The best teen dramas are the ones that embrace the awkwardness, the unnecessary cruelty and the uncontrollable emotions that are an unavoidable part of wading through the treacherous waters of adolescence. Although we may leave those experiences in our rearview mirror, those years have an intense effect on all of us, which is why these shows continue to resonate with people of all ages.
Much like real life, one of the most vital aspects of any teen drama is the romantic relationships. There are many reasons why we tune in, but rarely are any of them quite as compelling as the love stories that are woven into the very DNA of these shows. After all, what love is more intense, more heartbreaking, and more melodramatic than the love that you discover during high school?
These relationships can become so important that for better or worse, they completely overtake the entire series. Some TV couples you love, others you love to hate and others still, well, those just evoke nothing but the purest of hatred. These parings can elevate a show to new heights or even send it crashing to the lowest of lows.
Here are 10 Couples That Hurt Teen Dramas (And 10 That Saved Them).
20 Hurt: Ryan and Lindsay - The O.C.
Was there ever a more boring character on The O.C. than Lindsay Gardner? Sure, there are more hated characters like Oliver Trask or Kevin Volchok, but none so painfully bland. Perhaps you hated the pairing of Marissa and Volchok more than this one, but we would argue that it did less damage to The O.C. as a whole than these two did.
Season 3 was a train wreck in general and Marissa getting written off enabled the show to have a much better, albeit terribly underrated final season. Season 2, on the other hand, while never reaching the same heights as the show’s freshman outing, was still pretty strong. Yet, this couple was the most cringeworthy part of it - and not just because Lindsay turned out to be Caleb’s illegitimate daughter.
The series wasted a whole lot of time on a relationship that fans were never invested in.
It wasn’t just because Ryan and Marissa fogged up the screen every time they were on it, while Ryan and Linday lacked even the tiniest of sparks. The main issue was that there was just nothing interesting at all about Lindsay. She was annoying from her first moments, when she was unnecessarily cruel to Ryan, to her final ones, when she unceremoniously broke his heart. Even her rather dramatic parentage failed to make her matter. In the end, she was just another obstacle between Ryan and Marisa, and fans were only too happy to see her go.
19 Saved: Veronica and Piz - Veronica Mars
Let’s get this out of the way: Veronica and Logan are the true love story of Veronica Mars. However, there was a point at which the drama between them simply got to be too much. Veronica always had to worry about Logan and never felt that she could truly trust him - which is fair, since early on, he wasn’t what you might call trustworthy. For a time, Veronica lost herself in that relationship and what better place to find yourself than at college? She and Logan gave it their all, but at a certain point, both had to admit that it was time to throw in the towel.
Enter Stosh "Piz" Piznarski. He was the anti-Logan in every way and it was awesome. After the dark days of Veronica and Logan, her time with Piz was like a breath of fresh air, for both Veronica and the show itself. Even Kristen Bell has said that before the movie, she was Team Piz all the way. He brought a different energy to the series. Logan is Veronica’s true love, but Piz actually made her happy.
Veronica and Logan needed that time apart and viewers needed a break from the nonstop rollercoaster of feels that was their romantic relationship. Finding their way back to one another in the movie was only possible because of Veronica’s romance with Piz. Sure, he may have just been a placeholder in the end, but Veronica really did love him.
18 Hurt: Brooke and Lucas - One Tree Hill
Anyone watching One Tree Hill knew that Lucas and Peyton were endgame from the start. The chemistry between Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton was palpable and the characters were drawn to each other since the pilot. It’s not the original love triangle that was the issue here. Peyton didn’t know what she wanted and Brooke did. Of course, by the time Peyton figured it out, she wound up betraying her best friend. Still, this is not the problem with Brooke and Lucas.
One of the most confusing moments at the end of season 2 is the realization that Lucas is in love with Brooke - not the girl that he pined for throughout the whole series.
It was a clear case of putting characters together simply because they were dating in real life.
