There’s nothing like graduation season to get us feeling nostalgic about our college days. When this mood strikes, the best way to walk down memory lane isn’t going through old photos or flipping through dusty textbooks. It’s soaking in the joys and despair of college life through our favorite college-centric TV shows.
Not only do these shows empathize with the average college experience, they make it even better with the types of hijinks, adventure, and danger we only dreamed about between study groups and finals. To help you scratch that nostalgic itch right along with us, here’s a peek at our seven favorite shows about college life.
Whether you were a sorority sister wannabe or just liked watching fraternity antics from a safe distance, “Greek” will satisfy whatever need you have to dip your toe in the Greek system pool. Centered on the lives of students at Cyprus-Rhodes University, this show navigates the tricky social minefield of college life. Rusty (Jacob Zachar), the show’s main protagonist launches into his freshman year bound and determined to shed his former nerdy skin and find his place as a big man on campus.
For fans of “Revenge of the Nerds,” this show delivers the satisfaction of rooting for the underdog, albeit in much kinder fashion than the classic film. Rusty faces a pseudo-enemy in big sister Casey (Spencer Grammer), who already rules the most popular sorority on campus, which adds a fun dynamic to the antics of these earnest college kids who truly believe these will be the best years of their lives.
Forget for a minute that this show features the funny (and yummy) Joel McHale. Even though he may be the reason I first tuned in, I quickly fell in love with the whole rag-tag bunch of college hopefuls featured in this sardonic exploration of community college. Focusing on non-traditional students who somehow made their way to Greendale Community College (and a misfit study group), “Community” turns the whole college trope on its head.
By expanding beyond the traditional, just-out-of-high school world of college, “Community” appeals to a broad audience. And thanks to quirky humor, intelligent writing, and standout performances this show quickly gained a cult following as devoted to the study group as the characters themselves. But just because they’re older adults doesn’t mean they don’t know how to cut loose – between paint ball wars and elaborate pranks, these “grownups” deliver plenty of silly in every episode.
3. “Veronica Mars”
If I could pick one of these shows to trade my college days with, it would be this one. How cool would it be to attend lectures by day and solve crimes by night? For anyone with a “Nancy Drew” or “Hardy Boys” fascination, “Veronica Mars” plays out those mystery-solving daydreams and fulfills those shiny fantasies of childhood.
Played by the delightful Kristen Bell, Veronica uses her innocent looks and caustic wit to go where no college student has gone before – into the seedy underbelly of her seaside So-Cal town. If you’re not already a “Marshmallow,” it might be time to close the blinds, grab a few pints of Ben & Jerry’s and settle in for one of the best binge-watches ever.
4. “A Different World”
This “Cosby Show” spinoff followed Huxtable daughter Denise (Lisa Bonet) as she left the cozy family nest for Hillman College. “A Different World” translated the safe, family-centric humor of “The Cosby Show” to a traditional college campus. But the campus added a new edge that never showed up at the Huxtable dinner table.
“A Different World” tackled relevant political and social issues right along with delivering laughs. It delved into issues of race, AIDS, class war, and rape. For a funny half-hour, the show made a huge statement about the world of the early ‘90s and captured a place in the heart of American audiences that still resonates today.
Following in the footsteps of “Freaks and Geeks,” this exploration of college life delivers wit, charm, and satire through the nostalgic (and hilarious) lens of Judd Apatow. “Undeclared” is one of the best ways to bring the glory days of college back to life.
Visiting the ups and downs of figuring out the rest of your life, while struggling with random crushes and the inevitable heartbreak, is rarely more fun than with the freshman dorm mates at the center of this raucous comedy. Even though it only lasted one season, “Undeclared” scored a lasting place in our hearts.
6. “Gilmore Girls”
Nearly-perfect Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) lets us tag along with her as she pursues higher education in the hallowed halls of Yale. In true “Gilmore Girls” fashion, the college years deliver plenty of witty banter, emotional conflicts, and personal growth.
College gives Rory the room to spread her wings and make some mistakes. It’s reassuring to know that even the sublime Rory can stumble on the road to becoming who she truly is. And watching her work on the college paper is an extra treat for those of us who did the same during our own college years.
7. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”
Joss Whedon uses the same allegory of monsters and evil conspiracies to explore the transformative struggles of college as he did during Buffy’s high school days. But when the Scooby Gang graduates to college, new threats and higher stakes come along with the gang’s newly-found freedoms.
Instead of struggling with racking up student debt and making the right connections to ensure a long, glorious career, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” deals with genetic mutations, body-swapping, and of course the ever-present vampire threat. It’s fun to watch normal growing pains cloaked in supernatural phenomena and it’s somewhat surprising every time the show delivers a profound insight or lesson learned.
Whether college was the best years of your life or an alternate dream reality you never got to fully experience, we can all get a taste of the nostalgia and bright-eyed hope for the future through these smart, funny, and heart-warming shows.