Digital Digressions: Undergrads
One of my favorite cartoons of all time has to be Undergrads.
Due to Nathan’s trip to E3, we had to postpone our conversation about The Grey that we promised in this week’s podcast episode. Fortunately, Sean was able to take some time out with me and have a discussion about one of my favorite series of all time…
Paul: One of my favorite cartoons of all time has to be Undergrads. Its always had the perfect blend of nerdy references and realistic situations that hit me hard at the time as when I first saw it, I myself had just entered into the whole college experience.
Sean: I definitely agree with the timing and place surrounding our own college experiences. Having not watched it for a few years and now being deep into my own degree, I’m really seeing quite a few similarities that makes the show incredibly easy to relate to. A lot of the issues Nitz is struggling with – I dealt with those or am in fact facing right now.
Paul: Definitely. The strong suit of the show really is how earnest the characters are; I think it’s pretty easy for everyone to relate to at least one of the main “click” characters or at the very least we’ve ALL known one. Nitz holds a special place in my heart specifically because he basically IS me… he’s somewhat afraid of change yet always craving it, pines for an old school crush he’ll likely never have the balls to get with and is just perpetually doomed to realizing important things just a minute too late. Gimpy is likely my favorite character still though.
Sean: I feel like almost anyone can relate to Nitz since he’s basically designed to be the everyman. I guess unless you were way into college and being a superstar student like Kimmy is, but for the most part everyone I’ve come across is just trying to enjoy themselves and doesn’t know really how to act yet. I think that causes me to like Nitz the most and then Gimpy second. As a nerd myself I just identify with them much more than the rest. Cal and Rocko are pretty much just obscure devices used for comedy (especially Cal I feel) and I’ve never been into drinking and just wasted drunk at any point so Rocko will never be that similar to my personal self.
Paul: Rocko is a strange case for me because I totally had “that friend” for most of my life, who recently is actually getting married and stopped drinking. I can’t say I’ve ever even really known a Cal personally so yeah, I can 100% agree that for me he’s simply a comedy thing. I think between Nitz and Gimpy that Nitz would represent the “social(?)” part of how I was in college and Gimpy was definitely how I was when I was around my friends that I grew up with… hell, we even used to get together every weekend and play Risk…
Sean: I completely agree with that breakdown for myself as well. And though I may not get together to play Risk exactly, I do host table top gaming nights every few weeks as you know. I guess I’m just glad that even though Cal and Rocko don’t fit any form of nerd stereotype, the show still managed to make it feel right when they were doing nerdy stuff; Cal being into Ewoks and Rocko just enjoying the company and only kind of understanding any of the rules (except for when he knows how to play Risk fully). Doing that allowed for the show to explore these different personalities but still have it seems normal that they’d be hanging out together. Also, along with your whole ‘knowing someone like Rocko’ part, I get that feeling the most with the movie-loving Brodie. I know a few people *cough*Nathan*cough* who are dropping references ALL the time.
Paul: The whole cast of secondary characters are fantastic. I absolutely love Jessie and had a friend in high school much like her that I unfortunately lost contact with and Brodie, for all intents and purposes, IS Nathan… albeit perhaps a bit less cynical.
Sean: I enjoy them for the most part, however I don’t really like that swearing guy so much and the laughing dude either. They were pretty much one trick ponies that I feel were there solely to have more people doing stuff with Nitz and the gang and as archetypes that the creators may have come across once in their life. I do agree that Jessie is really great and the episode ‘Roommates’ happens to be my favorite one in the series since we get so much interaction with her and Nitz. It really kind of starts off that love triangle idea and I’m totally sad that we never get to see that going anywhere. For the record, I’m totally on Team Jessie for that show and Kimmy just doesn’t seem that great at all.
Paul: Again, I have to agree and would also be on Team Jessie. Kimmy is important because she’s essentially the biggest tie around Nitz’s neck that keeps him grounded to his past that, in the long run, is having an adverse effect on his ‘present’ and maybe even future. I know I personally had the same troubles for much of my high school/early college years so I’m totally fine with Kimmy being a thing in the show. Also, ‘Roommates’ is a great episode but I think I’d have to go with ‘Identity Crisis’ mainly because it puts a whole new spin on the Rocko/Cal relationship that’s both hilarious and awkward to watch… of course ‘Risk’ and ‘Rivalries’ are close seconds due to the quality back-and-forth Nitz and Gimpy have in those.