Making matters worse, once Brooke and Lucas finally found themselves in a committed relationship, Sophia Bush and Murray’s five month marriage had already gone up in flames.
Aside from the confusing narrative fans were left with, Brooke and Lucas’s romance destroyed Brooke’s friendship with Peyton. Although Peyton was honest with her and promised never to act on her feelings, Brooke was awful to her to a point that was just out of character. Brooke and Lucas’s relationship dragged on, with Lucas spending so much time proclaiming his undying devotion to Brooke that by the time he and Peyton did get together - although it was a great moment - it rang a bit false.
17 Saved: Willow and Tara - Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Many fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer were caught completely off guard by Willow and Tara’s romance. Aside from being incredibly groundbreaking, it was kind of a genius move. Willow and Oz were an iconic couple and viewers were brokenhearted after Seth Green left the show. Finding an acceptable love interest for Willow in his absence was going to be difficult. Tara was nothing like Oz, leaving little room for comparison. Her relationship with Willow was built up slowly, which made it believable.
Without context, it’s difficult to understand the importance of this love story. The WB adamantly opposed affection between the two characters, so Joss Whedon had to get creative and use witchcraft as metaphor. Although they got together in season 4, their first onscreen kiss didn’t come until a year later. It was a moment in “The Body” hard-fought for by Whedon, who told the network that he would quit if it was left on the cutting room floor. It was such a vital and natural act between two grieving characters. Anything less would’ve felt inauthentic. Thankfully, UPN treated their relationship like any other on the series, so after Buffy switched networks, the couple had much more freedom.
While some fans struggled with the new relationship, to the point of being cruel to Amber Benson, most viewers fell for Tara Maclay just like Willow did. For a time, they were the most stable couple in the Buffyverse and most fans still tear up over Tara’s tragic exit.
16 Hurt: Chuck and Blair - Gossip Girl
Fans loved the romance between Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf, but if you think that those two are #RelationshipGoals, you might want to take a hard look at their history. Their love was a never-ending cycle of abuse, emotional manipulation, and drama. We get it, the latter was kind of Gossip Girl’s bread and butter, but the way that Chuck became a romantic lead at all is pretty shocking. Fans fell for his charms, which seemed to make them forget that Chuck attempted to assault not one, but two different women in the pilot alone. It’s not as though Chuck’s arc was particularly redemptive either. He continued to leave a trail of destruction in his wake throughout the series.
Sure, Leighton Meester and Ed Westwick had incredible chemistry, but their onscreen counterparts were a terrible couple. Meester has said it herself: "I hope that young women aren't looking at this and thinking 'I should model my relationships after this' because there was some domestic violence in there."
All the grand gestures in the world couldn’t make up for the fact that they were awful to one another. There was no trust between them.
Chuck traded Blair to his creepy uncle for a hotel!
He also inadvertently injured her when she attempted to finally extricate herself from the toxicity of their relationship.
Ultimately, they became the show’s central romance, making it seem as if mutual attraction and an unreasonable amount of money was the foundation of a healthy partnership - it wasn’t.
15 Saved: Seth and Summer - The O.C.
Forget about Ryan and Marissa! The best couple on The O.C. was Seth and Summer. Perhaps it was the real life romance between Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson, but watching those two fall for each other was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the series. With Seth and Summer, there were no pregnant exes, no psycho stalkers, and no addiction issues. As a couple, they were simply undeniable.
Seth pined for Summer for years, memorizing her poems and naming his boat after her. Initially, it seemed that all there was to Seth’s crush was her looks, but in the end, Summer Roberts evolved more than perhaps any other character on the show. She and Seth brought out the best in one another and more than half of The O.C.’s most romantic moments belonged to those two. From Summer’s Wonder Woman costume to Seth’s coffee cart declaration of love, viewers watched their romance unfold with bated breath. They may have bickered constantly and had some painfully awkward encounters, but they always found a way to work it out.
Brody and Bilson didn’t go on to live happily ever after, but thankfully, Seth and Summer got the ending that they deserved.
