Let me preface this review. I’m writing this as both a critic of television yet also a professional in higher education, having served as both a Resident Advisor and a Resident Director. So I’ll do my best to differentiate my thoughts of this as a television show and this as a fictional look into the lives of Resident Advisors.
We begin on move-in day at Thoreau College, where Resident Director Olivia (Jamie Chung) has to keep her four RAs under control amidst all sorts of chaos. Under her purview, we have 30-year-old lifer Doug (Ryan Hansen), party animal Tyler (Graham Rogers), weirdo Amy (Alison Rich), and Sam (Andrew Bachelor) who has to work like eighteen jobs to stay in school. We follow them throughout seven episodes available exclusively on Hulu as they try to navigate strange scenarios that might come up while living in housing.
What doesn’t work?
As a television show, regardless of topic, this show is atrocious. I watched all seven episodes but after the first four minutes of this show, I knew it was going to be bad. It opened with a naked guy falling onto another guy. This would be a reoccurring trend of resorting to the lowest common denominator for laughs, resulting in a crude and cringeworthy series.
Another example of going beyond what is traditionally funny and going into a weird and humorless place… Also in the first episode, a girl falls and “breaks her vagina,” which results in her wanting to show everyone (which wouldn’t happen) and then accidentally taking ecstasy that was confiscated from another student, instead of painkillers. Hopefully you can see why that would make for bad television.
It doesn’t get better, as the seven episodes all revolve around juvenile and crude humor, missing out on real opportunities to talk about college and what happens there.
So now I’m going to put on my professional hat, where I work in student affairs. I wanted this show to be a somewhat accurate look into what the life of RA might be like. You can exaggerate a bit for the sake of television but there’s an incredible opportunity for learning here, especially considering the audience for this is likely high schoolers (based on the humor). But every single one of these opportunities is wasted.
There’s a chance to discuss gender identity when two RAs come across a resident that they struggle with identifying their gender. Instead of tactfully handling this, they resort to one of the RAs sneaking into the unisex bathroom to try and “sneak a peak” at their genitalia to determine their gender. And that’s it. That character never shows up again, so there’s not a resolution. A huge topic was brought up and then used for a few laughs (though not by me) and then thrown away. We later have a male roommate say that he identifies as a woman, so he doesn’t have to move rooms, but it’s used to solve the plot device, not actually bringing up a scenario that a student might actually identify as a woman.
And then there are blatant dialogue and plot moments that would, in any college ever, result in someone being fired. An RA confiscates (and then takes) drugs from his residents. An RA sexually harasses their Resident Director at every turn, including physically. The RD becomes romantically entangled with one of their RAs, which is discovered by the Dean of the school yet nothing happens except a stern warning.
As a professional, I think Resident Advisors actually harms the field of student affairs. The target audience is high school students and the vision that they’re getting both of college and the professionals working there, is tragically exaggerated. This could’ve been an opportunity to actually prepare them, even in the context of a comedy. Look at shows like Scrubs or Parks and Recreation. It is possible for half-hour comedies to deliver laughs and yet also dig deep into real world issues. And this would’ve been that moment.
Instead, Resident Advisors is teaching the next wave of college students that their RAs are useless. That the professional in charge of their building is horribly unprepared and irresponsible. How can a show be taken seriously when one of its characters sneezes and farts at the same time, regularly? Imagine reading that character description. That is what makes her character unique.
Resident Advisors was written for immature high school kids that want to see crazy antics at a university. Even without the context of working in student affairs, the jokes are crude and humorless, the writing is horrible, and even the production value reminds me of a webseries not a legit television show. When Netflix is delivering solid series after series, it’s sad that Hulu even took a chance on this show.