ByTeam TVLine /
Everett Collection (2); Paramount+ screenshot; NBC screenshot; Courtesy of HBO
We’ve already celebrated the best TV characters who joined their shows late… but unfortunately, there’s a flip side to that.
It’s not unusual for a long-running TV show to shuffle up its cast in an effort to freshen things up, and a few lucky shows have actually struck gold with new cast members. (Check out our list and our readers’ suggestions for prime examples of that.) Some cast additions, however, actually turn out to be subtractions, threatening to drag down their entire shows with their resounding lack of appeal. We’re calling them the Cousin Oliver All-Stars, in honor of the patron saint of this category: the mischievous little tyke who got blamed for ruining The Brady Bunch when he arrived late in the series’ run.
Join us as we look back at the worst TV characters who joined their shows after the first season —and really should’ve stayed away entirely. We’ve picked out bad apples from all-time great shows like Game of Thrones, The Office, Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and ER, proving that even a host of Emmy wins doesn’t guarantee immunity from the dreaded Cousin Oliver Syndrome.
Read on to see who made our list of the worst cast additions ever —and if you think we missed a big one? Feel free to remind us in the comments below.
Kevin Kinkirk, 7th Heaven
Debuting in Season 6, Lucy’s husband had the personality of a doormat and the charisma of… a doormat. He recited his dialogue about as naturally as… a doormat would. He only seemed to exist so that Lucy had someone to yell at who wasn’t a blood relative. So we guess you could say he served his purpose. As a doormat.
Wayne Palmer, 24
Let’s face it: Wayne Palmer could never come close to filling his brother David’s shoes. After serving as President Palmer’s chief of staff starting in Season 3, Wayne proved to be both underqualified and lacking any real leadership skills by the time he took the Oval Office. He spent the entirety of Season 6 either comatose or floundering in his decision-making, becoming the franchise’s worst fictional president ever… which is saying a lot, considering one of them was a treasonous supervillain!
Hazel Wassername, 30 Rock
This is a tough one: 30 Rock is a first-ballot Hall of Fame sitcom, and Kristen Schaal has been a comedy delight on everything from Flight of the Conchords to What We Do in the Shadows. But for some reason, when she joined the cast in Season 6 as deranged NBC page Hazel Wassername, it just… didn’t work. At all. Her unhealthy obsession with Liz was more unsettling than funny, and her arrival goes down as one of the show’s rare misfires.
Juliette Le Gall, The Affair
The addition of Noah’s post-prison Parisian fling is only second to killing Alison Bailey on the list of dumb things this frothy drama did over the course of its five-season run. It’s one thing to introduce a new love interest on a show called The Affair; it’s another to assume the audience is going to want to spend entire chunks of episodes seeing stories from her perspective. Come Noah’s move to Los Angeles in Season 4, Juliette was never seen, or mentioned, again.
He may have been adorable as an itty, bitty baby in Season 3, but after he was kidnapped and raised in another dimension, the Connor that returned wasted no time getting on our nerves. Almost all of his storylines were meandering and painstaking, and don’t even get us started on that icky Cordelia/Jasmine/Connor biz.Vampire dad deals with angsty half-demon teenage son? No, thanks.
Cousin Oliver, The Brady Bunch
It’s probably not fair to pin the demise of a beloved TV show on a nine-year-old boy; child actor Robbie Rist only joined the show for the final six episodes of Season 5, when the ratings were already dwindling. Still, the addition of Cousin Oliver — Carol’s never-before-mentioned nephew who came to stay with the Bradys while his parents lived in South America (?!?) —was a transparent attempt to add a cute kid to the cast at a point when the rest of the Brady kids were nearly grown up, and he never quite fit in. It’s not his fault the show was cancelled soon after,but Cousin Oliver’s name will still live on forever in TV infamy.
Kennedy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The annoying potential slayer who joinedBuffyin its final season had a grating sense of entitlement and an inability to keep her mouth shut. And after Kennedy started dating Head Witch in Charge Willow, her insistence on calling the shots — despite her junior status as part of the group of potentials —was infuriating. (We’re aware the show was all about female empowerment, but c’mon woman, know your place!)
Billie Jenkins, Charmed
For the record, this recognition comes through no fault of then-19-year-old Kaley Cuoco, who joined the WB drama’s final season amid budget cuts, creative roadblocks and the forced departures of several beloved series regulars. Rather than being seamlessly integrated into the show as a supporting character, Cuoco’s whiney witch Billie was thrust into the spotlight, eventually (and begrudgingly) pulling focus from the core three. But hey, don’t take our word for it. In one episode, Billie actually apologizes to the sisters, telling them, “I know I can be a huge pain in the ass sometimes.”
