Welcome, class of 1986! Pack your boom-boxes and bleach those skinnies for a totally tubular year at Hayes University in TBS’s blast from the big-haired past: “Glory Daze. The show crams in decades worth of references, but still manages to pull through the night by staying relevant to the college scene.
Tuesdays at 10 p.m.
The air is alive with the scent of Aquanet hairspray and beer-tinged breath as Joel Harrington (Kelly Blatz, “Aaron Stone”) kisses his frantic parents goodbye. Before you know it, an iconic band of desperate boys evolves on the campus lawn: the Jewish, pint-sized and eager-to-please Eli Schwartz (Matt Bush, “Adventureland”); his roommate and willing embodiment of every Asian stereotype, Alex Chang (Tim Jo, “Bandslam”); friendly jock with the hair of Robert Pattinson, Brian Sommers (newcomer Hartley Sawyer) and prep-school wannabe Jason Wilson (Drew Seeley, “Another Cinderella Story”), whose strict morals and obnoxious sweaters are more fitting for the ’50s. As the boys flock from frat to frat, trying to find their place, standard college craziness ensues — paintings are stolen, “beasts” are tamed, bongs are hit and testicles are tasered — all in good fun, of course. Once you’ve trudged your way through predictable college scenarios, feel free to enjoy many inspirational speeches and slow-motion sorority bikini parties.
Placing “Daze” in the ’80s isn’t just an excuse to feature rad music — it proves to be a great opportunity to relive the movie moments that current college students weren’t actually alive to see. As if the late John Hughes had risen from the grave (but let’s save that for the ’80s cheesy horror movies, shall we?), “Daze” tackles the “brat-pack” and other classics like no other. Chang channels Long Duk Dong of 1984’s “Sixteen Candles” as he hangs from the bunk bed upside-down. Schwartz dances through scenes like a true member of “The Breakfast Club” and Harrington’s eccentric roommate, Zack Miller (relative newcomer Josh Brener) is the modern-day Garth of 1992’s “Wayne’s World.” And don’t forget the boys’ mantra: “What would MacGyver do?”
However, the televised time-warp is definitely not your parents’ show. Despite an onslaught of feathered hair and acid-wash denim, “Daze” manages to relate to the modern generation. It covers the dominant Greek scene, the post-high school relationship drama and the pressure to fit in. “Daze” jabs at the stereotypes and issues still seen on college campuses. It transforms an Asian fraternity, seemingly strict and studious, into an underground rave, causing the students to squeal “Isn’t being Asian great?!” “Daze” even digs at affirmative action: Posh fraternity brothers speak proudly of their acceptance of the “first African” member — only to reveal a white student who just happens to be from Africa.
Yet the real charm isn’t in the fraternity houses, it’s in the characters. Schwartz exceeds words as an adorably desperate, eager freshman, lost in his own world of Christopher Reeve-looking idols and the painful art of butt-branding. Seeley’s Wilson transforms from uptight jock to sympathetically real after a night with the “beast,” an eight-tentacle beer bong that causes his blood alcohol level, and his likability, to skyrocket.
1986 may not be the freshest year — and by no means does the show give you free reign to break out the fluorescent spandex — but “Glory Daze” serves just the right amount of beloved pop culture favorites without getting stuck in the past (or whatever that is stained onto the fraternity sofa). A combination of only the best components of ’80s flicks and college fads, “Glory Daze” is earning its way to the top of the class.