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SCOTT JAGOW: One of the hottest TV shows among college students wraps up its first season this week. It's on mtvU, a channel only shown on college campuses. The show is called . . . you ready? "Sucks Less, with Kevin Smith." Smith's the director of movies such as Clerks and Chasing Amy. And in fact, just down the street from Hollywood, students at UCLA are the people creating Smith's new show. Lisa Napoli has more.
LISA NAPOLI: Nine film students at UCLA are sitting in a classroom-sized screening room on campus. One of them is holding up a cell phone that's set to speaker.
They're listening to Brian, an executive with mtvU. He's in New York.
BRIAN: And then on episode six in terms of the whole tazering thing, the one person who really needs to give their 'OK' has been traveling.
This is the final production meeting for the show the students have been working on all semester.
[ Sucks Less: "Welcome to Sucks Less the show for people with way better things to do with their weekend. So what I've done is recruited a bunch of UCLA students and couched the whole thing in an accredited college course to help me and subsequently you figure out some cool things to do with your weekend." ]
Those students produce taped segments that show fun activities around the LA area.
They do just about everything on the show: shoot it, write it, star in it, edit it, create animations for it. And it gets lots of play on three screens: television, the Web, and on cell phones.
The chairwoman of the UCLA film school couldn't be prouder:
BARBARA BOYLE: These students who all have credit, they're going to say, I made this for mtvU with Kevin Smith producing. They have a real credit that is out in the world.
Barbara Boyle says not all of her teachers are thrilled with the idea that student labor has gone to create a show for a commercial venture.
BOYLE: Among the faculty we have a lot of different attitudes about that, about 'no we're training artists,' it's just not my attitude.
Having people who are part of their core audience actually make a show has been right up mtvU's alley.
And of course the fact that it gets a hit show for a fraction of what it would otherwise cost isn't so bad, either.
Cell phone company Amp'd Mobile paid the channel $50,000, which mtvU paid to UCLA for the right to develop the class.
And in addition to college credit, students got a stipend for their efforts.
mtvU executive Stephen Friedman says working with the kids is better than working with stressed out over-committed professionals:
STEPHEN FRIEDMAN: The piece that they bring is a passion and a desire to do this for a living and they're putting everything they have into it in a way that a production team that's knocking it out for five different channels or five different websites, it's a different value proposition.
And for the UCLA students who took part, it's a semester that'll live on long past the finals.
[ Sucks Less: "Right on man, excellent report. As your instructor in this class I'm going to give you a B+, ho about that?"
Student: "Whatever, can I go now?"]
In Los Angeles, I'm Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.