Cousin Oliver

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Do? What does he do? Why, he's adorable! And people will love it!"

Dr. Forrester, MST3K

"Aw, I freakin' hate that little kid! Why'd they ever bring her on the show?"


Cousin Oliver is that inexplicable kid added to the show's roster, usually in an attempt to liven up an aging cast with a character the younger demographics can (supposedly) relate to. However, such a character is likely to upset the dynamic of the show. And since their only character trait is to be cute and innocently wisecracking, it's far too easy for them to become overbearing and annoying to viewers, especially the ones who have followed the series for a while, making Cousin Olivers very susceptible to becoming The Scrappy.

Sometimes they're introduced at the end of a character's season-long pregnancy arc. Once the new baby hijinks are up, they are then afflicted with Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome. This doesn't always make it better. Compare Kid Appeal Character, who is generally there from the beginning. If the addition is a literal cousin, also Nephewism.

Often a form of Jumping the Shark.

If there's actually an in-series point to the character, compare Cain and Abel and Seth.

Examples of Cousin Oliver include:

Anime and Manga

  • Chibiusa's addition to the Sailor Moon cast wasn't initially for this reason, but the writers did end up using her for a younger demographic marketability in the retooled fourth series of the anime. Sailor Luna in the live-action series could also be an example of this trope in the same fashion.
  • Arguably, Max from the Pokémon anime fits this trope.
  • Parodied/subverted in the Hellsing TV series with the previously unmentioned "Integra Hellsing's sister." She's actually the last of a kind of bizarre vampire that used mind-control abilities to make the Muggles (including the Battle Butler) "remember" her. Also, she actually manages to seriously hurt Integra, something even the Valentine brothers couldn't do.
  • Sort of parodied in the anime version of Excel Saga, where a few of the characters were explicitly created out of thin air (did not appear in the original manga) because the writers were out of ideas. Their failure to keep the show going by themselves leads to writer depression.
  • Timothy Hearst in D.Gray-man.
  • Subverted in Digimon Adventure. Despite Kari appearing much later than the other Digidestined there was already a younger child on the team with T.K.

Comic Books

  • Danny Chase in the comic book version of Teen Titans. He was even designed to look like Cousin Oliver. Combine this with abrasive personality, lack of codename, costume, or original powers and he quickly became a Creator's Pet, as well.
    • In other words, Danny Chase is to the Teen Titans what Zan, Jayna, Wendy and Marvin are to the Superfriends Justice League.
      • At least they tried to be heroes; Chase tried to be holier-than-thou.
  • Damian Wayne in the Batman Comics, made Robin at age 10, just as Tim Drake was growing out of the tights. Lampshaded in Red Robin #14, where the oldest and youngest of the first three Robins refer to each other as Marcia and Cindy, and lock Damian out of a file with the password "cousinoliver".
  • Chris Kent when he was introduced in Superman's Comics. It didn't help that Kon-El recently had been killed off. Following the trope to the letter, he eventually caught a case of Plot-Relevant Age-Up.
  • Subverted with Kid-Loki who is just the normal Loki reincarnated as his kid self (with only his childhood memories and powers). He has avoided being The Scrappy by being just so much fun to read about (getting the best lines in any current[when?] Thor comic), and because he is perfectly aware that he's doing things most kids shouldn't do (but, being Loki, doesn't care because he wants to save Thor's life from The Serpent. D'awww).
    • Plus he somehow gets the two best parts of being a Kid Hero- he has the youthful idealism (as much as anyone is is idealistic in Marvel, anyways), and the maturity to still actually get things done.
    • Now[when?] the book is considered on of the best, if not the best, Marvel's putting out. He might be the best-liked Cousin Oliver ever for that.


  • The addition of Howard Phillips (Jason Barry) to the third film in the Re-Animator series, replacing the lead character of the last two films, Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott). Though not a kid, Phillips is significantly younger; producer/director Brian Yuzna admitted freely that Phillips' addition was due to Yuzna's desire not to make a film about "two middle-aged guys".

