Did you attend Jefferson High School? If so, then you share your experience with an inordinate number of TV characters. Among your fellow alumni include Richie Cunningham and Rerun. And that’s just the most famous alumni. What’s the deal with so many TV shows naming their fictional high school after, one assumes, Thomas Jefferson? Because he appeals to everybody from white farmers to urban ghetto dwellers who can trace their heritage back to Jefferson’s lust for one or more of his many slaves? Who knows. But it certainly is the case that Jefferson High School pops up inordinately on TV shows throughout history.
Jefferson High School traces its TV lineage as least as far back at 1952. Robinson Peepers was a science teacher at Jefferson High School. “Mr. Peepers” was the sort of shy, introverted and somewhat less than manly science teacher of the type that would one day be realized in the form of Walter White. But whereas White found his Will to Power, Mr. Peepers was content to be mothered by the female staff at Jefferson High School until, at long last, Robinson married the girl of his dreams, music teacher Rayola Dean in one of television’s first big-time onscreen nuptials.
About a decade after Mr. Peepers introduced Jefferson High School to TV audiences, along came another teacher who also found employment at a fictional school bearing the same name. “Mr. Novak” started his English teaching career at Jefferson High in Los Angeles whereas Robinson Peepers was teaching science in the Midwest. Among the problems faced by John Novak intimidation of a black female student made to feel mightily unwelcome at Jefferson High School and the awkwardness of attraction to a former female student from Jefferson.
Jefferson High School is where Richie Cunningham, Potsie and Ralph seemed to spend about five years seniors. Even Fonzie dropped back in for classes for a time. The first season of “Happy Days” saw a number of episodes that actually put the guys into the classroom. This trend increasingly decreased through the second season and by the time Fonzie became the center of attention of the show, you almost never saw the insides of Jefferson High School again.
A show that briefly ran concurrently with “Happy Days” on the ABC schedule also featured some teens who attended Jefferson High School. And just like with “Mr. Peepers” and “Mr. Novak” these two show featured one Jefferson High School from the Midwest and one Jefferson High School in Los Angeles. Another difference was that the Jefferson High School on “What’s Happening!” had to deal with all the problems of 1970s inner city youth rather than the whitebread problems of the Eisenhower era.
That’s So Raven
Sometimes Jefferson High School is not the school where the heroes of your favorite TV show wind up matriculating, but is instead the hated rival. Such is the case on “That’s So Raven.” If you pay close enough attention, you can find Jefferson High fulfilling the rival role on a number of shows, but the one that is the rival of Bayside High on this show really seems to have the mojo. Pretty much any time Raven’s school goes up against Jefferson High, they are on the losing side. Because of this, Jefferson High School actually plays a fairly important role in the mythology of “That’s So Raven” even though the school itself is not part of the setting.