OMFG? Not so much . . . – The Top Ten “Been There, Seen That” Teen Television Cliches (Part 1 of 2)

It is probably no secret to anyone who has ever stopped by this blog before (or even just examined the above “collage”), that I am a sucker for Trash-tastic Teen Television.  I have been a fan of these types of shows since the age of eight.  That was when I first decided that I desperately wanted to be a teen.  And I have no doubt that I will remain a fan, long after I have cruised past “old age,” and am forced to squint through my coke bottle glasses, and smile through my dentures, at the sight of some pipsqueaks (who bear a suspicious resemblance to my grandkids) attending prom on my small screen.

“That is one hot threesome.  Oh, when I think back to my first threesome . . . ah memories!”

Having been around the “teenage television” block quite a bit since my eighth birthday, I have come to notice a few patterns among my favorite teen dramas.  Over the years, I have watched in wonder, as certain storylines traveled across decades,  time zones, and networks, just to reach my lowly television set, over and over (and over and over) again . . .  So I’ve decided to investigate these storylines, in hopes of FINALLY figuring out what makes them so “gosh darn special!”

1) “Hit me with a baby, one more time!” – The Pregnancy Scare and/or Actual Pregnancy Plotline

The Storyline: Our teen female protagonist has sex . . . usually for the first time.  Her partner is either a long, LONG time boyfriend, with whom she has been discussing doing the deed for the ENTIRE season . . .

 Or, conversely, he is a one night-stand, who she (a) barely knows; or (b) seemingly despises.  There is never any in between. 

In the very next scene, our protagonist learns that she has missed her period.  She is FLIPPING THE F&CK OUT!

She keeps her discovery a secret from everyone, except for her best friend.  And the best friend is inevitably the one who convinces the protagonist to take the pregnancy test.

Regardless of the pregnancy test’s ultimate result, inevitably there comes a time when our protagonist has to have “The Discussion” with “The Maybe Baby Daddy.” 

 Sometimes, he takes it well . .  . usually, he doesn’t . . . at least, not at first.

Now, if the protagonist ends up not being pregnant . . . well then . . . THAT’S IT!  Our protagonist is RELIEVED!  She feels brand NEW!  She’s CHANGED!

She will pretend this whole little sweeps week episode never happened (or, in the case of Manny Santos, and Degrassi, the U.S. will pretend this whole episode never happened . . . by NOT AIRING IT, until about 3 years after it was actually filmed).  However, if our protagonist IS pregnant . . . we get stuck with a baby storyline for ALL ETERNITY (or at least it will seem that way  . . .)!

Examples: Brenda on 90210 (not actually pregnant); Andrea on 90210 (actually pregnant / had baby / raised baby); Summer on The O.C. (not actually pregnant); Manny on Degrassi: The Next Generation (actually pregnant / had abortion); Liberty on Degrassi: The Next Generation (pregnant / had baby / gave baby up for adoption); Emma on Degrassi: The Next Generation (not actually pregnant / feeling left out because EVERYONE else on her show actually was); Blair on Gossip Girl (not actually pregnant);  Georgina on Gossip Girl (To Be Determined?); Amy on Secret Life of the American Teenager (actually pregnant / had baby / is raising baby); Quinn on Glee (actually pregnant / had baby / gave baby up for adoption).

Why it’s a cliche?

“Hey there, boys and girls!  I’ve got a message for you!  Premarital sex is BAAAAAAAAD!”

Teen television programs tend to be written by adults.  And even the most hip and forward thinking adults, don’t like to think about their 15-year old kids f*c*ing eachother’s brains out like bunny rabbits on acid. 

So they ever so subtly try to scare the crap out of their kids, by showing them how having sex once can RUIN THEIR LIVES FOREVER!  It doesn’t really work . . .

This storyline is SO overdone that precisely NO ONE is shocked or dismayed by the prospect of a female protagonist  . . . missing her period.  Hey writers, want to REALLY scare your kids celibate?  Give your television characters crabs. 

That will permanently glue your teen’s legs shut for sure!

