I live in my grad student bubble. So I was pleasantly surprised when Matthew Nagowski over at Metaezra happened to write an entry about the A&E Channel’s airing of the episode of “Strange Days with Bob Saget” that has everyone’s favorite dad from Full House “pledging” and joining the fraternity, complete with formals, toga parties and pledge activities. Conveniently, the episode is free to watch on A&E’s website.
I remember writing up a brief entry last spring after this blog was swamped with questions in the search bar asking why Bob Saget was on campus, and then quickly forgot about the whole thing. It was a minor newsmaker, sure, but it was just one event in a stream of activities taking place around and about campus. The only time it ever came up again was when Seal or someone in their house would come up in conversation, and if this conversation was with someone else in the Greek system, the line “I can’t believe that Bob Saget went to Seal to film his show” often followed suit. Not many people in the system were pleased about Seal hosting such a high-profile event, since Cornell’s Greek Life would be publicized (and stereotyped) as a tudor-style house on Thurston Avenue. It seemed to be the general sentiment that there were low expectations for the episode, because it was thought its portrayal (either on the show’s part or the brothers’ part) would be unflattering and give a bad impression of the system.
I’ll admit that as a member of another house, I was a bit weary of Seal’s involvement. I actually had been to the house on a number of occasions because one of my best friends at Cornell was engaged to a senior in the house (they are now happily married). The first floor, with its wood finishes and giant Seal and Serpent lineage flow chart, did not fail to impress. I was less enamored by the party area in the attic (which is a bit abnormal, since most houses have party spaces in the basement) and some of the eccentricities of members (between friends, we affectionately referred to one brother as the “Beer Pong Nazi” while a second brother was infamous for a comment regarding the difference between “rapeability” and “rape-ability”, which is better left unwritten), but overall, they struck me as a fairly harmless bunch of guys, not without their quirks but with a very well-heeled and active alumni base.
So I watched the whole episode through. I thought it was entertaining. It was certainly enjoyable to see some of the guys I knew in Seal dressed up and being polite and respectable in front of the cameras (especially since I knew better). I thought that the impression they gave of Cornell’s system was adequate and not particularly offensive. I was also watching the episode while keeping in mind some of the details of what went on behind-the-scenes.
It was explained to me over the weekend as they were filming that there were some alterations from reality (even more so than pledging that only lasts a weekend). For the party scene, they couldn’t serve to anyone under 21 due to legal obligations. Well okay, that makes it less realistic, but that’s to be expected. However, they could only play generic rock music at the party so they could avoid issues and fees with copyrighted material. That seemed even more unrealistic to me than the lack of underage drinking. At least the show did pick up the tab for the brothers’ party costumes and food/drink, which were more impressive than your typical toga party fare. If I recall correctly, Bob Saget was also at an “IFC Meeting”, but it appears any footage that might’ve been taken from that event was cut from the final production.
Watching the show and treating it as just a show with creative license made the episode much more enjoyable. The episode cast Cornell in a positive light, and lewd jokes aside, it wasn’t offensive to anyone. I wouldn’t call it accurate, but it’s entertaining, and that’s what matters, I suppose.