New York City isn’t exactly a “college town,” but for TV buffs the name Hudson University should ring a bell as the alma mater of Bill Cosby in The Cosby Show and a frequent location for murders and raunchy college parties investigated by cops on Law and Order. But if you look at a map or list of NY schools today, you won’t find Hudson at all. Filmed at many locations throughout city, Hudson University is a combination of several different buildings including schools, government buildings, and public areas. NY Times called it, “where everyone majors in murder,” but the ongoing joke dates back much further than its references on TV.
Denis Baron, a professor at the University of Illinois writes that in the 1940s Batman comics, Batman’s sidekick Dick Grayson bids farewell as he endeavors into college. The school that accepted him was named Hudson University, and it was (fictionally) located in Carthage, New York. Grayson, who later (spoiler) becomes Robin, uses his time away to mature as a crime fighter, without Batman for the first time. Though he reportedly only spent a semester in this Upstate school, the comic has several shots like the ones above, with Grayson donning HU attire. Matthew Manning, author of The Batman Files, even fabricated a copy of Grayson’s acceptance letter (complete with Hudson letterhead). Another notable comic references to HU includes Clark Kent (Superman) who turned it down for Metropolis University.
In the shows Castle and all franchises of Law and Order, Hudson University is used as a citywide prop. Rene Balcer, producer and writer for L&O told NY Times, “We had to create a university that did not exist and it’s really hard coming up with a name for a university that doesn’t exist somewhere in the country. It is the one place you never want to go to school or teach at. Very high crime rate.” He also explains that based off the availability of the locations where they wanted to film, Hudson is either made up from shots of Columbia University or NYU. L&O fan Irina Hage also took these photos from when they filmed Hudson University’s Roosevelt Island buildings–Goldwater Memorial Hospital.
Writers of Castle took the idea of the school in a different direction. Characters attend the school for odd post-graduate studies, including sadomasochism. This is (slightly) more in line with the school’s cameo on The Cosby Show, where Cliff Huxtable (played by Bill Cosby) went to medical school. There’s more: the character Jimmy Brooks (played by Aubrey “Drake” Graham) from Degrassi: Next Generation was accepted to Hudson University and also turned it down. Finally, in The Secret Life of the American Teenager, two characters who are Hudson University applicants must fly across the country to attend, but only after paying the $2,000 non-refundable application fee to weed out the students not serious about attending.