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“Undeclared” Ep. 17, “Eric’s POV”

“Undeclared” Ep. 17, “Eric’s POV”  (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 17
Eric’s POV
Written by Judd Apatow & Nicholas Stoller
Directed by Jon Favreau

“I’ll tell you something, buddy — there is nothing as good as the love of a good woman. Except ecstasy. Wanna do some ecstasy?” — Rex

Alison: As you pointed out last week, Matt, around this time in its life cycle “Freaks and Geeks” was busy wrapping up loose ends and providing a little closure for the characters of which we’d become so fond. By contrast, the last episode of “Undeclared” spends half its runtime with Eric (Jason Segel) who isn’t even a main cast member, and the other half on a plot that even by the undemanding standards set by the series is pretty slender. But looked at another way, “Eric’s POV” could be considered “Undeclared”‘s way of doing what “Freaks and Geeks” did in its last installment, which is to crowd in a bunch of good ideas that hadn’t yet had a chance to be put to use. And I’m sure we can both agree that Eric is a very good idea.

In fact, Eric may be the most memorable aspect of “Undeclared” — our half-dozen primary undergrads are different degrees of likable, but he really looms larger than any of them. Some of this is due to Segel’s performance, which is divinely funny/repellent/touching, and never more so than in this episode, in which he taunts his Kopy Town coworkers Greg (David Krumholtz) and Eugene (Kyle Gass) over Lizzie’s call (“And that’s from a group Evite, bitch!”), plausibly charms a new girl into making out with him, reprises the angry hip hop drive to campus from “Eric Visits Again” and finally spirals into delayed heartbreak over his ex.

Judd Apatow described college to the LA Times as “the reward for surviving high school,” and that sentiment has come through plenty of times in the gleeful silliness of the dorm antics in this series. But if there’s a larger lesson to “Undeclared,” I’d say it’s that the ripest tragicomedy is found outside the bubble of uncaring undergraduate life, with the sadder, struggling characters like Eric and Loudon Wainwright’s Hal. Watching this episode, I certainly found myself wanting to spend more time with Eric and his soberish ex-stepdad Rex (Ben Stiller) than in the halls of UNEC housing, gulping down bulk cookie dough and singing along to Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch.”

Incidentally, in this episode we also learn that Eric is turning 27, which makes his relationship with Lizzie extra statutory rapey. Ew! Ew! Though the home movies he watches of the two of them were actually pretty sweet, in their established terribly lovey-dovey way. Steven, on the other hand, is still trying to learn what it’s like to be a boyfriend — he wants to go watch “Girls Gone Wild” tapes with the guys and gorge on junk food, but Lizzie wants him by her side, comforting her as everyone frantically tries to fix her hair. Relationships can’t all be comfort and convenient sex — you have to also put work in, and countering Lizzie’s increasing bad mood requires more effort than Steven seems able to summon. In the end, he misses all the televised drunken toplessness, but does realize what she wanted, which is for him to reassure her that he still finds her beautiful, no matter what the state of her highlights are.

Matt, this episode features a major special guest, Stiller, and a not-yet-major director, Jon Favreau, who’d helmed his first feature, “Made,” but not yet finished his more successful 2003 comedy “Elf.” What do you think of their work here?

Matt: Stiller is great as Rex, and delivers several of the episode’s funniest lines, including the one you quoted at the top of our column and my personal favorite — doubly good for delivering exposition efficiently and humorously: “I didn’t have to let you live here after your mama kicked me out!” And Favreau, still in the very early days of his directorial career, acquits himself quite nicely as well. He nails the series’ complex tone, manages a very overstuffed ensemble, and even squeezes in time for one very memorable shot: Segel, freaking out over Lizzie and a possible Kopy Town staff mutiny at the La Brea Tar Pits, in a extreme low angle where his frazzled head looks like it’s about to be eaten by a looming T-Rex.

Speaking of Eric, I’m with you 100% about Segel and his performance, Alison. If it wasn’t clear before “Eric’s POV,” this episode proves that Eric was “Undeclared”‘s most interesting and most important character, regardless of the fact that he wasn’t a main character and appeared on less than half of the show’s episodes. Jay Baruchel’s Steven was a likably geeky leading man, Seth Rogen’s Ron a reliable joke machine and scene stealer, but Segel’s Eric was the show’s only total package character: sympathetic and repulsive and charming and funny and oh-so-vulnerable. It’s all summed up in one incredible scene this week, when Eric, still wrestling with his feelings for Lizzie, watches a video he made of the two of them back when they were still together. The video itself — and the fact that Eric’s still watching it weeks or months after the break-up — is kind of creepy, with ominous hints that the whole thing may have devolved into a sex tape after Favreau cuts away. But then we see Segel’s face, and see how deeply in love Eric was (and still is) with Lizzie — and we hear her promising to love him forever — and we can’t help but empathize. And, of course, the sight of Segel in women’s underwear, declaring himself a pirate on the search for booty, is always good for a laugh.

“Eric’s POV” isn’t quite the sitcom equivalent of “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead” but it’s close; Eric and the Kopy Town gang get as much or more screentime on this, “Undeclared”‘s final episode, than most of the main cast. Lloyd, Ron and Marshall have maybe five lines between them. Hal shows up for what is essentially a curtain call. But Eric gets a final extended moment in the sun (and a final hilarious humiliation as well).

As you point out, Alison, the “Undeclared” regulars spend most of their own final episode just sitting around: the boys watching “Girls Gone Wild” and eating bulk junk food, the girls fretting about Lizzie’s botched dye job. These aren’t very dynamic storylines for a series finale. But they are very truthful to the college experience, at least as I knew it. We talked at length in this column about the way “Undeclared” systematically downplayed its stakes and underplayed its resolutions: when the kids overspend their credit cards they manage to win their money back instead of losing their furniture. When they cheated on tests, they never got caught. Though there were moments of tension, most of “Undeclared,” like most of college, is life in that blissful bubble you described. Which, when you think about it, is not exactly the most fruitful subject for drama.

And maybe that’s one of the reasons “Undeclared” failed. Certainly, its run was fairly typical for college-set television series. Other than ” A Different World” and “Felicity” (and maybe the current series “Community,” though its future seems very much in doubt) they’ve all died a quick death. Alison, do you agree that “Undeclared”‘s setting, and its relative lack of stakes, is a big part of its failure? And if not, why did the show die as quickly as “Freaks and Geeks?”

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.