When 90210 went to college last season, it dropped to its lowest-ever TV ratings. Gossip Girl peaked the year before its clan dispersed to institutions of higher learning. The same thing happened to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
So, is Glee, which opens its fourth season tonight with McKinley High grads on the loose, doomed?
No. But don't expect it to pack on the freshman 15, either.
A look back at the Nielsen performances of a half-dozen or so series that transitioned from high school to college shows the jump usually results in a dip.
A dip, not a plummet.
And because the move typically occurs in a series' third or fourth season, a time at which even the hottest show is cooling, it's impossible to know if the dip is entirely or even partly storyline-related.
Take Gossip Girl. It saw its audience decline when it began college life in season three, but it also debuted that year in a new, later time slot.
(Glee will do Gossip Girl one better: It's getting a new night, after two years on Tuesdays.)
Then there's Dawson's Creek. It experienced a season-to-season decline when it moved its gang to college, but it didn't move its gang to college until season five.
Glee is taking a different approach in that it's not leaving high school, it's staying there and going to college. In other words, it's going The Facts of Life route. And, for what it's worth, Facts, then in its fifth season, enjoyed a return to the top 30 as the sitcom split time between Eastland and Langley College.
If Glee wants to aim high, it can't do better than Beverly Hills, 90210.
While admission to California University did nothing for the franchise's 21st century iteration, it brought series- and network-high ratings to the 1990s version.
So maybe if things don't work out for Rachel at the New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts…