The best TV shows about students and university life for Fresher’s Week
PUBLISHED: 13:46 21 September 2018 | UPDATED: 13:46 21 September 2018
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As Freshers flood to university for their first week away from home, it’s time to take a look at some television shows which focus on students. From Fresh Meat to The Young Ones, Bad Education to Clique, relive your uni days in front of the box.
Ah, student life. Everyone has a story to tell. Some may look back on it all fondly while others, including myself - owing to a variety of medical issues and lengthy bus journeys - may not.
But rather than bore you with my woe-is-me tales, I’m here to talk television: in this case, 10 shows that focus on student life.
So whether you want to relive the glory days of learning how to boil eggs singlehandedly or thinking it’s a good idea to keep drinking tequila until 6am or wondering why the eight foot Apocalypse Now poster keeps peeling off your wall or wonder what you missed, here are 10 shows that nail the student experience.
And if you never were a student, may I suggest Fresh Meat as a starting point.
10 TV shows all about student life
Fresh Meat (Channel 4, 2011-2016)
The show that marked the acting debut of Jack Whitehall. The titular Fresh Meat referred to six students – scene-stealing Vod (Zawe Ashton, currently to be seen in Wanderlust), Oregon, Josie, Kingsley, JP and Howard – who are freshers, except for Howard, at Manchester Medlock University. Devised by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain – who also created Peep Show – the comedy-drama focused on their lives as they come together in a house off-campus. Plenty student-related issues were on the table, from financial issues to work pressures, to job seeking to exam stress. The diverse cast were praised, the series itself was funny and ably detailed all the drama of uni life until drawing to a conclusion in 2016, leaving a Fresh Meat-sized gap in our lives and the students with crippling debt and no job prospects.
The Young Ones (BBC2, 1982-1984)
The Young Ones supposedly inspired our previous entry and followed four undergraduate students sharing a house. Created by Ben Elton, Rik Mayall and Lise Mayer, The Young Ones featured an aggressive punk medical student, a conceited wannabe anarchist sociology student, an oppressed paranoid hippie peace students student and a suave, charming, would-be underground mob boss. Safe to say, it had some variety. Regarded as the first situation comedy of the alternative generation (which sounds EXACTLY like something Rik would say), The Young Ones regularly used violence, physical foulness, blood, sex and death as part of its arsenal – ah, the student experience. It also comes with added, potential pub quiz trivia: the title itself relates to the song of the same name written by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett, sung by Cliff Richard and The Shadows, which found its way to #1. It also became a video game for the PC in 1986, licensed by the show’s creators.
Bad Education (BBC3, 2012-2014)
Jack Whitehall appears again in this next entry as young teacher, Alfie Wickers. Wickers, not the best teacher by any stretch of the imagination, had himself a real mix of students from teacher’s pet, Joe, to wheelchair-bound Rem Dog, to the inappropriately flirtatious Chantelle. It even found its way to the big screen for an adaptation.
Big Bad World (Comedy Central UK, 2013)
Blake Harrison – Neil from the Inbetweeners – is a Norse literature graduate who has returned home to our very own, Great Yarmouth. In this case, the focus is on what happens post-graduation and making your way in the world as a graduate – hence the title. Despite only having eight episodes to its name, Big Bad World earned some reasonably decent reviews. It was, somewhat annoyingly, entirely filmed in Ramsgate, which doubled as Yarmouth and Norwich.
Community (NBC and Yahoo! Screen, 2009-2015)
Across the pond, Community – taking place in a community college, which, according to the interwebs, is essentially a university with just more courses on offer – was based on creator Dan Harmon’s own experiences of attending a community college. It finds Jeff Winger disbarred and suspended from his law firm after it’s revealed he lied about possessing a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, forcing him to enrol at Greendale Community College to snag a proper one. In the opening season, Jeff forms a study group – your usual group of misfits – and subsequent misadventures follow. Boasting an impressive cast – something Harmon said was 95% of putting the show together – including the likes of Joel McHale, Chevy Chase, Alison Brie and Donald Glover, Community won critical acclaim for both acting and writing and was packed full of pop culture references and more.
Clique (BBC3, 2017-Present)
Away from the comedy and down into an eerie Edinburgh for our next entry, the slick, impressive thriller, Clique. Clique focuses on Georgia and Holly – childhood friends starting out at university, pushed down separate paths when Georgia is drawn into an elite clique of alpha girls and Holly is left out in the cold. However, when Georgia begins acting erratically, Holly seeks to follow her in only to discover a world of lavish parties, corruption and danger. It was written by Jess Britain – who also has Skins on her résumé – and cast its focus on friendships and the darkness of youth. A second series will follow the impressive first in the future. This is possibly not one for empty nesters to watch if they want to feel closer to their departed university children.
Gossip Girl (The CW, 2007-2012)
Back across the pond, Gossip Girl was based on the book series of the same name written by Cecily von Ziegesar and cemented itself as an iconic teen drama. Narrated by the titular blogger, the series focused on privileged teenagers, private-school kids living on the Upper East Side of New York – home of the city’s elite, according to the official guide to New York, which adds that the Upper East Side is a place for pastry, pearls and pocket squares. These teens soon discovered they could hide no secret from the ruthless blogger who is always watching.
Skins (E4, 2007-2013)
Arguably the most iconic of the student related dramas from these shores, Skins took viewers to Bristol to follow the lives of a group of teens as they find their way through the two years of Sixth Form. It explored a wealth of storylines from dysfunctional families, mental illness, sexuality, gender, death and bullying, with each episode switching the focus from character to character, proving a ratings winner and critical success in the process. The teenagers in Skins were impossibly attractive, impossibly hedonistic and propelled its stars to heady new heights.
The Inbetweeners (E4, 2008-2010)
What’s it like to be a teenage boy? The Inbetweeners sought to provide some answers as Will, Simon, Neil and Jay were faced with a raft of issues – friendship, male bonding, lad culture, misfortune with the ladies – while navigating life as a student. It was another to make it to the big screen, boasting two movies to its name. The format didn’t age brilliantly but the good episodes are really good. Watch the one where Neil punches a fish.
Veronica Mars (UPN/The CW 2004-2007)
When not attending high school, Veronica Mars had a second job as a private investigator – aided by the tutelage of her detective father. By the third season, Veronica had found her way to college and continued to tackle all manner of mysteries. But there’s great news, marshmallows, as Veronica may well soon be back on the case with Kristen Bell back as the heroine of the title. Of course she won’t be at high school now – unless something has gone very horribly wrong.