Have you ever noticed that, after watching a series over a number of months or years, the characters no longer resemble those who first appeared on your screen? There seems to be a trend in TV shows – particularly sitcoms – in which characters will inexplicably develop a new personality throughout the course of a series. Whether it’s to accommodate a new plot-line, or simply due to audience reactions, plenty of our favorite characters started out totally different to the characters we now know and love!
Of course, in real life people do change and evolve as they grow older – but we’re taking a look at those who changed so significantly that it made no sense to their original character.
You may now have several characters springing to mind, in an enormous “oh yeah” moment – take a look at Screen Rant’s 12 TV Characters Who Inexplicably Developed A New Personality, and see if your favorites made it on the list!
12 Randy Hickey - My Name Is Earl
It’s been a few years since My Name Is Earl dropped off our screens, so to refresh your memory, it follows a selfish thief named Earl (Jason Lee), and his equally unpleasant alcoholic brother, Randy (Ethan Suplee), after Earl discovers Karma and decides to make amends to every person he has wronged – learning life lessons along the way. Of course, Earl changed throughout the series, but through learning and growing – which was kind of the whole point. However, Randy appeared to change completely with no explanation.
In the later seasons, the writers clung desperately to Randy’s hapless side, focusing on his childlike nature. This seemed to disqualify the fact that, earlier in the show, he had been a tough, street-wise criminal. It’s reasonable to assume that this was changed to make him more likable as Earl became more likable, but it’s never really explained.
11 Stewie Griffin - Family Guy
Long gone are the days of “damn” and “blast” when it comes to the psychopathic youngest member of Family Guy’s Griffin family. After 14 seasons, the Stewie (Seth MacFarlane) we see now is a far cry from the matricidal “evil-genius” that filled the first few seasons with weapons design and the discovery of various archnemeses. These days, Stewie Griffin is more of a camp troublemaker, making snide comments while finding any excuse to dress like a woman and make out with the family dog, Brian (also Seth MacFarlane).
This could be down to his murderous persona wearing thin – or even in response to the MacFarlane audience’s love for Roger (ALSO Seth MacFarlane), a Stewie-like alien in American Dad.
10 Miranda Bailey - Grey's Anatomy
Dr Miranda “The Nazi” Bailey (Chandra Wilson) is one of the only members of the original Grey’s Anatomy cast to stand the test of time, alongside Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) of course. However, while her character may still be around – she has evolved almost beyond recognition.
Initially a "harder-than-nails" Resident at Seattle Grace hospital, Bailey’s recent storylines have seen that edge worn away, with her having spats with her husband, and developing OCD after getting a tear in her surgical gloves – something Grey’s fans know that Bailey would have been prepared for. He reaction was completely out of character, and while we have seen doctors break down after traumatic experiences in various dramas, the way Bailey handled the situation was entirely contrary to her character – she’s gone soft.
9 Donna Pinciotti - That 70s Show
That 70s Show’s Donna Pinciotti (Laura Prepon) started out her role as the idyllic "girl next door." She was smart and down to earth and apparently way ahead of the curve where feminism was concerned (considering when the show was set). She worked hard in school – only ever flunking when her parents’ divorce drove her to strive for attention.
However, as the series progressed, she went from being a smart kid who could stand on her own two feet, to falling in love with Casey Kelso (Luke Wilson), an older, sex-crazed frat boy who only really wanted her for one thing. When the pair broke up, she even ran away to California in a show of total immaturity and unwillingness to face her problems.
If that wasn’t enough, she then throws away any idea she might have had of going to college and learning to fend for herself (which was once such a part of her strong personality), and agrees to marry her high school sweetheart Eric (Topher Grace) at the age of 17 – with plans to live in a trailer after the wedding. She then goes on to mope for a few seasons as Eric leaves her in Point Place, Wisconsin and goes to college himself.
8 Amy Farrah Fowler - The Big Bang Theory
While there are arguments that all of the characters have changed over the course of The Big Bang Theory, and some of this is attributed to character development, none have changed more than Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayam Bialik).
Sheldon’s (Jim Parsons) girlfriend first appeared on the show in season 4, after joining an online dating site to keep her mother happy, and therefore meeting Sheldon. In the first instance, her similarities to Sheldon were shocking – and the reason he uncharacteristically agrees to keep seeing her. She comes across as just as socially awkward as him, as well as being just as uncomfortable with intimacy.
She, initially, appears as a secondary character with no problem being in a platonic relationship with Sheldon. However, by the time season 6 rolls around, she has changed beyond recognition – rather than patronizing Penny and Bernadette, she spends most of her time with them; rather than avoiding human contact, she longs for an intimate relationship with Sheldon. Her social awkwardness has become less distant and withdrawn, and a lot more childlike as she has made the transition from secondary character to leading role.
