Undergrads: The Complete Freshman Season review by Mike Long

As someone who witnessed the birth of MTV, back when they actually played music videos, I hate the current incarnation of the network. I rarely stop on MTV while channel surfing, mainly because I don't care about whatever "Road Rule"/"Real World" reality show is on. That probably explains why I didn't catch Undergrads during its initial run on MTV. And even if I had seen it for a second, I would have probably assumed that it was more mindless MTV crap. But, now, the entire first (and only) season of Undergrads is available on DVD, and I've been given the chance to re-evaluate my stance on the channel.

Undergrads tells the story of four high-school buddies, each with a distinct personality (and all of whom are voiced by series creator Pete Williams). After high-school graduation, they assume that they will never seen one another again. But, as they all attend college in the same city, they see one another every day, and for each one, college is a unique experience. Nitz is the sensitive and shy guy. He doesn't want to make any new friends and he is wary of anything that seems immoral. Cal, Nitz's roommate at State U., is a vapid pretty-boy who is oblivious to everything, except for his lady friends. Meanwhile, at the local community college, Rocko is determined to have a party lifestyle. He joins a fraternity and is constantly at State U. trying to "pick up chicks". And finally, Gimpy attends Tekerson Tech, where he never leaves his room, preferring to communicate only via computer...when he's not busy telling his hallmates that Star Wars is much better than Star Trek.

The show focuses on the experience of one's freshman year of college through the eyes of these four unique personalities. And while these guys may be distinctive, their experiences are universal. One only has to view the episode titles, "Traditions", "Drunks", "New Friends", "Roommates", to see that the show is touching upon subjects that most college freshmen experience.

Now this is what DVD TV collections were meant to be. Like most people, I've gotten my favorite TV shows on DVD, so that I may enjoy them years from now. But, these sets can also be an opportunity to discover a show that you'd never seen before. (As I did with Buffy, the Vampire Slayer...with the season three set...) I only saw one episode of Undergrads while it was on MTV (it happened to be the season finale), so I never got a chance to appreciate the show.

Now that I've seen the entire season, I now hate MTV even more. Undergrads is a good show that, by all reports, was never given a chance to find its audience. Thus, it was cancelled after the first season. This is truly a shame, because the show deserves another chance. (Which I suppose it's getting, as it's currently airing on Comedy Central, and, of course, there's this DVD set.) The easiest way to describe Undergrads is that it's a combination of PCU and The Simpsons. As noted above, the show offers a fairly realistic view of college life and the challenges that come with freshman year. But, this is combined with a wacky off the wall sense of humor, where anything can happen. We often get a view of the character's dreams or inner-thoughts, and this leads to some bizarre visuals. Also, the fact that each character is a caricature lends itself to the humor. While Nitz is a fairly normal character, Cal, Rocko, and Gimpy are all over-the-top and supply most of the humor. Actually, Gimpy gives the show what is arguably its raison d'etre -- to quote and reference Star Wars. (The show does this so much that even Kevin Smith would be embarrassed.) Undergrads may be filled with sophomoric humor, but its that rare TV show that not only makes me laugh, but that I can relate to as well. That's why I liked it, guy!

This 2-disc DVD set contains all 13 episodes from Undergrads one and only season. The shows are presented in their original full-frame format. The image is very sharp and detailed, showing no grain or defects from the source material. The colors are very good, as Undergrads has a slighted muted color palette. The animation looks fine here, although there is some slight pixellating when one of the characters is moving quickly. The shows all feature a digital 2.0 stereo audio track. This offers clear dialogue with no evidence of hissing or distortion. The stereo effects vary in quality, but at times, they are very good and noticeable. The show's alt-rock soundtrack sounds fine here.

The set contains a few extras. Series creator Pete Williams supplies an audio commentary to the final episode "Screw Week". Here, he discusses the origins of the show, and which parts of the program are based on his real-life experience at college. Williams is also featured in a 10-minute interview (that appears to be from 2001) in which he discusses the MTV contest that he won in order to start the show, and his college years are reflected in Undergrads. There is also a 3-minute segment which shows Williams recording the voices for the show.

Undergrads certainly won't appeal to everyone. But for those of you who have been to college in the past 20 years, and have a penchant for quirky animated series, it's certainly worth checking out.

8 out of 10 Jackasses

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