Glory Daze Captures The College Freshman Experience – The 1986 Experience, That Is!

Busted - Eric McCandless

To the sounds of Talking Heads, Joel [Kelly Blatz] endures the final leg of his journey to independence – college, that is – in the family station wagon as his dad [Brad Garrett] attempts to impart some fractured wisdom; Eli [Matt Bush] practices his dance moves – in his underwear – to an embarrassing finale; Brian [Hartley Sawyer] suffers through a weird pep talk from the baseball team’s manager, and preppie Jason [Drew Seeley] shows his finessed single room to his ‘single’ room. It’s 1986 and these four freshmen are about to enter their Glory Daze [TBS, Tuesdays, 10/9C].

Glory Daze is TBS’ new, one-hour college comedy that makes all things old new again – kind of. Some things [like fraternities, money-eating vending machines, incompatible roommates and beer bongs – however advanced] never change, and this series runs the gamut.

Joel’s first class becomes embarrassing when blonde, beautiful Christie sits next to him. Before you know it, he’s being ridiculed by the very liberal professor [Tim Meadows]; Eli meets his Asian-American roommate – and his family – in the least impressive manner possible, and, generally speaking, everyone escapes Day One at college by the proverbial skin of their teeth. And now it’s time to seek out fraternities to pledge. Which is where Omega Sig recruiter Reno [Callard Harris] enters the picture…

There have been lots of movies and TV shoes about the college experience, but the variations developed on Glory Daze might just surprise you. Considering that the series was created by Walt Becker [Wild Hogs] and Michael LeSieur [You, Me and Dupree], I certainly was.

Sure the characters begin as stereotypes [The Jock, The Nerd, The Conservative, The Everyman, The Unattainable Girl], but before we reach the first commercial, a funny thing happens [well, besides some funny gags], these characters begin to develop distinct personalities. Some of them more relatable than others [depending on the audience member’s background], but familiar as people rather than types.

The writing is surprisingly sharp – Joel’s mother’s near refusal to let her son go; the whole Lone Wolf thing; The Beast – and the cast is up to dealing with it. Yes, there are some clichés, but they are used as the basis for some of those interesting variations. A Teri Polo cameo is one instance [she makes a hot redhead]; the final stage of initiation to a certain fraternity is another.

Probably the best thing about the series is that it seems to be about more than the usual college comedy – it’s about the creation of genuine bonds of friendship. If it takes beer bongs, frat parties and getting baked to generate those bonds, then that’s killing two birds with one stoner.

Period music [whoa! When the ‘80s become ‘period?’] – including, besides the Talking Heads, some well known bands [like The Ramones] and some lesser known bands [like The Polecats] – adds to the show’s authenticity.

Glory Daze doesn’t pretend to be re-inviting the wheel – or even college comedies – but it does make for a pretty entertaining hour.

Final Grade: B

Photo by Eric McCandless/Courtesy of TBS