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Listen, I love teen dramas. But every once in a while they just go a bit off the rails for an episode, and the results are…mixed, to say the least. Here are 24 times teen shows tried something new and it…didn’t exactly work:



When Glee had a hallucination-fueled Muppets episode:

The Glee Club with puppets chasing Artie and Blaine singing with the Glee Club puppets on Glee


Glee was a wild show, but having Blaine hallucinate his friends as Muppets due to a gas leak, and then ending the episode with a performance of the viral “What Does the Fox Say”? I’m gonna mark this down in top five most ridiculously horrible things to ever happen on Glee, and that’s saying something.


When Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended Season 4 with a bunch of weird dreams involving cheese:

Giles (with Harmony trying to bite him) says "the audience wants to find you, strip you naked, and eat you alive, so hide!" and then Spike, posing for the camera in black and white, says he's hired himself as an attraction, and the cheese man appears

The WB

Okay, I’ll be honest, I kind of love this episode because A) it’s utterly bonkers and feels like a fever dream, B) it includes Giles singing, and C) it foreshadows Dawn’s arrival and all the First Slayer stuff. BUT, as a season finale?? It was absolutely not what I was hoping to see. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, as this was Season 4, after all.


When The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina randomly brought in a classic musical number to distract Satan:

Sabrina singing "Masquerade" with her friends (who are in disguise) then dancing with Satan


I still to this day do not understand why Sabrina suddenly turned into a musical. This was, in my memory, the first musical number performed by the characters of the show, and unlike its sister show Riverdale, it didn’t happen during a musical episode and wasn’t a pop song used at a moment that actually made a bit of sense (such as Josie singing at a school event). Why in the world did they choose “Masquerade” from The Phantom of the Opera, of all songs??


When Tina hit her head and hallucinated the glee club members as each other on Glee:

Tina, as Rachel, realizes she's Rachel. Artie (as Santana) tells Tina (as Rachel) that she can't wait to hear her solo in a sarcastic voice. Sue and Will (as each other) argue about a racist comment Will (as Sue) made


Kind of fun to watch, and fun, I’m sure, for the actors, but…there were definitely some problematic caricatures going on here.


When Glee pretended it was It’s a Wonderful Life:

Artie asks Tina why she's stuttering, and Rory answers that she never stopped because they never became friends, then calls himself Artie's Christmas guardian angel


This whole dream-where-Artie-doesn’t-need-a-wheelchair episode just further emphasized the problematic fact that the show hadn’t actually cast someone who needed a wheelchair in Artie’s role. Plus…it was in black and white. Unnecessary.


And so did One Tree Hill:

Lucas asks Keith what the point of being a good person is if this is how it goes, and Keith says, "So you're asking if by being a good person, have you changed anything?"

The CW

AKA, Keith (who was dead, BTW) showed up and presented to Lucas what Tree Hill would be like if he were a dick. Peyton was dead, Brooke was goth, and Karen was the worst. I think the most awkward part of this was that…Lucas kind of was a dick in real life.


And Pretty Little Liars pretended it was A Christmas Carol:


I really don’t get what fascination teen dramas have with old Christmas movies. Also, can we talk about how bad this wig was? And the fact that Mona wasn’t even dead, so couldn’t be a ghost?


When 90210 gave Annie a coma dream about what would’ve happened if she hadn’t moved from Kansas:

Dixom sitting on the couch with Navid

The CW

Leave it to Annie to be self-involved enough to think everyone’s lives would be entirely different without her (what the hell did she have to do with Teddy coming out?). Liam was a drug dealer, Naomi was poor, and Dixon was a famous rapper who apparently lived in the same house Annie and Naomi lived in in Season 4? And we’re to expect that all these characters still met each other in this alternate timeline? Honestly, it was pretty pointless, and definitely the least fun of the “what if” episodes I’ve seen.


Similarly, when The O.C. gave Ryan a coma dream where he’d never moved in with the Cohens:

Ryan in a coma


What is it with teen shows and having their characters dream up alternate universes while in a coma?? The entire premise of the show is Ryan coming to the O.C. — that’s what makes it interesting! Does it really matter what would’ve happened if he hadn’t??


And when One Tree Hill had an episode about what would’ve happened if Dan had chosen Karen and not Deb:

Deb and Haley at Deb's Cafe and Lucas and Dan in a weightroom

The WB

Ah yes, another “what if” episode. If I’m ever in a coma, I am going to be very disappointed if I don’t have a vivid dream of what would have happened had my life gone down a different path.