2) “OH NO!  You killed .  . . what’s his name again?” – The Death of the Peripheral Character Plotline


The Storyline:  There is this recurring character on your favorite show that has becoming increasingly annoying, of late. 

You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you just think the character really sucks. 

And you can’t wait for him or her to leave your television screen ALONE! 

You spend WAY too much time bashing this minor character on online message boards, and in snarky recaps of the show.  In those messages, you may or may not beg the show’s writers for said character’s untimely demise. 

Then the character actually DIES. 

And you’re secretly happy that you got what you wanted. 

But NOW you’re convinced you are very sh*tty person.  Because, REALLY, what kind of nice, normal person is HAPPY when someone dies, real or fake?  Even though very few of the characters on your show seemed to like this character any more than you did, while he was alive, they all make a big show of mourning and /or having a funeral for him or her.  

Your favorite character will inevitably give the eulogy for this character.  And it will be all warm, and fuzzy, and heartfelt . . . and, of course, totally depressing. 

And YOU will surprise yourself by crying like a baby when you watch it (probably out of guilt for openly hating the character so much . . . or . . .  maybe the scene just reminds you of a dead relative).  After the episode airs, the show’s entire cast will COMPLETELY forget that this dead character ever existed . . .

Examples: Scott on 90210, Abby on Dawson’s Creek; Rick on Degrassi: The Next Generation, Johnny on The O.C., that dude Serena supposedly “killed” on Gossip Girl, Percy and Reed on Grey’s Anatomy (not technically a teen show, but still . . .), Vicki on The Vampire Diaries

Why it’s a cliche?  The “Very Special” Dead Person episode of any teen show is sure to be a ratings grabber, no matter how unlikeable the soon-to-be dead character was before he met his demise.  Plus, killing any character on their show (even if it’s just a one-episode guest star) allows producers to run that oh-so-original . . . “SOMEBODY WILL DIE!” promo the week before their episode airs, and you know how ALL producers LOVE that promo! 

3) “Hot for Teacher!” – The Inappropriate Student / Teacher Relationship Plotline

The Storyline:  The protagonist has a crush on his or her very attractive (yet obviously lonely, and very desperate), teacher. 

The teacher makes a lame ass attempt to rebuff the protagonists affections, but fails miserably. 

Soon the student and the teacher are doing the horizontal mambo together in secret. 

Someone always finds out.  Someone always exposes them for the sluts they both are. 

It always ends badly . . .

Examples: Pacey and Miss Jacobs on Dawson’s Creek, Paige and Mr. O on Degrassi: The Next Generation, Dan and Miss Carr on Gossip Girl, Aria and Mr. Fitz on Pretty Little Liars

Why it’s a cliche?  Forbidden love is HOT!  And cougars are all the rage!  Plus, who HASN’T had a crush on one of their teachers and indulged in a naughty fantasy, or two (or twenty) involving same? 

 Mine was my freshman history teacher in high school.  He was pretty young, compared to most of my teachers at that time . . . probably in his mid-to-late twenties . . . and single.  Actually, he kind of looked like this . . .

 . . . only he was a wee bit older . . . and he generally wore shirts (unfortunately).  Coincidentally, Mr. Devlin, if your reading this . . . 😉

4) “Cheaters never win, and winners never . . . whatever.” – The Cheating on a Test / Plagiarism Plotline

Storyline: The protagonist REALLY needs to pass a particular test or ace a certain paper.  He or she is under a lot of external pressure to do so. 

 But something happens, so that he or she doesn’t have time to do the appropriate amount of studying and /or research.  He or she is tempted, upon receiving answers to the test or a pre-written paper, to . . . CHEAT!

The protagonist struggles with whether or not to enter into the dark evil world of “school crime,” but ultimately does. 

Because the character cheated, he or she does so well on the test or paper that his teacher inevitably wants to enter him or her in some national competition of some sort related to the aforementioned paper or test.  Smothered by guilt, the character eventually comes clean.  He or she then gets in trouble . . . 

But not in nearly as much trouble as the character would, if caught, in . . . say . . . the REAL WORLD . . .

“It can’t possibly be worse than when I got that awful haircut . . .”

