Adding new characters to a popular TV show can be a risky move. Sometimes, an unnecessary character is added, doesn’t quite fit in — and ends up being written off seasons later. But sometimes, they add a much-needed spark to a show that may be plateauing and end up becoming an audience favorite. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the best latecomers from our favorite TV shows, whose characters found their way to our hearts. Warning: spoilers ahead!
18 Holly from The Office
As The Office reached its later seasons, there was a whole slew of new characters. Everyone from Erin, Andy, Jo, Gabe, Robert California, and the countless others help bring the show to its triumphant finale. However, there was only one character who made Michael Scott’s departure somewhat bearable — Holly Flax. Making a character who’s perfect for Michael could have easily come off as forced and unnatural. However, the two were equally dorky and cringe-inducing, and it was absolutely beautiful.
17. Rafael Barba from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
New characters come and go like nobody’s business on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. While nearly every District Attorney has been an excellent addition to the show, few seem to stand out like Rafael Barba. He is unbelievably passionate and justice-orientated, but he’s also frustratingly good at his job. He refuses to bend the rules of the law, even if it means complicating things for the SVU. His character adds a lot of stability and interest to every case, and makes sure the detectives are as thorough as possible.
16. Frank Reynolds from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
It’s almost kind of hard to imagine It’s Always Sunny in PhiladelphiawithoutFrank Reynolds. But it’s true, the first season of Always Sunny felt strangely empty. Enter Frank Reynolds, and the show had a new kind of chemistry between all of the twisted characters. As the father of Dennis and Dee, Frank is great because he is absolutely not a father figure. Instead, he’s just as ridiculous and (let’s face it) sociopathic as the rest of the gang.
15. Tracy from How I Met Your Mother
Can we all agree that the final seasons of How I Met Your Mother were a disaster? There was no way for Ted to introduce the character who ends up being his kids’ mother without it being extremely disappointing. I mean, the whole show is just leading up to this one woman. As one of the most highly-anticipated new characters of all time, Tracy (AKA The Mother) from HIMYM honestly exceeded expectations. She had great chemistry with Ted, and fit nicely into the cast. Despite the fact that her character was doomed to be disappointing, she added a great plotline to the closing of the story.
14. Nicky Banks from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air
Although he barely had any lines, Nicky Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air is one of the cutest new character of all time. First of all, he was almost always dressed in a little button-down shirt and bow tie, which was unbelievably adorable. Plus, the little guy added a whole new level of comic relief to the show as many of the characters began to grow up and move out of the house. The best part of Nicky’s character, however, is his relationship with Will. Watching them get into all sorts of schemes together was straight-up heartwarming.
13. Hazel Wassername from 30 Rock
Hazel Wassername of 30 Rock is arguably one of the strangest new characters of all time. While she didn’t really do much for the plot of the show, seeing her bizarre schemes and all the hidden levels of her personality was super entertaining. Her relationship with Kenneth Parcell was both parts interesting and hard to watch. Hazel was great because she helped develop Kenneth’s character, and we got to see deeper into his personal life than ever before.
12. Emily Prentiss from Criminal Minds
Agents are constantly leaving and being added to the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI, but few new characters fit in as well as Emily Prentiss. Not only was she a great agent, she developed serious, special bonds with almost every character, especially Dr. Spencer Reid. She’s incredibly smart and dedicated, and ends up having to fake her death to protect herself. Her sort-of-death leaves many of the characters completely devastated, which made it clear how important her character was. Luckily for us, they reintroduced her a few seasons later.
11. Delphine LaLaurie from American Horror Story
While American Horror Story has new characters every season, one of the best cast members was added season 3 — Kathy Bates. Although she wasn’t on the first two seasons, Kathy made up for lost time in her role as Delphine LaLaurie on American Horror Story: Coven. Her character is so unbelievably twisted and evil that some of her scenes are nearly unbearable. But without LaLaurie, the season would have had little direction. She is seriously complex, and constantly kept audiences guessing.
10. Yvonne “Vee” Parker from Orange is the New Black
Not all new characters are good guys, and no one proves that more than Vee from Orange is the New Black. Her character is a violent, evil sociopath who takes over Litchfield and destroys any semblance of harmony that existing among the women. She’s an expert villain — smart, charming, manipulative and cunning. She can make the girls do whatever she wants by rewarding them for loyalty. She’s responsible for some of the most disturbing scenes on the show, but she certainly added a whole lot of interest.
