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The College Years: When TV’s High-School Characters Graduate

The teens on CW’s ”90210“ are about to make the higher education leap — will audiences follow?

It seems like only yesterday that the fresh-faced teens of the CW’s "90210" were roaming the halls of West Beverly High. Now, like so many other teen dramas, the kids are off to college. Will the show thrive? Will it falter? Will it land somewhere in the middle? Only time (and ratings) will tell.

That i mind, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some other television transitions into the world of higher education.

"The OC": Season four of "The OC" saw big changes in the lives of the “core four." Summer was off to college at Brown, Seth was taking a semester off and working at a comic book store, Ryan was cage fighting, and Marissa died in a horrible car accident. Good strategy to only have one of the characters actually go to college. Luckily, the show added Marissa’s little sister, Kailtin, to the mix to keep one foot in the high school halls. As for college, Summer was introduced to Che (played by future "Parks and Recreation" star Chris Pratt). 

The “no college” college years strategy paid off creatively, but not in the ratings — the show was canceled in the middle of the season.

"Saved by the Bell": Zack, Slater, Screech and Kelly (along with some other female characters that don’t seem to matter) all attended California University together. Added to the cast was Bob Golic as Mike Rogers, the gang’s dorm advisor. He was a (sort of) well-known professional football player that looked real tough, but was actually a very sweet guy. Zack was dating one of the other female characters while still trying to get with Kelly (kind of like high school). 

Zack and Kelly eventually got married and nobody cared as the show was cancelled after 18 episodes.

"Degrassi: The Next Generation": By season 7, a good amount of the "Degrassi" :originals were off to college … er … university (Canada). Paige, Ellie and Marco are all living together, but Paige can't really handle university and drops out. All the normal "Degrassi" drama is there: STDs, rape, etc., but the show kind of forgets about the college kids in favor of those who stayed at Degrassi. 

A show like "Degrassi" can go on basically forever as they just cycle through new kids entering high school while keeping a few regulars around (like Drake coaching the girls basketball team, Spinner working at the Dot). No one cared about the kids in university, though, and they weren’t on the show for very much longer.

"Boy Meets World": Based on the title, one had to assume that the gang from "Boy Meets World" would end up in college. Through some sort of crazy coincidence, Corey, Shawn, Topanga, Angela, Eric and even Mr. Feeney ended up all attending the same college. Despite being in college, the adventures were more or less the same as they were in high school, though now they had to deal with alcohol a little more and a teacher (played by Fred Savage!) trying to seduce Topanga.

"Boy Meets World" benefited from being more of a sitcom than a teen drama, and the transition definitely worked.

"Gossip Girl": Actually being in school was hardly the focus of the kids on "Gossip Girl," so the transition to college seemed pretty easy. Dan and Blair ended up at NYU together, which resulted in Dan being popular and Blair being an outcast. Serena realized there was no reason for a rich Manhattanite to go to college at all and worked as an “intern” for Trip Vanderbilt’s political machine (she totally just wanted to hook up with him and totally did). Chuck had the same realization as Serena and just bought a hotel.

The only high schooler left, Jenny even dropped out of high school to pursue her fashion career. So essentially, the show was the same thing. I don’t think the characters that were in college ever went to class and everyone still looked great.

Kenny Pickett is a freelance writer for TV.com.