Starring: Jay Baruchel, Carla Gallo, Charlie Hannon, Monica Keena, Seth Rogen, Timm Sharp, Jason Segel
Created By:Judd Apatow
Freaks and Geeks still stands out as one of the better high school depictions on television. It showed the hardships in trying to figure out where you fit in and who you really are. Many of the character’s feared the future, but among the fear were eager to defy the expectations set for them. Although the show ended far too soon, it had a lasting impression of the raw honesty and troubles of high school life. Undeclared covers the next step, centering on college life. The show still has many youthful elements, brought out wonderfully by the top notch writing, likeable characters, and great acting including those who have become some of Apatow’s go to guys.
Undeclared centers on a group of college freshman who are just moving in to their co-ed dorm. Lloyd is the British pretty boy of the group, the only one who really has any experience and success with girls. Steven particularly is in trouble when it comes to the opposite sex. He has never had a girlfriend before and once he sets his eyes on Lizzie, he wants nothing more than for her to be his. The first night they automatically hit it off and there is a definite connection. The problem is that Lizzie has a boyfriend already, Eric (Segel), who she has been dating for two years. Eric is a very affectionate, romantic, and dedicated boyfriend, but almost too much so at times in a possessive, stalking way. A love triangle forms between Eric, Lizzie, and Steven. Steven and Lizzie remain to be very good friends as they are both completely conscious that they have strong feelings for each other.
Lloyd can seemingly get any girl he wants. In the end, the one who he really wants is Rachel, who he is afraid is seeing him more as a brother than as a romantic interest. Marshall, who is on the dorkier side, takes on the challenge against Lloyd to make Rachel his as well. At first Ron is having just as much trouble as them as he won’t even talk to the girl he likes, an upper classman, but his friends offer him a good support system.
Undeclared is all about the cast who make the show and characters likeable. The characters were actually written exclusively for the cast and the episodes weren’t fully written until everyone was confirmed that they would be a part of the show. Everyone seems very close and the personalities really come out and merge together, making the relationships seem authentic and real.
Jay Baruchel does very well as the lead in Steven. He’s a great example of what the typical college freshman is like. He isn’t the perfect student, but wants to get the most out of his college experience. Steven tries a few different things, yet in the end his friends and the people he cares for around him are really where all of happiness comes from.
Carla Galla really portrays the sweet girl who works off of Baruchel’s nice guy persona very well. Monica Keena did very well here as one of the female friends. She was desired by many, but was more of a free spirit who enjoyed her independence. Charlie Hannon’s character, Lloyd, was probably my least favorite. He was okay, but at times he seemed like he was a bit too arrogant, as if he were above those around him. When it came down to it, he did have his back for his friends, which did give him some redemption.
Of course, Seth Rogen brings some of the best comedy to the show and even wrote a few of the episodes. Jason Segel is one of the most out there characters on the show. You admire him for his loyalty and in how many ways he shows his love for his girlfriend even long after their relationship has begun. How extreme he takes this adds in some rich comedy. Regarding Lizzie, you have to root against him since there is so much more power in the connection between her and Steven. He really embraces every bit of wackiness with portraying the situation where his character would only consider this to be normal.
One funny subplot in the show was regarding Steven’s dad, Hal (Wainwright). He is in the middle of a divorce. He has a really hard time with this and due to his loneliness he ends up hanging out at the dorm a lot. This gets to Steven a bit since going away to college was supposed to give him freedom away from his parents. Steven’s friends really take a liking to Hal and try to make him just one of the guys to help him through this hard time in his life. Hal lost his job too and ends up becoming a waiter at a high-end restaurant. Not only does Hal make adjustments to his life as he also starts a relationship with the dorm’s resident advisor, but it affects Steven a lot too. Steven accept some of these changes as necessary for his father to be comfortable in this new life he is trying to make for himself and his son.
Loudan Wainwright III reminds me a lot of Jim’s dad in the American Pie movies. He is geeky, yet wants to be cool, hip, and more of a buddy to his son than a father. I think his circumstances and inner-self is more represented in this then Jim’s dad was though. Not only does the regular cast do a lot for the show, but there are constant hilarious guest appearances which include Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Mike White, Kyle Gaas, Adam Sandler, Amy Phoeler, Jenna Fischer, Samm Levine, and Busy Phillips.
Obviously, attraction and love is a major issue that the characters are either trying to find or figure out. Even Hal who seems like he should have it figured out by now is having perhaps the most trouble of all. There are many other things that are covered too like financial troubles, fraternities and sororities, friendships, and deciding the future yet also not forgetting about your past. Steven and his friends have met some great people that teach them a lot.
Steven also learns that not everyone can be trusted. This is his dose of reality as he is getting farther outside of the bubble where he grew up. There is the message of making your own decisions, but ultimately making them for you and just being true to yourself through it all. Undeclared has been said to be the reprise of Freaks and Geeks. The comedy is very similar as are the type of characters we experience everything through. It ended having a slightly shorter life on TV than Freaks and Geeks even. It seemed to end sort of suddenly, but I doubt that at the time of shooting that Apatow knew that there wasn’t going to be a new season or it would have been wrapped up better. Undeclared is a very smart and funny comedic series with great characters, acting, themes, and presence that unfortunately didn’t last as long as it should have.