High School vs. College

September 28th, 2009 by Alec McNayr

animalhouseI recently forwarded to Bob a blog post by writer Alex Epstein entitled High School Shows vs. College Shows. Since we’re working on a college-themed show pitch, I thought Alex’s words especially relevant:

Ever noticed how few college shows there are? …aside from FELICITY, I can’t think of a successful college show.

Very few Americans actually go to college. 17% graduate, apparently. And who knows how many go to sleepaway colleges — lots of people stay at home and commute to college.

Gotta watch that observer bias… it’s good to run your stories by some non-writer friends. See if your take on the world matches anyone else’s.

I thought Bob’s response was smart, so I thought I’d embarrass him by including it on our blog:

Interesting article. You know, maybe it’s futile to write about my experiences because I’m one of a privileged few and only a small percentage of America (less than 17% apparently) even went through what I went through. Perhaps the shows that are too smart fail because a vast amount of the audience can’t connect with them.

His “high school hierarchy” point reminds me of Frank Oz talking about how his movie Death at a Funeral had to take place in England and, in particular, a high-brow family. With an established hierarchy, the characters had someplace to fall. The same thing is being set up in Glee on FOX right now.

So the question is… how do we overcome those two things with our own “college-themed” show:

  1. Make it primal. How I Met Your Mother (where they’re all college graduates) works because its characters and themes are very primal. Love, death, embarrassment, sex, beer. Feels very college-ish, but it’s popular.
  2. Create the Hierarchy. In whatever universe we decide to take on, create the hierarchy… Sons of Anarchy (which I just started watching… it’s great, btw) has that.
  3. Pitch to Cable. Mad Men gets made and it’s extremely successful, but to a very niche audience. Following Alex’s logic, a college show has a better chance on an a cable net like AMC than a broadcaster like ABC.

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