When One Tree Hill had a couple episodes in a weird dream state where ghost Clay and Quinn watched themselves struggling to live:

Quinn saying "they don't see me" and Clay responding "I do" and showing her her comatose body

The CW

Why did they make these poor teen drama actors pretend they were in a mix of The Invisible and Just Like Heaven?


And when it had an episode inexplicably set in the 1920s:

Dan pointing a gun next to Brooke and an old car and Lucas protecting Peyton

The CW

Why do teen dramas want to be old movies so badly??


Similarly, when Pretty Little Liars had a “noir” episode in black and white:


What is it with teen dramas and dream episodes?? I have never had a dream this vivid!!


When Pretty Little Liars decided to introduce psychic visions and a haunted town:

Caleb sees his own grave


This was basically the backdoor pilot for the show’s weird ghost spinoff with Caleb — need I say more? Between the 19th century costumes, Mrs. Grunwald’s psychic visions, and Caleb seeing his own grave, this episode was just so odd.


Similarly, when Riverdale dabbled in the supernatural in Season 3:

The CW

They later explained away the baby levitation as a hallucination, and the gargoyle king ended up being human, but I still feel like some of this HAD to be supernatural.


When Riverdale had Archie kill himself in a dream world:

The CW

This is by far the weirdest thing that has ever happened on Riverdale. Archie got mauled by a bear and then spent an episode in a dream state where his friends turned against him and he had to beat a version of himself with a baseball bat to “kill his past self.” Even for Riverdale, this was too much.


When Riverdale ripped off The Breakfast Club:

The CW

It was kind of fun to see the actors play younger versions of their parents, but the Gryphons and Gargoyles plotline was already campy and ridiculous enough without this weird flashback (which, by the way, revealed that Penelope was adopted by the Blossoms in order to marry their son???).


…And The Quiz Show:

Quiz show host asks "What country has the longest coastline in continental Europe?" on Riverdale and Betty says "Norway"

The CW

Riverdale, CHOOSE A GENRE. You will be better for it!! Watching this show sometimes feels like if you were channel surfing but every show and movie had the Riverdale actors.


And when Gossip Girl ripped off Valley Girl:

a young Lily getting arrested and a young Lily and Carol on a bus in the '80s

The CW

This weird flashback to the ’80s was cute, but it was basically just Valley Girl. Why did Gossip Girl think we cared enough about Carol (and even Lily) to see this?? Plus, the New York setting was half of Gossip Girl — going to 1980s Los Angeles was just so out of place.


When Gossip Girl put on a Lady Gaga musical:

Lady Gaga performing on a stage in a red dress

The CW

I could really do a whole post on this episode. I really thought the threesome episode would be the strangest of Season 3, but then the next episode featured Tisch putting on a modern Snow White to Lady Gaga’s songs. It was VERY cringey until Lady Gaga herself inexplicably showed up (how did Blair accomplish this???). Overall, VERY out of place and random.


And when Gossip Girl thought it was a Hitchcock film:

The CW

The episode before the series finale was super overdramatic, but the last scene took the cake. Inexplicably, period music started playing over a scene with Chuck and Bart fighting, and then SOMEHOW Bart ended up dangling off the side of a building. The whole thing was very North by Northwest, and it just…did not work.


When the The Vampire Diaries turned into Groundhog Day:

The CW

Flashbacks to the 1800s were not uncommon in The Vampire Diaries, so at first I didn’t think anything of this. But then it turned out Damon was basically stuck in a hellish time loop he had to fight to get out of. It didn’t advance the plot and it was pointless. Next!


When The Vampire Diaries flashed back to Ancient Greece:

Silas walking with the caption "Ancient Greece, 2000 years ago"

The CW

The Vampire Diaries flashbacks were always fun — sure, the 1800s may not have seemed entirely realistic, but it was recent enough that we all bought it. But…then they decided to flash back 2,000 years. And I’m sorry, but putting CW actors with modern-day makeup in Ancient Greece was just…so odd.


When Teen Wolf brought back Crystal Reed to play her ancestor in flashbacks to the 1700s:


Look, I was stoked to see Crystal Reed back. But…do we really believe Allison’s ancestor looked exactly like her? (Before you come at me saying you were supposed to suspend disbelief here and assume they didn’t look the same, the Beast itself thought he saw Marie-Jeanne when he saw Allison in Scott’s memories.) It was always just kind of weird when Teen Wolf got all ~historical~.

Did I miss any? What were other teen drama episodes or storylines that were just so out of place and random? Let me know in the comments!

If you’d like to check out more alternate universe episodes, TV Tropes helped remind me of a few!

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