As many of you have heard, NBC has produced a comedy series called “Community” that will premiere next month. It looks to me to do for colleges what “The Office” has done for office culture. (New Kid on the Hallway has a clip here, which I actually thought looked pretty promising. It shows a Spanish professor warning his students in no uncertain terms about deploying racial stereotypes about him–not exactly standard fare on broadcast TV, or really, anywhere on TV. Just click and watch people–it’s a free laugh!) Inside Higher Ed has a roundup today of (mixed) reviews from community college administrators, faculty, and students.
I’ve long observed that in spite of what I see as the near-limitless comic potential of academia, our workplace is rarely the setting for TV shows or movies. Our profession is never examined, romanticized, or glamorized the way that law enforcement, medicine, or even high school education are. (This is not necessarily a complaint, just an observation.) Maybe we should be happy, because when a college professor is a major character, ze is often unattractive and/or revealed to be a corrupt or devious person. Gary on thirtysomething was a whiner and pretentious Peter Pan. The faculty and graduate T.A.s of “California University” in the original Beverly Hills 90210 were all either trying to score with 18-year olds or falsifying the grades of basketball players to preserve their team eligibility.) Perhaps the last popular TV series set in the academic workplace, Third Rock from the Sun, was even more revealing of how we are viewed by our fellow citizens: in this show, the academic workplace was the ideal place for a space alien to take cover, because there would be plenty of other kooks and weirdos there. (Did any of you see that series on CBS that starred Richard Dreyfuss a few years ago as a college professor? I think that came and went before I remembered to check it out.) And let’s not even talk about the doomed faculty and students of Hudson University!
What do you think? Will you check out “Community?” Why don’t we get the same Hollywood treatment as doctors and dectectives? Are we not at least as satirizable as the venerable Dunder Mifflin paper company? Go take GayProf’s latest quiz about the different kinds of colleagues you might have if you have any remaining doubts.