Even when a show begins life being popular, that doesn’t mean it stays stagnant. Casts can change. Sometimes characters leave, but other times characters show up and are added into the mix. Sure, they don’t always work out (we’re looking at you, Cousin Oliver) but just as often these new characters are a welcome addition to the mix. These are some characters that weren’t around when a show began but joined in on the fun eventually. We’re talking regular characters, by the way. Not folks who popped in a few times later in a show’s run.
“Cheers” added a few characters during the show’s run, and they all worked out well. We’re not knocking Woody or Rebecca by any means. However, we had to primarily focus on Frasier here. After all, who else got their own spinoff? Personally, we feel like “Frasier” is even better than “Cheers.”
“Parks and Recreation” took a little while to get going, and you know what definitely helped? The addition of Ben Wyatt and Chris Traeger, as played by Adam Scott and Rob Lowe respectively. Chris had the clearer hook, as his whole thing was sky-high optimism. However, as a character, Ben was more important, and also more three-dimensional. Plus, he invented Cones of Dunshire.
Well, we didn’t include Woody Boyd, but we can include a different Woody. In “Psych,” most of the people who Shawn Spencer interacts with are more serious than him. That’s not the case with good ol’ Woody Strode, though. The coroner is a completely absurd person, but a delightful one to watch. Maybe it’s all that time spent around dead people?
OK, so maybe Andy is a little polarizing. Indeed, the show had some issues with the characterization of Ed Helms’ Andy, especially after they tried to basically use him to replace Michael Scott. That didn’t work, but before that, he was a great character and a welcome foil to the rest of the Dunder-Mifflin crew.
Over the years, different folks would pop up on “Lost.” Some of them worked, while others did not. Ben Linus, though, was a vital addition. He really added some drive and energy, as well as mystery, to the show that already had a ton of mystery to it. Hey, there had to be more to the show than supernatural elements. Sometimes, you need an old-fashioned human villain.
When Saul Goodman was added to “Breaking Bad,” there was no way anybody imagined where it would go. The criminal lawyer was a bit of comedic relief, but he still worked in the serious landscape of the iconic AMC show. Bob Odenkirk’s role proved so well-received he was given a spinoff. Now, somehow, Odenkirk is a beloved dramatic actor as well.
In the not-too-distant future, a guy named Joel Robinson was sent into outer space as part of a mad scientist’s experiment. That was the initial hook of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Eventually, show creator Joel Hodgson would leave the show, which means somebody had to step in as the human face of “MST3K.” That role went to Mike Nelson, who was already working as a writer on the show. Thus began the heated “Joel vs. Mike” debate.
As befitting a political show, the folks around Selina Meyer on “Veep” came and went. We could have gone with Ben or Kent, but they were more of the same caustic cynicism. Richard, on the other hand, is a completely different energy. He brings positivity - dare we say optimism - to Washington D.C.? Sam Richardson was so funny in the role, and it was great to have Richard to counterbalance everybody else.
After the first season of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” the folks at FX were happy with the show but wanted to add a celebrity name to try and get more ratings. Wanting to keep the show going, the “Always Sunny” gang agreed. Fortunately, Danny DeVito was willing to sign on as Frank, the father to Dennis and Dee. DeVito fit right into the gross, raunchy world of “Always Sunny,” and somehow Frank is the most depraved of them all.
“The Walking Dead” has added (and subtracted) characters with as much frequency as any other show. While some love Negan, because they love bad guys, we feel like there are better characters. Take, for example, Maggie. As played by Laura Cohan, she was quickly adopted as a fan favorite. It’s easier to get hooked on a character who isn’t just pure evil like Negan, and also Negan’s introduction is one of the least favorite aspects of the show for many.
The core four of “Seinfeld” remained steady, but a lot of characters were one-off additions to the show. Then, there’s Newman. In his first “appearance,” he was just a voice, and his voice was originally provided by Larry David. Then, they decided to make him a real character, Wayne Knight was hired, and the rest was history. Friend to Kramer, foe to Jerry, Newman is an odious delight.
Speaking of Larry David, on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” he likes to surround himself with talented, quick minds. No addition to the show provided more energy than J.B. Smoove as Leon. Smoove’s energy, in real life and on-screen, was at a 12 out of 10 all of the time. He makes the perfect foil for Larry, and the show sometimes feels as much like it’s Leon’s show since his addition.