9. Frasier from Cheers
Frasier was most definitely a key character on Cheers, one of the most popular TV shows of all time. Joining the cast in season three, Frasier was a psychiatrist who dates Diane, and is also Sam’s psychiatrist. His character eventually goes on to marry waitress Diane, who heartbreakingly leaves him at the alter. Needless to say, Frasier’s character added a whole lot of interest to the show and was an extremely lovable character. In fact, his character was so well-loved by audiences, he later had his own spinoff show that ran for eleven seasons, aptly titled Frasier
8. Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Speaking of late-added characters who were audience favorites, we had to talk about Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Spike was another spinoff character whose story and personality were so interesting, his character continued his adventures on the spinoff show — Angel. In Buffy universe, he starts as one of the most fearsome vampires in the world, responsible for killing two slayers.
However, as he is forced to build alliances with Buffy and her gang, his character develops significantly. He eventually falls in love with Buffy, even though his initial reason for coming to Sunnydale was to murder her. Basically, Spike was one of the show’s most well-loved complicated and romantic characters.
7. Ferguson from New Girl
No, you’re not reading that wrong. One of the most important new characters to join New Girl is Winston’s cat, Ferguson. While Ferguson (obviously) doesn’t do much himself, his presence in the apartment is responsible for a significant amount of laughs in the later seasons. We get to see a whole new level of Winston’s weirdness as the two try to double date together, take selfies together, dine together, and talk about life together. Without Ferguson, Winston would be an entirely different character with a lot less to talk about.
6. Jody from The Mindy Project
While Jody is kind of a confusing character, he’s one of the few new characters on The Mindy Project who seemed to stick. The reason he’s so interesting is because he’s objectively not a great guy. He’s super-sexist, kind of racist and very, very traditional. However, he ends up becoming one of the kinder characters on the show, and totally falls for Mindy in an unexpected turn of events. Plus, his relationship with his lovable sister Colette added a breath of fresh air to the show when they joined.
5. Max from Stranger Things
Not all characters are easily-accepted by audiences. Max from Stranger Things kind of seemed unnecessary at first, and some of us were worried she was going to try and replace Eleven. However, Max ended up being a total badass, and a unique character in her own right. She gets along well with the boys, but isn’t afraid to call them on her BS and stand up for herself. Plus, she has that monster of a step brother to deal with, which made her character a lot more sympathetic and interesting. Also, her lil’ fling with Caleb? Adorable.
4. Francesca from Master of None
The best and worst part about Master of None is how real it feels. The situations (especially romantic ones) that all of the characters get into are so seemingly-mundane, but they really cut you to the core because we’ve all experienced them. No one exemplifies this better than one of the show’s new characters, Francesca. Her friendship with Dev quickly turns into a one-sided romance, because she is involved with another man. The dynamic between them is so beautiful but so painful, and she’s the reason season two was so unforgettable.
3. Craig from Parks and Recreation
Craig from Parks and Recreation was one of those new characters that fit in so well, it’s hard to believe the show existed without him. He’s loud, he’s obnoxious, but he’s also clever and hilarious. His dynamic with the rest of the gang, especially the notoriously-chill Donna and April is super fun to watch. He’s unpredictable, over-the-top, and full of surprises. The best part of his character is how unbelievably dedicated he is to his job, and how good at it he is — despite the fact that he comes off as a chaotic disaster.
2. Ben from Parks and Recreation
Speaking of much-needed love interests, we can all probably agree that Ben Wyatt is one of the most necessary new characters of all time. When he and Chris Traeger joined the cast, it was a match made in heaven. Plus, this was the first time one of the Leslie’s love interests was somewhat worthy of her greatness. They balance each other out perfectly, and their romance kept the show going for all of its later seasons.
1. Desmond from Lost
Although Desmond was a latecomer to Lost, he was a great addition to this wild show with a cult following. After arriving on the island after a shipwreck, he quickly became involved with the other characters who survived the crash of flight 815. Desmond was a fan favorite of the show almost immediately and added an entire level of conflict, helping to move the story along by adding an unfamiliar face with some extra information about The Island.