The Worst Examples of Cousin Oliver Syndrome in TV Sitcom History


Cousin Oliver Syndrome is the well worn TV sitcom trope of introducing a younger character to the cast of a show in it’s later years as a desperate attempt to add life to a show that had grown a bit long in the tooth. This addition can be successful (like with the addition of Olivia to THE COSBY SHOW) or it can be disastrous like the list that I have put together after the jump. This sitcom trope gets it name from the character introduced in the last season of THE BRADY BUNCH. Cousin Oliver was a horrid addition to the show and never contributed anything of value, instead serving to drive a dagger into the heart of a show that was already on life support. Don’t believe me? Click onward and take a look for yourself.


cuzoliver-bb-oliver

Just terrible.
Now on to the characters I consider to be the worst of the worst.

70 thoughts on “The Worst Examples of Cousin Oliver Syndrome in TV Sitcom History

      1. I enjoyed the story. I would have had it that girl on All in the Family. By the way possessive pronouns don’t have apostrophes. Should be its instead of it’s.

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      1. Let’s not forget Chrissy on Growing Pains. She was a pee poor excuse of a child actor and adding her brought down the show. She was one of the worst sharks ever jumped.

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    1. I never watched Gilmore Girls (its on my list of shows to catch up on) so I did a quick YouTube search and watched the a couple April scenes and you are right. The character was awful and fit all of the Cousin Oliver criteria.

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  1. This one is a tad bit recent, out of all the 90’s TV hubbub, but…Kimi from Nickelodeon’s Rugrats. Dil’s addition was cool and all, but once they went off to Paris, the show went off the deep end.

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    1. THat is a good one. I should probably start researching more recent examples…I might have a sequel to this post just waiting to be written.

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  2. I didn’t like Kimi on Rugrats, either. This isn’t exactly COS, but hated it when Lily was born on Step by Step. I felt like her being born was the show giving up. Cody getting booted and Jean-Luc showing up as a replacement was the final nail in the coffin for me. If it’s not someone showing up to keep the show alive, it’s a baby being born.

    Completely agree about 3J on Family Matters, but that show jumped the shark long before then. Seven is rightfully #1 on this list, too.

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      1. You are right. I don’t get what the folks behind the show were thinking with the addition of Seven. Married With Children was not a conventional sitcom so to try and shoehorn a conventional sitcom gimmick into the show was just dumb.

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      2. Lana on “Three’s Company” and Nick and Alex on “One Day at a Time” were badly added characters. Luckily they were written out.

        I didn’t like Cousin Pam on “The Cosby Show.” Adding a cousin signifies the end is near. 9 times out of 10 adding a younger child is a warning that the show is about to end.

        Booby prizes go to Oliver; Stephanie; Billie; Penny on “Good Times;” Scrappy Doo although I never liked “Scooby Doo” in the first place. I also detested Serena, just hated Serena, a poorly disguised double role Elizabeth Montgomery played that fooled nobody on “Bewitched.” Serena was a shark best left under water.

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    1. Except M3S lasted tree seasons with Dodi … turns out she wasn’t a Cousin Oliver after all. That show even tried triplets and kept on keepin’ on – nothing could kill it.

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  3. How about Sam McKinney from Diff’rent Strokes? To me he was the 2nd worst example of COS behind Ricky from The Partridge Family, maybe worse because he lasted for the last 2 1/2 seasons of the show, where Ricky was gone after 10 episodes.

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      1. Actually before Scrappy was created ABC was going to cancel Scooby Doo, so Scrappy saved the show, but the creators overused his character, so to keep the fans happy, they made him a villian in the Scooby Doo movie. Honestly, Scrappy was my favourite, I have no idea why so many people hate him.

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      2. I totally agree…even as a little kid I despised him…I want to punch him right in his stupid face 🤓

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    1. I checked out of Fresh Prince pretty early on so I don’t even know who Nicky is. Was that Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv’s kid?

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      1. Yes. He was a baby for a season, then they felt they needed to do a time jump so he suddenly became 5 years old. He ruined the show for me.

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      2. I still don’t understand the TV show mindset that adding small children to an existing show somehow makes things magically better.

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    1. Was he the Eric replacement? I bailed on the show when Topher Grace left so I missed all of the post-Eric awfulness.

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    1. I used to watch All In The Family reruns when I was a young lad and I developed quite the crush on Stephanie. Plus All In The Family was losing its luster before she showed up.

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  4. Dodie on My Three Sons was, oddly enough, Lief Garrett’s sister. Don’t think about it too much. Cuzzin Oliverism goes all the way back to I Love Lucy. Also it hit All in the Family twice, Gloria and Meathead had a baby, then later Stephanie showed up. But she turned out cool and had an album, Arrive All Over You. Think about it.

