Updated: Mar 9, 2022
College in the media is not a new thing. We’ve seen all sorts of shows and movies in college settings since the beginning of film. However, most of these works include common college stereotypes such as partying, alcohol, and Greek Life. While that is indeed part of what society considers college, it is nowhere near as prevalent as shown in the media.
So, in an effort to throw out some of those stereotypes, I’d like to present to you six college-themed TV shows that focus on other things, such as classes, relationships, and monster killing.
The half-hour comedy was Judd Apatow’s follow-up to an earlier television series he worked on, Freaks and Geeks, which also lasted for one season. Undeclared centers on a group of college freshmen at the fictional University of Northeastern California. Although a comedy, this show generally strays away from common college stereotypes, and instead replacing clichés of campus life (nonstop partying) with more realistic concerns (such as the freshman 15).
2. Veronica Mars
The series is set in the fictional town of Neptune, California, and stars Kristen Bell as the title character, a student who progresses from high school to college while moonlighting as a private investigator under the tutelage of her detective father. In each episode, Veronica solves a different stand-alone case while working to solve a more complex mystery.
The show is an instant cult classic, and was Kristen Bell’s ticket to fame, as well as the first crush of many boys growing up. The show is almost like “Clueless” meets “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, and is quite fun to watch. A new Kickstarter project was started to fund a feature length film that the original actors have agreed to, so now is the perfect time to watch through the show.
The series follows a group of students at a community college in the fictional locale of Greendale, Colorado. Jeff Winger, a lawyer who gets sent back to college to get a degree in order to continue working at his firm, meets a group of other students who ended up at community college for a number of different reasons. It’s clear that I didn’t rank these shows in any particular order, because Community is definitely my favorite of all of these shows.
What makes this show so great is that it starts the first season like a normal sitcom: a group of friends who get into funny situations while learning a valuable lesson in the end. However, starting season 2, the show starts to get over-the-top with “gimmick” episodes that introduce all sorts of surreal concepts and plot lines while still generally grounded in reality. From deathly paintball battles, to battling zombies with Abba music playing in the background, to alternate dimensions, this show does not have a dull moment.
But what really makes this show so great is the chemistry between all of the characters. They just seem to get along so well, and really show the struggles of students in a community college.
Hellcats focuses on the lives of college cheerleaders, mainly Marti Perkins, a pre-law college student who has to join the cheerleading team, the Hellcats, in order to get the athletic scholarship she needs.
Coming right out of out of the heels of Phil of the Future on Disney Channel, Aly Michalka adds a little sass to her repertoire on this show, joined by fellow Disney Channel Star Ashley Tisdale and a lineup of college beauties hashing it out in the world of cheerleading.
Marti Perkins lost her scholarship and has no other choice but to join the college’s cheer squad, the Hellcats, in order to obtain a new one. There she meets her new roommate and team captain Savannah Monroe, the injured flyer Alice Verdura, her new partner Lewis Flynn and the Hellcats coach Vanessa Lodge who hopes to win nationals, otherwise the cheer leading program will be cut. Michalka and Tisdale have great chemistry together, and it’s pretty amusing to watch how their rivalry eventually morphs into a friendship of convenience.
5. China, IL
The series takes place at the “Worst College in America”, located at the edge of town. The school’s poor reputation is celebrated by the school’s uncaring faculty and staff, constantly shown drinking while teaching and/or trying to avoid teaching altogether. Steve and Frank Smith are twin professors at the college, teaching different subjects with limited success, while Professor Cakes is the father of undergraduate Mark “Baby” Cakes, who spends his time at college with the school staff. Pony is the teacher’s aide at the school, and the most rational of the staff, but still willing to go along with the staff’s insane plots to avoid working.
The show is really weird, with a really strange art style and odd voices. But it really grows on you. I’d say it’s one of the better showings you’ll find on Adult Swim, so check it out if you have the chance.
6. Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Now, this show only takes place in a college setting in the later seasons, and there are mixed feelings regarding the college-based episodes (like many shows that decide to take their cast to college). However, I found the show pretty enjoyable, and while not having the same charm as the first few seasons, it grew into its own style that I enjoyed.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch is a show about Sabrina Spellman, a girl who discovers on her sixteenth birthday that she is a witch. As a novice witch, her spells often go awry. Her aunts Hilda and Zelda Spellman counsel her on the proper use of her magic and give her moral advice, at least in the first few seasons.
In the college episodes, her aunts tend to get their own plotlines, only seldom merging with Sabrina’s plot lines. What I like about the show at this point in time is that Sabrina, in between her witchery and other otherworldly problems, still has to struggle through college problems, such as academics, financial aid, finding a job, and living with roommates. It actually does a pretty good job of being realistic. Well, as realistic as a girl going on adventures with a talking cat can be.