Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Best Of...The University of Television...

TBS is gearing up to premiere a new-old comedy about college. What My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture means is that though the show is new, it is set years ago, in the late 1980s. The show is Glory Daze, about four guys who pledge the same fraternity and learn to find themselves through their new found friendship. But it is hardly the first show about college-- or about the growth and maturation during the age when one would traditionally be in college-- on television. In fact, quite a few are on right now and thriving.

One doesn't have to be in a classroom, or even see a classroom portrayed on TV, to learn life lessons. But sometimes it helps, so My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture wanted to take a walk down memory lane with the Best of Then and the Best of Now...at the University of Television.

The Best of Then

Saved by the Bell: The College Years.
After five seasons (plus the prequel Miss Bliss) of NBC's hit morning sitcom, Saved by the Bell, didn't have to go to college, but they couldn't stay at Bayside. So they did what most programming geared at younger viewers did: they sent their kids to a local, fictional university where all the beloved actors that wanted to could continue on the journey. The result wasn't perfect; some of the magic they captured as kids was gone now that they were supposed to be growing into more responsible adults. The pranks died down; the lessons about true friendships, love, and positive relationships grew. But finally getting to see the fine young man we all knew troublemaker Zack Morris could finally grow into was rewarding all in its own. It was the perfect end to a coming-of-age show. Plus bonus points for having Patrick Fabian as a hottie professor.

Veronica Mars. Some believe that plunking the plucky private detective down in the middle of a college campus so soon after the series start was a bad move. After all, she was bound to be a little fish in a big pond there, and one of the beautiful things about the show was just how much pull she seemed to have within her school and even her small town sheriff's station. Whether it was realistic or not. But in this case, it actually opened up her world for the better, not only introducing us to new characters who could help her but also new ones who would challenge her. This show wasn't solely about the college experience or college life, but that's okay; it featured more than enough of that to be poignant and managed to put its own twist on all of the frat parties, exams, and demonstrations in the quad. And of course it, too, had Patrick Fabian as a hottie professor.

Normally I wouldn't condone a show about, or a character in general, who changes her plans for some dude. But what worked about this show was that in making what appeared to be a really rash (and kind of stupid) decision, the titular character was forced to discover a lot of things about herself. She was thrust into a situation that many would be too afraid to face, and she had to work things out at a slightly more rapid pace than just your average college co-ed.

A Different World.
Though technically this was a spin-off of the family-friendly, vanilla The Cosby Show, this series was so much more poignant and profound because it actually dealt with the real issues the youth of the early nineties was facing. It didn't shy away from what would otherwise be seen as controversial topics, and that exactly epitomizes the college experience. One is going to come up against differing opinions and personalities, as well as new encounters and situations when at college. This show focused on what those discussions looked like.

This show might truly be the stepping stone that now allow something like Glory Daze to prevail. Though its TV time was cut way too short, in my not-so-humble opinion, it truly made its mark while it was on, focusing on a somewhat misfit bunch of friends and the antics they got up to while trying to shake the stereotypes and the stigmas they carried with them throughout high school. It was about kids trying to grow into the people they desperately saw themselves as, even if at times they seemed ill-equipped or eager to make the move too quickly. And of course it was filled with some of the usual comedic shenanigans to which kids who are on their own for the first time get up.

The Best of Now

There has never been, nor will there ever be, another motley crew quite like the Greendale Community College Spanish study group. Nor should anyone even try. Each character started out as quite the stereotype, but the pilot episode alone addressed that right off the bat, from the very first few minutes of the Dean's expositional speech about the melting pot that is a community college. And since then we have gotten to know each of their own little eccentricities, quirks, and personalities. We have learned way more about them (and about pop culture) than they probably have in the classroom, but that just adds to the charm!

Hellcats. This slice of higher learning life is a bit more geared toward the competitive athletics on campus than the classes, but for many that is a more than accurate look at the four years during which one goes from teenager to young adult. But lately they've been dealing with very real coming-of-age stories, too, like Marti's attempt to just be able to cut loose and not have to carry the weight and responsibility of both her life and her mother's all the time, as well as Savannah's discomfort at still being a virgin and the fact that her boyfriend and her best friend might actually be in love with each other.

Another show that deals with a very specific way of campus life: the fraternity and sorority world. They reach outward to include other characters every now and again, but in staying true to the way the Greek system works, all of those characters have previous ties or they wouldn't have any reason to interact at all. The show deals with all steps: from freshmen pledging the system to rising the ranks to creating relationships and accepting the perks (and consequences) of it.

Will Glory Daze soon be added to this list? Tune in to the premiere on TBS on November 16th to find out!

No comments: