10 Shows Where the Lead Was Eclipsed by Someone Better

Every once in a while a show comes along with a TV character who refuses to play by the rules or be held back by the fact they're technically a member of the supporting cast. In rare cases they shine because the actual lead is kind of insufferable, but it's far more often that a charismatic actor has just been given the right lines at the right time. When this situation happens, it can often lead to the supporting character being given more screentime -- or actually becoming the true star of the series.

Here are 10 shows where the lead was eventually eclipsed by someone better.

1. The O.C.

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Did you know that Ryan Atwood (Ben McKenzie) was technically the lead of The O.C.? It's OK if you didn't, because Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) -- a character the people at Fox hated so much during the pilot process that he was almost aborted -- quickly stole the show with his sarcasm and wit. The bromance between the two teens quickly took shape, so while the instantly quotable Seth may have sometimes overshadowed the quiet and brooding Ryan, their relationship was always the focus.

2. New Girl

New Girl's Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel) was eclipsed on her own show, but that's bound to happen when you have someone as loud and memorable as Schmidt (Max Greenfield) around. Over the course of the show's six seasons, Greenfield's excellent line delivery helped elevate Schmidt and all his neuroses beyond what could have been a fairly annoying one-note character. His relationships with Nick (Jake Johnson) and Cece (Hannah Simone) also certainly helped.

3. Teen Wolf

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Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) may be Teen Wolf's titular teenage werewolf, but his best friend Stiles Stilinski (Dylan O'Brien) is the true star of MTV's supernatural drama. O'Brien's excellent comedic timing when delivering hilarious one-liners turned him into a fan favorite early on, but it was his incredible range as an actor that eventually pushed Stiles to the forefront in Season 3 -- the show's strongest season.

4. How I Met Your Mother

To be honest, it's not exactly hard to eclipse a lead as insufferable as Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor). You could argue that every single other character on How I Met Your Mother did it at one point or another. But throughout the show's nine-season run, it was Neil Patrick Harris' horn-dog bro Barney Stinson that stole the show again and again and again and again.

5. One Tree Hill

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Brooke Davis (Sophie Bush) officially became One Tree Hill's lead character once Chad Michael Murray's Lucas Scott departed Tree Hill for good. But if we're being honest, the series had become The Brooke Show long before that. Even within the show's first season, it was crystal clear there was more to Brooke than meets the eye, and her big heart and great sense of humor made it incredibly easy to fall in love with her. That she would become the heart and soul of the series -- and that it would, in turn, come to revolve around her, is hardly a surprise.

6. Dawson's Creek

When it comes to Dawson's Creek, everyone knows that Pacey Witter (Josh Jackson) easily eclipsed Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek) in the romantic leading man department. But we're not here to talk about the many accomplishments of Pacey, for the true star of Dawson's Creek is Joey Potter (Katie Holmes). The girl who rowed her way down a creek for fun stole the teen drama from its namesake early on. If you need more proof, not only did the show completely revolve around Joey once the gang went off to college, Holmes is the only actor to appear in every episode of the series.

7. Once Upon a Time

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It took roughly a season and a half before it became undeniable that Regina (Lana Parrilla) was the real star of Once Upon a Time. The middle seasons were obsessed with her journey from being the Evil Queen to being one of the heroes' strongest assets. She had the most dynamic and compelling storyline, while Emma was stuck struggling with her magical identity and no real development for far too long. The only person to match Regina's prowess on the show was Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle), who took over the spotlight in the most recent seasons of the show. His own redemption struggles made every other storyline on the show pale in comparison.

8. The Walking Dead

Once upon a time, The Walking Dead's Rick (Andrew Lincoln) was the savior-prince-cowboy-hero we believed would guide, protect and woo us until the very end. But after spending an entire season as the shivering little sub to Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) dom, he's been eclipsed by Daryl (Norman Reedus). Now there's a real badass: breaking out, kicking ass and taking names, all the while marshaling every possible resource to reunite with his friends. Yes, Rick is technically the one who'll be leading the impending war, but in the really long time it took for him to get there, we kind of fell for Daryl. #sorrynotsorry

9. Shameless

This one is a little controversial, because Shameless has always been about Fiona (Emmy Rossum) and her role as the caretaker of her younger siblings. But the dark Showtime comedy still pretends to also be about William H. Macy's depraved Frank. The awards attention Macy receives for the role also doesn't help to dispel this notion, but anyone who's ever watched Shameless knows full well who the star of the show truly is.

