Often when a TV show or sitcom becomes a mainstream success, its characters begin to represent more than just actors. They become actual people to their audience- people that have emotions and go through circumstances that viewers can relate to.
So what happens when these characters grow up? Or when they go to college? When they start changing, making mistakes and going through the more serious problems in life? Many times TV shows in this predicament either stop running completely, or they take the risk of continuing and fail. However, some sitcoms have been successful.
Boy Meets World, a show that ran for seven seasons on ABC, the Disney Channel, and ABC Family, revolved around the lives of Corey, Topanga, Sean, Eric and the infamous Mr. Feenie. Within the first few years of the show, viewers witnessed the pre-pubescent characters going through the trials of junior high and high school, from asking a girl out to passing a test to dealing with family problems.
The college years presented a change, however. Now, the gang wasn’t hanging out in school hallways or Corey’s house but in college classrooms and dorm rooms.
Corey and Topanga moved from the innocent puppy-love phase to facing issues like sex, break-ups and marriage. Sean matured and came to grips with his imperfect home-life. Not surprisingly, Eric still seemed the prime goof-ball, yet viewers even saw his character grow into an adult as well.
Perhaps why this show remained successful in its later years was because even though the subject matter changed, the characters remained the same. Growing up is a part of life, and to not have the characters face more in-depth issues would be unrealistic.
Saved By the Bell happened to have its own spin-off called, Saved By the Bell: The College Years. Here, Zach, Kelly, Screech and AC partook in the college experience- meeting new friends, forming new relationships and letting go of old ones.
Audiences witnessed the popular couple, Zach and Kelly, going their separate ways and dating new people. Viewers saw an older, more mature-looking Screech, even though he wasn’t any less comical. And the main guys of the show seemed to bond more overall, dorming and living together rather than simply chatting in the hallway or locker room.
Why this show was successful in its college years was because no matter what happened, the characters did not seem to grow apart in terms of friendship. Sure, AC and Zach would argue and Zach and Kelly would have trouble letting go of their relationship, but in the end viewers had no reason to doubt the gang’s tight-knit bond would remain strong.
Unlike real life, where friends change after high school and significant others don’t remain friends after a break-up, this light-hearted show helped to restore faith in the idea of friendship as unbreakable.
Lastly, we have the more dramatic Dawson’s Creek, a show on the WB that portrayed the lives of Dawson, Pacey, Joey and Jenn, living in the fictional town of Capeside and learning how to adapt to life as a teenager.
A show based on and for teens, Dawson’s Creek was considered more serious in content than other shows like it, not only dealing with normal teenage issues in family, friends and school, but confronting often controversial, in-depth topics like homosexuality, alcoholism, abandonment and death.
The show was more realistic in the current struggles that teens face, which is why the college years of the show remained successful. The series did a good job of portraying the characters realistically growing apart and becoming individuals, adapting to new lifestyles and starting potential careers.
Dawson’s Creek thrived because all four leading characters were strong enough to act by themselves and did not have to rely on each other to make the scenes work. Undeniably, the shows best moments are found when the group is united, however.
All in all, television shows that progress its characters into the college years and adulthood usually have a slim chance of success, unless they find a way to let their characters grow into adult roles without completely changing the character itself.