Sean: I guess I can see Kimmy as being more of an obstacle for Nitz to overcome as he is maturing into the adult he is supposed to be. Where, like you said, he’s tied to the past and a state where he likes this girl that he has never spoken to but basically worships her. It’s a classic first crush move. Whereas Jessie represents something almost obvious for him to grasp. But of course, he can’t just get any girl as the show needs to go on for a while (or at least it should have). I also quite enjoyed ‘Identity Crisis’ for those twos’ time together. I’m glad the show broke up many of the episodes to often just two of the four guys being together. It would have been easy to just ignore Cal or Rocko as they aren’t as deep but I feel that breaking them away from the group allowed to explore the characters much more and I’m sure a second season would have only done that better.
Paul: Speaking a bit more of a second season, there was a short discussion on the Undergrads Facebook page between some of us fans thinking about where a second season would pick up from. A couple of people want it to pick up in second year and continue on as before whereas I argued that I would much rather (for my own selfish reasons) see them acknowledge the fact that the show hasn’t been around for 10 years and pick up after they’ve graduated/dropped-out or whatever and tackle issues and situations I personally face at THIS point in my life like trying to juggle relationships with old friends, making new friends, working a job I don’t like and thinking about where my life is heading now that school is over and there is little to no clear “path” anymore.
Sean: Alright here is where I’ll disagree. I’m in the boat that it should pick up at year two for all of them. Since the show is basically an animated sitcom, I can’t remember any live action sitcoms with the characters still in college (I’m sure there as some but nothing is coming to mind) and there’s definitely a ton about life after school – especially married life. I feel like there was a lot more they could have gone into and you’ve heard the creators themselves want to show Nitz’s first alcoholic drink, just as an example. Also, if they were to even drop out, I want to see how that goes down as well (just to reference your specific example). I feel like starting 10 years later would basically just be wiping the slate clean and though they totally have reason to do that, I’m so invested in the current situations with Jessie and Kimmy and living arrangements and whatever else that I want to see those stories continue and not just start something else. I feel like I want to continue to “grow up” for lack of a better term along with them and jumping ahead would just be a weird shift.
Paul: Admittedly, what I want more than anything is to re-live the experience of the show so accurately mirroring my own situation and it’s a totally selfish thing to want, but at the same time (in my head, anyways) it would work out. The last scene of the sun rising and Nitz being on the rooftop is such a strong one that I personally feel to just cut right back into the fray would be a missed opportunity to do something special. For all we know, after that moment he could have realized that college just wasn’t what he could handle at that point (since he didn’t really have a career path in mind to begin with) and he jumped off the roof and walked into the sunset to find himself. Cutting back even maybe 5 years into the future would show certain similar themes with reconnecting with his old friends and adding new challenges to be faced. This being said, I of course wouldn’t at all be against picking up in second year… just honestly feels too on-the-nose and easy to me.
Sean: I’m actually quite surprised they never tried doing something more independently online. Like a web series. I think they could have easily pulled off a series of five minute shorts to try and regain some of the popularity and I’m surprised Teletoon or none of the stations running it felt that was something they should sponsor, considering how long it was on the fence of coming back on or not. I would have really been into that and, granted, five minutes might only be enough for a few gags to happen and nothing story specific, something is better than nothing.
Paul: It’s important to also remember that when the show aired and was subsequently cancelled, the rights of the name and characters had already been the property of another company and even YouTube wasn’t a thing yet so webisodes weren’t really in the public mind yet. I do think that they could do some five or ten minute shorts though… hell, “The Click” entry that won the MTV contest that green-lit the show to begin with was basically exactly what you just outlined so it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility. I think at this point, however, we just have to hope for the best for the creators as they’re currently in progress of trying to get their show back. It’s strange to think that they had no idea their show had any impact at all since it was doomed from the get-go in the States but due to Teletoon playing through it every couple of months has grown a strong Canadian following… I mean, I don’t even know any close friends who don’t love it.
Sean: That point about YouTube is definitely important since the internet was nowhere near as big back then. But here’s hoping this Kickstarter wave produces something! haha. I always found it interesting that Canada has such a stronger reaction to it. There’s a lot of parallels you can draw from this situation and with what happened with Reboot. I really hope the creators don’t forget Undergrads and its fan base and continue to try and bring it back. It has been 10 years and it’s a really slim chance that anything would happen but one can always dream.