Live-Action TV

  • The Trope Namer -- played by Robbie Rist -- was added to The Brady Bunch toward the end and was the last gasp of the show. He's also cited as the definitive proof of the franchise having jumped the shark.
    • Robbie Rist became a Cousin Oliver again a couple of years later when he was Ted Baxter's adopted son in The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
    • And then he did it again when he played Doctor Zee in Galactica 1980 - though he was replaced with another actor after the pilot.
  • Stephanie on All in The Family, arguably a case of Tropes Are Not Bad.
  • Somewhat parodied on Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Dawn. Buffy comes home at the end of an episode and suddenly has a little sister, when up to that moment she'd always been explicitly an only child. Everyone acts like she'd had a sister all along, and no one notices anything strange - except crazy people. An entire episode passes like this. Luckily, we soon learn that Dawn is there because of a magic spell which altered everyone's memories (including hers) and that she's actually a Cosmic Keystone in human form.
    • And a year later, Connor showed up on Angel.
  • Andrew on Family Ties.
  • Kirby on Frasier.
  • Olivia on The Cosby Show.
    • Is it possible this was a direct nod to Oliver? Olivia/Oliver?
  • Sam on Diff'rent Strokes.
  • Peter Cooksley, a Lawrence kid clone.
  • Eight Is Enough had Cousin Jeremy (Ralph Macchio, who went on to become The Karate Kid).
  • Andy and Pippa on The Facts of Life.
  • In Family Matters the Winslows adopted 3J, a streetwise little orphan. Since there already was a kid in the show, little Richie, they merged into a single split-personality Cousin Oliver ("Maybe we shouldn't do this." "Oh, come on, it'll be fun!").
  • Joey Lawrence for Gimme a Break. The Lawrence kids made a cottage industry of being a Cousin Oliver.
  • Penny from Good Times. Introduced to give Willona someone to care for, since the Evans kids weren't really kids anymore.
  • Growing Pains had two: Chrissy, the youngest Seaver daughter, and then later Leonardo Dicaprio's homeless-kid character.
  • Little House On the Prairie's final seasons featured a hilarious number of random "adorable" orphans shoehorned into the Little House after the original kids left home. Albert (adopted off the streets of the Big City), James and his sister Cassandra (parents killed in a wagon crash), Jenny (left on Laura's doorstep by her dying brother-in-law), etc. This is despite the show already having two younger Ingalls sisters in Carrie and Grace. Oddly enough, as more than one fan has remarked in alarm, Pa Ingalls never did build an addition onto his two-room shanty.
    • Not to mention the Olesons' adoption of street urchin Nancy, who just happens to look and act a lot like Nellie. This is a mild subversion, in that Nancy is added to be the Alpha Bitch as opposed to a beacon of cuteness. Even more interesting, this is an invoked example—Harriett Oleson deliberately adopted the brattiest, most misbehaved child in the local orphanage to replace Nellie.
      • Incidentally, Jenny, introduced a year after Nancy, may have been made the age she was in order to have a little girl around Nancy's age to butt heads with.
  • Married... with Children had Seven, who started as a Cousin Oliver (since both "children" were college-aged at that point). The character proved so unpopular with viewers that after one season he suffered Chuck Cunningham Syndrome when he was removed with absolutely no explanation (though he had his Face on a Milk Carton for Lampshade Hanging effect).
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 sharply parodied the Trope with "Timmy Bobby Rusty", a lisping kid whom Dr. Forrester employed to help boost the show's sagging ratings. He lasted exactly one segment.
  • In My Three Sons they formally adopted Chip's orphan friend Ernie. Justified, sort of, by the need to maintain the accuracy of the show's title after Mike was chucked from the show.
  • Justin on Power Rangers Turbo.
    • For some reason, the creators find it necessary to shoehorn young kids into their movies. The aforementioned Justin was introduced in the Turbo movie, but he has a predecessor in Fred from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie, who got nearly the same amount of screentime as the Rangers themselves, doing next to nothing and being all around useless until the very end of the movie.
      • Gosei Sentai Dairanger with Ko fits, except he is a bit of a pervert and relies on his Empathic Weapon to help him out.
      • In all fairness, Cousins Oliver were not uncommon in the original series and were arguably a useful proxy for the younger fans. Also, Fred had a Hot Dad.
      • For some, such as Linkara, Justin wasn't hated because of his youth, but because he was only competent Ranger in the bunch, despite being a Cousin Oliver. Even in his early days, he was probably the smartest Ranger and one of the strongest (despite guys like Tommy still being around), such as when he managed to kick Elgar's ass in one of the first episodes unmorphed, which would be the equivalent of one of the original Rangers handing Goldar his ass in the first episode with no sweat (something that generally didn't happen even after his Villain Decay).