Examples: Felicity on Felicity, Andie on Dawson’s Creek, Rusty on Greek, Lindsay and Daniel on Freaks and Geeks, Spencer on Pretty Little Liars

Why it’s a cliche?  One word:  schadenfreude.  You see, here’s the thing . . . every teen show has that one uptight overachieving character, who always gets A’s, is super judgmental of all of her “less brilliant” friends, and never seems to do anything wrong.  Admit it!  It’s kind of fun to see tight asses like that crack under the pressure . . .

Make that VERY fun!

5) “I’m gonna do real bad things to you .  . . and make you DO real bad things!”  – The “Bad Influence” Plotline

The Storyline: Our protagonist is going through kind of a “rough patch” in his or her life.  He or she is therefore looking to let loose, and have some sort of emotional and/or physical release.  In walks a character who is fun, adventurous, and more than a little dangerous. 

Our protagonist starts hanging out with the “dangerous” character a lot. 

(Click the internal link to watch!)

Before you know it, he or she is behaving just like the “dangerous” character, and getting into all sorts of trouble as a result.   

 The protagonists other friends are jealous of all the fun their typically boring protagonist is now having.  But they are also worried.  Inevitably, the moment comes when protagonist is about to get into a cr*p load of trouble with the “dangerous” character. 

 The friends stage an intervention of sorts. 

It works!

 The dangerous character rides away on the evil broomstick by which it came.  All is, once again, right (and boring) with the world . . .

Examples: Abby influencing Jen on Dawson’s Creek, Georgina influencing Serena on Gossip Girl, Damon influencing Caroline on The Vampire Diaries, “The Freaks” influencing Lindsay on Freaks and Geeks, that character Paul Wesley played on Everwood influencing Hannah on Everwood, that character Paul Wesley played on The O.C. influencing Ryan and Seth on The O.C.

Why it’s a cliche?  Everybody’s got a dark side.  Secretly, we all want to be a little “bad” sometimes.  The good news is that we can do it safely and vicariously, by watching our favorite “good” television characters “go bad,” albeit temporarily.  They have fun while doing it . . . and so do we, at least until their lame friends bring them back to earth.

Well, that’s all the teen television cliches I have for tonight.  But please tune in tomorrow, when I tackle love triangles, love-hate relationships, prom, the ever enlightening “trip to Europe,” and, of course, the dreaded ski trip  .  . .


Filed under Freaks and Geeks, Glee, Gossip Girl, Greek, Pretty Little Liars, The O.C., The Vampire Diaries, Top Ten Lists

10 responses to “OMFG? Not so much . . . – The Top Ten “Been There, Seen That” Teen Television Cliches (Part 1 of 2)

  1. Amazon Annie

    KJewls, you are so right! Although my only connection to “teen shows” was the few moments I saw every time I was telling my daughter to “Shut off that TV and do your homework!” The cliches really do ring true… even in adult shows. Pregnancies, inappropriate relationships, cheating and/or lying… etc. etc. I won’t bore any of your readers with examples from old adult shows. They’d probably said, “Geez, I never heard of that show” or more than likely “Who cares!” Suffice it to say your cliches are right on the mark. AND your blog made me laugh AGAIN!
    Thanks for the fun! Keep up the great work!

    • Awww, thanks Amazon Annie! And, well said! Many of these cliches definitely carry over to “adult” programs as well. When I was coming up with my “examples,” for this blog post, I found that I kept listing shows like “True Blood,” “Lost,” “Big Love” etc. and then stopping myself, because they are all “adult” programs.

      It just goes to show you, that a lack of creativity can exist at any age! 🙂

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  3. imaginarymen

    FYI – David Silver DID get crabs from Ariel the Record Company Slut he cheated on Donna with!

    This is a fabulous topic – it is so true that Cheesy Teen Dramas use the same plots over and over again and yet I KEEP WATCHING THEM!!!

    Oooh I can’t wait till you cover my fav of these plot lines – The Love Triangle!!

