Hey buddy guys! There may be an Undergrads movie in our future! At 9:15 pm on June 3, Pete Williams, the show’s creator, tweeted from his personal Twitter account that they had finally secured the film rights from MTV.
For those of us entering our university years around the millennium, Undergrads provided a snapshot of the exciting, confusing, tumultuous time known as freshman year. Set during the time when the Internet and VHS tapes co-existed, the show acts as a cartoon time capsule of the very early 2000s. The show garnered a cult following and little else; at the time it was considered a critical and commercial failure.
In fact, much of the cult following has developed in the over a decade and a half since the show ended, in August 2001, after only one 13-episode season. As a Canadian/American co-production it’s one of the few animated shows for mature audiences that satisfies the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission’s Canadian content guidelines, making it a consistent addition to the late night line up of Canadian cartoon channels. This helped fuel continued viewership and introduced new batches of freshmen to Nitz, Cal, Rocko, Gimpy, and the catchy intro music by Good Charlotte.
When the show failed to be renewed by MTV, Williams took the show to Comedy Central, but it was turned down. Williams has spent the intervening years trying various methods to revive the series: shopping around the second season, pitching a spin-off show called We Got Issues, even trying to get a comic or webseries to continue the story.
However, while MTV continued to hold the rights to the IP, Williams and his team didn’t have the legal rights to do anything with the series on their own. In 2013 Williams started a Bring Back Undergrads Facebook group to generate viral support for the project. On an episode of the My So Called 8-Bit Life podcast, Williams and co-writers Josh A. Cagan and Andy Reingold revealed that they had a script for a one-off movie in the works. Now that MTV have released the movie rights to Williams and his team, they can finally start moving forward on some kind of project.
Williams’s Sunday night tweet was high in excitement and low in details, so where exactly Undergrads goes from here is anyone’s guess. He has the rights, but is there backing from a production company? Will this be a future Kickstarter campaign? Will the movie pick up after episode 13’s cliffhanger in all it’s 2001 glory?
As someone who was a freshman the time this show originally aired (I even had a pixie cut and loose-fitting cargo pants; Jessie totally stole my look), my friends and I quoted and referenced the show endlessly. But will a movie, coming out almost 20 years after the original show ended, have the same quirky appeal as the original?
Hopefully the universality of the freshman experience will inspire the continued cult following, and that the potential that Williams exhibited to be a talented creator and voice actor will be realized in Undergrad’s next iteration.