  • The diner in the Supernatural episode "Jump the Shark" is called Cousin Oliver's... and the plot is about a possible younger brother turning up. Subverted though, when it turns out that the character in question was actually their half-brother, emphasis on "was" because he was already dead before the start of the episode.
  • The Porters' foster child Declan in the last series of 2point4 children. He also served as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute for the departing Jenny.
  • Played with in The X-Files in which one episode had a man who assumed this identity because he associated with the original Cousin Oliver.
    • That series played with other shows a great deal, and that in turn got played right back on them when the series ending for Strangeluck had Chance directed to seek out Mulder.
  • Somewhat lampshaded in My Name Is Earl, when Earl has a dream that he is happily married, and he remembers when "all our kids stopped being cute and Cousin Wendel came to live with us."
  • It's questionable whether this is played straight or not. Oliver replaced Jeff in Coupling. Considering how the Trope Namer is Cousin Oliver, it could be done as a parody. However, in one episodes after season 3, Jeff is actually removed from a clip of a dinner party.
  • April on Gilmore Girls. Even more annoying in that she is basically a science-and-math-oriented version of Rory in response to viewer complaints that they missed the younger Rory.
    • And Rory had great taste in music which kept her from being a total spaz, April was all nerd with very few(if any) redeemable traits.
  • Done in The Donna Reed Show when the family adopts a homeless child after their eldest daughter leaves for college.
  • Jamal's younger cousin Casey on Ghostwriter.
  • Gloria on Touched By an Angel. The Valerie Bertinelli character.
  • Little Nicky in Fresh Prince of Bel Air, though he's a bit of a subversion since he managed to avoid becoming the show's scrappy. Partly because his friendship with Will was amusing and he was not a spotlight stealer.
  • Ricky, the kid next door who liked to sing with The Partridge Family (often seen as a Dueling Show to The Brady Bunch).
  • Arthur McArthur, also known as "the little fat kid", from Hey Dad..!!.
  • Billie Jenkins was an extra witch added onto Charmed who came out of nowhere and became like a sister to the Halliwells.
  • Guppy in iCarly, although another example of Tropes Are Not Bad, plus averts elements of the trope in that the series is not on its last legs by any means at the time of Guppy's introduction, the addition of Guppy was necessary to replace elements of older brother Gibby's character as Gibby matured, and Guppy has proven to be just as popular as Gibby.
    • Not to mention he wasn't shoved down our throats like some of the other aforementioned examples of this trope, having appeared in only five episodes. However, they were all in the same year and that could be evidence that the writers stopped before he got a chance to become a scrappy.
  • Nicky and Alex in Full House.
  • Dale from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
    • Subverted to hell in his final appearance in which He turns out to be a psychotic Killer pushed to breaking point by a season of being treated like a screw up and a kid
      • Though in their defense, he was a screw up and a Man Child.
  • Sky, a late addition to the cast of The Sarah Jane Adventures, who appeared in the final three stories of the series as a regular before it was cancelled due to the death of its lead actress. Played straight and Sky is not necessarily a Cousin Oliver in the case of being an annoying addition, but she does qualify as far as being a young character added to a well-established cast that was growing older than their target demographic.
  • On Degrassi, Snake's never-before-mentioned godson, Connor, comes to live with him — conveniently right after his daughter goes away to college.
  • Riff in Barney and Friends.
  • Adric in Doctor Who, although elements of the trope are averted in that the character was simply one of a long line of transient companions, and the series itself continued for a number of years afterwards. Plus Adric's final episode was one of the most dramatic send offs for a character in the history of the series.
  • Sofi in Two Broke Girls. While she doesn't adhere to the basic Cousin Oliver requirement - she's a 50-something post-cougar, rather than a kid or teenager - she otherwise fulfills a number of the other Cousin Oliver criteria; she upsets the dynamic between the two leads, and critics and fans have singled the character out for criticism. As this is written the series is still midway through its first season, so time will tell if Sofi catches Chuck Cunningham Syndrome.[please verify]
  • Alex on One Day At a Time was the orphaned son of Ann's recently-deceased boyfriend whom she took in. Unlike most Olivers, his presence, while changing the show dynamic, didn't ruin it, and he lasted four years on the show -- almost half its run.
  • Possibly the most extreme yet simultaneously most forgotten example was Raul Garcia (played by twelve-year-old Gabriel Melgar), who was added to the cast of Chico and The Man in an attempt to keep the show going after the suicide of Freddie Prinze in its third season.

