Spend the upcoming well-being break celebrating all things Maize and Blue with this must-watch binge list. The following TV shows and feature films all have U-M in common, whether it is a fictional Wolverine, the real or imagined campus, or an alum in front of or behind the camera. So fire up your screen, shout “Go Blue!” and enjoy the following productions with the added bonus of feeling connected to the University, no matter where you are.
“The Five-Year Engagement” (2012)
In this film, engaged couple Tom Solomon (Jason Segel) and Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt) move to Ann Arbor from San Francisco so Violet can pursue a graduate degree at U-M. While Violet thrives under the tutelage of a brilliant faculty adviser, Tom struggles to find employment as a chef and ends up working at Zingerman’s Deli. As their relationship weathers a number of challenges, the couple also weather a few Michigan winters, including one snowy scene filmed in Liberty Plaza.
Streaming on HBO Max
“Answer This!” (2011)
Paul Tarson (Christopher Gorham) is a brilliant trivia whiz able to answer the little questions in life but not the big ones. He finally gets a chance to show his talents when he enters a citywide bar tournament in Ann Arbor hosted by Brian Collins (Chris Parnell) at Ashley’s. Written and directed by Christopher Farah, ‘98, MA’02, this film also features a Golden Apple Award winner, U-M Professor Emeritus Ralph Williams, ‘64, PhD’69, who plays — wait for it — a U-M professor and the main character’s father. This film is a love letter to Ann Arbor, featuring scenes from campus, State Street, and the banks of the Huron River.
Streaming on YouTube
“The Ides of March” (2011)
An idealistic staffer (Ryan Gosling) gets a fast lesson in dirty politics while working on the presidential campaign of Mike Morris (George Clooney), the governor of Pennsylvania. Clooney, who directs and stars in this film, can be seen in various locations on campus (meant to be campaign stops), including the Arthur Miller Theatre, the Power Center, and the Michigan League Ballroom. Many of the extras were Ann Arborites and U-M students, staff, and faculty.
“Parks and Recreation” (2009-15)
Michael Schur, who was born in Ann Arbor, co-created and executive produced “Parks and Recreation,” which explains why the city is mentioned so frequently in the show and why the characters Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) move to Ann Arbor during season six. What’s more, Pawnee, Indiana — the fictional town where they all work and the continued location for the rest of the cast — was founded in 1817, the same year as U-M!
Streaming on Peacock
“Sister, Sister” (1994-99)
Separated twins Tia Landry and Tamera Campbell (Tia and Tamera Mowry) are reunited during a chance encounter as kids and then begin navigating life together. In season six, they head off to college at U-M. Though not filmed on campus, vintage U-M paraphernalia stars throughout the season.
Streaming on Netflix
“Friends from College” (2017-19)
Though the main cast of this close-knit group of 40-somethings met at Harvard, one couple, Lisa and Eric Turner (Cobie Smulders and Keegan-Michael Key), moved to Ann Arbor before joining their college buddies in New York City. Look for the “Storage Unit” episode in season two, when the couple unearths lots of Michigan memories from Lisa’s time studying at the U-M Law School.
Streaming on Netflix
“Rogue Trip” (2020)
What happens when you take a former war correspondent; put him in countries known for trafficking, terrorism, and turmoil; and ask him to report positive, feel-good stories? “Rogue Trip” is a series filmed in 2019 that documents the adventures of ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff, JD’87, and his 29-year-old son, Mack. Travel vicariously with the pair as they explore six countries known more for conflicts than cordiality.
Streaming on Disney+
“The Flash” (2014 to present), “Aladdin” (2019), “The Greatest Showman” (2017)
All three of these TV and film productions highlight songs composed by the award-winning duo Benj Pasek, ’06, and Justin Paul, ’06. In the superhero show “The Flash” listen to the song “Runnin’ Home to You” that the pair wrote for the “Duet” musical fantasy episode in season three. Also watch for the character Cisco Ramón, an engineering genius, played by Carlos Valdes, ‘11. For the live-action film “Aladdin”, Pasek and Paul composed one of the only new songs added to the animated film score. Titled “Speechless,” it is sung by Jasmine and brings to life the princess’s desire to be heard. For anyone who has ever felt they did not fit in, listen to the song “This is Me” from the musical drama film “The Greatest Showman” for redemption. It won the pair the Golden Globe Award for best original song in 2018.
“The Flash” is streaming on Netflix.
“Aladdin” and “The Greatest Showman” are streaming on Disney+.
“Superman: Man of Tomorrow” (2020), “Hollywood” (2020), “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” (2018)
Darren Criss, ‘09, who rose to fame in the series “Glee,” has recently reemerged in a variety of roles. Criss voices Superman in the animated series “Superman: Man of Tomorrow” and plays an ambitious young director in the post-World War II series “Hollywood,” which Criss also had a hand in producing. But if you somehow missed it, be sure to watch Criss in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” the second installment of “American Crime Story.” His chilling performance earned him both an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award.
“Superman: Man of Tomorrow” is streaming on HBO Max.
“Hollywood” and “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” are both streaming on Netflix.
“Emily in Paris” (2020), “Tales of the City” (2019)
Ashley Park, ’13, appears in these two recent series. In “Tales of the City,” which had an all LGBTQ writer’s room, she plays Ani, an Instagram influencer. In “Emily in Paris,” she plays Emily’s best friend, Mindy, a role she knows well, having played Gretchen Weiners — the best friend of the queen bee Regina George — in the Broadway musical “Mean Girls” in 2018. For her performance in “Mean Girls,” written by Tina Fey, Park was nominated for a Tony Award.
“Emily in Paris” and “Tales of the City” are both streaming on Netflix.
Visit the Notable Alumni webpage to discover more U-M alumni working in film, television, and theater.