The CW has built a reputation as a destination for shows that wouldn’t necessarily exist in other spaces. It showcases genre fare and teen-oriented melodrama more than the bigger networks generally do. It also tends to be a little more pulpy and lighthearted than the gritty, violent prestige shows that dominate cable and streaming service. The CW’s shows tend to thrive on compelling characters, serialized yet uncomplicated plots, and offbeat sensibilities.
They also depend enormously on the talents of their actors, who must be possess the kind of charm required to push a show through its lesser moments – which almost always happens with these sort of series, as they tend to go the 22 episode distance, rather than the more tightly constructed 10 or 12 episode runs more shows are favoring these days.
But for every Gina Rodriguez or Rachel Bloom, there is an untold cavalcade of lousy actors who were simply not up to the task. These actors haven’t always managed to torpedo entire series, but they have all helped to sink entire episodes or even full seasons of their shows through a combination of underwritten characterization, lazy plotting, and just outright bad acting.
These are 15 Terrible Performances That Ruined CW Shows.
15. Matt Nable – Arrow
Arrow spent its first two seasons building up a fairly compelling, epic mythology on the backs of some less than marquee villains. Malcolm Merlyn and Slade Wilson became surprisingly sharp, fully realized antagonists for Oliver Queen and friends. Hints in the second season suggested the show would get a major upgrade in the form of a legitimate DC Comics big bad A-lister: Ra’s Al Ghul.
One of Batman’s greatest foes, Ra’s Al Ghul was Arrow’s biggest pull from the world of DC Comics by a pretty wide margin, which made it all the more infuriating when he turned out to be the show’s worst villain. Some of that can be blamed on the writing, but most of it was due to Matt Nable, a former rugby player with limited acting range who was simply in way over his head as one of comics’ greatest villains.
14. Robbie Amell – The Tomorrow People
It’s actually pretty appropriate that Stephen Amell’s little cousin starred on what was essentially the television version of Arrow’s little cousin. With Arrow, the CW had realized there might be some fertile ground in telling stories about superheroes with Greg Berlanti, but The Flash was still another year off. In the interim, they tried reviving The Tomorrow People, which was a popular British series. It revolved around young people with amazing abilities due to the next step in human evolution; in other words, it was essentially a low rent version of the X-Men.
Appropriately, it had a low rent star in Amell, who lacked the brooding, intense charms of Cousin Stephen. The show was dumped after one season, and Amell joined his cousin in the Arrowverse as Firestorm on The Flash – though he’d soon find himself out of that superhero gig as well, replaced by Franz Drameh for Legends of Tomorrow.
13. Kristin Kreuk – Beauty & The Beast
Kristin Kreuk has had the privilege of being lousy on two different CW shows. She played Lana Lang for eight seasons on the young Superman series Smallville. She at least wasn’t the focus on Smallville, so her real crime against the CW was her time as Catherine Chandler on Beauty & the Beast.
The CW’s version of Beauty & the Beast was based on the ‘80s TV series that updated the classic fairytale for a modern day setting. That show had its problems, but it had a legitimately great actress, Linda Hamilton, in the role of Catherine. Suffice to say, Kristin Kreuk is no Linda Hamilton.
12. Teddy Sears – The Flash
Teddy Sears managed to be bad in two different roles during The Flash’s second season. That season saw Sears debut as Jay Garrick, the veteran Flash of Earth-2 who served as something of a mentor to Barry and love interest to Caitlin. He was bland and dull as Jay; a charisma vacuum who never fit in with the team.
The shocking midseason reveal that Jay was really Hunter Zolomon, aka the villain Zoom (though most viewers saw that “shock” coming a mile away) saw Sears struggle to even approach the palpable menace that Tom Cavanaugh channeled in the show’s first season as Eobard Thawne.
11. Mischa Barton – The Beautiful Life
Poor Mischa Barton. She likely thought she was destined for superstardom when her 2003 series The O.C. became an overnight sensation. After the show’s third season, Barton left the series – presumably for bigger and better things. After well and truly flaming out in her stab at movie stardom, Barton decided to return to television for a starring role in the CW series The Beautiful Life.
The Beautiful Life was a rarity for The CW in that it was almost immediately canceled, with only two episodes airing. The other five produced episodes didn’t even get the dignity of a summer network burn off; they were instead dumped online with no fanfare.
10. Falk Hentschel – Legends of Tomorrow
There’s probably no bigger DC hero who gets a rawer deal in live-action adaptations than Hawkman. A no-show in the DC Extended Universe films (with seeming no plans in the pipeline, though who knows with the DCEU these days), his last big appearance before the Arrowverse was in Smallville, where he looked like an out-of-shape cosplayer. When it was announced he’d be a part of Legends of Tomorrow, many assumed he’d be one of the show’s stars and focal points.
That very much did not happen. The show never had a good handle on the star-crossed romance between Carter Hall and Kendra Saunders, but the underwritten Hawkman might have been salvaged by a better actor.
Falk Hentschel was an absolute cipher.
9. Vanessa Marano – Gilmore Girls
If you ask the average Gilmore Girls fan when the show began its creative decline, they’ll probably grumble something about April Nardini. April was the tween daughter of Luke, whom the moody diner owner had no idea existed before her abrupt appearance in season 6. The manufactured melodrama around the young girl was not only bad storytelling, it ended up derailing the finally consummated relationship between Luke and Lorelai.
This may have been more forgivable if April had been a more likable character but, as played by Vanessa Marano, she was like a bad parody of a slightly younger Rory Gilmore.
April was a motormouth know-it-all who lacked any of Rory’s inherent charm.
