There is a growing list of shows that were at one point, canceled before their time. It seems that animation heads up this list with the likes of Futurama and Family Guy at the top. The cult popularity and unwavering support of the fan base helped fuel a second life for their respective programs. Undergrads has not fared as well, at least not yet. Some initial traction was made back in the days of MySpace and hopes were high that a second season would see the light of day. The window of opportunity was slowly closing. The encouraging posts became less frequent. The rallying cry wasn’t as loud as before. The idea of what could be, faded away into memory, that is until now.
I never watched Undergrads during its original run on MTV. I seem to remember the advertising, but there had to be something else on at that time slot that stole my attention. What other television watcher had this same dilemma? I know I wasn’t watching the Simpsons actively at this point in time, but that was one of the programs Undergrads was slotted to compete with. It wasn’t until the summer before my freshman year of college that friends opened my eyes to what I had been missing.
Our summers were spent with regular LAN parties. That fact alone directly showcases why the show was such a hit in my eyes, but I’ll touch more on that later on. If you weren’t in the act of actual playing a game during these sessions then you were probably in the processing of leeching files from a friend that had acquired the respective media by some other means. We had a marathon showing of each episode that first day, the first of many more to come. I was hooked.
So what was it about this show that struck such a personal note? I think it had to be the timing of it all. I was experiencing the show at a time that perfectly mirrored what the characters were going through. The institute of a college education, but also of that lifestyle experience. It didn’t hurt to have all the Star Wars references either. I can’t say that growing up I was involved with a close-knit group of friends such as Rocko (drunk jock), Nitz (the everyguy), Cal (ladies man), and Gimpy (uber nerd); but I definitely had friends that would remind me of each of these characters or the exploits they would find themselves in. You honestly cannot start a game of Risk and expect it to be done in a relatively quick fashion. There will be great alliances, epic dice rolls, and deceit-filled betrayals. If you were playing PC games and growing up during the same time that I was, you definitely knew what Quake was. Both of these topics provide the main plot for some of my favorite episodes. These memories from a geek/nerd childhood mesh so well with the narrative displayed during Undergrad’s first season. I was simply able to identify on a personal level with the show. It’s that type of inclusion that really makes you a fan.
This show is really what helped push me into a different frame of thought regarding the entire direction of my education. I wanted to experience college. It could be overwhelming or downright scary in my mind thinking about it, but the show helped me realize that there would also be a silver lining underneath. The risk was would be worth the reward. Gone was the idea of heading to Florida to study at an expensive trade school and oddly enough, a game design/digital animation program started up nearby. It may not have worked out for me as a profession, but the timing of the decision is rather interesting. I can’t say wholeheartedly that Undergrads pushed me to make that decision, but it definitely played a part.
So if this show is as great as I say it is, why did it fail? I don’t have that answer, but I think there a lot of circumstances at work that played into the overall outcome. MTV had pretty high expectations placed in the ratings requirements for the show to achieve. Moving Undergrads to a Sunday night time slot didn’t exactly appear to be a winning strategy when you can look back on it with some hindsight. It appears very likely that MTV was really trying to off their animation programming as a whole so they could move into an entirely different direction. Geek culture was nowhere near the spotlight that it is now. As a person, you just couldn’t be out their in the mainstream showing everyone that these were the things you loved and cared about. Look how different things are today. Undergrads would easily fit in with that kind of programming. The explosive growth of the internet has really changed how that whole sub-culture is perceived. Online programming is a whole new medium that can support creative entrainment like this. This just didn’t exist in 2001. Hell, I was on 28.8k modem that didn’t even connect at that speed!
I have very high hopes that once the proper arrangement is made between legal parties (MTV and Decode own the rites to the show), that some new content can come through. Obviously the fan base alone cannot create the cash-flow needed to fund a movie or second season, but it would be a definite contributor. I’ll definitely share the details of a Kickstarter when it becomes a reality. Another party is needed in order to help handle some of that financial burden. That’s where you, the people reading this post come into play. Do what we all do best. Get vocal. Share your interest in reviving Undergrads. Like the “Bring Back Undergrads” page on Facebook. Follow Pete Williams, @UGPeteWilliams, on twitter. If we show there is a high enough demand, it will help bring notice from the entertainment industry.
Lift the banners. Rally the troops. Spread the word. Let’s bring back Undergrads!