If anyone is an expert on college kids, it has to be James Franco. In the last few years, he’s attended a staggering number of schools, picking up MFAs and PhDs from NYU, Columbia, Yale, and more. So it’s not a surprise that his next independent project is a web series called Undergrads, set at the University of Southern California. He released a preview in late January, but now the first episode is online (via ONTD).
James’ little brother Dave gave some insight into the series last year; he helped write, produce, and direct it. (What’s odd is even though the episode is listed on James’ WhoSay video account and he appears in the video, it sounds like it’s mostly Dave’s gig.) Dave explained how most film or TV depictions of college are way sensationalized; he’s not wrong, since what immediately jumped to our minds is The Roommate or the National Lampoon/Van Wilder spin-offs. Dave told MTV,
We decided we wanted to give a very HBO-type look at what really happens in college. We figured, “It’s crazy enough as it is; let’s just show what’s really going on.” So we followed a handful of kids at USC throughout the semester, and the whole tone is a little strange, because it’s part documentary, part reality, part scripted.
That must be why the first episode begins with a bunch of kids running around in their underwear at midnight, but the majority of the three-minute video is a girl taking notes on a reading for class while metal plays. And, of course, James Franco sitting on the bed screaming about representations of college in the media.
This is all a little post-modern for my tastes, but James seems to be starting up a few new series under the new Twitter moniker @JamesFrancoTV. One, Art Openings, is about a kid named Jeff who tries to make it into the art world. (How to Make It in America, anyone?)