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Cory A. Matthews (Ben Savage)
The main protagonist of the series - a neurotic everyman from suburban Philadelphia who grows from young boy to married man over the course of the series.
- Awesome McCool Name / Fail O'Suckyname: His ring name when he was briefly on the wrestling team? Cory "The Cory" Matthews. He was so good, comparing him to anything else would have been a step down.
- Control Freak: Became one in the later seasons.
- Cool Loser: This was especially prevelent in season two, where it seemed every other episode consisted of him trying to make a name for himself at school and no longer be nobody. Given the kind of Zany Schemes he pulled off, it seems like he'd be a legend around the school, but his poplarity never seemed to stick. This was given less emphasis as the show went on, though.
- Embarrassing First Name: Cornelius. Just to be clear, not even Topanga knows it.
- Give Geeks a Chance: Zig Zagged. Cory started out as a normal, average kid who took interest in the weird, frumpy social outcast Topanga, however over the next couple of seasons she became much more normal and less geeky, and the actress grew up into a beautiful young lady, while Cory became more neurotic and dorky and his actor went through a really awkward phase. Later on, Topanga became more neurotic and grade-obsessed and put on a bit of weight while Cory grew out of his awkward phase into a more handsome young man, so by the end they were more on each other's level.
- Heterosexual Life Partners: With Shawn.
- High School Sweethearts / Victorious Childhood Friend: With Topanga.
- Middle Child Syndrome: A general theme for much of the series, but a real plot point in "The B-Team of Life."
- Only Known by Their Nickname
- Rummage Sale Reject: Some of his outfits in the ealy seasons were like this, though not as bad as Shawn's.
- Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome
- Tempting Fate
- Took a Level In Jerkass
Shawn Patrick Hunter (Rider Strong)
Cory's lifelong best friend, a Street Smart but Book Dumb kid from a broken home who grew up in a trailer park. While Cory relied on Shawn to help him with girls and navigate the high school social scene, Shawn relied on Cory to bail him out of trouble and provide stability in his turbulent life.
- Affectionate Nickname: Cory often calls him "Shawnie".
- Attractive Bent Gender: When crossdressing, less than a minute after showing up at school, 'Veronica' had a date with a male classmate. And even after groping 'her', the guy still didn't notice anything wrong. Even Cory, who convinced him to do it, calls him a babe.
- Flanderization: But then it went the other way.
- Hair Flip: He had one of those 90's curtained hairstyles that required him to constantly brush it out of his face. He got a haircut in the later seasons, though.
- Heterosexual Life Partners: With Cory.
- Kidanova: Till he grew up and became The Charmer
- The Matchmaker
- Parental Abandonment
- Pretty Boy: Pretty enough to pass very convincingly as a girl. He grew out a beard later in the series run, though.
- Rummage Sale Reject: Many of his outfits in the earlier seasons were like this, which looked unkempt and mismatched even by early 90s grunge standards (though he was from a poor family). His outfits became more normal as the show went on.
- Shipper on Deck: The prospect of Cory and Topanga not being together sends him into an existential crisis.
- Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome
- Technical Virgin: As of the middle of his senior year; he reveals this when he and the others are discussing the Sex Equals Death trope.
- By Freshman year of college there are hints that this is no longer true (Cory references being the only virgin amongst a group of guys that includes Shawn) and by Sophomore year it's made flat-out clear he and Angela are sleeping together.
- Troubled but Cute
- Two First Names
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Only ever does it once onscreen, but admits to having thought about it before, even having a preferred name for his female alter-ego 'Veronica'.
- He seems to have kept doing it offscreen because several years later, in the last season, Eric and Jack decide to crossdress as a way to avoid a gang that were after them and they turned to Shawn for advice. Afterward, he advises Jack on toning down his overcompensating masculinity.
Topanga Lawrence-Matthews (Danielle Fishel)
Cory's girlfriend (and later wife) for the majority of the series. Though she began as a classic Granola Girl, she morphed in to a perfectionist Hollywood Nerd (of the pretty variety) fairly early on and generally was the superego on Cory's shoulder in comparison to Shawn's id.
- Big Beautiful Woman / Hollywood Pudgy: She actually wasn't, but the 7th season episode "She's Having My Baby Back Ribs!" portrayed her as though she was getting close to this.
- The "B" Grade
- Cloudcuckoolander: In the first season.
- Girl Next Door: Starting in season two.
- Granola Girl
- High School Sweethearts / Victorious Childhood Friend: With Cory.
- Ivy League for Everyone
- Progressively Prettier: She was originally wore frumpy clothes and had wild, unruly hair to demonstrate her Granola Girl personality. However, as her personality shifted to being a normal Girl Next Door and the actress grew up, she was given more attractive clothes, hairstyle and makeup.
- Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome
- Strange Girl: In the first season.
- Straw Feminist
- Women Are Wiser: Sometimes...
Eric Randall Matthews (Will Friedle)
Cory's older brother, by turns a fun, charismatic ladies man and a lovable (but seriously deranged) Cloudcuckoolander. Though Eric struggled academically, he was usually portrayed as being immensely intelligent deep down and filled with hidden potential and complexity, causing him to be frequently underestimated by friends and family.
- Adult Child
- Brilliant but Lazy
- Catch Phrase: "Mr. Feeny? MISTER FEENY!?"
- "FEE-NAY! FUH-HUH-FEE-NAY!"
- Chick Magnet: In the earlier seasons. By the final season he became more of a Casanova Wannabe.
- Cloudcuckoolander: More so as time went on.
- Dumbass Has a Point: Even post-Flanderization, Eric had moments of being profoundly insightful. Of course, this may be BECAUSE his thought processes were...different, rather than despite it.
- Dumb Is Good
- Forgot Flanders Could Do That: Was flanderized from the cool, rational older brother into an irrational Cloudcuckoolander except for one of the series' very last episodes, in which he was suddenly portrayed with something resembling his original characterization (which was lampshaded by the others).
- Friend to All Children: His own Adult Child status allows him to relate to children as equals without talking down to them.
- Fun Personified
- Genius Ditz
- The Heart
- Heterosexual Life Partners: With Jack in the later seasons.
- Hidden Depths
- Large Ham: In the later seasons.
- Papa Wolf
- Plucky Comic Relief
- Took a Level In Dumbass
- Wacky Guy
George Hamilton Feeny (William Daniels)
Cory's teacher turned principal turned college professor, and next-door neighbor to the Matthews family. Though a mentor to everyone on the show, he formed a particularly special bond with Cory and Eric, helping them navigate the tricky journey from adolescence to adulthood.
- Badass Teacher
- Cool Old Guy
- Cool Teacher: While initially presented as a "square" Stern Teacher, he had enough Character Development over time to turn him into one of these.
- Deadpan Snarker: Which overlaps with...
- Gentleman Snarker
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold
- Mentor Archetype: For Cory, Shawn and Topanga. With Eric, the bond is even stronger; he's almost a second father for the eldest Matthews sibling.
- Papa Wolf: Do not screw with his students.
- Psychologist Teacher
- Reasonable Authority Figure: As a teacher.
- Stern Teacher
- Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: Look at his intro paragraph again.
Alan and Amy Matthews (William Russ and Betsy Randle)
- Good Parents
- Good People Have Good Sex
- Happily Married
- Papa Wolf: Alan. A notable example comes in "Cult Fiction" where Shawn joins a Cult, when the cult leader accompanies Shawn to the hospital after Mr. Turner gets into an accident, Alan tells the cult leader to get lost. When the leader starts going on about how judgmental everyone is being, Alan pushes him up against a wall and tells him that he will kill to protect Shawn. The cult leader isn't really fazed, though.
Morgan Matthews (Lily Nicksay (Seasons 1-2), Lindsay Ridgeway (Seasons 3-7))
Cory's little sister.
- Alliterative Name
- Little Miss Snarker
- The Other Darrin
- Put on a Bus: Parodied. Sometime into Season 2, Morgan disappeared without mention - seeming to be an example of Chuck Cunningham Syndrome. However, she returned in Season 3 (with a new actress). Upon being greeted with surprise, she responded, "That was the longest time-out ever."
- Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome
Stuart Minkus (Lee Norris)
Cory and Shawn's nerdy classmate in the first season.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Lampshaded when he returns in the graduation episode.
- Deadpan Snarker: Minkus always gave as good as he got in the snarking department.
- Hollywood Nerd: Type 1.
- Insufferable Genius
- Last-Name Basis
- Unlucky Childhood Friend
- Worthy Opponent: There were some early hints that Cory and Shawn belive he was this to them. However, sinse he suffered from Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, it didn't go anywhere.
Jonathan Turner (Anthony Tyler Quinn)
Cory, Shawn and Topanga's high school English teacher, who becomes Shawn's guardian for a period of time after Shawn's parents abandon him.
- Big Brother Mentor: To Shawn.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The last episode he appeared in saw him badly injured in a motorcycle accident. Despite the hope that he would recover, we never see such a thing on-screen (or him again for that matter) - which has all sorts of Fridge Horror applications. As with Minkus, though, his disappearance was Lampshaded in the graduation episode.