14 Hurt: Aria and Ezra - Pretty Little Liars
This is another pair who have been pushed relentlessly despite the fact that their romance is kind of icky. Sure, Ezra didn’t know how old Aria was when they first got together, but once he learned the truth, the adult thing to do would’ve been to call things off. That’s what should be expected of him, since he was, after all, an adult - and her teacher. Aria was only sixteen and Ezra was in a position of authority.
Fans were cool with it, because Pretty Little Liars portrayed the couple as the definition of romantic. That doesn’t change the fact that in the real world, their relationship would’ve been frowned upon, to say the least. How on Earth was he not shunned by Rosewood?
For the majority of the series, the age difference between the two, as well as the power dynamics at play were barely addressed - even by Aria’s parents!
Ezra also had a relationship with Ali first and is a grownup who spends most of his free time hanging out with teenagers. As if that’s not reason enough for fans to come down against Ezria, let’s not forget about the spying and stalking - not really the stuff that epic romances are made of.
13 Saved: Betty and Jughead - Riverdale
Fans expected Riverdale to revolve around a love triangle between Betty, Veronica, and Archie. Although elements of that have come into play, these days, Betty Cooper’s heart belongs to one Jughead Jones. It helps that Cole Sprouse and Lili Reinhart are both excellent actors and it probably doesn’t hurt that that their chemistry extends beyond the small screen - Sprouse and Reinhart are a couple in real life as well.
Betty and Jughead’s bond was originally strengthened when they worked together on the school paper. They also both have a penchant for solving mysteries and and an undeniable dark side - although Betty’s is much better hidden. At this point it’s pretty hard to believe that when Riverdale began, Betty was madly in love with Archie. It didn’t even make all that much sense that he and Betty kissed earlier this season. We get it, they’re teens and there was a lot going on in that moment, but still.
While everyone saw "Varchie" coming from a mile away, "Bughead" was a rather unexpected pairing. They have certainly had some hiccups this season, but their love has proven stronger than the myriad of forces trying to tear them apart. They are the easiest couple on the show to root for and help to keep it emotionally grounded.
12 Hurt: Bonnie and Jeremy - The Vampire Diaries
The Vampire Diaries had some pretty epic romances, but this was not one of them. In fact, their relationship took a backseat to the rest of the drama so often that it was sometimes difficult to remember that the Jeremy and Bonnie were together at all. True, their romance started out pretty adorable, but in the end, was fairly convoluted and it just became kind of hard to care.
We love the characters separately, but together, not so much.
Bonnie was Elena’s best friend and Jeremy was her brother, so the two had known each other since childhood. Although that gave them a weird dynamic initially, it was easy to root for them at first. Throw in a couple of deaths and resurrections, plus a chatty dead ex-girlfriend and you’ve got a bit too much, not only for Bonnie and Jeremy, but for the viewers as well. There is a reason that when fans talk about the swoon-worthy romances of TVD, these two pretty much never enter the conversation.
While watching them realize their feelings for one another was sweet, witnessing their actual relationship wasn’t terribly compelling. Maybe if there was more more chemistry between Steven R. McQueen and Kat Graham, things would’ve worked out differently. In the end, it simply could not measure up to several of the show’s other romances.
11 Saved: Rory and Jess - Gilmore Girls
Dean was a great first boyfriend for Rory. He was sweet, attentive and a total dreamboat. In fact, until Jess came along, most fans were really rooting for those two. However, once Jess Mariano showed up in town, the reasons why Dean and Rory would never work in the long run became perfectly clear. Aside from Dean’s jealousy - although to be fair, the guy did have something to be jealous about - there was the simple fact that he could not keep up with Rory’s intellect.
Jess and Rory had witty banter, they both loved music, and spending an entire evening in a bookstore would be considered a night well spent to either one of them. Plus, every girl needs to date a bad boy, if for no other reason than to realize exactly what she doesn’t want. While Jess may have had some growing up to do, of all of Rory’s boyfriends, he is the one that most fans feel that she belongs with.
