The beginning of each year is a time for reevaluation, renewal, and resolutions. Every year, millions of people decide to turn over a new leaf in one part of their lives or another, to finally quit smoking, to keep to the budget this time, to get to the gym more often. Yes, many will slide back into old habits, but that desire for a fresh start, and the feeling that such a new beginning is possible, is one of the great things about this time of year. In keeping with this, and as a potential source of inspiration to keep to those resolutions, here are a few series about characters who’ve decided to take control of their lives and make a change, hopefully for the better.
**Author’s note: While there are many fantastic series about people forced to rebuild or start over, such as Battlestar Galactica or Dead Like Me, for this list, the choice had to come from the character, not outside events. Also, this list is very skewed towards recent shows. I’m unfortunately less familiar with older series than I’d like.
After the events of seasons 2 and 3 of Buffy, Angel decided he needed to make a change. Or, more accurately, Joss Whedon decided to make a spinoff and the WB went for it. Angel centers around the titular character, the Vampire with a Soul, after he’s left Sunnydale behind for a fresh start in LA. Joined by former-Mean-Girl-now-penniless-wannabe-actress Cordelia, and running-from-his-past Doyle, Angel builds a life and (non-murderous) family for himself for probably the first time in his long life. Almost every character in the series comes to it looking to start over and despite its genre trappings, Angel is deeply philosophical and is as much a show about starting over as vampires, prophesies, or anything else.
Breaking Bad (2008- )
Not every life-changing decision is a wise one. After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Walter White decides to branch out from his high school chemistry post and supplement his income by cooking meth. A brilliant chemist who gave up his career and any chance for professional acclaim to provide stability for his family (or, if he’s honest with himself, due to his pride), Walt saw his life slipping away and decided to make a change. The entire series has stemmed from that initial decision, as we ride the roller coaster of experiences deriving from this new life path and Walt discovers, along with the audience, just who he is and what he is capable of.
Some decisions come from moments of introspection, some from opportunity. In this case, it’s loss. After the death of his wife, widower Andy Brown, a New York neurosurgeon, moves his family (Delia, 9, and Ephram, 15) to Everwood, Colorado, a small town, where he opens up a practice. Now their sole caregiver, Andy gets to know his children, particularly Ephram, to whom he’d been almost an absentee father, and figures out what his life will be without his wife. This fan-favorite series flew under the radar for many, but its sincere look at a family’s attempt to rebuild after loss makes it worthy of investigation and mention.
The Good Wife (2009- )
When faced with her husband’s infidelity and pending prosecution, titular character Alicia Florrick had a choice to make- stay by her husband’s side or cut and run. What makes this show so interesting, and dramatically successful, is that she chose neither. Instead, Alicia chose herself. She chose to reevaluate and redefine her life. Seeking independence and security, she reentered the working world. Wanting deeply to keep her family together, she welcomed, however tentatively, Peter back into her home, doing her best to start fresh with him as well. Yes, the series has morphed dramatically since then, but this spirit of self-reflection remains one of the most important, and most interesting, elements of the series.
Green Acres (1965-1971)
Tired of his stressful job as a New York City attorney, Oliver Wendell Douglas decides to quit his job, leave New York, and fulfill his dream of being a farmer, bringing his socialite wife with him. He buys a small, broken down farm in the country and gets to work, content with this new lifestyle, even taking to farming, moving hay, or doing mechanical repairs in a three-piece suit. Lisa, though initially upset by the move, ends up fitting in better than Oliver to the crazy world Green Acres inhabits. Very much a series based on wacky misadventures, there is an underlying sweetness to the theme of following one’s dreams that gives this otherwise dated series a likable charm.
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (2008-2009)
After the death of her beloved father, Mma Precious Ramotswe sells his cows, her inheritance, and moves to Gaborone (the capital city) to open her own agency and become Botswana’s leading (read: only) female private detective. With her father gone, and no other family besides an abusive ex-husband, Mma Ramotswe is very much on her own and her decision to risk her security to follow her dream is a difficult one, but she knows she does not want a life in the country and neither does she want to remarry, at least any time soon. The journey from protected daughter to independent detective isn’t an easy one, but it’s one that Mma Ramotswe handles with grace and wit, showing that one needn’t have all the answers to work towards a better life.
What are your favorite series about starting over? Post your thoughts in the comments below!