The nostalgia of the 80’s will never die. Music was innovative and musicians were skilled. Film featured original plots and trampled on ideas of political correctness to tell a satisfying story. Technology development was just beginning to pick up speed while the populace still used payphones – and calls only cost a dime! Why there aren’t more properties based on the 80’s is mindboggling. Thankfully, TBS is capitalizing on the memory-rich decade with its new comedy Glory Daze. Recently, Working Author had the opportunity to preview the Glory Daze pilot as well as tour the set with some of the cast and Assistant Art Director Walter Eckert.
It’s 1986 and the first day of college for four freshmen attending Hayes University in Indiana. Joel (Kelly Blatz) is the straight man of the group who just wants to focus on academia to make his family proud. Brian (Hartley Sawyer) is a jock and star player whose father taught him that “baseball comes first, second and third.” Jason (Andrew Seeley) is a Reagan Conservative who convinced his girlfriend to pass on going to Yale to attend Hayes with him. Finally, Eli (Matt Bush) is a virgin who talks a big game, but is totally awkward in public. The guys become fast friends and decide to pledge a fraternity, but with so many to choose from, it’s difficult to decide – until they stumble across the wild and woolly Omega Sigma. Headed by the straight-laced fraternity president and his slacker lieutenant Reno (Callard Harris), the four freshmen are ensnared by the free-flowing booze and half-naked women and find themselves pledging for better or worse.
Based on the pilot, Glory Daze is what most viewers will expect from a show about college life. Audiences will see liberal alcohol consumption (even before noon), drug experimentation and general tom foolery. In one scene, in order to escape a police officer, the four guys make a rope by tying their clothes together and climbing down from a second storey only to be nabbed butt-naked by the officer’s partner. In another funny bit, one character performs a Chippendale routine in the mirror, not realizing his roommate and his family are standing behind him.
Surprisingly, there are very few jokes about the 80’s. There are some minor references to payphones, relevant politicians and future technology that audiences use today, but the bits are more incidental than anything else. On the other hand, the series is young and audiences may yet see gags involving remote-less television and rotary phones. It’s worth noting, however, that the writers seem to apologize for at least one joke that actually appeared in the 80’s, which is how Asian males were portrayed. Fans of John Hughes films will remember the stereotypical character Long Duk Dong played by Gedde Watanabe. In Glory Daze, the sole Asian character Alex Chang (Tim Jo) is rewarded with the coolest fraternity of all, with his future frat brother asking, “Isn’t being Asian great?”
While Hayes University is set in Indiana, Glory Daze is actually filmed in Pasadena. Assistant Art Director Walter Eckert and a handful of the cast led Working Author and other journalists through the set. The decorations do a wonderful job of not only presenting an authentic college setting, but also the period. Auditorium seats look and feel sufficiently old, posters of Lou Ferrigno and Paulina Porizkova adorn walls and televisions still feature the knobs that parents would yell at their children for changing the channel too quickly. Even the hairdos and costumes help convey the 80s with Kelly Blatz looking like the splitting image of Tom Cruise in Risky Business. Although, headbands and spandex are conspicuously missing throughout the pilot.
The set is impressively expansive, encompassing several dorm rooms, classes and even the university mansion. Journalists also had the opportunity to see the “The Beast” which is a towering nine-hose beer bong that makes a special appearance in the premiere. Chris D’Elia, who plays pothead Bill Stankowski, jokingly referred to the contraption as his “time machine” during the tour. Below the mansion held even more set locations, including Professor Haines’ office.
Tim Meadows plays this ultra-liberal professor Haines and he was available for a short Q&A after the tour:
Q: You went to college in the eighties. What was your college experience like? Did you experience anything like what we see in the show?
Tim Meadows: I didn’t really do the college thing. I went to Wayne State University in Detroit, which is a commuter college. It was basically like this job, where I drive to a college, go to work, take in the campus, and head back home.
Q: How is being on Glory Daze different from your other television experience, Saturday Night Live?
TM: I like the single-camera way of doing things, instead of the multi-camera and live audience, like SNL, where there is a joke every other line. Of course, this is way less pressure than SNL, but there is still some pressure in wanting this show to do well, not knowing what is going to happen in editing, and a lot of things are out of your control.
Q: You play a professor on Glory Daze. Who did you base your character on?
TM: In the pilots, I sort of developed my character on a young Cornell West, before he got really pissed off at things. As we kept filming for episodes, we kept adding more things to the character, such as the reasons why he is angry. It’s not racial, but instead the character’s own life.
Q: How did you get involved with the show?
TM: I was given a script to read, and I think the first time I passed because I was up for something else. Then a little later they approached me again and they really wanted me to do this, that it was going to be a minor role at first but going to be expanded as the show went on.
Q: What did you like most about the show?
TM: I really liked the idea. After we did the pilot, the show got picked up and the script started to evolve with the characters, I really liked how everyone became involved with each other [in the story]. [The characters] need [Professor Haines] as much as he needs them. They needed the authority figure and he needed them to show him what life is all about. As we started to get into that, things became really interesting.
Catch Glory Daze on TBS when it premieres on November 16 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.