Jess moving to Stars Hollow brought some necessary conflict to Rory’s love life. Still, that’s not the only reason that their relationship was so vital to Gilmore Girls. Jess has proven on more than one occasion that he understands Rory better than anyone else that she has dated. He has been her moral compass, her inspiration, and given her some much needed perspective, not just in the show’s original run, but in the revival as well.
10 Hurt: Joey and Dawson - Dawson’s Creek
Aside from the painful lack of chemistry between Katie Holmes and James Van Der Beek - made far more glaring by the intensity of her onscreen rapport with Joshua Jackson - Joey and Dawson were probably the most annoying couple on Dawson’s Creek. From the show’s very inception, the writers made their intentions for these two characters clear. Still, somewhere along the way, the script flipped, which is good, since Dawson and Joey’s relationship was painfully boring to watch.
Creator Kevin Williamson even stated that the original plan was to have those two wind up together, but as the series evolved, he changed his mind.
Aside from the aforementioned reasons, Dawson and Joey were a terrible couple. Pacey treated her better and their dynamic was far more engaging. Her relationship with Dawson was akin to that of siblings, not soulmates and watching them attempt to force a romantic connection was, at times, downright uncomfortable. These two were always more obsessed with the idea of being together than they were with actually being in a relationship.
When the series began, its love triangle was intended to be between Dawson, Joey, and Jen. All that changed however, when Holmes and Jackson began sharing more screen time. Their connection was noted not only by fans, but by the writers as well.
9 Saved: Bright and Hannah - Everwood
Everwood remains one of television’s most underrated and overlooked dramas. It had all the heart, but none of the cheese of its contemporaries, and the writing was truly brilliant. The series was created by Greg Berlanti - you know, the guy with more shows currently on air than anyone else - and made it four seasons from 2002-2006. Aside from its engaging characters, excellent actors and pitch perfect writing, Everwood also launched the careers of Emily VanCamp, Sarah Drew, and Chris Pratt. It is the latter two that make this list.
Sure, we could’ve chosen Amy and Efram. After all, it was their love story at the core of Everwood from the very beginning. As much as we adore their relationship, once Bright and Hannah got together it was no longer just the Amy and Ephram show.
Bright and Hannah were complete opposites and their friendship was incredibly endearing from the moment it began. Where Ephram and Amy were dark and twisty, Bright and Hannah were sweet and lighthearted. Their romance became one of the best storylines on the series - not bad for two side characters.
Even back, there were hints of Pratt’s leading man potential, and Drew’s sincerity made it impossible not to root for her. Even breaking up couldn’t destroy their friendship. Bright and Hannah may not have been the couple at the heart of Everwood, but they were certainly in the hearts of fans.
8 Hurt: Buffy and Riley - Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The romance between Buffy and Angel was an epic love story. She and Spike had a rocky start, but became a love for the ages just the same. There is a reason why fifteen years after Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended, fans remain completely divided on the subject of which vampire with a soul the Slayer should have ended up with. You know who never enters that debate? Riley Finn.
Yes, Buffy would need a new love interest eventually, but did he have to be so boring?
Seriously, Captain Cardboard indeed. When Riley was first introduced, he seemed like the best thing for Buffy at that point in time. However, once fans got to know him, their opinions changed for the worse and not because of his extracurricular activities.
Season 4 gets a bad rap. Yes, the Initiative storyline wasn’t great, but had Riley been a more compelling character, perhaps it wouldn’t have been so painful to sit through. Watching Buffy and Riley’s bland relationship unfold was one of the worst parts of the entire series.
Riley was whiny, intimidated by Buffy’s strength, and oh yeah, cheated on her and then blamed her for it. Following that, his grand solution was to give her an ultimatum. Sure, it was sad for Buffy when he left, but fans were overjoyed that they wouldn't have to witness them as a couple ever again - don’t even get us started on “Where the Wild Things Are”! That entire episode is best left forgotten.