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    1. I didn’t like Stephanie and felt shoehorning her in was a bad mistake. Once she was dumped on the Bunkers, the writing was severely compromised to include this intruder. I also didn’t like Archie Bunker’s Place at all.

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  5. Both “Family Ties” and “Growing Pains” had new babies at the same time, one a boy and the other a girl, who aged rapidly so they could be cutesie-pie quicker. Same with “Step by Step.” One of the worst was “My Three Sons” addition of step-daughter Dodie, as bad an actress as Seven was an actor.

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    1. Your comment made me run to Youtube to see just how awful this Dodie character actually was and I have to agree with you. She was terrible and her insertion into the 3 episodes I watched seemed to be incredibly forced. It was painful to watch.

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  6. Joey on ” All in the Family” was never an instance of COS. It was a logical progression. I mean, was he ever even old enough to speak?

    Stephanie, however…retch.

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    1. That darn Stephanie was shoehorned in and that was a bad move. AITF should have ended once the Stivics relocated. Once Stephanie was dumped on the Bunkers, the writing suffered; Archie lost his bigot appeal and the show and its lousy sequel “Archie Bunker’s Place” were just tired sitcoms. Adding Billie and Stephanie impaired the shows and the bar crowd were a sorry lot and all that made Archie funny and distinctive was wiped out. As moving as the Star of David episode was, it was too unlike Archie and for many Stephanie compromised the show’s original appeal. She was also rude and irritating.

      Jean Stapleton was smart to leave. As sad as her character’s death was, without her the show was like a rudderless boat.

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  7. Penny on Good Times was played by Janet Jackson, I believe. I just watched some Dixie from My Three Sons….I remember the show, but fortunately missed her. Painful lol

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      1. Even though Dodie had an atrocious whack and hack job and the ugliest doll in creation (Myrtle the doll had a mouth wider than the Lincoln Tunnel and looked like ass), she was more successfully jumped shark. Oliver and Danielle Brisebois as Stephanie on the Archie Bunker shows were drowned sharks whose addition hurt their respective shows. Danielle Brisebois was more suited to musicals and talent shows and not with the Bunkers and the bar crowd. A minor singing and dancing in a bar? Seriously? Oliver and his stupid backstory and the sneaky way Carol inflicted him on the Bunch by creating the impression a baby was on the way? I didn’t like the way she tricked everyone and said she was trying to be funny. She didn’t discuss adding this interloper with everyone and Mike was an unrealistically good sport about the household being saddled with Oliver.

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      1. I agree. Janet Jackson was unconvincing in the role. She smiled when she was being beaten. Not a good addition.

        I really didn’t like the Stephanie or Billie characters on “All in the Family” or “Archie Bunker’s Place.”

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      2. Adding Joey Lawrence and later Matthew Lawrence on “Gimme a Break” and moving the core cast across country was some bad shark jumping.

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  8. I have only seen the episodes with Sam in recent years just out of curiosity as I don’t remember the later seasons of Diff’rent Strokes. I am surprised he always called Phillip “Mr D”, fair enough Willis and Arnold called him “Mr D” in the early years before he adopted them as he was their mom’s old boss and from a very different background, but for Sam to call his stepfather “Mr D” seems a bit weird.

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  9. Adding Stephanie ruined the last season of “All in the Family.” The writing and story arcs deteriorated at breakneck speed. I didn’t like “Archie Bunker’s Place” and Stephanie made a bad thing worse. The main cast left AITF and the chemistry that worked was lost once Stephanie was inflicted on the remaining cast and viewers. She was an interloper and did not fit in.

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  10. Formula for killing a show is to add a younger kid and/cousin. In some cases it means adding a new baby.

    Successfully jumped sharks were all the changes on “My Three Sons” and adding Andrew in “Family Ties.” The “Cosby Show” deftly jumped sharks. Oliver and Stephanie (Danielle Brisebois) were sharks better left underwater.

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  11. Adding Nicky on “Fresh Prince” and Chrissy on “Growing Pains” were asking for cancelation. Both went from babies to preschoolers and neither enhanced their respective shows. Ashley Johnson (Chrissy) and Danielle Brisebois (Stephanie) were lousy additions and were better matched in musicals. Acting was not their forte. Music was.

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  12. Wow. Nine years later…
    Maybe not a true Cousin Oliver since it didn’t wreck the show, but dear gawd, Brian Bonsall’s character Alexander Rozshenko was a titanic tub of terrible. The writers came up with boring storylines for him but that didn’t really matter because his acting was so bad.

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  13. Wow. Nine years later…
    Maybe not a true Cousin Oliver since it didn’t wreck the show, but dear gawd, Brian Bonsall’s character Alexander Rozshenko was a titanic tub of terrible. The writers came up with boring storylines for him but that didn’t really matter because his acting was so bad.

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