Every college-bound high school senior has at some point questioned what exactly he’s going to do with his life. Freshman often end up completely overwhelmed by so-called “life decisions” at the fleeting age of 19 or 20 (or even 21, if procrastination was your true high school skill).
In exploring this transitional experience, LSA senior James Boufides turned to a medium that goes underused at the University. Boufides is the creator of WOLV-TV’s “Michigan Undecided,” one of the network’s first student-produced dramas and a good hard look at student indecision.
Although in production since October, the show’s first episode didn’t air until late last month. Music School junior Katie Johnston, who plays one of the main characters in the show, said it felt like forever before the show got on the air.
“We started (shooting) a long time ago,” she said. “It was still autumn. The day after Halloween was the first shoot.”
The anticipation for the actors was especially great. “We hadn’t seen any of the footage until the show was on TV,” she said.
Music School junior Kate Garfield got an e-mail from the department about auditions. Johnston convinced Garfield and a few other friends to come out for the auditions.
“We ended up all getting the parts,” she said. The atmosphere the friends have created behind the scenes shines through within each episode of the show.
Asked about shooting, Johnston was quick to respond.
“It’s a blast,” she said. “We are all very funny people. (Boufides) is fun, too. He seemed totally square at first, but he’s a cool guy.”
The show deals with the intricacies of life as a college student. Will (Eric Pierce), the main character, has to deal with a little brother who has decided on an unmarketable major, friends who endlessly pester him for help and his current relationship status – which is single – the way many college guys have to deal with similar matters.
But Will also has to deal with a much more important issue – an issue that, early in “Michigan Undecided’s” run, threatens to tear the sophisticated social structure of his friends apart: He has accidentally outted his long-time best friend Allie (Johnston).
“It’s a pretty big issue,” Johnston said. “Will’s journey is the more central one. Growing up is the main theme. It has to do with rights of passage, figuring out where you fit into the world and what your priorities are.”
The shock of Allie’s outting has ripple effects across the group of friends. Garfield’s character, Maggie, deals with the unexpected revelation of her friend’s sexuality while also dealing with her boyfriend.
“My character’s plot is centered more around her boyfriend and (typical) relationship issues,” Garfield said. “It starts out as a very typical college relationship, but they have issues to work through.”
The show’s debut and continued airing is not only an original and exciting venture for those directly involved, but for WOLV as a whole. Even if the show has a limited run, the prospect of future original student productions is a thriller to the network.
“The show is a phenomenal venue,” Garfield said. “Future shows should explore different issues.”
Added Johnston: “Boufides is essential. The scripts he wrote are awesome. If the writer would change, the entire dynamic of the show would change with it.”
“Michigan Undecided” has also opened the door for other original WOLV dramas in the future.
“I definitely like the idea of future student run television dramas,” Johnston said. Although there are currently no new productions in the works, many of those involved with “Michigan Undecided” are still juniors and are considering developing new original programming in the future.
Just two of the slotted five episodes have run so far, but the potential for drama, both within “Michigan Undecided” and even future productions, is endless. We suggest a University version of “24.” No, “The Office.” You have to prepare students for a life in cubicles somehow, right?
Thursdays at 10 p.m.
SOME OF WOLV’s other ORIGINAL programs:
(Times listed indicate first airings.)
l “You Say Maize, I Say Blue” (Wednesday at 12:30 a.m.):
A sports update show a la “Pardon The Interruption.” Fellow Wolverine students debate the most prominent sports topics of the week.
2 “Keepin’ it Real” (Wednesday at 1 a.m.): Hosts Kev and Steph debate and discuss societal issues. They also welcome call-ins and guests to provide further insight for topics. A welcoming and open atmosphere pervades “Real.”
3 “Turned On” (Monday at 11:30 p.m.): Tune in if you need tips on how to impress that significant someone on a first date. Callers get their questions answered by resident sex-perts.
4 “Michigan in Motion” (Saturday at 5:30 p.m.): Host Jake Serwer provides some limelight for unexposed musical, artistic and poetic talents from all over the University. Live performers frequent the show.