Undeclared: The Complete Series
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On the heels of Freaks And Geeks® on DVD comes the follow-up project from producer Judd Apatow - Undeclared. This very funny series about college life features the same insightful humor and honesty that won fans and captured everyones imagination in Freaks And Geeks®.
Seen on Fox in 2001-02, Undeclared is the story of Steven Karp, a kid who grew seven inches over summer, changing from scrawny high-school nerd to potentially handsome college student. He and his roommate, friends and fellow freshmen help each other face the freedoms and responsibilities that come along with being away from home for the first time. The wait is over. Undeclared is here!
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2A. Oh, So You Have a Boyfriend
2B. Full Bluntal Nugety (this is actually the original version of episode 2A that the network refused to air. This version is much better.)
3. Eric Visits
4. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
5. Sick in the Head
6. The Assistant
8. God Visits
9. Parent's Weekend
10. Eric Visits Again
11. Rush and Pledge
12. Hell Week
13. Truth or Dare
14. The Day After
15. The Perfect Date
16. Hal and Hilary
17. Eric's POV
There are also annoying TV-PG ratings in the top corner of some of the beginnings of the episodes. Don't they put shows on DVD so we don't have to look at logos and commercials? These two glaring problems knock this release down from a 5 star set to a 4 star one. But there are still plenty of good things about it. Besides a great show there are 18 commentaries, deleted scenes on every episode, an hour long Q & A with the cast and crew, auditions, rehearsals, an unproduced script, and a concert by Loudon Wainwright who plays Steven's Dad in the show. It's a good set, but could've used a once over by the creators to make sure that everything in it was all right. Worth buying, but make sure to watch the episodes in the right order.
Undeclared was certainly a show that was never quite appreciated by audiences, and watching this DVD, it is apparent that people who weren't watching were truly missing out on one of the great looks at college life in modern television.
The show was created by Judd Apatow, the man behind Freaks and Geeks, and now known better as the man behind The 40 Year Old Virgin. Undeclared became his second show in just a few years to last only one year before being cancelled. And it's too bad, because this show really gave a great look at college life.
The show centered around Steven Karp (Jay Baruchel) the typical, nervous freshman, looking to reinvent himself in college, and trying to figure out just who he wanted to be. Baruchel is absolutely perfect in this role. His skinny frame helps his appearance of nervousness and apprehension at every new experience he finds in college. I find myself thinking about people I knew in college, and even of myself a little, and seeing pieces of that in Steven. This was a truly great piece of casting.
Carla Gallo plays Lizzie Exley, the girl of Steven's dreams who happens to live across the hall. While Lizzie is a little more outgoing than Steven, she also is encountering a number of the same problems Steven faces as she enters college. Her biggest issue is her boyfriend, played to perfection by guest star Jason Segel. His jealousness over her friendship and eventual relationship with Steven is a great plot line, one that helps the show stay not only on the college campus, but off it as well.
Monica Keena, who earned distinction as being the first character killed off on Dawson's Creek (Abby Morgan) plays Lizzie's roomate Rachel, the girl who knows she's attractive and uses it to her advantage. Yet at the same time, she can also be the girl next door, much as Lizzie is.
Steven's roomates Lloyd (Charlie Hunnam), Ron (Seth Rogen) and Marshall (Timm Sharp) are truly an eclectic bunch. Lloyd is the charming ladies' man from England, who has absolutely no problems finding ladies. Ron is the resident prankster, often teaming with the others to pick on Steven (in a friendly way). Marshall is the lonely guy, looking for a girl, but really only seeing one, Rachel. The four roomates work very well off each other, each bringing something different to the table.
Christina Payano stars for part of the season as Tina, Lizzie and Rachel''s other roommate. Her character doesn't get a lot of time to develop, as the cancellation stopped any hope for season two.
Legendary folk singer Loudon Wainwright plays Steven's dad, Hal, who breaks the news of his divorce on his son soon after he moves into college. Hal moves close by and eventually starts taking classes on campus, and at one point, even dates one of the RAs in Steven's dorm. He is a constant source of embarrasment for Steven, but at the same time, he is encouraging and supportive of his son.
The show featured guest appearances by a number of great actors. Adam Sandler, Allen Covert, Ben Stiller, Fred Willard, Kevin Hart, Amy Poehler, Will Ferrell, David Krumholtz, Samm Levine, Martin Starr, Busy Phillips, Kimberly Stewart and many others made apperances throughout the season. An obvious connection to Freaks and Geeks is made, as Levine, Phillips, Segel, Starr and Rogen were all regulars on Apatow's former show. These guest characters however, are used very well and make for a well rounded ensemble.
Possibly the best part about this four disc set is the commentaries. Every single regular cast member sat down for at least one commentary, many did more. Apatow and a number of directors and writers also were featured, as were many of the supporting actors who made guest appearances on the show. Like the Freaks and Geeks set, there is a lot of information in these commentaries, and Shout Factory should be commended for getting all the actors together to do these commentaries.
Additionally, there is a Loudon Wainwright concert, a question and answer with cast and crew at the Museum of Television, a script for a second season episode that never existed and audition tapes for the main actors.