- Convenient Coma
- Cool Teacher
- Demoted to Extra: Appeared less often and had less impact on storylines in his final season on the show.
- Reasonable Authority Figure
Eli Williams (Alex Desert)
Mr. Turner's best friend who gets hired as a media arts teacher at John Adams High.
- Black Best Friend: For Mr. Turner.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: He was introduced in the third season as a main cast member (The Other Wiki says the focus on him and Turner in that season was an attempt to appeal to young college graduates) and was dropped immediately afterwards without even a single mention (aside from a clip with him in it appearing in the final episode).
- Remember the New Guy?: He was pretty much tossed into the show in the third season.
Jack Hunter (Matthew Lawrence)
Shawn's estranged half-brother who reconnects with Shawn when he come to Philadelphia to go to college, and becomes Eric's best friend and roommate.
- Formerly Fat: Season 7's "She's Having My Baby Back Ribs" reveals that he used to be called "Jumbo Jack" in high school, which is why he goes to the gym so much and is obsessed with his looks.
- The Generic Guy: Cory, Shawn and Eric really pretty much had the market cornered on the comedy, and so Jack was often just there to look pretty and react to strange things. His personality would shift based on what the story called for.
- Heterosexual Life Partners: With Eric.
- Long Lost Sibling: Shawn's
- Straight Man: To Eric.
- Took a Level In Jerkass
Angela Sheneneh Moore (Trina McGee-Davis)
Shawn's first serious girlfriend, who becomes Topanga's best friend and a member of their group.
- Black Best Friend: To Topanga. However, her primary role was as Shawn's girlfriend and her friendship with Topanga grew out of her relationship with Shawn.
- Dawson Casting
- Military Brat
- Parental Abandonment: Her mother abandoned her when she was a child.
- Promotion to Opening Titles
- Token Minority
Rachel Kimberly McGuire (Maitland Ward)
Eric and Jack's neighbor who they take in after her ex-boyfriend kicks her out.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Attracts the affections of Eric, Jack and Chet.
- Ms. Fanservice: Especially in her early appearances (where it was pretty much her entire character) where she would often wander around in a tiny bathrobe, and in "Hogs and Kisses," they even managed to sneak in some Foot Focus.
- One Head Taller: Gender-inverted. She is quite a bit taller than all the guys, something Jack was insecure about at first.
Harley Keiner, Frankie "The Enforcer" Stechino and Joey "The Rat" Epstein (Danny McNulty, Ethan Suplee, and Blake Sopler)
A group of bullies at John Adams High.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Frankie really is a nice guy so long as he's not provoked.
- The Bully
- Character Development: In the third season, when forced to choose between Harley and Griff, Frankie and Joey have an "epiphany," choosing instead to move on. Frankie then makes several appearances in which he becomes a friend to Cory and Shawn (although Joey doesn't do as well and winds up acting as more of a con man). They then disappear until the graduation episode, which ignores their previous development by showing their preparing to become criminals.
- Embarrassing First Name: Harley's actual name is "Harvey."
- Gang of Bullies
- Hidden Depths: All of them a far more affable and actually smarter that they normally act. Griff and Harley acted downrigth sophisticated, Frankie was a Gentle Giant and Joey proved himself much more insigthful that first glance may tell you
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Harley
- Promotion to Parent: Harley looked after his younger sister Theresa.
- Put on a Bus: Harley is eventually sent away to reform school around the end of the second season, although he briefly returns in a third season episode.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Frankie loves poetry. LOVES IT. Got a problem with that? No? Good.
"Vader" Stecchino (Vader)
Frankie's Wrestler father.
- Embarrassing First Name: Either Francis or Leslie, depending on the episode you watch.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Mrs. Stecchino, who is briefly shown in one episode, is a short, waif woman.
- Large Ham
Chet Hunter (Blake Clark)
Shawn and Jack's father.
- Back for the Dead
- Back for the Finale: in ghost form.
- Disappeared Dad
- Killed Off for Real
- Spirit Advisor
Lila Bolander (Bonnie Bartlett)
A dean at Pennbrook University who develops a relationship with Mr. Feeny.
- Badass Teacher
- Deadpan Snarker
- Love Interest: To Feeny.
- Real Life Relative: Has been married to on-screen love interest William Daniels since 1951.
Joshua Gabriel Matthews
The youngest Matthews child, who is born midway through season six.
Sergeant Alvin Moore (Julius Carry)
- Drill Sergeant Nasty
- Large and In Charge
- You Look Familiar: Julius Carry previously played a college professor in "Fraternity Row."
- ↑ "And Then There Was Shawn" from mid-season 5. Note that this is after having been in a serious relationship with Angela, though they had broken up at the time