“Undeclared” Ep. 3 and 4, “Eric Visits” / “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs”

“Undeclared” Ep. 3 and 4, “Eric Visits” / “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” (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 that night’s episode.

Episode 3
“Eric Visits”
Written by Judd Apatow & Rodney Rothman
Directed by John Hamburg

Episode 4
“Jobs, Jobs, Jobs”
Written by Joel Madison
Directed by Greg Mottola

“Why would you even want to be on that show? I mean, it hasn’t been funny in, like, forever.” — Rachel

“Undeclared” really kicks into gear with “Eric Visits” and “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” the first of which gets a big boost from guest Jason Segel as Lizzie’s so far unseen but much heard boyfriend Eric, and the second of which has a surprisingly serious center. Let’s deal with Eric first. As Nick on “Freaks and Geeks,” Segel displayed an unparalleled ability to play creepy-charming, a talent in full, magnificent display here. Having just rewatched both “Eric Visits” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” I feel comfortable declaring Segel film and television’s reigning king of creepy-charming. The secret is that his intense neediness never contains the threat of harm to its target — he plays suffocatingly clingy, mushy, vulnerable, but he’s a puppy. There’s more danger of him hurting himself, emotionally or, as his punches his own head in frustration while weeping in the shower, physically.

Eric is a goofier and more pathetic creation than Nick, and, with that patchy beard, scraggly haircut and near-unibrow, just generally… grosser. (When he emerges, post-coital, from Lizzie’s room in his boxers, poor traumatized Steven can barely look at him.) He’s a college dropout who works at a copy shop and is obviously a few years older than Lizzie — she informs Steven that she’s been dating him since tenth grade, which is ever so statutory rapey. All of Eric’s gifts to her take advantage of his copy shop resources, including the ridiculous “Dreaming of you” pillowcase.

And yet… Eric is a nice guy. A likable guy, even, when he’s not being smotheringly lovey-dovey. His interactions with Steven, who he never even considers as a romantic threat, are sincere and open, and after some consolation he’s ready to gracefully accept defeat and move on. It’s Steven who, having seen Eric’s positive side, can’t bring himself to let the guy slink off into the night alone, and while that chocolate box photo collage (the assembling of which includes a nice bit involving Eric cheerily slicing up headshots up perfectly without even needing to look) might be shudder-inducing, at least we now know Lizzie isn’t stuck in a completely insane relationship.

In the second of these episodes, we have another character whose surface loserdom hides a caring heart: Steven’s dad Hal, who after being downsized can’t pay Steven’s tuition, and ends up taking a downwardly mobile (but much more enjoyable) waitstaff position at a posh restaurant. Once again, Steven’s escapist college mellow is harshed by his proximity to the real world and his real parents (or parent). Here, though, that comes with a real rebuke of Steven’s unthinking sense of entitlement — after scolding his father for putting Tivo above his son’s education, Steven’s forced to actually confront the sacrifices the man is making on his behalf, and because of it signs himself back up for that abusive job at the cafeteria alongside Marshall and his weird rash.

Speaking of TiVo, these two episodes are heavily salted with pop culture references, from Ron trying to bond with Lloyd over “You’ve Got Mail” (and Lloyd predicting with hilarious accuracy what happens in the second half of the movie) to Jimmy (Geoffrey Arend) the impressionist’s repertoire. Matt, what’s your opinion on all this specificity, given how little most characters on TV seem to watch TV (or movies) themselves? And what’s your take on Jimmy and his rant about his comedy aspirations and need to practice his skills?

Matt: Jimmy is an interesting character. He’s a fan of a lot of Judd Apatow’s collaborators, and he’s got a poster for at least one Apatow production, “The Cable Guy,” hanging on his dorm room wall. But he’s also portrayed as a fairly awful person: talented maybe, but also completely self-obsessed and incapable of carrying on a normal conversation without breaking out his Jimmy Stewart or Al Pacino impersonations. Though his neuroses seem fairly specific — he wants to be on “SNL” and thinks of his entire life as a long-form audition for the job — his portrayal is also a bit of an indictment of the kind of person who can only communication with others through the filter of pop culture. Which is sort of interesting because, as you point out Alison, most of the characters on “Undeclared” communicate with each other through the filter of pop culture, as Ron and Lloyd do during the “You’ve Got Mail” boondoggle, as Steven and Lizzie did last week at a screening of “American Pie.” I suppose the point here is a cautionary one: we all love pop culture, but be careful not to take that too far.

Alison, you said you felt like “Undeclared” kicked into gear with these third and fourth episodes. Watching them, I felt like I was watching Judd Apatow — or maybe “Judd Apatow” — kick into gear as well. These episodes look and feel more like Apatow’s more famous film work than anything in “Freaks and Geeks.” The “You’ve Got Mail” scenes are a good example. Once Ron gets hammered on the contents of the free keg he’s found, he starts opening up to Lloyd about his taste in movies. He tells people his favorite flick is “Red Dawn” but his real passion is for Nora Ephron. The scene may have been scripted but Rogen’s delivery feels improvised, as if he riffed on different movies for Ron to like until he found the funniest one. Those small moments of truth are the best parts of these episodes, just as moments like Paul Rudd railing against the Michael McDonald music on the sample televisions at the electronics store are the best parts of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”

11122010_undeclared03b.jpgI feel like we’re also watching Seth Rogen become “Seth Rogen.” Ron is a classic Apatow creation: the sweet-natured, schlubby party dude with a cockeyed view of the world and of problem solving. One of my favorite moments in either episode this week is the shot panning down all the different improvised cups and mugs Ron found to hold all the beer in the keg he has to return: mouthwash bottles, vases, even ziplock bags. That moment would not feel the least bit out of place in “Virgin” or “Knocked Up.”

Though “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” has a stock sitcom premise — even Steven and Marshall’s white on white cafeteria uniforms seem to harken back to Lucy and Ethel at the chocolate factory — I like the way Steven and Hal’s simultaneous employment in the food service industry crystalizes the former’s ugly sense of entitlement. The show’s rebuke of his elitism also feels like a sign of things to come for Apatow. All three of his movies have had working class protagonists and ethos; in the case of “Funny People,” Adam Sandler’s character’s extreme wealth is presented as one of the primarly obstacles to his happiness. And as a guy who got mono from a tainted utensil, I wholeheartedly endorse “Undeclared”‘s depiction of a college cafeteria as the most unsanitary and revolting place on earth.

Maybe it’s because I had just listened to his fascinating two-part appearance on the WTF Podcast With Marc Maron, but Apatow himself was obviously on my mind a lot this week. Alison, did I miss any other connections between these two episodes and his later films?

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar


IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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