Every generation needs its own “Animal House,” which is fortunate for TBS’ “Glory Daze,” an easygoing new hourlong comedy series mixing nostalgia with frat-house hijinks. While the brothers of Omega Sigma don’t score particularly good grades for originality (including the show’s generational leap backward, just as “Animal House” did), they register reasonably well on the laugh spectrum, weaving in enough Reagan-era references to elicit smiles from the present college-age crowd and maybe their parents. As for the liberal borrowing from that aforementioned 1978 comedy, TBS can always hope its creators (and their lawyers) are too stoned to remember the similarities.
Set in 1986, “Daze” opens with Joel (Kelly Blatz) being dropped off at college by his dad (guest Brad Garrett), who passes along the requisite advice about focusing on studies. Given that the characters share a name, Joel almost seems to be continuing the odyssey of the “Risky Business” protagonist, picking up where that movie ended.
Joel has every intention of embracing Dad’s admonition, but once he meets his dorm mates, develops a crush on a pretty classmate (Julianna Guill) and encounters Reno (Callard Harris) — the free-spirited, skirt-chasing pledge-master of the Omega Sigma house — it’s not hard to see where Joel’s spare time is going to be spent, and it’s not the library.
Created by Walt Becker and Michael LeSieur, the show models so many characters after “Animal House” archetypes (hey, there’s Otter — or a dead ringer for him) it takes a while to buy into the premise. Fortunately, there are enough wrinkles to allow the formula to stand on its own, from the sex-obsessed Jewish kid (Matt Bush) to the baseball star (Hartley Sawyer) to the Asian kid (Tim Jo) who dreads the prospect of joining his dad’s old fraternity.
Granted, the writers recycle so many gags — from the stirring pledge speech to a loopy pot-hazed discussion about time being “a fluid concept” — that there’s a temptation to wince at “Glory Daze’s” brazenness. Still, it’s all done in such an unabashed way it’s sort of hard to stay mad at them.
Accompanied by a buoyant ’80s soundtrack, the premiere also includes winking mentions of Ronald Reagan and Bob Dole, a WASP-y fraternity that considers a white South African member “diversity,” and a spaceship-sized beer bong. There’s also a liberal professor (“Saturday Night Live’s” Tim Meadows) railing against the military-industrial complex.
In addition to the fine younger cast, the show sprinkles in cameos by the likes of Garrett, David Koechner and Teri Polo. All told, it’s not hard to envision “Glory Daze” happily surviving into the first Bush administration, while providing TBS’ new latenight star Conan O’Brien a perfectly compatible Tuesday-night lead-in.
So chalk one up for youthful exuberance — or perhaps the grudging recognition that when it comes to TV comedy, copycatting is a fluid concept.