Although we all eventually leave high school in our review mirror, many people never truly forget the abundant awkwardness, undeniable melodrama, and unnecessary cruelty of adolescence. The best teen dramas find a way to resonate with viewers of all ages by tapping into the experiences that have irrevocably shaped us all. These shows may be aimed at a younger demographic, but many adults feel an equally strong connection to them.
Teen dramas run the gamut from fantastic to forgettable, with lots of entries in between. Some have gone on to define a generation, while others have faded into obscurity. We have all seen shows cut down before realizing their full potential, as well as those that continued on well past their expiration date. The longer a series remains on the air, the more likely it is that writers will find a way to introduce new characters - many teen dramas never regained their footing after moving into the dreaded college years.
It’s not always easy introducing new characters into an already established cast. They can completely upend the status quo, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, a fresh face can revitalize an entire series. However, these new introductions can also drag a show down. There are times when the chemistry between the actors is simply impossible to ignore and it’s almost as thought the character has been there from the start. Sadly, this isn’t always the case and plenty of later additions have left fans feeling frustrated.
Here are 10 New Character Additions That Hurt Teen Dramas (And 10 That Saved Them).
20 Hurt: Lindsay Gardner - The O.C.
The O.C. had some truly delightful characters, but there were also a few that the series would’ve been better off without. Some might bring up Johnny or Volchok and although they’d have a point, Lindsay Gardner was far more damaging. One of the most bland characters ever introduced, Lindsay and her doomed relationship with Ryan received far too much screen time.
Fans were never invested in this romance. Ben McKenzie and Mischa Barton had undeniable chemistry, but there was barely a spark between him and Shannon Lucio. Even the plot twist that Lindsay was Caleb’s illegitimate daughter failed to make her remotely interesting.
19 Saved: Lexa - The 100
Putting aside the unfortunate way that writers chose to write Lexa out of The 100, the Commander was one of the best characters ever to appear in the series. Lexa left an impression on fans from the moment she was introduced in season 2. She was an incredibly complex character and viewers were instantly drawn to Alycia Debnam-Carey’s magnetic performance.
Clarke had evolved a great deal over the course of the show, making life-altering decisions to protect her people as best she could. The person who could best understand and relate to her sacrifice was Lexa. The two shared some truly poignant moments throughout season 3 and just when it seemed that they were finally coming together, Lexa lost her life. Debnam-Carey had to leave the series, but most fans felt that she deserved a better exit.
18 Hurt: Felix and Anna Taggaro - One Tree Hill
When choosing the worst One Tree Hill characters, it’s impossible to separate Felix and Anna, since both were pretty detrimental to the show’s sophomore outing. Neither Michael Copon nor Daniella Alonso delivered a particularly inspired performance and neither character was even remotely compelling. Although Felix Taggaro was rude and smug, his sister was even more disappointing.
Anna was one of OTH’s only LGBTQ characters, but her story failed to resonate with fans. There was nothing interesting about Anna in her own right, leaving the focus on her lack of chemistry with Lucas and her cowardice in regard to defending Peyton. Anna's plot line could’ve been a powerful one, but instead viewers were all too grateful when she and Felix left Tree Hill, never to heard from again.
17 Saved: Jess Mariano - Gilmore Girls
Of Rory’s three major love interests, none have built up the same devoted fan base as Jess Mariano. He was a well written character, but much of the credit here belongs to Milo Ventimiglia. Rory wasn’t the only one enamored by Luke’s bad boy nephew from the moment he rolled into town - fans were smitten as well. Jess understood Rory in a way that none of her other boyfriends really have and always accepted her for who she was.
Aside from the obvious chemistry between Alexis Bledel and Ventimiglia, Jess had a very strong character arc. He wasn’t ready to be the guy that Rory needed the first time around, but many viewers hoped the two would find their way back to one another during the revival. Unfortunately, there wasn’t really any closure to be had there.
16 Hurt: Chic - Riverdale
Even the most ardent Riverdale fans can probably admit that the show went a little off the rails in its second season. Much of this can be attributed to the introduction of Betty’s half-sibling, Chic (Hart Denton). Aside from the fact that Chic’s entire storyline was unnecessarily convoluted, pretty much every plot point involving him was over-the-top ridiculous. While that’s not always a bad thing for Riverdale, Chic did more harm than good.
It turned out that Chic wasn’t even related to Betty after all. He did, however, know her real brother, who it seems we will never get to meet. However, this is Riverdale, so who knows?
15 Saved: Blaine Anderson - Glee
Much of the success of Glee’s second season can be attributed to the introduction of the Dalton Academy Warblers. They served as major competition for New Directions and were responsible for some of the season’s best musical numbers. Even among a group as talented as the Warblers, Blaine Anderson (Darren Criss) stands out as exceptional.
Blaine brought an infectious energy to the choir room, but his impressive performances did more than just win over the audience. He also stole the heart of Kurt Hummel. Their characters became so intertwined that it’s difficult to discuss Blaine’s importance to the series overall without mentioning the impact of his relationship with Kurt. Although Glee become a parody of itself in later seasons, it was nice to see "Klaine" get the happy ending that fans had been hoping for.
14 Hurt: Ivy Dickens - Gossip Girl
Although Gossip Girl’s particular brand of over-the-top drama served it well in earlier seasons, subsequent years saw a steady decline in quality. Even still, many viewers stuck with the show right up to its final - and horribly disappointing - reveal. There were plenty of unnecessary characters who came and went, but Charlie Rhodes, aka Ivy Dickens (Kaylee DeFer), was the worst.
The fact that she was an actress pretending to be Serena’s unstable cousin so that Carol Rhodes could gain control of her daughter’s trust fund was utterly ridiculous. It might’ve been fine if that crazy plot development was the last viewers saw of Ivy, but alas, she hung around until the series was over, stumbling her way into one increasingly silly predicament after another.
13 Saved: Toni Topaz - Riverdale
Not all the characters introduced in Riverdale’s season two had a negative impact on the series. Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan), in particular, was a welcome addition. Initially she showed Jughead the ropes at Southside High, but has since become much more integral to the series. Fans weren’t sure what to expect at first and many saw her as little more than a threat to Jughead and Betty's romance. Thankfully, that’s not the direction that the writers chose to go in.
Aside from the fact that Toni is tough, smart and funny, she has also proven herself to be a great friend. Morgan did an impressive job of making the character likable and it didn’t take too long for Toni to win over most viewers. It has also been really awesome to watch her romance with Cheryl unfold.
12 Hurt: Sara Harvey - Pretty Little Liars
The most impressive aspect of Sara Harvey (Dre Davis) is how much damage she did to Pretty Little Liars, despite only appearing in seventeen episodes. The character wasn’t introduced until season 6, but it was later revealed that she’d been around for much longer, not only as Red Coat, but Black Widow as well. Most fans saw this as a complete cop-out that made no sense at all.
Sara was not only miscast, but also quite poorly written. In PLL’s entire run, there was no character so universally loathed. No one really cared to unravel the mystery of her demise, because most viewers were so overjoyed that she was gone.
11 Saved: Hannah Rogers - Everwood
Although Hannah Rogers (Sarah Drew) didn’t appear until Everwood’s third season, she quickly became one of the show’s best characters. Hannah was socially awkward, but refused to let anyone push her around. She may have been well-mannered, but Hannah wasn’t afraid to call out any of her friends - or even parental figures - on their bad behavior. She was the best friend anyone could ask for and showed up during a time when both Amy and Ephram needed one.
Hannah was a fully formed character in her own right long before her romance with Bright and watching their friendship unfold was incredibly endearing. The pair quickly became a fan-favorite couple. Their lighthearted and heartwarming relationship served as a breath of fresh air from the dark and twisty drama of Amy and Ephram.
10 Hurt: Riley Finn - Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Everyone knows that Buffy had to move on from Angel eventually, but viewers never wound up embracing Riley Finn (Mark Blucas). Perhaps Dawn was more openly hated by fans, but at least the season 5 storyline revolving around her existence was one of the show’s best. Riley, on the other hand, introduced the Initiative, who were undeniably the worst aspect of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s uneven fourth season.
Even after the government organization was out of the picture, “Captain Cardboard” continued to hang around. The romance between Buffy and Angel was epic. Simply put, Riley and his lackluster personality couldn’t compete. If he wasn’t whining about how Buffy refused to let him in, he was out getting himself bitten by vampires for kicks. These were all plot points that the series could’ve done without.
9 Saved: Lois Lane - Smallville
One of the biggest mistakes that Smallville ever made was spending three years getting fans invested in the romance between Clark and Lana. Sure, Lana was his high school girlfriend, but the series spent so much time building that relationship that introducing Lois Lane into the mix was far more difficult than it should’ve been. Even still, Erica Durance proved a bright spot in the show’s worst season, giving a great performance as she brought Superman’s most iconic love interest to the small screen.
As the series progressed, Lois became more vital to the narrative. She was no mere damsel in distress and was a far more interesting character than Lana ever was. The writers took their time getting Lois and Clark together, but their chemistry was evident from the start.
8 Hurt: April Nardini - Gilmore Girls
Nothing damaged Gilmore Girls more than the surprise twist that Luke had a daughter. The fact that he waited so long to tell Lorelai was also a pretty terrible decision. April herself was incredibly irritating and served as a huge roadblock in Luke and Lorelai’s impending nuptials.
As awful as April was, though, her mother Anna was even worse. Fans disliked April because she was little more than a plot device to keep Luke and Lorelai apart. Anna, on the other hand, was just a poorly written character. She made a series of nonsensical decisions regarding her daughter and Luke’s place in her life. The series would’ve been better off without either of them in it.
