Inside TV’s Secret History of Last-Ditch Efforts to Keep Shows Cute

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Adorable little kids: You gotta love 'em! No, seriously, you're obligated to love 'em. Love 'em or else. Such was the mentality of many TV-network executives from the 1970s through the late 1990s. It was during that era that a strange, oft-forgotten phenomenon emerged on television: Cousin Oliver Syndrome. It plagued viewers for years, cluttering shows with plucky youngsters and cute rapscallions who would get added to the cast out of nowhere when a show was flagging in the ratings. To kick off our new weekly series, "Vulture's Secret History of Television," we bring you this short video essay about the rise and (thankful) fall of Cousin Oliver Syndrome — as well as its legacy for one of Hollywood's biggest stars. Watch, and tune in every Wednesday for new looks at television's secret history!