College is a place for new beginnings and new experiences for the newly independent. Given this reality, it’s as great a place as any to have as a backdrop for a television show. Over the years, there have been a good number of shows that did just that. Below is a list of the top seven.
“Coach” enjoyed its run from 1989 to 1997 and was based on the story of a college football coach at Minnesota State University. Though in the latter two seasons Coach Hayden Fox moved on to a position in the NFL, taking his entire coaching staff with him, the bulk of the series revolved around Fox dealing with the reality of a renewed relationship with his daughter, a student at the university whom he hadn’t seen since his divorce 16 years earlier, as well as the daily conflicts associated with coaching a college sports team. In this latter role, Coach Fox was aided by assistant coach Luther Van Dam and the always-befuddled Michael “Dauber” Dybinski, himself a former Minnesota athlete and perennial student. Another major story was his ongoing romance with a television news reporter who had no interest in sports beyond Coach Fox.
6. Blue Mountain State
“Blue Mountain State” was an original Spike series that aired for three seasons. The sitcom revolved around the hijinks of three college athletes, Alex Moran, Sammy Cacciatore and Thad Castle, as they worked towards winning games for the fictional Blue Mountain State’s football team, The Mountain Goats. The series is noted for its raunchy style with plot lines that heavily revolved around the typical college experiences of debauchery and drunkenness, replete with over-the-top hazing rituals. The series was a big hit before suffering a drop in ratings during its final season.
5. A Different World
“A Different World” began as a spinoff from “The Cosby Show.” It featured Lisa Bonet as Denise Huxtable as she began her college career at the fictional Hillman College, a historically black college located in Virginia. Starting in the second season, after Bonet left the show, the main characters were Jasmine Guy’s Whitley Gilbert and her beau Dwayne Wayne, who was played by Kadeem Hardison.
Beyond depicting life as an African American college student, “A Different World” was noted for its willingness to tackle issues like racism, rape and class conflict, as well as the AIDS epidemic, which was at its worse in America in the early ’90s. The sitcom, created by Bill Cosby, remains one of the most popular shows from the decade.
Starring Keri Russell as the eponymous main character, “Felicity” was a television drama that centered on the life of the college freshman as she rashly pursued her high school crush, Ben Covington, played by Scott Speedman, from California to New York to attend the fictional University of New York with him.
With an ensemble cast, “Felicity” focused on the lives and romances of young college students living in New York City and featured memorable characters like Felicity’s gothic roommate.
Though it lasted for only four seasons, the series was an instant hit and is considered to be one of the greatest shows of all time.
“Community” is a sitcom based on a group of students attending a fictional community college in Colorado. Unlike the other series listed here, “Community” is less about academic life and more about the Type A personalities of the various characters.
The ensemble cast consists of a lawyer who is currently trying to earn the bachelor’s degree he lied about having, a socially-challenged film student with an unhealthy obsession for pop culture, a boisterous single mother hoping to start her own business, a millionaire who enrolled in school just to keep himself busy and an injured athlete who lost his scholarship and must now attend community college.
Already in its fourth season, the sitcom has won critical acclaim and amassed a cult following.
2. “Veronica Mars”
“Veronica Mars” is a teen drama and mystery series that followed the life of teenager Veronica Mars who, when not attending high school, worked as a private investigator à la Nancy Drew.
In the third season, after graduating high school, Mars attended Hearst College in the fictional town of Neptune, California, along with several members of her high school class. Among the mysteries Mars is tasked with solving are the rape of a close friend and the murder of the school’s dean. Like most college-based shows, “Veronica Mars” also placed an emphasis on the challenges of academic life.
“Undeclared” was a sitcom created by Judd Apatow that focused on the unglamorous everyday realities of college life. Unfortunately, the show only lasted for 16 episodes after failing to garner high enough ratings. Nevertheless, it was praised by critics and is considered a cult classic today due to the ensemble cast of lighthearted, lovable characters.
A fun but little-known fact about “Undeclared” is that the stories of the characters were based on the actual lives of the actors who played them.