7 Saved: Stosh “Piz” Piznarski - Veronica Mars
Contrary to many fans' beliefs, Piz was an excellent addition to Veronica Mars. Chris Lowell was a bright spot in an otherwise inferior third (and seemingly final) season.
Let’s get one thing straight: Veronica and Logan are the one true pairing of the series. There was a point though, where there was simply too much drama between them. Fans needed a break and so did Logan and Veronica, who had lost themselves in that relationship. Logan may have been Veronica’s true love, but there is no denying that Piz actually made her happy when Logan couldn't. In the end, he was just a placeholder, but a necessary one.
6 Hurt: Uncle Jack - Gossip Girl
Chuck’s uncle was never meant to be a likable character, but Desmond Harrington played Jack Bass so archly that he was practically twirling his mustache. There was never any doubt in viewer’s minds about Jack’s intentions. It’s not all Harrington’s fault, but some of the show’s craziest moments can be traced back to Uncle Jack.
The storyline in which Chuck trades Blair to his uncle in order to regain control of his hotel was one of the show’s most awful. Chuck was a horrible character from the pilot - in which he assaulted two different women - and the series never tried that hard to redeem him through anything other than charisma. However, this plotline decimated the charming rogue that Gossip Girl had strived to create. As for Jack, he was just another two-dimensional villain and as such, mostly fell flat with viewers.
5 Saved: Spike and Dru - Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Sunnydale’s own Sid and Nancy were never meant to last as long as they did on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but incredible performances from James Marsters and Juliet Landau earned both a stay of execution. Aside from the way that Spike and Dru shook up the Hellmouth, they also altered the entire series mythology. They were proof that vampires could share genuine affection for one another. That, along with their palpable onscreen chemistry, got fans truly invested in their fates.
The Master was a great villain, but no one was disappointed when he was impaled. It’s a testament to Spike and Dru that viewers always wanted more. Spike, of course, went on to play a much larger role in the series as whole. Despite the fact that his continued existence became increasingly difficult to justify, it's impossible to imagine the Buffyverse without him.
4 Hurt: Jason Teague - Smallville
One of the worst aspects of Smallville's disappointing fourth outing was the introduction of Genevieve Teague and her son. Before Jensen Ackles was cast as Dean Winchester on Supernatural, he appeared on Smallville as Lana’s new love interest, Jason Teague.
This has nothing to do Ackles, as Jason was a poorly written, ill-conceived character. It wasn’t even that Jason stood in the way of Clark and Lana reuniting, as Lois signaled that Clark’s romantic life would be changing directions anyway. However, the ridiculous plot between Jason and his villainous mother was simply too much. Everything about their entire story was completely bonkers.
3 Hurt: Eva Mansfield - Awkward
For its first several seasons, Awkward was pretty great. However, after creator and showrunner Lauren Lungerich was replaced, the series lost much of its charm. Instead of the clever writing that fans had grown accustomed to, the show ventured into the type of melodrama that it had avoided previously.
One of the worst plot points that viewers had to suffer through was the season 4 introduction of Eva Mansfield. She seemed like an interesting character at first, but her story quickly devolved into a bunch of nonsense. It turned out that Eva was a pathological liar, who wasn’t even honest about her real name, let alone being pregnant with Matty’s child. She was an okay villain, but ultimately, she was emblematic of the larger problems plaguing the series in the wake of Lungerich’s departure.
2 Saved: Vince Howard - Friday Night Lights
Michael B. Jordan has become a bona fide star in the last couple of years, but his incredible acting chops were apparent from the moment he appeared in Friday Night Lights. Season 4 was a major paradigm shift for the series, with Coach Taylor no longer coaching the Panthers, but the Lions instead. Several new major characters were introduced, but Vince Howard quickly became a fan favorite.
Vince was in a pretty dark place at the start of the season. With an addicted mom and a dad in prison, Vince was out of options. Given the choice between jail and football, Vince found a way to turn his life around. The writing, as well as Jordan’s performance, made Vince one of the show’s best characters, despite the fact that he was a late addition.
1 Saved: Klaus - The Vampire Diaries
The Vampire Diaries really spent some time building Klaus up as the Big Bad during its second season. Thankfully, from the moment he appeared, Joseph Morgan did not disappoint. His performance resonated so much with fans that over time, Klaus evolved from a villain to an antihero. His immense popularity also led to his own spinoff, The Originals. Morgan had no trouble charming fans, regardless of what evil act Klaus was committing.
The introduction of Klaus, and his siblings for that matter, was one of the best aspects of season 2 and really helped TVD go from good to great. They may have been brutal, but they were also undeniably fascinating. The Mikaelsons deepened the series mythology overall, leaving TVD forever changed. Klaus was one of the most complex and unforgettable characters of its entire run.
Which newer characters do you think hurt or saved teen dramas? Let us know in the comments!