Sunday, January 16, 2011


Undeclared is sort of a companion piece to Freaks and Geeks; a Judd Apatow-produced TV series, taking place in college instead of high school, that was canceled after just one season. And it's pretty good, though not quite the classic that I've seen some people describe it is. Just like Geeks, I actually saw several episodes back when it was airing, but it's just now that I've managed to see the whole thing. It's generally enjoyable, and the cast is surprisingly recognizable and likable. Neither of the women are very prevalent today, though they can both be seen here or there, and obviously Apatow staples Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel are there. The most surprising thing though was seeing Charlie Hunnam as pretty-boy womanizer Lloyd, speaking in his native English accent. I'm not sure how he ended at up going to a less-than-prestigious school in northern California, but it makes it even funnier that he's so close to the location for his current role as the protagonist of Sons of Anarchy. He's amazingly different considering the shows aired only six years apart, although some of his tough guy ability does shine through, especially in the episode where he teaches Baruchel's Steven how to fight like a Brit.

For a show about college, there's hardly any school stuff involved. There are a couple scenes with one of the guys in class, and a plot where a few characters pay Will Ferrell to write papers for them, but otherwise the show is all about the parts of college that everybody likes remembering; hanging out with friends at the dorm, and some of the weirder stuff that can come out of that. It's really a show all about how relationships develop, romantic or otherwise, and the setting is just a good place for that to happen since everybody is a stranger and eager to meet new people. The focus is mostly on Steven and his uneasy courtship with Lizzie, but everyone gets an opportunity to do something. There's also some stuff with Steven's dad, who spends a lot more time around Steve than he expected after he separates from his mom, which provides a few laughs as well as some perspective on the whole thing.

But yeah... it's not as good as Geeks, nor as funny as any of the real greatest comedies of the last decade. I think a big part of it is that the Apatow style of comedy just doesn't translate well from R rated movies to network television, and the writers weren't quite good enough to overcome that. It's hard to take things seriously when college students refer to someone getting denied from hooking up at a party as "crotchblocking". There are some pretty brilliant moments, especially when Lizzie's weird, jealous boyfriend played by Jason Segel gets involved, but for the most part I really wasn't laughing that much. It's a show with a strong enough foundation that I wished there could have been more of it, but it's no real great loss, especially with the success most of the people involved have seen since it ended. Nice show, not my favorite.

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