    • OMG – David Silver had CRABS? I totally must have blocked this out of my childhood memories! Do you remember being in school the first time you were given “the talk” about STDs? I definitively recall learning about crabs, and thinking that one was FAR WORSE than any of the other ones. The mental picture I had of little red snapping crabs crawling around down there gave me nightmares for weeks!

      Lately, “the STD” has become its own sub-category on teen dramas. On Degrassi, Emma Nelson gets gonhorrea from giving someone a BJ (Canadians are so much racier than us Americans). And on Veronica Mars, Veronica gets drugged, raped, AND gets chlamydia as a result . . . the Trifecta of Fun! (I’m inserting the clip here, as part of my evil plot to get you to Netflix Veronica Mars . . .)

  4. imaginarymen

    Oh I’ll Netflix VM – some day! (gotta do “Firefly” for my boy Nathan Fillion first tho!)

  5. I love the silly cliché on my tv screen, it makes me wonder how many times this has been done.

    Pregger storyline… I’m convinced that if the tv teen drama show doesn’t have one they’re doing something wrong or something. (Except for Boy Meets World because that was more comedy than drama)

    I hate that they convince people that it only take one time. Or at least try to convince people that sex is a horrible thing only meant for “adult” to understand.

    “In the very next scene, our protagonist learns that she has missed her period. She is FLIPPING THE F&CK OUT!” lmao ahh the freak outs are the best parts.

    Puck was one of the few to actually take it pretty well. (Key word: few) Hell he’s one of the few who said he’ll take care of her and her kid right after finding out that Quinn is preggo. And she REJECTS him.

    US vs abortion… yeah we can be prudes about it. Manny going with the abortion was actually the only who may have scared parents because it may it seem like teenage have… choices *shocked*. Secret Life may go in the similar direction doubt because that show screams Christen show. Brenda Hampton anyone?

    Ooohhh… Brooke Davis on One Tree Hill. Lucas basically flipped out and told her that it may as well not have been his since she slept with Chris Keller. Oh return of the douche. Dear lord that whole show is just one big cliche. Oh then Hayle, but she was married. And then Peyton. Ok so everyone had a preggo’s at one point in this tv show. Like they love this storyline.

    The way they handle the SL on Secret Life was so bad. Which is sad since that was the who synopsis: teenagers who do stupid mistake that might as well affect everyone, even though who’s opinion really don’t matter.

    Lmao the rabbit, going at like rabbits lmao

    Death of non-important but somewhat important character. Not particularly my favorite plot, gives the main character an excuse to give the ugly crying face. And we know how that can go.

    Serena is the queen of bad crying faces and Dawson is the king.

    When Bart died from GG I was actually upset that they went in that route becasue I actually liked him (whoa). OTH had like 4 or 5 people die (Jimmy Edwards, Keith Scott, Nanny Carrie, Quentin, was there anyone else?? Oh Peyton should have died too, just because I hated her :D)

    “And YOU will surprise yourself by crying like a baby when you watch it (probably out of guilt for openly hating the character so much . . . or . . . maybe the scene just reminds you of a dead relative). After the episode airs, the show’s entire cast will COMPLETELY forget that this dead character ever existed . . .”

    *Nods* It’s happened.

    The teacher SL… Oh that’s ugh… And they know it will end badly but still they feel strongly about someone they barely know (looking at Aria (PLL))

    Although my US student teacher, Mr. Atria was hot and dear me if you had seen him you would have said the same thing. I wondering…

    Cheater never win lol I can’t understand what teenager would ever admit to cheating on a test. I mean if you gonna use someone else’s work then paraphrase (make your life some much easlier). Like didn’t tv teach these kids anything?

    They did this on the Simpson too 🙂 Poor Bart lol

    “Admit it! It’s kind of fun to see tight asses like that crack under the pressure . . .” Yes, yes it is fun to see that.

    Baddie friends, I love those guest stars. Well most of the time. Favorite: Georgina Sparks because all she has to do is show up and everyone runs scared. Worst: Abby was annoying like shut up already.

    Would Brooke be the baddie trying to influence Peyton and Hayle? Or would Rachel be the baddie that influences Brooke?

