It’s hard to get school right on TV. Whether it’s high school or college, most shows miss the boat on what it means to be getting an education. Mistakes include overly glamorizing the wrong parts about school or having too many relationship-jumping, regional-singing-competition-focused high school cheerleaders.
But some shows paint students that are just like real people. These fictional students are going through exactly what so many non-fictional students – like myself – are going through. We can watch these shows and be entertained while learning something about ourselves.
That’s why we put together a list of some of these top college TV shows. All you need is a Netflix account to watch all of them. Surprisingly, Saved By the Bell: The College Years didn’t make the cut. Sorry, Screech Powers fans.
Words cannot express how phenomenal the NBC show Community is, and chances are that you have never seen an episode. This show is about a group of seven community college students who are just trying to find their way on a path that they didn’t plan on. This group includes someone who pretended to be a lawyer, an injured high school football star, and a single mother of two.
Maybe we all can’t relate to each of these types of characters and their situations, but the show is about something we are all familiar with: trying to find happiness on a path that we didn’t necessarily plan on. The main characters might think they “deserve” to be in a better place than Greendale College, but they grow to accept their surroundings because of the people that they befriend.
I’m not saying that students should accept a situation that’s not their ideal – I just think that more students would be happier if they embraced the path that they are on right now instead of spending all of their time fantasizing about where they should be instead.
Freaks and Geeks
Although this only lasted one season, Freaks and Geeks is a show that speaks to all of us misfit high school students. The show centers on Lindsay, a girl who is struggling to change her academic stardom to become one of the “freaks,” which are the burn-outs at school. Her brother, Sam, is also trying to find his way in high school.
Freaks and Geeks is set in 1980, but the messages apply to everyone who is desperately trying to change but still maintain who they are. So many high school students go through this same thing, and this show does it in a funny yet dramatic way. Plus, it has a killer soundtrack.
Another show that was canceled ahead of its time, Veronica Mars features Kristen Bell as the title character, a high school private detective working cases on every episode. The show is a prime example of a modern crime noir story but also realistically depicted high school life (in as realistic of a way that the CW can present anything).
Although I don’t know anyone who solved murders in high school (or even now in college), it’s still a great character to depict on TV. It’s an entertaining way of depicting high school and college, and again focuses on the outcast student that we are all familiar with (the person that many of us were).
I’m not talking about the MTV show that aired recently – I’m referring to the original British show that was on from 2008-2010. This show centers on four misfit high school students, one of which recently enrolled in public school after leaving a prestigious private school. These kids continually make fools of themselves while making their way through school, which is something that we are all familiar with.
This one is definitely on the comedic side of the schooling experience, but it’s one that is worth watching (and not just because it’s hilarious). Throughout the series, although the four students are always falling flat on their faces, they still have each other to fall back on. I know that without my friends, I probably wouldn’t have made it through high school, and I know that the same applies to many people.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
This show is perfect because it’s about a group of high school students who fight vampires and other demons, which is something that all of us do, right? If I had a dollar for every vampire I’ve slayed, I’d be rich.
Obviously I’m kidding, but everything outside of the vampire slaying-aspect of Buffy addresses concerns that every student has. Everyone goes through changes that they have no control of in high school (and even in college in later seasons of the show) – we just don’t have to carry wooden stakes around to help us with ours.
I don’t think that any TV show will capture the high school or college experience perfectly (possibly because it would be too boring), but if you were an alien and you watched these shows, I think you would have as close to a perfect depiction of schools in America as television can provide.