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“Undeclared” Ep. 7 and 8, “Addicts” / “God Visits”

“Undeclared” Ep. 7 and 8, “Addicts” / “God Visits” (photo)

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“Undeclared” is now airing on IFC, and we thought we’d take this opportunity to revisit the show that further cemented broadcast television’s inability to recognize the genius of Judd Apatow. Every week, Matt Singer and Alison Willmore will be offering their thoughts on two more episodes.

Episode 7
Addicts
Written by Jennifer Konner & Alexandra Rushfield
Directed by Greg Mottola

Episode 8
God Visits
Written by Rodney Rothman
Directed by John Hamburg

“All you had to do was get a few hundred dollars. How hard is that? Didn’t you see ‘Oliver’? That little bugger scammed people all over the place!” — Ron

Alison: “Addicts” and “God Visits” deal with the financial and philosophical vulnerabilities of so many a naïve college student. In the first episode, Steven and crew take advantage of “free money” — i.e., credit cards — and find themselves in trouble after excursions into online trading and meth-addicted townie Dave’s (Will Ferrell) paper-writing service. In the second, Steven and Lloyd find their respective worlds rocked by, respectively, a proselytizing classmate and a nihilism-spouting professor. Both episodes lean on more college-specific plotlines and situations than has been typical of the series so far, with the gang facing minor crises of morality by way of easy access to funds or new ways at looking at existence.

The stories that unfold from the start of “Addicts” take pleasantly unexpected directions — that opening scene, with Ron getting everyone to run out to the application booth like it’s Valhalla, seems to be setting up a cautionary tale about the perils of credit card debt. Instead, that turns out to be an incidental factor, a burden to be confronted later. “Addicts” is about the quirkily, nerdily destructive behavior everyone gets caught up in as soon as they have cash. Ron pulls Lloyd into his online trading scheme, and after minor protestations Lloyd abandons his artistic austerity for a leather suit and lighting a cigar with a dollar bill. Steven, struggling academically, buys a paper from Dave that gets an A, and after that can’t help indulging again, bringing Lizzie and Rachel along with him. (Marshall just likes having a wad of cash to wave around, but isn’t actually interesting in buying anything.)

Naturally, things goes wrong, with these scams and schemes turning out to be unreliable — the stomach-growing company Ron’s invested in flops, and Dave overindulges in drugs and spends the night playing video games instead of writing the papers he was contracted to. There’s no easy path, but it’s Steven who once again has to take the lesson on the chin when his dad Hal appears to congratulate him on his recent good grades (and I don’t know about y’all, but my college sure wasn’t sending report cards home to my parents) and claim all the scrimping and saving for Steven’s outrageous tuition is clearly paying off with his son learning and taking advantage of the education he’s receiving. Oof.

In “God Visits,” the obvious “mind control” stories, with Lloyd embracing meaninglessness (and his duvet) while Steven relishes Christianity, are paralleled with more subversive ones on the side involving the girls. Marshall tries to convince Rachel (with ever more desperation — I love the moment he claims everyone at the party is slow dancing to Dido to lure her back) that they need to preserve the spare room vacated by previously unseen suitemate Sheila (played by Joss Whedon favorite Felicia Day) as a party palace, though she feels increasingly guilty about keeping the room from Tina (Christina Payano), who’s hoping to escape her own obsessive violinist roomie. Meanwhile, Ron goes to work on Lizzie after deciding he can’t stand Eric any longer and that she should be with Steven — he ingeniously convinces her to attempt to reunite with his suitemate, only to run smack into the latter’s newfound piety. Hey, there’s a reason cults recruit off of campuses — undergrads are easy marks.

My question for you, Matt, is how you think the “Addicts” paper plot compares to the cheating storyline in “Freaks and Geeks.” And would you ever trust Will Ferrell with your academic future?

Matt: It depends on the subject. Obviously the man is an expert on human anatomy — anyone who’s seen his rippling dorsimus muscles in “Anchorman” knows that — but his handle on the works of Jackson Pollock is a little less sturdy. As for the cheating storyline in general, the “Freaks and Geeks” episode you’re referring to is “Tests and Breasts,” where freak Daniel convinces math whiz Lindsay to help him pass an exam he’s certain to fail. Daniels’ plight was played as a grand tragedy tinged with notes of dark humor: when Lindsay wants to confess, he sways her back to his side with a lengthy and impassioned monologue about what it’s like to be told from childhood that you’re dumb. Cheating on “Freaks and Geeks” was an act of desperation and revenge.

On “Undeclared” its basically just a platform for a great guest spot from Ferrell as he lazies around in his unmentionables, drops some speed, and hallucinates himself into a ninja video game. The UNEC kids aren’t downtrodden, they’re just lazy teenagers with cash to burn. There are immediate repercussions to their grades when Dave gets too distracted to write their work, but nothing particularly serious: no threats of expulsion or angry lectures from parents. Even with Hal occasionally popping in at the fourth floor, UNEC is still basically an adults-free zone. Everyone who’s ever gone to college will recognize that moment where you discover that the only person you have to answer to in life when you make bad decisions is yourself.

One other connection between the cheating storylines on “Freaks and Geeks” and “Undeclared”: it informs us of the fact that Steven is, by his own admission, not very bright. That’s a continuation of the portrayal of geeks on “Freaks and Geeks,” where Sam and especially Bill were also considered nerds because of their physical awkwardness, not necessarily for their intellectual gifts. Apatow dweebs get all of the afflictions of geekdom — bullying, a lack of athletic ability, nearsightedness — with very few of the upsides. Then again, many of them wind up hooking up with incredibly hot women, so don’t shed too many tears for them.

11262010_undeclared07c.jpgSteven has Lizzie practically throwing herself at him in “God Visits,” but he rejects her because of his sudden interest in “the greatest story ever told.” Though the subject is a perfect one for the show, and results in some of the funniest scenes of the series between Steven, Lizzie, and Ron, one thing always bugs me about this storyline. Apatow established in the pilot that Steven is Jewish; when he meets Lloyd for the first time, he mentions that he once visited England on a Jewish teen tour named “Shalom Europe.” Obviously he’s a pretty casual Jew, but shouldn’t his random conversion to Christianity spark some sort of inner conflict? Or better yet, shouldn’t it prompt a wildly outraged response from Hal? That just feels like a rare missed opportunity to me.

We’ve already discussed the role of the female characters in “Undeclared” several times in this column. In that regard, “Addicts” is something of an important landmark in the series’ history: it’s the first episode written by women (Jennifer Konner and Alexandra Rushfield). Alison, do think it’s at all odd that the first female-penned “Undeclared” is maybe the least female-centric in the entire season?

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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