Video Games

  • Robots don't age, but Capcom added the rookie Axl, who acted all of 13 to the cast of Mega Man X 7 to contrast with veterans X and Zero.
  • Joey MacAdoo, Samantha Pearce, and Arthur Chen in the Backyard Sports series, replacing the much more mature Jocinda Smith, Sally Dobbs, Kenny Kawaguchi, and Billy Jean Blackwood. Joey is easily becoming a Creator's Pet now.

Web Comics

  • Every once in a while an example comes along that defies the precedent, that's exactly what happened in Coming Up Violet. As many readers know, the primary schick with Fur Will Fly was that Brad was the only human living a world filled with furries. (Well, at least until Brad sets a whole mess of pandimensional aliens [like himself] free from a detention facility, but that's neither here nor there.) The comic's sequel changes this dynamic by introducing Dawn, a young—incredibly normal—teenaged girl to the mix. However, rather then being resigned to the Scrappy Heap, the fans love her and she adds quite a bit of character to the cast—indeed, being an even bigger Fish Out of Water than Brad ever was. (May overlap with the Suspiciously Similar Substitute.)
    • This is surprisingly similar to Futurama, where Fry was originally a Fish Out of Water who got used to the future relatively fast due to being a Cloudcuckoolander. In a later episode another human from his time was unfrozen and she couldn't cope with anything due to being more down-to-earth.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Scrappy-Doo, from Scooby Doo .
    • Parodied in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, where when Daphne noticed his statue, Fred was quick to cut her off and mention that they promised that they would never speak about the incident ever again.
    • There's also Flim-Flam, the ethnic kid from The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, though it's possible he may have been added as some sort of company bet to see if they could actually create something more obnoxious than Scrappy Doo.
    • As well as Scooby-Dum, who made appearances in The Scooby-Doo Show and The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour.
  • The Simpsons spoofed the idea by adding a teen named Roy for only one episode ("The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show"). This was based on a real suggestion given to the writers by an executive who wanted to add a new kid who had "the genius of Lisa but the attitude of Bart." Marge even Lampshaded the aspect of adding a character for no reason to a show just before greeting Roy for the first time.
  • Sharko, from the final season of Sealab 2021, is a spoof of this character type.
  • Lola Bunny, although not a kid, was shoehorned into the Looney Tunes lineage the same way a Cousin Oliver often is. Even to the point of her being a baby in Baby Looney Tunes... even though the gang didn't know her in Space Jam.
  • Spoofed in Drawn Together with Strawberry Sweetcake.
  • Spoofed in the Pinky and The Brain episode "Pinky and the Brain and Larry" before Executive Meddling retooled the show into Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain.
  • The animated version of Godzilla (not that one) added a baby called "Godzooky".
  • Hana in Season 4 of Kim Possible. Fortunately, she played an extremely small role (when she even appeared) outside of two episodes, so her existence did not significantly impact the tone of the show.
  • The Critic parodied this Trope when Duke Phillips attempted to add a cute kid with an endearing speech impediment to Jay Sherman's show to try to boost his ratings.