7 Saved: Angela and Jordan - My So-Called Life
My So-Called Life winds up on practically every list of television shows axed before their time. It aired only nineteen episodes, but remains one of TV’s most influential and beloved shows. Despite exploring real issues, MSCL never felt like an after school special. Creator Winnie Holzman’s characters had an undeniable authenticity and Angela Chase felt like the voice of a generation.
In terms of romantic relationships, Jordan and Angela's was central to the series. Was there any character in the ‘90s who was crushed on quite as hard as Jordan Catalano? Impossibly dreamy and frustratingly taciturn, there was no greater enigma for Angela Chase than Jordan. She pined for him, only to learn what most of us do in our teens: that there is a startling disparity between the fantasy of someone and what it’s like to actually be in a relationship with them. Even still, who doesn’t swoon during the final moments of “Self-Esteem”?
The thing is, Jordan wasn’t great to Angela. He refused to acknowledge her publicly and put a ton of pressure on her to do things that she wasn’t comfortable doing. While many yearned for them to drive off into the sunset together by series end, there were others who hoped that Angela would realize that Brian Krakow was the one behind the words that sent her back into Jordan’s arms. Regardless of the outcome you wanted, the chemistry between Caire Danes and Jared Leto was undeniable.
6 Hurt: Veronica and Duncan - Veronica Mars
Although iZombie does help to fill the Veronica-shaped hole in our hearts, there will never be another show quite like Veronica Mars. The series combined the socioeconomic divide of The Outsiders with the central mystery of Twin Peaks and boasted an amazing heroine who was sort of an amalgamation of Buffy Summers and Nancy Drew.
Speaking of Veronica, she was always way too cool for her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Duncan Kane. He wasn’t exactly the most interesting of characters and on a series full of them, he stuck out as particularly bland. Early on in the series, it was easy to get invested in the romance between Duncan and Veronica. He was her first love and the potential relation storyline was intense, to say the least. The flashbacks made it clear that there was a time when their relationship was really quite sweet.
Duncan was pretty much fine before we got to know Logan better.
Once Logan became more than the monster he initially appeared to be, fans began to root for him and Veronica big time - and with good reason. By the time she and Duncan reunited, they were different people and it was kind of too late to salvage what they once had. Perhaps the couple did need to make another go of it, but the writers must’ve realized that Kristen Bell had much better chemistry with Jason Dohring, because they got rid of Duncan in season 2.
5 Saved: Kurt and Blaine - Glee
Although Glee essentially became a parody of itself in later seasons, the series was actually quite groundbreaking. Unlike so many shows that came before, Glee didn’t sideline its gay characters. Kurt was always at the forefront of the series and when he found true love, the writers refused keep it on the periphery.
In fact, Glee treated their romance like any other, giving Kurt and Blaine all the same sweet “firsts” that every teen couple deserves. Their relationship had all the vital elements we’ve come to expect from these shows: laughter, heartache, and of course, a decent amount of drama. In fact, in 2013 Klaine was voted EW’s “Greatest TV Couple of All Time”.
The couple had their makeups and breakups, but through it all, fans never stopped rooting for them. Seriously, even Sue Sylvester was a fan! Another distinction that separates Blaine and Kurt from other gay couples portrayed on television is a very important one: they actually got a happy ending. No one lost their life and there was nothing substantial keeping them apart.
When they reunited, it not only felt right, but earned. They had been through so much and a happy future in which they were married and had children was better than viewers had even hoped for. Kurt and Blaine made beautiful music together, both literally and figuratively, elevating Glee to new heights.
4 Hurt: Lex and Lana - Smallville
Let’s be honest, over the course of its ten year run, Smallville had its fair share of ups and downs, with seasons ranging from truly awesome to embarrassingly awful. Of all of the show’s rough spots, though, the one that most fans will bring up when asked is the cringeworthy dynamic between Lex and Lana. When their attraction began, viewers were intrigued, but what could’ve been an interesting narrative decision quickly became just plain uncomfortable to watch.
