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12 Great TV Shows That Fell Victim To The College Years

Updated October 9, 2019 2.4k votes 533 voters 19.7k views12 items

List RulesVote up the shows that were absolutely ruined by higher education.

In the real world, college is a time of major transition and change. On television shows where the central characters go to college, the transition theme is also common... and the results aren't always pretty. In fact, there are many once-great teen dramas that went to college and became awful.

It's tricky business to insert the college dynamic into a television show that previously focused on high school, and it must be done with great finesse. Not only are there new people, settings, and situations to contend with, but the core of the show – the characters, the depth and humor, the overall storytelling arc of the series – must remain true to its original spirit. Some shows were able to do this successfully, but the worst series set in college crashed and burned.

More than a few great TV shows that got bad in college didn't survive the change and were canceled. But they make for morbidly fascinating viewing nonetheless. These TV shows that fell victim to the college years often tried to shoehorn their characters into new settings and circumstances, and it just didn't work.

  • Sabrina The Teenage Witch is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list 12 Great TV Shows That Fell Victim To The College Years
    Photo: ABC

    A show with a name like Sabrina the Teenage Witch has an understandable shelf life: you can't have her leave her teens. But that doesn't stop the title character from getting shuttled off to college – or the show from being overhauled from the ground up.

    Sabrina's new life isn't nearly as enchanting as her old one. Without the guidance of her endearing aunts or the comfort of her old haunts, the series never quite reclaims its former magic.

    • Actors: Melissa Joan Hart, Caroline Rhea, Beth Broderick
    • Premiered: 1996

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  • Dawson's Creek is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list 12 Great TV Shows That Fell Victim To The College Years
    Photo: The WB

    Dawson and his pals graduate high school and find their way into the next chapter of their lives, but taking them out of their idyllic backwater and dropping them into the heart of a major metropolitan city is jarring to watch.

    In the real world, plenty of teens fall out of touch once they head to college. On TV, though, the writers find ways to ensure the central characters talk enough that their relationships can continue. But the change of scene and the intrusions of the real world shake up the foundation of Dawson's Creek and all that makes it unique and endearing.

    • Actors: James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams
    • Premiered: 1998
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  • The Vampire Diaries is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list 12 Great TV Shows That Fell Victim To The College Years
    Photo: The CW

    The fifth season of The Vampire Diaries finds many of the Mystic Falls kids going off to college. Instead of incorporating college life into the ebb and flow of the plotlines, The Vampire Diaries instead morphs into basically a new series. A gaggle of beautiful new characters and soapy stories become the main focal points, but even an abundance of sexiness can't bring back the show's old spark.

    • Actors: Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, Ian Somerhalder
    • Premiered: 2009
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  • 8

    The O.C.

    The O.C. is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list 12 Great TV Shows That Fell Victim To The College Years
    Photo: FOX

    The O.C. is built around a simple premise: what if a kid from the wrong side of the tracks suddenly moves to the fanciest spot on the west coast? The series finds plenty of drama in the premise, but after the core cast of high schoolers leave Orange County for college, they become far less interesting.

    The biggest change is, of course, the absence of Marissa. The rest of the cast is still around, but the dynamics just aren't the same. The O.C. effectively jumps the shark with her death.

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