My College Experience
Andrew | Chicago, IL, USA | 08/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First off, I have to credit this show for its accuracy. I finished my freshmen year of college a few months ago, and I have to say that many of the things that happened in this show either happened to me or someone I knew. The writers must have really done their homework for this show (or didn't do a lot of homework in college and instead lived out these episodes), and the result is a pitch-perfect and hilarious look at college life.
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."
Chicken Parmigiana and the Last Boy Scout
Joshua Spaulding | Ossipee, New Hampshire | 10/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are certain television shows that please critics and receive praise from those in the television industry, yet never find a big enough fan base to become truly popular. Arrested Development is such a show today, Freaks and Geeks was another that fit this bill.
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."
S. Schraeder | Scottsdale AZ | 03/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is just as good as Freaks and Geeks. I loved both shows SO MUCH!!! If you ever went to college it will make you laugh and cry, mostly laugh. I hope Judd Apatow and Paul Feig never ever ever give up making great shows, even though they keep geting screwed by the networks. They are GENIUSES!!!! Please do yourself a favor and buy this - I swear it will make you happy!"