This truly is a fine set, with great extras. The high quality of the show made for great television and that fact was captured well in this DVD set.
The show is centered around the undeclared Steven Karp (Jay Baruchel), a tall and thin kid (who is actually built very similarly to myself) who was a bit of a geek in high school. He says the word wicked a lot, has a tendency to talk with his hands, and looks uncomfortable in any situation. He lives in a suite style dorm, so he has a roommate, a private lounge, and two other people he shares the lounge with. Lloyd Haythe (Charlie Hunnam), his roommate, is a British pretty boy who is a theater major. In the room on the other side of the lounge lives spacey music major Marshall Nesbitt (Timm Sharp) and calculating Ron Garner (Seth Rogen). The four guys become fast friends, yet they never pass up an opportunity to make fun of each other. Across the hall lives their female companions, Lizzie Exley (Carla Gallo), Rachel Lindquist (Monica Keena), and later Tina Ellroy (Christina Payono). Lizzie is a somewhat hyperactive girl who always tends to have the upper hand in relationships (her boyfriend Eric, played by Jason Segel, is always afraid that she will dump him, even though he's older than her by at least 10 years). Rachel, on the other hand, is more subdued. She is prone to anxiety attacks from being away from home, and she lets it all out by going a little nuts at parties. Tina, who joins the group later, is a bit of a loser, but she doesn't know it. She likes to listen to old songs on an endless loop and is "holding out" for Lloyd. Finally, Steven's dad Hal Karp (Louden Wainwright) is a recently divorced wreck who always seems to end up looking cooler than his son. Lloyd even invites Hal to party with them from time to time.
The side characters are also great. Perry (Jarrett Grode) is sort of the jack-of-all-trades in the dorm, and he really knows how to rub it in. Books (Samm Levine) is a vindictive frat president who takes out his rage on Steven and his fellow pledges, Lucien (Kevin Rankin) is the floor's goofy RA, Hilary (Amy Poehler) is the head RA who isn't quite right, and Eric is a lovable loser who just can't seem to get things to go his way.
The stories and jokes are hilarious. I especially liked the fraternity episodes. I didn't rush, but I remember going to frat parties, and all of the brothers were really nice to me and wanted me to pledge. However, I heard awful things about hell week. In the episodes, Steven decides to pledge, and is in for a surprise when Books pulls a Jeckyll and Hyde on him. In another episode, Marshall hooks up with a Japanese girl named Kikuki (Youki Kudoh) who doesn't speak any English. The two have to communicate using a pair of English/Japanese translaters. Finally, the guys actually write a detailed script in order to "spontaneously" start a game of truth or dare with the girls.
One of the most innovative and original things about Undeclared is the way the characters were written. Unlike every other show, the characters were not written at all before the actors were cast, and the pilot episode was only partially completed prior to casting. While they always knew that they wanted someone to be a Steven-esque character, no other character was planned. Then, they hired the actors who, among other things, were good at improv, and wrote the characters around the actors.
Improv was a big part of this show. There were solid scripts, but the actors were pretty much allowed to make up their own lines as they went along, provided they followed the overarching story. In the extensive extras section, we can watch some of the rehersal footage and see the different lines that were thought up.
We are treated to plenty of extras in this set. Each episode has a commentary track and unaired footage. There is a director's cut of one episode, a panel discussion with the cast, a script, and a booklet with essays from creator Judd Apatow and actor Jay Baruchel.
It's too bad that this show was cancelled so quickly. Time Magazine named it one of the Top 10 New Shows of 2001, and with good reason. Sadly, the show was on FOX, the network that unjustly cancelled Firefly, Wonderfalls, Tru Calling, Greg the Bunny, Andy Richter Controls the Universe and so on. Now that Apatow is making movies, maybe we will get a big-screen version, but it is unlikely. Anyway, enjoy these 18 episodes from a lost TV gem.
Creator Judd Apatow's follow-up to "Freaks And Geeks," Undeclared: The Complete Series will be released on August 16th from Shout! Factory. The four-disc set will feature seventeen episodes from the show's 2001-2002 Fox run. Extras include two never-before-seen episodes, eighteen commentary tracks (with directors, writers and cast), deleted scenes, bloopers, rehearsals, behind-the-scenes footage, table reads, audition tapes, footage from the Museum of Television & Radio Q&A, Loudon Wainwright live concert footage and a 24-page booklet. Retail is $49.98.
One of the great things about Apatow productions is all the cameos. Not even just of famous people, like Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Will Ferrell, but of other characters too, like Martin Starr and Samm Levine, Bill Haverchuck and Neil Schweiber, respectfully, of Freaks and Geeks.
Like I mentioned earlier, another aspect that makes this different from Freaks and Geeks is that the show is a comedy. They don't really delve into super serious topics, like broken homes and the problems of peer pressure, but instead, lightly brush against them in a comedic fashion.
There's a character for everyone to fall in love with: for me, it's the main character, Steven Carp, because he is just so geeky. But there is the hott British exchange student, the lovable Seth Rogen who dresses like an old man and still remains hilarious, oddball Marshall, the girl-next door, and the party-girl.
If you're a fan of Judd Apatow and his friends, I'm fairly certain that you'll enjoy yet another Apatow achievement.