    Anywho I love this and can’t wait to read the rest of the cliché that surround our small screens

    • That is SO TRUE! If EVERYBODY got pregnant the first time they had sex, the world’s fertility clinics would be out of business! If I was a prospective mom trying and failing to get pregnant, watching these shows would really PISS ME OFF!

      I remember watching the “Manny Abortion” episode of Degrassi and being really surprised the U.S. reacted so badly to it. After all, by the time it aired, abortion was already very prevalent in the media. And I think the show’s writers handled the episode surprisingly tastefully. It’s not like Manny just haphazardly said, “So, I’m preggers, whatever! Extract that pesky fetus!”

      She really struggled with her decision, and thought out all of the available options. Later on the show, Liberty carries her baby to term and gives it up for adoption and no one batted an eyelash. Us Americans are supposed to be all “advanced and forward thinking.” And we let Canada give us a smackdown . . . tsk, tsk.

      WOW! I forgot how many pregnancies and pregnancy scares they had on OTH! There must be fertility drugs in the water, down at Tree Hill. I’m surprised they don’t have an overpopulation problem . . .

      Haha, you mentioned “Ugly Cry Faces!” Now if that’s not an excuse to post this picture, I don’t know what is . . . null

      Serena’s “I killed someone” statement to Blair on GG was either the best or the worst directed scene on television. I can’t decide which. On one hand, it was super cheesy. And she TOTALLY didn’t end up having killed anyone, not even close. And yet, there was something about the way the scene was shot and how that song “U R A Fever” played in the background, at first softly and then REALLY loudly (I totally downloaded it on my iPod immediately after the episode aired), that actually made my heart rate jump.

      I bawled like a baby during Bart Bass’s funeral, I think more as a result of Ed Westwick’s fab acting than anything else. I also cried quite a bit during Caleb Nichol’ funeral on The O.C. It’s funny, I always used to think Bart Bass and Caleb Nichol were played by the same person. They aren’t. But they look and act exactly alike. They have their own “rich, powerful, and snooty” silver fox dad, who’s an ass, but redeems himself, and then promptly dies cliche.

      Didn’t Peyton’s and Haley’s mom also die on OTH? There were definitely a lot of deaths on that show. Interestingly enough, Quentin’s death affected me the most. I knew it was coming that whole episode, and it still shocked me when it happened. It was so sudden. And then they had the killer come back and wreak havoc on the cast for a few more episodes . ..

      Glad to see I wasn’t the only one with a high school history teacher crush :). I feel better about myself now . . .

      Ever notice how during most of those “cheating / plagiarism” storylines, the student TOTALLY gets away with it, until his or her conscience forces a confession. It’s almost like the writers are telling you, you can absolutely SUCCEED by cheating, as long as your pesky morals don’t get in the way. All those crooks on Wall Street that brought about the recession must have watched A LOT of television back in the day. Where else would they have learned this?

      After the third or fourth time GG brought back Georgina Sparks, she started to grate on my nerves. But I LOVED her when she first appeared on the scene and reverted Serena back to her old boozy, slutty party girl ways! That was fun! I remember everyone always talking about how Serena was a “bad girl.” But except for that one flashback scene with Nate, during Season 1, all you ever saw was her cuddling and whining along with Boring Ass Dan! I kept thinking, “She’s not so bad ass!”

      And then she proved me wrong! Thanks Georgina!

      Nice OTH addition to the “Bad Influence Crew.” Rachel was a fabulous bad girl. And I actually really liked her relationship with Brooke. Like the “Boy Auction” and that time they joined the “Clean Teens” after stealing the math test? HILARIOUS! Brooke was always one of my favorite OTH characters! She was definitely Bad Ass. But I think what was particularly cool about her was that she never tried to influence others to “be bad” with her. She was content on being bad all by herself, while her goody two shoes friends sat home and painted their nails . . .

      Thanks for the awesome commentary . . . and for bringing back some fabulous Teen TV memories, that I totally would have forgotten otherwise.

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  7. Definitely obvious clichés… I also blogged about teen dramas on the CW and their many, oddly hilarious clichés and issues that make them guilty pleasures. Check it out!

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