Spike wasn’t supposed to stick around “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” very long. He was supposed to be the villainous opposite of Angel. Then, James Marsters knocked it out of the park, and fans came to love Spike. He ended up running the gamut on the show, becoming something of an anti-hero in time, and even becoming a love interest. That’s quite the ride for ol’ Spike.
Mary Richards worked on a news show, but other programs were shot in her building. One of those shows, “The Happy Homemaker” was hosted by Sue Ann Nivens. On her show, Sue Ann was all sweet and cheery. Behind the scenes, though, she was a combative maneater with voracious appetites. Of course, being played by the iconic Betty White definitely helps with Sue Anne’s popularity.
“The Bob Newhart Show” was a hit, but it took a little while for his second sitcom, “Newhart,” to find its footing. One of the big things that helped? Replacing the character of Leslie with her cousin Stephanie. Leslie never really stood out, but Stephanie was great. Coming from a rich family, Steph was haughty, snotty, and vain. She was also hilarious, a truly great comedy character.
As “Happy Days” went on, the characters that were once young teenagers became a little older. That meant the show wanted to add another character to try and add a little youthful flair. Enter Chachi, the younger cousin of The Fonz. Basically, a Fonz for the next generation. Ultimately, Chachi would also become Joanie’s love interest, and the series finale became Joanie and Chachi’s wedding. No need to get into the actor who played Chachi and what he’s up to now.
Since different seasons of “The Wire” focused on different areas of Baltimore, that meant new characters were showing up all the time. Of course, the violent nature of the show also meant a lot of characters – even beloved ones – would die unexpectedly (Where’s Wallace?). Policeman Howard “Bunny” Colvin wasn’t added until midway through the show’s run, and he became one of the best additions for the show, one who had a relatively happy ending.
When “The Big Bang Theory” began, it was just four dudes and Penny and a bunch of broad jokes about superheroes and “nerd” stuff. While we personally never came to really love the immensely popular show, this isn’t merely about our preference. It’s about characters added to shows that people came to love, and Mayim Bialik’s Amy is definitely one of those. She actually proved vital to giving the show new energy, and she gave Sheldon a narrative direction as well, which he really needed.
“Supernatural” has a devoted fan base, and much of that is dedicated to the Winchester brothers. That being said, those fans made room for other characters in their heart as well, and Castiel may very well be the third-most-favorite character on “Supernatural” for many. Hey, he did bring one of the Winchester brothers back from Hell. That earns you some brownie points.
A lot of characters introduced to “The Sopranos” that made a big impact didn’t stick around very long. Sure, we all remember the turns of Steve Buscemi and Joe Pantoliano, but they burnt brightly and swiftly. Robert Baccalieri, aka Bobby Bacala, is a different story. Introduced as a soldier of Tony’s mafia family early in the second season, Bobby would move up the organizational chart into the sixth and final season.
Famously, “Game of Thrones” shocked a lot of people by killing off Nedd Stark early in the show’s run. It wasn’t all about characters unexpectedly dying, though. Sometimes we got new characters added that really made an impact too. Brienne of Tarth is definitely one of those. She was a formidable battler and an imposing figure, and not just because of her height. We certainly don’t want to mess with Brienne.
Honestly, we forgot that Chloe wasn’t on “24” when it began. We got so used to seeing the computer whiz talking Jack through issues in real-time that it feels weird to remember she wasn’t always there. Maybe the fact she went goth for the revamp is what makes her so indelible to us. Somebody at “24” had just seen “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” we assume.
Jimmy Smits has been added into a couple of shows, and it usually has worked out. He was solid on “The West Wing,” though those later seasons of the show aren’t as appreciated. That’s not true of Smits’ time on “NYPD Blue,” however. Bobby Simone is one of the show’s indelible characters and the favorite of many.
Different members of Samantha’s family showed up from time to time on “Bewitched,” much to the dismay of Darrin. Both Darrins, in fact. Agnes Moorhead was there from the beginning as Endora, but in the second season, we got the first appearance of Paul Lynde as Uncle Arthur. Lynde’s performance is so specific – and so very Paul Lynde – that he has become one of the standout memories from the show. There’s a reason they had Steve Carell play Uncle Arthur in that terrible “Betwitched” movie.
The world of “Mad Men” evolved quite a bit over its run. We really dug a few of the characters added into the mix. We could have shouted out Megan or Bob Benson (not great, Bob!) or several others. That being said, Lane feels like the most substantive of the bunch. His role is vital, his death tragic, and his name on the company for a while. Maybe he hasn’t been memed like Bob, but in terms of popular additions, Lane gets our love.