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TV Goes to College: 10 Memorable Shows Set on Campus

by Jane Murphy, posted Nov 16th 2010 4:50PM
'Conan' isn't TBS' only big premiere this month. Tonight at 10PM ET, you can tune into the first episode of 'Glory Daze', a one-hour comedy set among the crushed beer cans and hand-me-down sofas of a fraternity house ... in 1986. (Read Maureeen Ryan's review of 'Glory Daze.')

The cast is full of fresh faces; the most famous name among the regulars is former 'Saturday Night Live' player Tim Meadows, as the awkward Professor Haines.

But can 'Glory Daze' succeed where other college comedies and dramas -- many others -- have failed? Though series set in leafy quads would seem to be limiting themselves to a four-year run, it could take the Hayes University screw-ups of 'Glory Daze' a decade to graduate.

Let's review some of TV's most memorable attempts to bring higher ed to the small screen. You'll be tested on this later.

Undeclared'Undeclared'. Lighting struck twice for producer Judd Apatow with this Fox series, his TV follow-up to NBC's 'Freaks & Geeks'. Like 'F&G,' 'Undeclared' was funny, stockpiled with future stars (Jay Baruchel, for starters), a critics favorite -- and canceled all too soon. In the clip below, you'll see 'Sons of Anarchy's Charlie Hunnam (pictured with Baruchel at left) and 'Entourage's Monica Keena. As for the impressive impressionist, that's Geoffrey Arend ('500 Days of Summer' co-star and real-life husband of 'Mad Men's Christina Hendricks). Can't help wondering if Arend wooed the sexy Hendricks with his Scooby-Doo voice.

'Community.' The NBC hit hilariously reinforces the stereotype of the community college as Goofball U. Fictional Greendale CC attempts to educate a lawyer on the skids (Joel McHale), a bonkers zillionaire (Chevy Chase) and, thankfully, a diligent student or two. Audit 'Community' below on Hulu.

'Gossip Girl'. Could any dorm compare to a Park Avenue residence? Heck no, Blair (Leighton Meester, left). Thank goodness New York City is full of excellent universities you can attend while clinging to your chic metropolitan lifestyle. And since downtown is the place to be very young and very bad, the girls of Constance Billard's are BFFs with NYU. XOXO.

'Greek.' School's back in session when 'Greek' returns on ABC Family in January. Focused on fraternity and sorority life -- much like 'Glory Daze' -- the series features Spencer Grammer as Zeta Beta Zeta girl Casey. The 'Greek' episode below is called -- hey -- 'Freshman Daze'. Spencer Grammer's real life stepmom Camille is a member of another basic cable sorority, 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills'.

'Felicity.' J.J. Abrams' It Girl of the '90s, Keri Russell's Felicity turned her back on a fat envelope from Stanford to attend an NYU-esque school in Manhattan. Felicity, Ben and Noel were the Blair, Nate and Chuck of their day. Note to Blake LIvely: think twice before cutting your hair.

'The Education of Max Bickford.' After triumphing in 'Mr. Holland's Opus', Richard Dreyfuss returned to school, this time as a college professor. The show – filmed largely in New York – had its first episode air less than two weeks after the September 11 attacks. 'Bickford's' mix of comedy and drama never found enough of an audience on CBS.

'Saved by the Bell – The College Years.' Did you read about the quadruplets who decided to attend Yale together? Similarly, Zach, Screech and the inseparable SBTB gang attended the exact same southern California college together back in '93. However, we never learned if any diplomas were proffered; 'The College Years' lasted only nine months.

'Class of '96.' Whatever happened to the 'Class of '96'? Fox's teen series ended while its characters were still freshmen at fictional Havenhurst College. In the scene below, the actor who utters the line "say fromage!" is guest star John Cameron Mitchell (pictured at left). He'd later star in the award-winning musical he helped create, 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch'. Mitchell is also the director of the upcoming Oscar hopeful 'Rabbit Hole', starring Nicole Kidman.

'A Different World.' NBC premiered 'A Different World' in 1987, spinning-off its No. 1 hit, 'The Cosby Show.' Lisa Bonet's Denise left the Huxtable home in Brooklyn to attend Hillman, an HBC (historically black college). The show's run spanned six years, surviving the post-season 1 departures of Bonet and co-star Marisa Tomei. 'World's' season 1 opening is below.

'Delta House.' How gross could you be on TV in 1979? Not gross enough, apparently, and alas this ABC version of 'Animal House' lasted only one season. 'Delta' boasted several members of the original 'Animal House' cast -- most notably Bruce "D-Day" McGill and John "Dean Wormer" Vernon – and an early role for Michelle Pfeiffer. Still, it was a no-go for the toga-loving Deltas. Below is a rare clip from the series.

'Undeclared' will soon be in reruns, courtesy of IFC. Have we missed any of your favorite university-centric shows? Let us know in comments!

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Does anyone remember the 1960's tv series that was based on a college campus. The guy worked on a food truck. He couldn't afford college tuition, so he snuck into classes, and wore disguises. A professor, or someone in the college was always trying to catch him.

September 30 2011 at 1:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Gee, does anybody remember a show back in the late 1960s' called, "Romm 222"? Although it was set in a high school, it was a GREAT show.

November 18 2010 at 2:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Writer of this article forgot to add "The Paper Chase", which started John Houseman as Professor Kingsfield, a Harvard law professor, in the series and .

November 17 2010 at 9:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John F.C. Taylor

Another list of shows that I never watched.

November 17 2010 at 7:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I guess this doesn't really count because the show doesn't take place on a college campus, put the Simpson had one of the greatest episode of the series "Homer Goes To College" which was written by Conan and ever time i watch it, it reminds about how great the was. And "Community" differently has a similar tone to that episode of the Simpson.


November 17 2010 at 1:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love undeclared! That show was hilarious!

November 16 2010 at 6:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I loved the college years of Beverly Hills, 90210. Otherwise, you nailed my two college faves, A Different World and SBTB:TCY!

November 16 2010 at 5:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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