Everyone remembers The Brady Bunch, right? It was a classic TV series featuring an adorable family that always brought the laughs. Whether Marsha had her Snickers bar or not. What people might not remember is the addition of a character named Cousin Oliver.
That’s because the cousin — played by Robbie Rist — was a fifth season addition to the cast. He suddenly appeared when his relatives went on an archeological dig and left him with the Bradys. His sole purpose? To add cuteness and youth to a series as its ratings were beginning to flop. It didn’t work, of course, and Cousin Oliver disappeared six episodes later. And the show was cancelled altogether by the end of the season. Welcome to Cousin Oliver Syndrome.
Sadly, Cousin Oliver wasn’t the only youthful addition to a cast over the years. Many shows have tried, and while some have succeeded, others have failed miserably. Here are some of the more memorable ones, ranked from the worst to best.
The highs and lows of ‘Cousin Oliver Syndrome’, TV’s most shameless ratings ploy
Seven, Married... With ChildrenSeven (Shane Sweet) appeared, fittingly, in the seventh episode of the series. He lasted five episodes and then disappeared. His face was later seen on a milk carton. Fox
Stephanie, All in the FamilyThis nine-year-old (played by Danielle Brisebois) appeared in the ninth season of the series as Archie's niece. She was brought on when the other two kids left home, and was meant as a cute foil to Archie's political beliefs. The show was cancelled shortly thereafter, but she reappeared in Archie Bunker's Place the following year.Getty
Ricky, The Partridge FamilyIn the show's fourth and final season, four-year-old neighbour Ricky (Ricky Segall) showed up with an occasional song. The audience wasn't buying the tune, and the actor disappeared midseason.Getty
Andrew, Family TiesWhen the kids began aging in Season 5, writers decided it was time for the Keatons to have a fourth child, Andrew (Brian Bonsall). The series wrapped two years later. Getty
Nicky and Alex, Full HouseCapitalizing on the Olsen twins fame, the series opted to introduce the twins (Blake and Dylan Tuomy-Wilhoit) five seasons in. On Michelle's birthday. If that wasn't an obvious ploy we don't know what is. Getty
Sam, Diff’rent StrokesAs Gary Coleman grew older, the show decided to introduce Sam (Danny Cooksey) to keep it fresh. Naturally, audiences weren't thrilled, and the show was cancelled two years later.Getty
Louis, Two and a Half MenIn the final season of the former Charlie Sheen vehicle, Eden Alexander came on board as Louis, Walden's adopted son. He was supposed to be the new "half man" on the cast, but in reality he was used quite sparingly. Fortunately, the show was already on its last legs. CBS
April, Gilmore GirlsFans missed the early, bookworm version of Rory, so for the last two seasons we had Luke's daughter April (Vanessa Marano) instead. Even the actress reportedly hated her character. Getty
Penny, Good TimesJanet Jackson may be famous for a lot of things, but her addition to this cast during the final two seasons was anything but memorable. Getty
Jeremy, Eight is EnoughEight was no longer enough when Ralph Macchio joined the show in its fifth and final season. We liked him better in The Karate KidGetty
Maddie, Ally McBealBefore she was a Hero or spinning songs on Nashville, Hayden Panittere showed up on Ally McBeal as Ally's accidental daughter in the show's final season.Fox
Joey, Gimme a Break!Who doesn't love Joey Lawrence? Audiences certainly responded to him when he showed up as the adopted son on this series three seasons in. Getty
Olivia, The Cosby ShowWhen Rudy stopped being as cute as she used to be, Raven Symone joined the cast as Cousin Olivia, Denise's step-daughter who wound up staying with the Cosbys. You could say hilarity ensued. Getty
Little NIcky, The Fresh Prince of Bel-AirWith Will firmly established in the family, writers introduce a new child to the Banks household for the show's final two seasons. Ross Bagley fit in nicely with his one-liners and cute charm, but never seemed to overdo it. Fox
Dawn, Buffy the Vampire SlayerMichelle Trachtenberg wasn't an instant hit when she joined the show as Buffy's younger sister Dawn, but real fans grew to love her. No wonder she lasted over 60 episodes. Getty
Little Ricky, I Love LucyEven though the character was aged and played by a bunch of different actors over the years, this was the first pregnancy ever featured on television so that's an automatic win in our books. Getty
Luke Brower, Growing PainsThe last two seasons of this series were the most important for fans. That's because Leonardo Dicaprio joined the cast as homeless teen Luke, launching the career of one of the biggest box office stars in film today. Getty