The Devolution Will Be Televised: The Most 9 Most Egregious Dumbing Downs on TV
Often in the televised world, a character may change a great deal from the program’s inception. This is to be expected. As the writers and performer truly find the character, they find what works and what doesn’t and the character evolves to that end. My two favorite female characters on TV—Robin Scherbatsky and Britta Perry—are two great examples of this, vastly different from where the began, but in the best way, taking them from fairly mild, if not fully boring, straight characters to awesomely flawed, if not fully insane.
And sometimes, characters get hit with a reverse Algernon. They get stupefied to the point where you wonder “okay, how did I miss the clearly important episode involving a major head injury? Because bitch be dumb.”
These be the dumbest bitches. And, for the record, that’s not always a bad thing.
Joey Tribbiani and Ross Gellar, “Friends”
Joey’s descent into stupid, while the more obvious, was at least less of a fall. He started out your standard issue brand of Guido Dumb, where he was slightly un-smart, but more socially inept or simply thoughtless when it came to the females. By the end, he was just literally hitting himself in the head with a baseball bat.
Ross, on the other hand, was always a nerd, but he was a smart guy. He went from nerd to dork to spaz over the course of the show’s run, finally just showing up to scream every episode. He did not necessarily become less intelligent, but decidedly less socially aware and increasingly pathetic. Also, shrill.
Eric Matthews, “Boy Meets World”
Guys, I cannot stress how much of this show I’ve been watching on maternity leave.
This was Eric in the beginning. (skip to 4:48)
This was Eric by the end.
What does it say about me that the dumber they made him, the more attractive I found him?
Kevin Malone, “The Office”
Poor Kevin. Poor actually mentally challenged Kevin.
At a certain point, Kevin became a metaphor for the whole show. It started out perfectly fine. Now, it’s essentially a monkey flinging its shit at our faces and we’re just supposed to be okay with it.
Matthew Brock, “Newsradio”
Matthew started out as a producer. Like, a news producer. A news producer of a news radio station. That has to require some semblance of smarts, right? Maybe? But then…things changed. Things got Andy Dickly. Luckily, they got the amusing kind of Andy Dickly. Not the now-Andy Dickly. That wouldn’t be fun for anyone.
Samuel “Screech” Powers, “Saved By the Bell”
By now, you’ve seen that some of the idiotification is actually good for the character. Makes him (it’s usually a him) much more fun and surprising. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s annoying and sad. In the case of Screech, someone who invented a fucking robot with feelings and advice, it was so incredibly irritating that I still to this day wish vile ill on Dustin Diamond, and did even before he started writing lame exposes and doing poo porn.
Professor Bobo, “Mystery Science Theater 3000”
He was a professor of anthropology from a future where apes evolved from men! Then, monkey toddler.
Rose Nyland, “Golden Girls”
She started as naive, and then got a bad case of full blown adorable stupids. But this was one of those situations that tends to happen with these plotlines where as the stupefied character grows ever detached from her brain place, the smarter characters are meaner to her, which is always more sad than funny because the dumb one is so clearly outmatched. Luckily, they usually don’t notice, what with how they’re dumb.
Patrick Maitland, “Coupling”
Again, he started just kind of affably self-involved and penally motivated. But as the show progressed, and Jeff and Jane became crazier, Patrick became the dumb one. And he did so preciously, into Mr. Superbly Incredibly Fantasticness.