creators scrambling to rework a season finale into the season finale. The story itself ended with a title card revealing that Dr. Sam Beckett never made it home, and most likely wandered throughout eternity, never aging or dying.

#1. Mork and Mindy

Originally a guest character on Happy Days, the late Robin Williams’ culture-shocked extraterrestrial Mork proved to be so popular that he got his own equally successful series – Mork and Mindy, where the hapless alien is paired with a lovable female earthling and spent many episodes bumbling around human customs.

What Happened to the Character

The final episode of Mork and Mindy is a three-parter that had Mork coming into contact with fellow alien Kalnik. While initially thought of as a friend, Kalnik is soon to be revealed as plotting to take over Earth and enslave mankind. Mork and Mindy then fight Kalnik across time, until they finally kill him while on prehistoric Earth. The last few scenes of the final episode has both of the protagonists falling through a time vortext, before cutting to an ancient cave painting depicting the duo, which most likely meant that they spent the rest of their lives stranded on prehistoric earth.


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    • peachpurple profile image


      3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i love mork and mindy, funny show

    • ArianaLove profile image


      3 years ago

      I loved these shows! Thanks for reviving the memories. :)


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