8. Casper Crump – Legends of Tomorrow
The Arrowverse absolutely has its strengths, but it’s somehow managed to bungle the two biggest DC villains it’s been allowed to get its hands on. Vandal Savage is one of the DC universe’s first villains both in real life and in the fiction, a former caveman granted immortality by the radiation from an alien meteor.
Slightly retooled for his appearance in Legends of Tomorrow to tie in more directly with Carter Hall and Kendra Saunders, this version of Savage was still a deadly immortal, but he couldn’t have been much less intimidating. That’s mostly on Casper Crump; the Danish actor looks like Savage jumped off the comic book page, but that’s where the similarities end. Crump’s limited range and nasally voice made his version of Savage seem more like an annoyance than the embodiment of elemental evil.
7. Jay Ryan – Beauty & The Beast
Jay Ryan has gotten a surprising amount of mileage out of being blandly handsome with extremely limited acting ability. The Australian got his first big break on the long-running Aussie soap opera Neighbors before logging some low-profile TV work in the States. Beauty & the Beast was by far his biggest role to date, and he was absolutely not up to the task.
Inheriting a role originally played by Ron Perlman, it probably goes without saying that’s a comparison that is not kind to Ryan. Hs wretchedness in the role of Vincent was some devious mix of leftover Twilight fervor and bald-faced hubris on the part of the CW. This was an adaptation of an ‘80s series that probably should have stayed in the ‘80s.
6. Mark Gibbon – Supergirl
You could almost make an argument Supergirl did this one on purpose. General Zod’s status as one of Superman’s most iconic villains – and his recent presence in the DCEU where he was played with tremendous fury by Michael Shannon – meant Zod was never going to be a major recurring player on the CW show. He more likely would be relegated to occasional appearances like Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman. Dialing down his impact makes a certain amount of sense.
They dialed back a little too much with Mark Gibbon.
A prominent voice actor and live-action TV guest star lifer, Gibbon just isn’t the kind of actor you can believe could destroy Earth. Supergirl may never have intended for Zod to be a cornerstone of its world, but the Kryptonian general still deserved better than he got.
5. Teddy Dunn – Veronica Mars
Veronica Mars hit the ground running, a fully-formed series with a compelling plot and a cracking cast headlined by future The Good Place star Kristen Bell as the titular teenage detective. The show’s supporting cast was filled with genuine talents like Enrico Colantoni as Veronica’s father Keith, Ryan Hansen as the hilariously disgusting bro Dick Casablancas, and Jason Dohring as Logan Echolls, the dangerous bad boy third. The cast’s weak link was unquestionably the unnecessary third corner of a love triangle, Duncan Kane, played by Teddy Dunn.
Duncan was a whiny, white-bread character with next to no chemistry with Veronica.
The show would unceremoniously write him out of the show midway through its second season. Dunn largely gave up acting after Veronica Mars, suggesting he’s a lot more self-aware than Duncan, if nothing else.
4. Katie Cassidy – Arrow
No Arrowverse character and actor have had more of a roller coaster ride than Katie Cassidy’s Laurel Lance. Originally a loose adaptation of the comics’ Dinah Lance – why they decided to call her by her middle name was never really explained – she was one of the few remnants of the show’s earliest days, when it was more of a teen melodrama than a full-on superhero enterprise.
Through the show’s six seasons, Laurel has gone from an alcoholic district attorney, to Black Canary, to dead, to an evil Earth-2 doppleganger.
That actually sounds like a pretty fun arc, but Arrow viewers know the fatal flaw of that assumption – Katie Cassidy has simply never been up to the task of pulling off most of those twists. Cassidy mostly worked as a dramatic romantic interest, but as an important cog in a superhero series, she’s never really clicked.
3. Emily Swallow – Supernatural
Supernatural has thrived as a cornerstone of the CW’s programming for 12 years and counting, having been picked up from WB in the merger with UPN. Series creator Eric Kripke departed after the show’s fifth season, having completed the story he intended to tell, and the quality of the show has varied rather wildly ever since.
A real low point was the show’s eleventh season, which revolved around an entity called The Darkness, which existed before the universe or even God. The Darkness was released and took on the guise of a female human, Amara, bent on planetary destruction. The character probably wasn’t salvageable, but Emily Swallow’s dead-eyed performance certainly didn’t help matters any, resulting in one of the show’s most hollow Big Bads.
2. Ciara Renee – Legends of Tomorrow
Introduced on The Flash before being ported over to Legends of Tomorrow, Kendra Saunders was meant to be an important piece of that show’s first season, tying into the timeline-hopping hijinks of Vandal Savage and the centuries-spanning love of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Kendra should have been the heart of the show, but turned out to be its Achilles heel.
There’s really no polite way to get around this one – Ciara Renee is simply had no business being the star of a primetime television series. The CW is not exactly stocked with future Oscar winners, but Renee was pretty comfortably the worst actor to ever appear as a series regular in any of the Arrowverse shows, and Legends wisely dropped her after the first season.
1. Tom Welling – Smallville
Smallville ran for so long that it logged five seasons on two different networks. The painfully earnest tale of Clark Kent’s years before he donned the cape and tights is still the ultimate version of Superman for a number of people. Its later years even saw some fumbling attempts at opening up to a bigger DC universe that presaged the Arrowverse.
But Smallville had a fatal flaw that meant it was always going to stay figuratively grounded – Tom Welling. The statuesque young actor looked like he could credibly be Christopher Reeve’s offspring, but he lacked Reeve’s sunny charm. Welling’s version of earnestness just came across as wooden, and his teenage brooding just felt like whining. Any ranking of Superman actors should keep Welling relegated to a hall closet in the Fortress of Solitude.
What other performances ruined CW shows for you? Let us know in the comments!
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