My 5 Favorite TV Characters Who Have Changed Over Time Tori Coyne

Change is the worst. I’ve moved in and out dorm rooms, had friends change schools and broken off relationships more times than anyone should. I’m sure we’ve all been there, just when everything seems on the up and up, bam! Something you never expected comes along and knocks you off your tracks. Naturally we all recover…until the next crazy thing comes along. But nothing gets me through a moment of awkward change like my favorite TV shows.

I watch a lot of TV, probably more TV than any person should, and I have seen some compelling characters in my day. Just when everything seems great, something wicked this way comes, and they have to figure out how to adapt. Maybe not every TV character is the best role model, but the way these people combat the most unsettling of circumstances is something to aspire to. So, I compiled a list of my 5 favorite inspiring characters—for now. (There were a lot to choose from!) But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty more. So here we go, in no particular order:

DISCLAIMER: this post contains SPOILERS!

1. Felicity Porter

You guys all know Felicity (and if you don’t PLZ EDUCATE URSELF!). Felicity will always be one of my favorite TV shows. So much college angst and 90s denim. Felicity had quite a bumpy road her four years of college. First off, she abandoned her dreams of Stanford to follow a boy (Ben), who barely knew her, to NYC for college. She pined after Ben for months. Then found herself falling love with her RA, Noel. Most of her college years would be spent figuring out whom she wanted to be with between the two. By senior year, she had a pregnancy scare, had cheated on both Noel and Ben and switched from wanting to be a doctor to an artist and then finally a doctor. She went from quiet and shy to politically and sexually active. In the end, she chose Ben, cause COMON ON Y’ALL he’s an absolute hunk.

2. Jenna Hamilton

I’m sure by now you are familiar with my love of MTV’s Awkward and my fave [female] character, Jenna Hamilton. It appears that just when life is going her way, something crazy happens to knock her back down again. She’s undergone a crap-ton of change since the season one. Let’s see—she received a horrible Care-frontation in the first episode, then there was that whole “Jenna Lives” fake-suicide scandal or how about her great high school love wanting to keep their relationship a secret?? If that isn’t a stab through the heart I don’t know what is. Then, she settled for another guy and ended up totally destroying his heart. She was the center of yet another school scandal, all the while her parents were separating—kind of because of her, but not really. Jenna cannot catch a break to save her life, but fear not, she always prevails!!

3. Matt Saracen

SEVEN! Ugh, Matty Saracen, what a cutie. Adorable Matt is from another one of my favorite shows (I have a lot of these) Friday Night Lights. He started off the series as a lowly second-string quarterback, which meant he never played and no one really cared for him. He was dorky and nerdy and seemed to have terrible hands. After a horrendous accident, Matt found himself as first string—QB1. He eventually led his team to State Championship Victory against all odds. He did all of this while caring for his grandmother (who has Alzheimer’s, btw) on his own. Then in seasons to follow his girlfriend left him and he was essentially cut from the team when a better QB showed up, completely crushing any hope of playing college ball. But in the end, everything worked out for him. Matt ended up happy with his high school sweetheart, Julie, off in Chicago, pursuing his dreams of being an artist. Who saw that coming?

4. Veronica Mars

Ok sure, she has a movie and everything now, but things weren’t always so glamorous for dear old Ronnie. In the beginning, her mother had left the family, her father was a disgraced sheriff turned private investigator and all of her friends hated her. She was a lonely loser and her BFF had been murdered. On top of that, a major company was after her for revenge, she had been date raped and then found out she had an STD. Just when she started getting over all of that, she was torn between two boys, destroyed their friendship for a little bit and broke one’s heart. On top of that, every time she tried to help her family, things always seemed to end up worse. Even up to the last episode, a serial rapist was after her and it may have been the guy she was dating. (She really had poor judgment, despite being a skilled investigator.) We won’t know until the movie how all of that change ended up working out for her because the show was cancelled (before she had a chance to rekindle her flame with Logan!!!). But she was bada** private investigator at 17, so I’m sure she figured everything out!

5. Ryan Atwood

Who doesn’t love a bad boy, amiright? Ryan started off his stint on The O.C. as the resident bad boy. He was fresh out of juvie, homeless and no one wanted him. Enter the Cohen family: Sandy, Kirsten and the lovable dork, Seth. They taught Ryan about family. The Cohens molded Ryan into a fully functioning individual. They brought him out of his shell and encouraged his natural intelligence. Marissa Cooper taught Ryan about love—and confirmed his thoughts on loss. Spoiler: Marissa dies, totally wrecking the new Ryan. But soon he learns that she was a bad girl, destined for the fast life. He eventually settles down, goes to college and becomes an architect. I’m pretty sure it’s safe to assume he marries Taylor and at the very close of the show he rescues a runaway himself! How’s that for some change?

Oh, wow. After all of that I need to go watch some Friends where most of the change occurs at Rachel’s hair salon! I encourage you to share your favorites below! And keep rooting for those Underdogs!

Featured images: Top:  Ryan Atwood via IMDB.com, Matt Saracen via TVGuide.com, Felicity Porter via IMDB.com. Bottom: Veronica Mars via LATimes.com, Jenna Hamilton via MTV.com

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  1. *gossip girl spoilers…skip this if you haven’t watched.

    Blair Waldorf. She started off being the queen B. Above everyone else, too good for anyone that didn’t live in Manhattan, and flat out cruel. The only thing she was serious about was her reputation. Through the series she dates Lonely Boy from Brooklyn, has her friendship with Serena go through the wringer, marry’s herself a Prince, then FINALLY admits she’s really in love with Chuck (best thing ever!). Sure she still had some of her scheming ways, but for the most part she changed, a lot.

  2. I’d add Brooke Davis from OTH to the list. Huge development!! Through all the seasons she has grown so much and turned out to be the person I guess no one would’ve ever expect her to be. From a carefree and a bit selfish cheerleader to a bedrock to all the characters. Definitely one of my all favourites!!

  3. I just posted a review of Felicity on my blog a few weeks ago! I thought it was so great to see she made your top 5! Love that show! I’ve got to rank Amber from Parenthood on the top of my list. Love that show too!

  4. Donna Moss, from The West Wing, is my favourite for character development ever. She goes from being benevolent, patient Josh whisperer to being the White House’s point person for the Russell campaign, then a major person on the Santos campaign and then FLOTUS chief of staff at the end. She’s probably the only character to benefit from the change in showrunner as well.

    Also: Donna Noble (I’m clearly a Donna person) of Doctor Who for going from super-relatable regular person who doesn’t believe they’re important at all to being the most important person in the universe. I’mma cry. Although, forever sad that she loses all that growth with her memory at the end….

    (Talking about FNL characters by number makes me emotional, but forever #33!)

  5. Still think Felicity should’ve picked Noel! :)

  6. I totally agree with all the characters u haave choosen! with alot of those programmes like The O.C and Veronica Mars i started watching them after they had been cancelled…..which i only discovered once i got to the final episode and went to find more..but there were no more which was CRUEL! LOL i totally agree that rory should be included in this list as i feel she had to change alot. First of all her family situation made her and her mum the constant scandel of the town…Dean(dealing with his marriage and then breaking up that marriage)..Jess(was just a bad boy she couldnt get enough of) and of Logan(who slept with a few of his sisters bridesmaids..then finally proposed to her saying it was all or nothin) oh and of course her community service and leaving college!

  7. I like the characters you talked about (especially Felicity and Ryan whom I would have used too!) but I have to disagree on Veronica Mars whom I studied a lot for I paper I write at the university on modern private detectives.
    Before all V.M is the archetype of the private detective and she is stucked in this noir-like universe and because of her role and what define such role (high moral values for instance) Veronica remains uncapable to evolve during the all show. Sure sometimes she seems like she started to trust people a bit more but then again she questions her boyfriend or father’s behavior and ends up alone again. Veronica never changes and cannot conciliate her personality (and her life) with her role as a private detective and so after three years she is the same girl we’ve discovered in the pilot, a girl stucked in a role, aware of it but unable to do anything against it.)
    It’s a great tragic character but it’s not a character who has changed over time unlike Felicity, Ryan, Matt and Jena.

  8. Rory Gilmore also underwent some changes. She started as a girl who was sure about what she wanted out of life (Harvard), had a steady first love-like relationship with Dean, then meets the bad boy Jess and realizes love is not so easy as it seems, ends up choosing Yale instead, has some major identity crisis when she starts hanging out with Logan and, in the end, although she goes back to wanting what she always has (journalism) – with some major shocks when starting professional life – she chooses the un-happy ending of not marrying Logan, preferring to focus on herself alone.

  9. I love Veronica Mars – both the show, and the character – and am stoked that a movie is being made (FINALLY). Just… “Even up to the last episode, a serial rapist was after her and it may have been the guy she was dating.” We found out who it was before the last episode. Logan even got himself thrown in jail so that he could beat him up (presumably – why else?). The last few episodes were all The Castle and the Sorokins.

    I, too, watch too much TV.

  10. oh, my god. this is hysterical. you nailed it.

  11. Marissa was finally putting her life back together when she died. Remember when Wes says “Everyone belongs somewhere” and Marissa answers “Maybe not everyone. Maybe some people just get lost”? I think there was a lot more to Marissa than just a “bad girl, destined for the fast life” but I agree with the rest. I never really liked Ryan though. Seth <3

    • i wept when marissa died. oh that was terrible. and I didn’t like Ryan and Taylor. But I guess they had to put him with someone.

      I did like Ryan, but Seth was just the cutest thing ever!!

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