A long time ago, 2001 to be exact, on a network not so far away….
An MTV animated series would hit the airwaves. Edgy and downright hilarious, the show would give a look at college lifestyle but vanished not long afterwards. However, the show soon becomes a cult hit on Teletoon and DVD. But it has yet to make its Netflix debut.
This is Undergrads.
Created by Pete Williams, the show only consists of 13 episodes, but they depict a great take on college life. In an alternate universe, the show could have been a worthy MTV series in the vein of Beavis and Butt-Head and Daria. However, the series is still fresh and feels contemporary nearly twenty years later.
The show focuses on four freshman as they embark on their first year of university. Having been friends since infancy, they swear to remain “the Clique” despite going to different schools. Parker “Nitz” Walsh is the shy everyman who must make his way through life in college. His dream is to win the love of Kimmy Burton, a second-year student who he went to high school with. However, she’s fawning over a drama student named Mark, whom she doesn’t realize is gay. Nitz gets advice and support from fellow student Jessie, a laid-back, easy going girl who’s definitely interested in him. She often gets frustrated by his mooning over Kimmy. All the while, Nitz remains oblivious to Jessie’s attraction to him.
Calvin “Cal” Evans is Nitz’ roommate. Tall, blonde and handsome, he is somewhat of an airhead with a lisp and a habit of calling everyone “guy”. Although he is not too bright, Cal has an impressive track record with women, much to the envy of his friends. However, he remains the peacemaker of the group and tries to be kind.
Rocko Gambiani can be called a drunken oaf. He’s a meathead at the local community college with the desire to join a fraternity. Unfortunately, times have come a long way from the likes of Animal House, and his antics are more pathetic and annoying at best. This often puts him at odds with the frat boys and the Clique. Despite his loud, obnoxious behaviour, Rocko loves his friends and will gladly help them out.
Last but not least is Justin “Gimpy” Taylor. Think Mark Zuckerberg crossed with Howard Hughes. Gimpy is highly intelligent but almost never leaves his dorm room at the local technical college. He’s a fan of Star Wars, Spider-Man and The X-Files. Although he admires Agent Dana Scully, Gimpy seems to view women as “the enemy.” He is often at odds with Rita the Resident Assistant.
Undergrads is unique among college series by almost never showing the guys in class. We never learn what they are studying, but that hardly matters on the show. Most of the storylines involve issues such as peer pressure, traditions, rivalries, sex, debt, and questioning one’s identity. Often, the four friends wind up pitting against each other, but they come to see the foolishness of their actions. That is, most of the time.
The show does not delve into sentiment either. Rocko’s battle with drinking is one of the series’ ongoing arcs. After a heavy night of boozing, he hallucinates seeing a giant bottle of liquor and vows to go sober. Naturally, this is easier said than done. In another episode, Nitz has an identity crisis after nobody recognizes him following the winter break. He locks himself in his dorm room and refuses to come out, thus becoming known as “Room Guy” on campus.
Of all the episodes, the penultimate “Risk” is perhaps the funniest. Gimpy, Cal and Rocko convince Nitz to play Risk with them over the weekend. Despite promising Kimmy to help out at the spring carnival, he agrees to join the Clique in a drawn-out game. The group plans to keep Nitz with them as long as possible, as they feel he chooses Kimmy over them. Gimpy is hellbent on beating Nitz, something which he has never done yet. Rocko’s quickly out of the game, so Nitz and Gimpy team up to take Cal down. However, Nitz breaks the treaty to attack Gimpy, who has a nervous breakdown and goes kamikaze. This results in both players unable to win, thus making Cal the winner by default.
One of the best parts of Undergrads is the music. Good Charlotte contributes “The Click” as the theme song, and they even make a cameo in the “Risk” episode. At the time, they were an up-and-coming band and have since become superstars. Another hilarious moment is Nitz and Cal’s rendition of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” Other artist whose music is featured include Alkaline Trio, Reggie and the Full Effect, and Sam Roberts.
All in all, Undergrads would make a fine addition to the Netflix platform. The thirteen episodes feel consistent and timely. Indeed, the show does not feel dated or cliche. If anything, a Netflix revival would gain a new audience among viewers, thus making a second season likely to happen.
Lately, there is hope for a comeback. MTV has given Williams the go-ahead to produce an Undergrads movie, and a Kickstarter campaign is in the works. This could lead to a potential second season.
Stayed tuned for details. We may yet hear more from the Clique…..