Everyone knew that Lana and Clark needed to break up eventually and honestly, so much time was spent building up their relationship that it took years to create a believable rapport between Lois and Clark. However, just because those two needed to end things for good didn’t mean that Lana had to wind up in the creepiest relationship ever with Clark’s greatest frenemy.
Seriously, the chemistry between Kristin Kreuk and Michael Rosenbaum was so nonexistent that watching them become intimate created an "ick" factor that someone should’ve noticed before those scenes ever made it on the air. Lex was always one of the most fascinating characters on Smallville and the show had spent several seasons turning Lana into something more than just Clark’s love interest. Unfortunately, the romance between these two threw a major wrench into Smallville’s gears, ruining Lex, Lana, and for a while, the whole series.
3 Saved: Karolina and Nico - Runaways
Runways is one of Marvel’s newest superhero shows, but it is also most definitely a teen drama at its core. Like the comics, the show is incredibly character driven. Aside from getting to the root of their parents’ villainous machinations, season 1 largely explored the relationships between the kids. So far, the friendship between Karolina Dean and Nico Minoru has progressed quite differently on the Hulu series than it did in the comics. This isn’t terribly surprising, considering the fact that show has been very loosely based on the series created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona. While Runways kept the essence of this amazing comic intact, the source material served as little more than inspiration for the actual story beats.
In the comics, Karolina was crushing hard on Nico, only to be completely shut down when she actually made a move. However, on the show things turned out differently when Nico kissed Karolina back. Virginia Gardner described Karolina's feelings in that moment as "Oh, Chase isn’t what I want. Nico is who I want, and I’m in love with Nico, and I’m not afraid to honor that now.”
The change opens up some exiting new storylines that differ from the comics for season 2.
2 Hurt: Lorelai and Christopher - Gilmore Girls
There was a point at which getting Christopher and Lorelai together would’ve made perfect sense. However, by the time Gilmore Girls reached its 7th and final season, that ship had most definitely sailed. Fans were all about Luke and Lorelai, and like the majority of season 7, her relationship and subsequent marriage to Christopher didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Without the deft hand of Amy Sherman-Palladino, the show’s last season was simply unworthy of the rest of its stellar run. This can be felt in everything from the words to the handling of characters to the nonsensical storylines.
Unlike previous interactions between Lorelai and Christopher, their courtship was incredibly bland. Sure, part of this was that, try as they might, the writers simply could not keep up with Sherman-Palladino’s snappy dialogue. That was what had made their relationship so dynamic in the past.
By this point, in the minds of fans, there was no one for Lorelai Gilmore besides Luke Danes.
Lorelai returning to her ex after having her heart broken isn’t out of character, but the events that followed kind of were. It’s unlikely that she would agree to marry Chris while still clearly in love with Luke. Even still, perhaps the greatest sin of Lorelai’s time onscreen with Christopher was how boring it was to watch their love story unfold - especially when we all knew that it was doomed from the start.
1 Saved: Eric and Tami - Friday Night Lights
Friday Night Lights had more than one incredibly compelling couple. From the ill-fated affair between Lyla and Tim to the strange, but sweet matchup of Landry and Tyra, the writers had a penchant for finding relationships that would keep fans invested. However, of all of the show’s great romances, none could possibly hope to surpass the one at the very core of FNL: Eric and Tami Taylor.
If any TV couple has ever earned the #RelationshipGoals, it’s these two.
According to Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler, they were told from the beginning that their marriage would make it to series' end. It was apparently this realization that enabled them to portray such a believably happy and healthy couple. Although their relationship was tested, theirs was a love that truly never wavered. However, just because they were stable did not mean that they were boring.
Tami and Eric never lost their spark for one another, continuously surprised and excited by their relationship. They always had each other’s best interests at heart and their romance was never played for sheer drama - although that authenticity was a strong point of FNL in general. Without that incredible relationship serving as its emotional anchor, the series would not have been nearly as engaging.
Which couples do you think helped or hurt teen dramas? Let us know in the comments!
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