Ashley, Criminal Minds
FBI trainee Ashley Seaver met the BAU midway through Season 6, as she helped them investigate a serial killer — seeing as her own dad was one! She promptly joined the team as a probationary agent, after which Rachel Nichols (Alias, Continuum) became a series regular. Fans, though, saw Ashley as a Clarice Starling wannabe, and the mere appearance that she was a “replacement” for JJ (after A.J. Cook was dropped due to controversial budget cuts) didn’t help matters. By the time Season 7 rolled around, Ashley had quietly been transferred to another team.
After churning out a series-best run with Season 4, Dexter returned with a dud in Season 5, and her name was Lumen. Not only did actress Julia Stiles seem out of place on the show, but the character sucked up far too much of Dexter’s time, time we wish had been focused on Dex or spent with other characters. Lumen’s presence was a dull misstep for the show which had already been killing it (pun intended) for years. Thankfully, we only had to suffer through one season of her storylines before she was kicked to the curb.
Dave Malucci, ER
Erik Palladino and his bleached hair never really fit in at County General. His character was one of several attempts the beloved medical drama made to fill the “bad boy” role that’d been recently vacated by George Clooney, but his character was never fleshed out enough for viewers to latch onto him. Because Malucci lacked the compassion and the humility that made Dr. Ross a fan favorite, he just came off as smug. When Kerry showed him the door after two and a half seasons, we were thrilled.
Ramsay Bolton, Game of Thrones
A bastard in more ways than one, Roose Bolton’s legitimized son significantly upped the HBO drama’s cruelty quotient when he first appeared in Season 3. And what purpose did he serve, really, other than to torture Reek (fka Theon) and Sansa as he saw fit? Death by hungry hounds was far too easy an exit for such an inhumane creature.
April Nardini, Gilmore Girls
After years of bad timing and private jealousies, Luke and Lorelai had at last paired up, worked through their initial breakup and gotten engaged. So… enter April to blow it all up! Sure, it was sweet to watch Luke the Curmudgeon navigate parenthood. But April’s Season 6 introduction as his long-lost daughter was an uncharacteristically soapy plot twist for Gilmore Girls, and her presence drove a frustrating wedge between two characters who deserved a much more blissful romance.
Ivy Dickens, Gossip Girl
Ivy was one of the manyGossip Girl characters that joined during the show’s later seasons but immediately made up for lost time by raising hell on the Upper East Side. Though Kaylee DeFer’s character initially claimed to be Serena’s cousin Charlie Rhodes, we later found out that Ivy was an actress who Serena’s aunt hired to play her daughter. You would think this revelation would be the end of the Ivy saga, but unfortunately, she continued to wreak havoc by dating Serena’s on-again, off-again boyfriend Dan and his dad Rufus and also Serena’s dad William, publishing all of this and more in the autobiography she wrote at the end of the series.
Nikki and Paulo, Lost
Filed under “Be careful what you wish for,” Nikki and Paulo (played by Kiele Sanchez and Rodrigo Santoro) were introduced early in Season 3, as at least viewers wondered, “Why do we never get to know any other castaways?” Yeah, well…. Even showrunner Damon Lindelof had to acknowledge amid the early backlash that the former soap star character and her con artist beau were “universally despised” by fans, though he asserted they would wind up “iconic characters.” And maybe he was right, seeing as 10 episodes into their run, they ended up (presumed) dead, buried alive!
Zach Welles, Nashville
The Mark Zuckerberg wannabe who arrived in Music City in Season 5 claimed to be a Rayna Jaymes super fan. But the best thing we can say about him is that, after a red herring storyline, he didn’t turn out to be the person stalking the First Lady of Country Music. Instead, he’ll go down inNashville history as the dork with power who managed to make Rayna’s final months an entrepreneurial nightmare (and who had little sympathy for Highway 65 and a grieving Deacon afterward).
Coach, New Girl
Don’t get us wrong… we loved Damon Wayans Jr. in the New Girl pilot. And we loved him even more as Happy Endings’ Brad. But by the time ABC pulled the plug on Happy Endings and Wayans returned to Apt. 4D, his services were no longer needed. Coach’s comeback messed with the group dynamic far more than Nick and Jess’ relationship ever did, and it always felt like the show was struggling to find storylines for Coach before he disappeared again ahead of Season 5.
