The Miracle of the Nearby TV College


I’m sure TV Tropes already has a long entry on this subject, but I couldn’t help but say something when I noticed that tonight’s Cougar Town will tackle that beloved television question: “Should I go to college far away, or right here in my home town where the producers won’t have to build as many new sets?”

Frequently, though not always, the far-away college is a real one while the at-home college is fictional. (Oddly, the few shows that are set in college towns — like Mork and Mindy, which took place in Boulder, Colorado — don’t use the college setting as much as shows that aren’t set in college towns. You’d think a show might plan ahead for this stuff by taking place in a real town with a real college, but not usually.) And the show will, of course, always find some reason for the character to go to school at home, even if he or she has a choice between a full scholarship to Harvard and playing his/her way at the fictional Noname Memorial Community College.

None of this is bad, mind you. No, it’s not realistic that everyone in a TV high school winds up going to the same college, but it’s a convention that sensible viewers accept, like the convention that people tend to discuss their problems in their office or their friend’s living room, or that there aren’t any nights when the kids don’t hang out at the Peach Pit, or that people can combine full-time jobs with seemingly infinite leisure time. But I can accept the convention and still point it out.

Bill Lawrence, creator of Scrubs and Cougar Town, is a guy who uses standard TV plots while wanting us to be aware that he’s using them. So it’ll be interesting to see if the show throws in any twists on the way to the inevitable ending, or at least acknowledges that we know (or think we know) a major character can’t actually go to college in another city.

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The Miracle of the Nearby TV College

  1. I always thought it was interesting that the writers of Buffy took the time to establish a community college early in season 2 (Crestwood College, I believe) and then threw it out in favor of UC-Sunnydale when Buffy actually went to college in season 4. Sunnydale as we knew it seemed far more likely to support a community college than a UC campus, so I wonder why they went the latter route.

  2. I liked the fact that the college in this episode was basically the set for the Scrubs: Med School spin-off being re-used.

  3. I remember when Smallville first had Clark visit Central Kansas A&M around Season 3, I figured that they were surely setting it up as the college Clark would attend. Fictional small college, located midway between Smallville and Metropolis? Perfect fit.

    Of course, then the show squandered all of that when after having Clark enroll there, they then had him drop out a mere semester later, and the character gave up on college altogether.

  4. Willow would never settle for a community college.

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