10. The Vampire Diaries

If a show can write out its lead character and still run for two more seasons, were they really the lead character? It's certainly debatable. But if we look at the CW drama as a whole, the complicated relationship between vampires and brothers Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) was the driving force of The Vampire Diaries long before Nina Dobrev, who played leading lady Elena Gilbert, left the series after Season 6.

(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, one of The CW and Showtime's parent companies.)

This article originally appears on TV Guide.com.

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Aug 18, 2017
Why is this still here? It's been 3 weeks now!
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Aug 16, 2017
Honestly I think the best character on the Vampire Diaries was Caroline.
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Aug 17, 2017
Agree totally....Caroline was always interesting, but by season 5 she was the only character that didn't set my teeth on edge, and by the end of the show, she was the one I tuned in to see. The whole doppelganger thing put me off, and Elena's character turned whiney - it went on for too long. it was fine as a single season diversion, but just got in the way of more imaginative storylines.
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Aug 07, 2017
So, most of the comments here are spam and you guys still insist on autoplay videos. This site is going down the drain so fast, it's painful to watch.

Tell me, tv.com people, do you LIKE your job? It doesn't look like you do.
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Aug 06, 2017
The number 1 of all time is still Urkel on Family Matters. "Did I do that?" sent him not only to the lead in Family Matters but even to guest shots on other TGIFriday shows.
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Aug 02, 2017
When I think of Wiseguy, I tend to think of Jonathan Banks as McPike more than I think of Ken Wahl.
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Aug 02, 2017
Lost - Sawyer (Josh Holloway) taking it away from Jack (Mathew Fox)
Gotham - Almost every other character overshadowed Batman and Gordan
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Aug 01, 2017
Also Piper from OITNB was eclipsed by...everyone :)
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Aug 02, 2017
I like that they eclipse her. She annoys me lol. I liked her so much in season one
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Jul 29, 2017

Jimmie Walker on Good Times. 
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Jul 29, 2017
Henry Winkler on Happy Days.
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Jul 28, 2017
How about Paul Darrow on Blake's 7?
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Jul 28, 2017
Michael J. Fox on "Family TIes"
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Jul 28, 2017
Thing.
(Just in cas: Addams Family)
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Jul 28, 2017
I forgot an obvious one: George, Kramer, and Elaine on Seinfeld. The most memorable storylines on that show focused on George rather than Jerry. Jerry is almost the straight man on his own show. Also, Louis DiPalma on Taxi. Outside of the pilot, where Alex brings in the fare who decides to become a cab driver (and later proposes to a woman) on a whim and drives to the airport to see his daughter off, what does anyone remember about Judd Hirsch's character on that show?
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Jul 27, 2017
Dr Oz on The Oprah Winfrey Show. He got his own show now. :)
Stedman didn't fight for it. :)
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Jul 26, 2017
Thanks, Kaitlin! This is a fun list and man, have there been a lot of stolen shows! I saw it on the list already, but Family Matters sure changed their complete tone once they decided to focus on Urkel.
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Jul 25, 2017
I am pretty sure her name is Sophia Bush, not Sophie.
On a side note these are the most comments I have seen for an article on this site in a long time that weren't written by bots.
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Jul 25, 2017
Jim Parsons on Big Bang Theory
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Jul 28, 2017
Sheldon never was a sidekick. More the other way around. BBT always was a series about nerds so it's Sheldon&Leonard;&guys;&girls.; Well not always of course. For a long time now it's just another generic relationship-comedy.
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Jul 28, 2017
Go look at the first season, plus Johnny Galecki has top billing.
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Jul 25, 2017
There was a double one with "Will and Grace".
The two main characters were left in the dust by their two supporting buddies, Jack and Karen.
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Jul 25, 2017
Oh boy does this list goes miles and miles...

Drew Carey Show - Let's face it, it became the Mimi show

Family Matters - They literally said they decided to make it "all Urkel all the time"

I could do this all day
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Jul 25, 2017
Bob Denver on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis easily eclipsed lead Dwayne Hickman...
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Jul 24, 2017
Season 3 isn't TW's best either - that title belongs to season 2 - by a country mile
Even Dylan's performance couldn't change my mind - the Kanima was far more interesting
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Jul 24, 2017
I disagree with some of your arguments and characters:

The OC - Seth Cohen is the best character, no doubt about it, but he did not eclipse Ryan nor Summer nor Sandy
Seth was an ass at times (especially in season 3 - that college rejection/weed storyline made him downright unlikeable) - Ryan was awesome so many times, his rivalry with Oliver made everyone BUT Ryan unlikeable for example

