The scene is utterly innocuous—a normal picture of life on a college campus. The camera tracks smoothly through the dormitory halls, passing students going about their days—some are yawning, sporting bathrobes and rumpled hair, while others rush outside with backpacks and books in tow. The camera enters a room and the motion-sensor lights come on, illuminating the space. The room is painfully average, with its maybe-blue carpet and cinderblock walls, faux-wood paneling and colorful accents interspersed throughout in an attempt at aestheticism. A smiling voice crackles in:
“This is the group study lounge in the basement of Wayland Hall. It’s not much to look at, is it? It could be any such room in any university anywhere in the world. But it’s not just any study lounge. It’s ours.”
In a flash, the empty room is full of teenagers, talking and dancing and studying as raucous rock music blares behind the bold title screen—this is The Basement.
This mockumentary sitcom follows an eclectic group of intrepid college freshmen (and one sophomore—the RA) as they adapt to college in the curious community of Wayland Hall, a dorm offering a specially tailored experience for students in the fine and performing arts. The titular basement becomes the locus of life for this tight-knit group as they rapidly establish dominance over the large basement study lounge, occasionally venturing out to the performance or art studios down the hall, upstairs to individual dorm rooms, or out back onto the patio or railroad tracks. Follow along as these crazy kids share their story, interspersing sitcom-esque action scenes with interview-style asides in which the ensemble cast offers frank commentary on their hijinks.
One often hears that all fiction is just creative autobiography—and this story is no different, based on my freshman year experiences in Wayland Hall. When first posed the question “if you had a TV show, what would it be,” my mind flew to a dozen different things—a time-hopping period piece, a travel show, a historical docu-drama—but none seemed quite right. Then I checked my phone, catching sight of a message in the still-active group chat from my freshman dorm, and it hit me—the basement.
My entire wonderful, wild freshman year was centered around this one room in the basement of my dorm, where my friends and I spent most of our time. We did everything you can imagine in that room—studying, talking, crafting, watching movies on a TV we dragged down from someone’s room, and, for a while, even having sleepovers (though our Hall Director soon put a stop to that). We kept strange hours, often finding each other working or creating at three in the morning on a school night, or sitting in a dark performance studio playing piano into the wee hours of the morning.
It was not without its downs, of course—freshman year is, for many, about experimentation and pushing limits, after all. Some of us grappled with heartbreak, substance abuse, academic struggles, or mental health problems, but we all pulled through because we had each other. The ups far outweighed the downs as we learned to be independent and encouraged each other to grow as artists. Told through the sleep-deprived eyes of college freshmen, The Basement is a story about life—wild, rocky, beautiful, and full of surprises—and triumph—because everyone gets their happy ending.