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Series / Welcome Freshmen

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Welcome Freshmen is a Nickelodeon series produced from 1991 to 1993 (with reruns airing until 1996) that took place at the fictional Hawthorne High School. The main characters consisted of freshmen Merv, Alex, Tarah, Kevin, and Walter, and their principal, Elliot Lippman, who often imagined himself as a stand-up comedian. In the third season, Tarah and Merv left and new students Manny, Erin, and Grant were added to the cast.

Originally, the show was a sketch comedy show, with the sketches tied to a theme (such as "money" or "holidays"). In the third season, the format changed to a more typical tween-oriented sitcom. Basically, Saved by the Bell but far more cynical and less moralistic.


  • Artifact Title: Sort of. In the third season, the original cast became sophomores (with the exception of Walter, who was held back), while new freshmen Erin and Manny were added to the cast.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Manny tends to take the most abuse, being ridiculed for his height in addition to the usual bullying that freshmen suffer.
    • Also, Merv to some extent, due to being the nerd of the original group. The Merv-U-Mentary segments often end with him getting punished by school staff or hassled by his fellow students, though sometimes this is because he mouthed off when he really shouldn't have.
  • Censor Box: In one sketch, two boys got the censor box and discuss how creepy it is, then ran off stage, carefully covered themselves, leaving the censor boxes just hanging there. Then as if realizing what just happened, the boxes zoomed off after them.
  • Courtroom Episode: "The People Vs. Walter" in Season 3. Walter's facing being expelled for vandalizing Lippman's portrait, and Erin has to prove he didn't do it.
  • Crappy Holidays: "Holidays" has sketches of assorted holidays going wrong, such as Alex frustrated with trick-or-treaters or Walter and Tarah's fathers going at it during Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Criminal Doppelgänger: Lippman is mistaken for the infamous Shiny Top in the eponymous episode, who has run of the school in the meantime. It turns out to be All Just a Dream, however.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Walter's dad takes advantage of being a Mall Santa to trick Walter into admitting if he's done anything naughty. That part works, but then the old man gets so angry that he starts chasing Walter around and threatening him. Big mistake, as the assorted children watching this spectacle start crying and their angry mothers proceed to clobber Walter's dad.
  • The Ditz: Walter. In fact, when he took his SAT exam, he did so poorly that the computer gave him a perfect score out of pity. It's a miracle he gets out of his freshman year at the end of the series.
  • Fake Video Camera View: The Merv-U-Mentary segments.
  • Generation Xerox: The Mr. History segments involve past freshmen, all played by the shows main actors. Though this could be more of an Imagine Spot.
  • Grade Skipper: The offered justification as to why Merv was Put on a Bus - he managed to finish high school in just a year, resulting in him going off to college... and thus remaining a freshman.
  • Granola Girl: Tarah is sometimes portrayed as this, such as in a skit where Walter and his dad go to her house for Thanksgiving, only for her to serve a "turkey" made entirely out of tofu. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Gym Class Hell: Sometimes in the first two seasons, the boys or the girls would suffer this, such as being told to make baskets while standing on their heads.
  • Held Back in School: By the third season, Walter flunks his freshman year.
  • Imagine Spot: Mr. Lippman would sporadically imagine himself as a stand up comic, delivering jokes at the expense of the freshmen. Strangely, after these imagine spots ended, we'd sometimes see the freshmen complaining about these jokes.
  • Irony: According to Kevin, Merv was thrilled to skip ahead to college until he found out he'd be a freshman again.
  • Jerkass: All the main characters, to some extent, but Kevin is by far the biggest one of all.
  • Jerk Jock: Grant, especially towards his sister Erin.
  • "Jump Off a Bridge" Rebuttal: In one episode, Walter's father learns that he's participating in a ridiculous-sounding new sport because everyone else is, and asks him if he'd jump off a bridge if everyone else did. Walter says that he wouldn't, then remarks that kids aren't jumping off bridges anymore, they're jumping off cranes.
  • Kent Brockman News: The Merv-U-Mentary segments in the first two seasons, as Merv tries to get the lowdown on a given issue at school (often running afoul of Lippman or whoever he's bothering in the process).
  • Laser-Guided Karma: A subplot of "Math, Lies & Videotape" is Kevin intending to cheat his way through midterms by buying last year's tests. He blows off studying, but the day before testing, he learns Mr. Lippman is cracking down so hard on cheating that the teachers are changing their usual tests. Kevin has to stay up all night studying just to try to squeak by.
  • Limited Social Circle: Aside from the occasional incidental character (such as Mr. Lippman's nephew coming to visit), we never see the main characters hang around with anybody other than each other.
  • Locked in a Room: In the school play episode, Alex, Kevin, and Mr. Lippman all get locked in a closet before the play they appear in starts.
  • Mall Santa: In "Holidays", Walter's dad works as one and asks Walter if he'd been really naughty in terms of doing anything to his father's property, in an attempt to get Walter to admit that he had.
  • Mock Millionaire: In one episode, Merve reveales he's been writing to a rich girl who he falsely informed that he was rich to. When he expects a visit, he convinces his friends to pretend to be his servants. However, when she meets Merv, she admits she's not interested in him because she doesn't like how stuck-up rich guys are. Merv then admits that he's not really rich after all. Unfortunately for Merv, she does not believe him, and his friends keep their promise to not break character no matter what.
  • Mystery Meat: The title of a band the gang forms in one segment.
  • Proud to Be a Geek: Merv makes no secret of his geeky and intellectual pursuits. It pays off for him, as he ends up graduating high school after his freshman year.
  • Put on a Bus: Merv and Tarah both left after the second season—the former going to college and the latter getting roped into a protest.
  • Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy: The Home Room Announcements segments in the first two seasons parodied this. Mr. Lippman would be so bored by announcements that he'd fantasize about being a stand-up comic making assorted cracks and puns at students' expense, with his assistant providing any requisite rimshots. Occasional groans from frustrated students would also be shown.
  • Retool: The format changed from sketch comedy to Saved by the Bell styled sitcom in the third season.
  • Sadist Teacher: The teachers themselves tend not to be this (even the ones that have to deal with Walter), but Mr. Lippman is a principal example. He is constantly frustrated with the students and looking for ways to crack down, often to ridiculous extremes.
  • School Play: In one episode, the school had a Shakespearian play. Many of the actors ended up locked in the closet (Alex was locked in by Kevin because he wanted a girl he liked to play his love interest instead, Kevin was locked in the closet because Grant was so jealous of him and Alex kissing in the show, and Mr. Lippman was locked in by his agent who wanted to screw him over with his contract).
  • Senseless Violins: One 'Mr History' sketch parodied prohibition with the students making bathtub bubblegum. When caught by the teachers, they brought out violin cases, from which they removed violins. That they played very badly.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Compared to other tween shows at the time, Welcome Freshmen veered pretty far on the cynical end of the scale. None of the characters were especially likable or nice, the principal was a bumbling idiot who everyone hated, there were no lessons learned at the end of any episode, and in many cases characters would get away with cheating, deceit, etc.
  • Straight Man: Erin's dynamic with Walter, as she is constantly trying to keep him focused on a given task and rein in his idiocy.
  • Token Black: Kevin
  • Token Good Teammate: In contrast to the others, Walter's foibles and bad habits were the result of genuine stupidity. He often acted quite personable and was rarely ever antagonistic.
  • You Are Grounded!: In "Conformity", everyone is surprised that Kevin isn't going to the big pep rally that everyone else is going to. Kevin claims that he just doesn't do things just because others do, but then Merv reveals that the real reason he's not going is because he's grounded.