Jay: Well I find you "wepulsive" and "wepugnant"!
Kid: (suddenly normal-voiced) Hey, that speech impediment shtick is copyrighted. You'll be hearing from my lawyers! (cute voiced) I mean, wawyers.

  • Parodied / referenced in Batman the Animated Series, where "Little Cousin Spunky", the new child star added for the last season of Baby Doll's sitcom was also designed to resemble Cousin Oliver. (They even had Cousin Oliver - well, his actor - voicing him.) Also subverted in this episode—Robin watches the entire series trying to find clues; Spunky turns out to be the only enjoyable thing in the show... well, the only thing Robin liked.
  • Dil, and later Kimi, in Rugrats.
  • Poof, Cosmo and Wanda's son on The Fairly OddParents.
  • This trope can be a variation on having a Kid Sidekick and is very prone to happen when a live-action series is turned into an animated one; this is usually done for Saturday morning TV or the local equivalent, so the thinking is that kids want to watch other kids involved with the heroes. A classic example is Emergency +4, in which the paramedics and fire-fighters from the show Emergency were saddled with a bunch of 4 kids who got to chase the grown-ups around in a van labelled "+4". The network that commissioned the Star Trek: The Animated Series animated series was reported to want to introduce a smiliar bunch of young "cadets" on the Enterprise. Thank Finagle Roddenberry said no... at least until TNG and the Creator's Pet Wesley.
  • In the season 2 episodes of Action League NOW (actually KaBlam!!'s second season), the creators added in Quarky, a doll who was said to be Bill the Lab Guy's daughter. However, fans found her quite annoying (the creators answered this by taking her out during season 3).
  • Spike Witwicky and Carly were teenagers in the first two seasons of Transformers. Then, in the movie taking place 20 years later, we're introduced to their young son Daniel.
    • Every Transformers series has kids who tag along with the 'bots just because network people don't think like humans and believe kids would truly rather see some kid try to impress some girl with racing than Autobots vs. Megatron and his robo-zombie horde. Daniel is generally considered the worst (with Kicker from Transformers Energon a close runner-up) and Sari from Transformers Animated was actually liked. The Transformers Armada kids and the Transformers Film Series kids are considered mostly harmless if not for the screentime-hogging. The current batch... we'll see. However, it quickly became clear that Miko's being a Running Gag of "Everything's going fine for the Autobots, but oh no! Miko's snuck along and we have to go save her again!" moments are something the creators are having a lot more fun with than the audience. Over the first season, though, her doing this diminished from "thrice per episodes" to "once every few episodes." In general, though, Transformers fans are Just Here for Godzilla, so every TF human begins life in Scrappy status and must pull himself/herself out.
  • Nibbles from Tom and Jerry is essentially this, though he doesn't seem to be widely hated for it. The fact that he only shows up in the occasional short may help.
    • The Tom and Jerry shorts had a number of bit characters who would show up from time to time during a period when the cartoons were still highly successful, so I don't think any of them qualify as a Cousin Oliver.
  • Sam and Max Freelance Police added a Gadgeteer Genius character, who was also a little girl, due to Executive Meddling insisting that they added a recurring female character to the show. Steve Purcell liked her, but wanted her kept out of the series as much as possible due to fear of her messing up the dynamic between the two main characters, so while the fandom's feelings towards her are mixed, she's generally considered not to harm the show too much.
  • Corporal Capeman from Inspector Gadget. He added nothing to the series when he was added and his chemistry with the others is zilch.
  • In Batman: The Brave And The Bold, Bat-Mite calls the trope by name when summoning Ace the Bat Hound during his attempt to make the show Jump the Shark and get cancelled in favor of something Darker and Edgier. Ambush Bug tells him that Ace is an accepted part of the mythos, but then It Got Worse: Ace's new sidekick appears, and is basically Scrappy Doo.
  • Bat-Mite himself in The New Adventures of Batman, to the extent that he basically wrecks the series by spoiling the Batman/Robin dynamic and taking screen time away from the more worthy third wheel, Batgirl.