Surprise, B#*^%: Emma Roberts Was First Great in a Nickelodeon Show

Nickelodeon's 2004 hit Unfabulous was a bit of a Lizzie McGuire-with-a-guitar ripoff. But Emma Roberts made the show sing.

This article is from the archive of our partner .

It's TV Anniversary Week at The Wire, and we're taking a special look at the inordinately prestigious crop of shows celebrating milestone anniversaries this fall. Today, we're looking at Nickelodeon's Unfabulous, which bowed on September 12, 2004.

Addie Singer was just a teen girl with a guitar and a little too-obvious a last name. She wrote songs about being a real girl in a fake world, PG-13 movies, and new shoes, among other subjects. They weren't anything spectacular; more the kind of ditties you'd expect a 14-year-old girl to compose. But Addie sold them with every inch of charm in her arsenal – all thanks to the actress behind the character, Emma Roberts.

Ten years ago, Roberts took on her first big role as Addie in Nickelodeon's Unfabulous. It was a bit of a Lizzie McGuire-lite show – middle school girl just trying to get through the trials and tribulations of growing up. But unlike Hilary Duff's show, everything happening around Addie is fairly dull. Part of Lizzie's appeal was in its colorful supporting cast; Unfabulous would live or die based on Roberts' performance.

Luckily, she was more than capable as a teen star. Roberts' performance was winning from her smile on through, clearly taking a cue from Aunt Julia. She sold the show on the strength of how relatable she was; this was a girl you knew, who didn't have the greatest voice or writing skills but had a crazy amount of pluck. She wasn't a star – you might call her "unfabulous" – but you thought she could be someday.

Post-Nickelodeon fame has had peaks and valleys for Roberts. For every killer performance (no pun intended) in Scream 4, there's the forgettable Virginia. For the daring and fascinating Palo Alto, there's the safe and boring We're the Millers. One can applaud her range, but it's definitely a bit erratic – and her bizarre domestic assault after hitting her fiancé Evan Peters only fed that image of a starlet who maybe didn't have it all together.

Luckily, Roberts is now best-known for her stellar work on American Horror Story: Coven, particularly for (spoiler alert) her character Madison's memorable resurrection moment. "Surprise, bitch," she says to Jessica Lange's Fiona, who is surprised indeed that the girl she accidentally killed is alive. "I bet you thought you'd seen the last of me."

It's an incredibly quotable line – hence its viral meme status – but it could also be thought of as a nice encapsulation of Roberts' own career. From teen TV to striving to film stardom to finding a home in horror, Roberts' work promises that you'll not be seeing the last of her any time soon.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.