April 13, 2009

King of the Hills: ICTV's 'Ivy' Returns for a Second Season

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Just as far above Cayuga’s waters and with an arguably more glorious view, Ithaca College students have often felt a world away from their East Hill counterparts despite being separated by only two miles. But with the recent success of Ivy, an MTV-style faux reality series produced by IC’s student-run television station ICTV, that gap could very well be narrowing.
Voted the best new show on ICTV after last semester’s hit debut, Ivy returns this week for its much-anticipated second season, which began with a sneak preview last Thursday night in the Memorial Room of Willard Straight Hall. Although the popularity of the first season will be a tough act to follow, producers Ed Pietzak, Matt Baldovsky and Liz Komroy are ready for the challenge. “We didn’t think [the show] was even going to get to Cornell,” Baldovsky commented. “It’s a world we don’t encounter that much, so we wanted to show IC kids what goes on at Cornell. The fact that it’s doing so well both here and at Ithaca is something we’re very proud of.”
Pietzak, a senior TV / radio major at IC and one of the original masterminds of the show, has been thrilled with the positive reaction that Ivy has enjoyed since last season. “After we premiered our show, we received a lot of praise from both students and faculty [at IC],” he said. “When we were preparing for our second season, we noticed an increase in applicants for students to work on both the crew and act in the show.” With countless online views and more and more people hearing about the show through word of mouth, Ivy has become, in some circles, the talk of the town.
For those of you not familiar with Ivy, imagine a show with the glamour of Laguna Beach, the petty character drama of The Hills and a smorgasbord of everyone you’ve ever seen eating at The Terrace or Trillium. In other words, it’s about the daily drama of the college-aged illegitimate children of Andy Bernard ’95 and Omarosa. Viewer discretion advised.
Thursday’s sneak peek provided a glimpse at some of this season’s new characters and storylines, including clips from the show’s revamped opening credits, as well as front-row footage from the Ludacris concert. According to Pietzak, this season will introduce five new characters to join the returning cast from last season, which will be developed in greater depth throughout this season’s story arc. Between Amanda (A.J. Wolbrum) attempting to balance her new best friend and potential boyfriend, Natalie (Liz Komroy) adjusting to life without Chris (Mike Levin) and Bradley (Matt Baldovsky) coping with the closing of his fraternity and subsequently “trying to find his purpose in life,” the new season of Ivy promises to live up to its tagline “Any Person. Any Study. Any Drama.”
Picking up right where last season left off, Ivy has grown tremendously since it debuted last fall. “We set out with the idea of trying to make the show bigger, appeal more to the Cornell audience, and develop it on a deeper level,” Pietzak said. Working closely with groups like Cornell Concert Commission and Delta Phi fraternity, crew members of the second season were able to shoot on location at concerts, frat parties and Collegetown bars. They even spent a weekend shooting on location at Harvard, following the storyline of Natalie after she transferred at the end of the first season. “We really worked to improve the overall quality of the show this semester,” added Pietzak. “We have more drama, more characters and great situations that our characters find themselves in this season.”
Unlike the first season, which was largely based on assumptions about stereotypes and various aspects of campus life, this season is aimed at portraying Cornell in a more accurate light. “There are stereotypes for entertainment purposes, but we’re trying to keep it somewhat grounded in reality,” Pietzak explained. In response to some viewers who were unhappy with the over-the-top caricatures of the first season, the producers solicited both fans and critics of the show by e-mail, asking each of them what they wanted to see changed this time around. Not surprisingly, one of the show’s new characters is a quirky engineer named Will — a stereotype that was somehow overlooked in the first season.
Just for good measure, the show also enlisted the help of two Cornell consultants — actual Cornell students — who collaborate closely with the writers to develop the scripts and make the show as realistic as possible to life at Cornell. “We sometimes like to see Ivy as a process that works together with Cornell, not against it. If anything, it kind of unites Ithaca College and Cornell together,” Pietzak said.

If you missed the sneak preview last Thursday, be sure to check out the season premiere of Ivy this Tuesday at 9 p.m. on ICTV (channel 16 on Time Warner Cable) or online at ictv.org the day after it airs.