Five “School”-Themed Shows That Gave Us Unrealistic Ideas

~For Tasha Marcelo, the person who had the conversation with me that led to this article.~

Recently, talk of a brand new airing of the Nickelodeon teen program Zoey 101 crowded the Interwebs. This new episode was supposed to reveal a big secret about the main character’s possible love for her best male friend that we’d all waited an entire decade for.

This got me thinking about the show itself, as well as a few others. And what they all seem to have in common:


1. Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide


This Nickelodeon show revolves around ways us kids could “survive” middle school. It first aired in 2004, and ended in 2007. That means that I was able to watch all of it before I actually got to middle school. Were some of the tips helpful? I’m sure they might have been if I actually tried to remember them. But instead I’m focusing on all the ridiculous things that go on inside of that fictional middle school. SUCH AS:

  • The students almost never being in class.
  • The school virtually blowing up on a regular basis due to scientific mishaps, and never being shut down.
  • The three main characters were best friends with the janitor, who literally never did his actual job, and who was also trying to catch a weasel that was on the loose for the entirety of the show.


  • The teachers were insane and actually out to get certain students.


2. The Suite Life on Deck


The (completely unnecessary in my opinion) spin-off of the hit Disney Channel series The Suite Life of Zack and Cody has the twins attending high school on a cruise ship that is just an extension of the hotel they used to live in.

A cruise ship. They go to school on a cruise ship.

I have a few questions.

  • How are they getting mail?
  • Are the “halls” co-ed?
  • What athletic conference does Seven Seas High belong to?
  • What vacationer in his or her right mind would choose to stay on this boat when it’s full of the worst people on Earth: high schoolers?
  • Where do the students go on school breaks? Cruises?
  • Why does something terrible happen at literally every stop?


  • How is a single mother who works as a cabaret singer in a hotel paying for two children’s CRUISE SHIP TUITION?
  • Who told Disney this show was a good idea?

3Blue Mountain State


Photo speaks for itself. Just imagine all those 16 year olds watching this show, thinking about how awesome college is going to be. Football, parties, alcohol, girls…

Well, maybe there’s a little truth to it.


But this show is far from the reality of college.

The reality is staying up until 4:00 in the morning in the library, getting constipated from eating nothing but pizza and Coke for a week, being caught in an ever-spinning vortex of emails to and from professors and advisors and organization leaders, trying desperately to save your money and never succeeding at it, wishing someone would come and saw your feet off so you no longer have to walk on them so much, and waiting until the last minute to write papers. Let’s see some of that. No more faking out innocent teenagers with promises of endless fun and zero responsibility.





Now, it’s a little unfair to expect realism from a show like this. It’s a musical. It does not necessarily have to conform. It keeps me interested with its brilliantly talented covers of popular music and its unconventional and refreshing humor.


Glee managed to keep things real by keeping up with issues of the modern world. Open homosexuality, catfishing, the economic crisis, drama in the music industry, the general rise of show choir, etc.

However, even the regular “high school” aspect of the show was way out of the realm of reality. Examples:

  • The football players were automatically the bullies. They would traditionally throw slushies into people’s faces. And this was literally never dealt with by any adult.
  • Joining the glee club instantly stripped you of whatever status you might have held in that school. In my high school, half the football team was also in chorus. But whatever.
  • The glee club always seemed to be walking on egg shells with their budget, but then they would have rehearsals that looked like this


  • Almost every main character from the first four seasons ended up going to New York City after graduating. Three of them lived in an extravagant flat together, paid for with what I’m pretty positive is non-existent money, considering they’re paying tuition at a dramatic arts institution and working at a broadway diner.
  • The cheerleaders are forced to wear their uniforms every day, which is horribly unhygienic. Their coach is also a borderline dictator who almost got away with shooting one of them out of a cannon. Fact.
  • One of the students resorted to moving far away and stripping after he became homeless and then magically was able to re-enroll in the high school even though his address was nowhere in the vicinity.
  • Within the glee club, there was a consistent tremendous display of tolerance and acceptance for all people, straight, gay, black, white, hispanic, asian, disabled, transgender, Christian, Jewish, you name it. This is unfortunately the most unrealistic part of the public high school environment.


5Zoey 101


Ah, the Pacific Coast Academy. Arguably the most unreal school since Hogwarts.

This boarding school for grades 6-12 is located in southern California (filming was at Pepperdine University in Malibu). Anyone who has seen this show has probably found themselves thinking, “I wish my school was like PCA.” That’s understandable. But in reality, this school is unbelievably flawed.

  • Just like in Ned’s Declassified, the students are almost never in class.
  • It’s a boarding school, but visitation hours for dormitories are evidently non-existent. They sleep over in each other’s rooms all the time.
  • It’s supposed to be a pretty prestigious institution, but the employees are…well…


^ That’s a dorm advisor. Crying into a bowl of fruit in one of her student’s rooms. And let’s not forget the DEAN, who one time accused two of the main characters of smashing his golf trophy on no evidence and placed them under “dorm arrest.” And when he found out who actually did it (the janitor), the two of them physically fought each other in the middle of the campus.

  • One of the main characters is an actual genius. She conducts intricate and no-doubt illegal science experiments in almost every episode. She once created a hybrid fruit. It turned out to be toxic, but she still did it. Why hasn’t her work been submitted to NASA or the government or something? AND HOW DID SHE GET A SNAKE ON CAMPUS?


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It’s fun to question and analyze the things we enjoyed as kids. We understand a lot more about the world now. Still, though, I would say that kids’ television is not what it used to be. I’m thankful for what I grew up and as well as what I get to enjoy currently.

As I sit on a couch in my normal residence hall at my normal university, I’m also thankful that I’m not incredibly hungover, there’s no weasel on the loose, no one is breaking into song, I’m not in the middle of the ocean, and I’m not swimming in a school pool with a snake.

But it would be dope if I was.

And hey, we’re all human. 


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