Dawson's Creek - another comedic character overshadowing the male lead - and again, like Seth - Pacey was unlikeable so many times throughout the show's run
His break up with Joey at the prom was puerile and nasty and selfish and although Josh turned in a great performance - it made me HATE him in that moment - Joey was not a saint - but to blow up the way he did was awful and for once, i felt sorry for Joey
Not only that but his storyline in season 6 made him more unlikeable than Dawson ever was
Oh and BTW - Jen is the best DC character - FACT

One Tree Hill - Brooke's popularity befuddles me - i like her - but she's nowhere near the shows MVP - heck even Dan was a more interesting character - Nathan and Peyton would win for me - the show never got it's spark back after Peyton and Lucas' departure and there's a reason for that - Brooke wasn't even in the pilot and i don't notice until she turns up in the 2nd episode - plus her storylines in seasons 4-9 are weak

Walking Dead - i will never understand the Daryl love - there's more personality in a fucking zombie than this terribly performed Sawyer-wannabe
Rick is the shows MVP - has been since Shane died and the show will never recover if they kill him off and make Daryl the lead - Daryl SUCKS

New Girl - when i first watched it - i loved Schmidt - But Nick just got funnier by the season - as did Winston - - so it's between those 3 - Jess is a close 4th though - still love her - i also really liked Reagan - but i can see why many people wouldn't


Agree with Teen Wolf, TVD (although Damon got tiresome after a while but so did the show). and HIMYM

Don't watch Shameless and OUaT

I'm very suprised OITNB or True Blood ain't on this list

Piper is universally hated (I liked her in season one *Hides under covers*)

and Sookie and Bill are irritating as hell (currently re-watching it and i actually liked Sookie first time i watched it, now i cannot stand her)
More+
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Jul 24, 2017
Henry Winkler on Happy Days. John Larroquette on Night Court. Pat Harrington, Jr. on One Day at a Time. Diana Rigg on The Avengers. Leonard Nimoy on Star Trek. David McCallum on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Robert Fuller on Laramie. Jimmy Walker on Good Times. Randolph Mantooth and Kevin Tighe on Emergency!
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Jul 24, 2017
Smallville:

Michael Rosenbaum over Tom Welling. Also John Glover, who also trumped Peter Horton on Brimstone.
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Aug 07, 2017
When they brought in Erica Durance as the perfect Lois Lane, I thought she deservedly took over the spotlight and I think the producers realized they had a new star on their hands. I wish they had continued to focus on the romance between Lois and Clark and extended the show's run for many more years.
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Jul 24, 2017
Michael Rosenbaum's exit killed Smallville - without him the show suffered immensely - just glad he came back for the (divisive) series finale
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Jul 25, 2017
Michael Rosenbaum was annoying and robotic John Glover should have been Lex .Tom Welling was not over shadowed like
other people on this list.He did a great job as Clark Kent


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Jul 25, 2017
In later seasons, maybe. But in the first season, which is what I've watched most recently, Rosenbaum gives a pretty nuanced performance and the writers seemed to actually want to explore the relationship between Lex and Clark as a "great friendship."

Later, when Lex became a more standard villain, he was pretty annoying and robotic, yes. To the point where they didn't even need him.

Part of it was that we didn't know where Lex was going. Was he going to be come the purple-and-green-suited meanie? The successful-but-corrupt businessman and eventual President? Would he be redeemed by his friendship with Clark or would he give in to his destiny? More importantly, did we the audience _want_ Lex to overcome his destiny? At least initially, Rosenbaum gave us a character that we liked. In later seasons, as the writers went after the Lex-is-the-bad-guy lure like greyhounds after the track rabbit, not so much.

All roads for Clark lead to Superman. But there are have been different versions of Lex over the years. At least for the first season, you didn't know which way Lex was going to land.
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Jul 25, 2017
I beg to defer for me the me the real villain of the show
was John Glover he is a magnificent bastard even when he turned good he ruled in later reason the show became to cartoonish and lost its more serious tone


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Jul 25, 2017
I would argue that it's not that Tom Welling's Clark Kent wasn't decent, but that Michael Rosenbaum was pretty damn good and so where other characters such as John Glover, Erica Durance, Allison Mack, etc.
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Jul 25, 2017
Tom Welling was the show it is the story of Clark Kent
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Jul 25, 2017
Haha you must be having a laugh
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Jul 24, 2017
Completely agree, except replace "Seth Cohen" with "Summer Roberts".
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