My favourite thing about Community is the development of Jeff Winger. Part of the show’s gleeful postmodern approach to the sitcom genre is starting the series off with cliches and stereotypes and then letting them change in unexpected yet logical ways; Abed is a probably-autistic geek with a lack of social skills, Annie is a Type-A go-getter, Pierce is an ageing bigot. Troy has the most unique and probably most realistic development in how he shifts from a stereotypical dimwitted jock to a kind, deeply emotional dude who can’t be easily pigeonholed, but Jeff’s development is more interesting me – he starts as a very typical vain, snarky, self-interested slacker that generally leads sitcoms (a character in the pilot compares him to Jerry Seinfeld). He never really loses any of that, but he definitely becomes smarter and more effective at it over the course of the show. Two things become clear about Jeff: like all narcissists, he’s deeply needy and craves the approval of others, and he tries to find the shortest distance between where he is and what he wants. At the beginning of the series, he’s worked out how to use his charm to skip over any actual work; that is to say, he knows how to get other people to do hard work for him because he knows what will get people’s approval, but skipping over doing the work for himself has lead to him crashing and burning and sent him to Greendale Community College. The main thing that changes about Jeff is that he learns which actions are shortsighted and which are more beneficial in the long run, and the constant bedrock of emotional support from the study group is what gives him the room to learn this. Jeff never loses the core of who he is, he just gets better at being that person.
What are your favourite examples of character development?