Robert California, The Office
James Spader’s enigmatic businessman first popped up in the Season 7 finale, joining a number of big-name guest stars who could potentially fill the void left by Steve Carell. At the time, Robert California seemed like a good fit: an oddball, yeah, but confident in a way that was new and funny for Dunder Mifflin Scranton’s goofballs. All that charisma, though, was stamped out when Spader joined full-time in Season 8, replaced by an unnerving smugness that robbed The Office of its usual joy. Needless to say, we weren’t bummed to see Robert go at the end of that year.
Jacinda, Once Upon a Time
As if the ABC fantasy series’ “requel” Season 7 didn’t have enough going against it — trying as it did to forge on without original cast members Jennifer Morrison, Josh Dallas and Ginny Goodwin — the introduction of a new Cinderella (Devious Maids‘ Dania Ramirez) did not fly with longtime viewers who either (1) longed to instead see Jessy Schram’s OG princess and/or (2) wanted better chemistry between grown-up Henry and his own One True Love.
This annoying little pipsqueak is basically the Cousin Oliver of animated characters. When the Scooby gang started getting a little long in the tooth, Hanna-Barbera added eager young pup Scrappy-Doo to the mix, first unveiling him in the 1979 series Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo. He did help keep the franchise afloat throughout the ’80s, but die-hard Scooby fans never warmed up to him — to the point where he was made the villain in the 2002 live-action Scooby-Doo movie.
Cole Aaronson, Scrubs
Dave Franco’s frat-boy energy just didn’t mesh with the rest of the new class introduced in Season 9 — the quasi-med school spinoff that first introduced us to the likes of Halt and Catch Fire’s Kerry Bishé and character actor Michael Mosley. Drew was a privileged white kid with no redeeming qualities. It took a brush with cancer to show that there was a real human inside — and by that point, it was too late. The series was cancelled one episode later.
Russ Hanneman, Silicon Valley
We get it: The billionaire tech bro played by Chris Diamantopoulos was supposed to be obnoxious — and he was. Very much so. With his brash swagger and obsession with attaining “three commas,” Russ stood in stark contrast to the nerdy Pied Piper guys when he arrived in Season 2, but he always rubbed us the wrong way. We were happy to see less of him in later seasons.
Oy. Introduced in Season 5 as a “renowned reporter” with a modicum of international flair, William “Will” Dey was positioned as a love (or at least crush) interest for the titular Kara, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who saw a spark ‘tween the two. The fact that such an extraneous character was kept around for the Arrowverse series’ sixth and final season was a mystery.
Randy Pearson, That ‘70s Show
This beloved comedy should’ve ended as soon as Topher Grace bailed. But because a hit’s a hit, Fox kept it going one season too long and brought in Seth Meyers’ well-coifed brother Josh in Season 8 to play Laura Prepon’s new love interest. Suffice it to say, the storyline didn’t go over well, and when Netflix revived the franchise as That ‘90s Show, Randy’s character received nary a mention.
Cindy Snow, Three's Company
Faced with a contract holdout by star Suzanne Somers, the producers thought they could solve things by replacing her with Jenilee Harrison, who joined the hit ABC sitcom in Season 5 as Chrissy’s equally airheaded cousin Cindy Snow. But the roommate swap didn’t take: Harrison, a former NFL cheerleader with little acting experience, couldn’t keep up with the show’s frantic pace and stuck out like a sore thumb. The show rebounded a season later, though, by bringing in Priscilla Barnes as nurse Terri, making her the third roommate and showing Cindy the door.
Nora Gainesborough, True Blood
Incest alert! Even though Eric and his estranged sister Nora (Lucy Griffiths) weren’t technically related — they were merely turned by the same vampire — their hookups had us tapping out midway through the HBO drama’s fifth season. Maybe it’s because Eric insisted on saying things like: “We fight like siblings, but we f–k like champions!”Honestly, he and Nora walked so Jaime and Cersei Lannister could run. And not in a good way.
Jenny Harper, Two and a Half Men
Despite popular belief, it was the departure of Angus T. Jones, not Charlie Sheen, that derailed Two and a Half Men. Although Jake was barely present for the first two seasons of Ashton Kutcher’s tenure, the powers that be felt the need to replace him once he bailed, and in his place (for a season, anyway) was Charlie’s never-before-seen daughter Jenny, whose sole defining trait was that she slept with as many women as her father.
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