University, Hollywood Relationship Not Always a 'Love Story'

In a recent episode of the ABC sitcom "Dharma and Greg," the character Greg--a Harvard graduate--appears on-screen wearing a Harvard sweatshirt. It's a small detail, notable only to costume designers and die-hard fans, but the incident is just one example of the numerous references to Harvard University in today's films and TV shows.

However, since any use of Harvard's logos or campus in a commercial film--from Greg's sweatshirt to the Dunster House backdrop in "Good Will Hunting"--requires University permission, inserting these references is never simple.

Just a simple pan-shot of a dorm room that includes the Harvard logo can only be included after letters are exchanged between film company paralegals and Harvard representatives, scripts are hastily faxed, and lengthy deliberations have been made in Cambridge.


Still, according to those in the entertainment industry, Hollywood's fascination with Harvard makes the red tape worthwhile.

"There are a lot of great colleges out there, but none of them have the kind of name recognition that Harvard does. It's kind of like the Coca-Cola of colleges," Peter S. Mehlman, the producer and creator of the new ABC sitcom It's Like, You Know.

Wind Dancer Films story editor, Josh M. Bingham, says that in film, it is crucial to utilize the audience's knowledge and stereotypes. Harvard, he says, fits perfectly.

"It's the prototype. The first thing that pops into your mind," Bingham says.

While you do have a small portion of the audience that knows about other Ivy League schools," he adds, "you want to choose the ultimate prototype...and that is Harvard."

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