7 Ross Geller – Friends
While it was difficult to notice at first, a retrospective of Friends leads us to a worrisome conclusion – Ross’ breakdown. From the “my sandwich” incident, things seem to get worse for Ross, with his encounters becoming the most cringe-worthy to watch of the six friends.
He began his life on the show as a soft-spoken, shy guy who was too afraid to admit his feelings to the girl he’d loved for ten years. He was the geeky, out-of-place person (not the joker, the organizer, the newcomer, the weirdo or the sex-symbol) in his group of friends who was affectionate but timid, and generally thoughtful.
Now, forget all of that and think about a loud hysterical mess of hostility, yelling and freaking out. Post-Emily (Helen Baxendale), he became a pantomime character, with the producers eliciting Schwimmer’s best shriek at every available opportunity. No longer the tortured outcast with the soul of a poet – he was the shouty guy who (repeatedly) got between Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) and her career. Boo, Ross.
6 Ned Flanders – The Simpsons
Ned Flanders (Harry Shearer) began The Simpsons as a typical sitcom-style next-door-neighbor – a quiet, considerate neighbour who paid attention in church and nurtured his children, in stark contrast to Homer Simpson (Dan Castellanetta). However, Flanders changed so much that he actually had a trope named after him.
Flanderization is the act of taking a minor character trait and exaggerating it so much over time that it becomes an outlandish defining characteristic – and this is exactly what happened to Ned Flanders, going from a minor next-door-neighbor character to being a religious "nut," who is obsessive to an incredible degree. As his backstory developed in the show, he became more and more of a religious caricature, even attempting to baptize the Simpson children, until his religion was his one and only defining feature.
5 Claire Meade - Ugly Betty
This is one of the most inexplicable of the list. Claire Meade (Judith Light) was a mess. An alcoholic convict who escapes from prison and repeatedly has mental breakdowns; she was a wild card of a character.
That was, until that particular story arc came to an end. After the death of her husband, she suddenly transformed into a savvy business woman with a workplace rivalry against the "villain," Wilhelmina Slater (Vanessa Williams) and a sage answer to everything.
After initially being avoided by Betty (America Ferrera), she became a safe place to seek solace, and a sort of wise-woman mother figure – despite never having been a decent mother when it was appropriate. But everyone seemed to forget about the older, less predictable Claire
4 Elliot Reid – Scrubs
Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke) changed so many times over the course of Scrubs that it was quite difficult to keep track of. She began her internship as a work-oriented, competitive person with fluctuating confidence issues.
She was simultaneously both afraid of sex and happy to use it as a weapon; she strove for independence but sulked when not given help.
While her "makeover" seemed to boost her confidence and address the important message that, just because she changed her appearance, that didn’t make her any less of a doctor, she still seemed to be doing it for all the wrong reasons. Sarah Chalke has been quoted as saying that the makeover “did not really help her life” and that Elliot was still “on a never-ending journey to find respect” – however, this seemed to morph in many different directions (in perhaps the most human way depicted on this list).
3 Logan Huntzberger – Gilmore Girls
One of the most controversial questions of our time – who should Rory (Alexis Bledel) have ended up with?
Logan Huntzberger (Matt Czuchry) began the show as a millionaire playboy philanthro- no, wait that’s somebody else. He was rich, though, and most certainly a playboy. Living off of his trust fund, he was the first to look down at anyone and refused to hold a relationship of any kind (with Rory or otherwise).
The next thing you know, he’s asking for Rory’s mom’s permission for her hand in marriage – in a matter of mere episodes he went from hating his father and partying constantly to working hard across the globe and pouring his energies into being there for Rory and planning for their future.
True, it was arguably a change for the better – but there was no real explanation for it other than Rory being in his life.
2 Wesley Wyndam-Pryce – Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel
It’s said that Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (Alexis Denisof) would wake up at 5am in his dorm room, put on his suit, and sit down to do his homework. He was, for all intents and purposes, a nerd; a loveable, adorable, goofy nerd. He’s prim and proper, with no practical experience or know-how, just an intense need to do his job.
However, the change in his character was a sort of cheat. It followed the same route as the way Giles (Anthon Stewart Head) changed – a hierarchy of stuffiness. Bit by bit, a random layer peeled, until in Angel he became a trusted leader – essentially a poor man’s Giles.
But this complete overhaul of nerd-to-rogue was completely against his nature – unlike Giles who, if you remember, was quite the cad growing up.
1 Leslie Knope – Parks and Recreation
Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) is one of the characters on this list that has had an entirely positive face-lift. The writers have previously claimed that Leslie started the show a lot more ditzy than they had originally planned. She wasn’t great at her job as deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department, and critics claimed that she was a rip-off of The Office’s Michael Scott (Steve Carrell).
However, as the series developed, it became less of Leslie’s childish reactions to everyday situations with a side-dish of potential, and much more about the chemistry between Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) and Leslie as she battles to make a difference through her role – she went from frustrating to straight-up idol.
Can you think of any other characters who completely changed over the course of a few seasons?