“Undeclared” Ep. 11 and 12, “Rush and Pledge” / “Hell Week”

“Undeclared” Ep. 11 and 12, “Rush and Pledge” / “Hell Week” (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 11
Rush and Pledge
Written by Kristofor Brown
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar

Episode 12
Hell Week
Written by Joel Madison & Seth Rogen
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar

“All you ever do is worship these guys. It’s so silly.” — Lizzie

We’ve got an “Undeclared” two-parter this week, as Steven and Lizzie wade into the pickle juice soaked waters of Greek life on campus. Steven pledges Theta Delta Zeta, where Hal’s a legacy member and something of a local legend (he’s even got his own cutesy frat nickname: The Halcoholic). Lizzie joins the Theta Delta Zeta sisters, which is not quite a sorority and more like a collection of Theta groupies, decorating their rooms and performing skits for their amusement. It seems like a weird made-up group, but I wouldn’t know for sure since fraternities are definitely not my area of expertise. In my four year undergraduate experience I had almost no contact with frats: I never rushed, never pledged, and attended maybe one frat party in four years. So I can’t speak to the authenticity of “Undeclared”‘s depiction of this world.

That said, “Rush and Pledge” does feature a storyline that hits me right in the gut, a subplot that I could have written because I lived it myself, and that’s Tina’s maddening obsession for OMC’s “How Bizzare.” When I was a freshman in college, my roommate — a perfect guy to live with in just about every other way — had a similar problem. He owned about 30 CDs but he only ever played three of them: Goo Goo Dolls’ “Dizzy Up the Girl,” Third Eye Blind’s eponymous debut, and — and I swear I’m not making this up — Rockapella’s “Don’t Tell Me You Do.”

He didn’t listen to them in a cycle either, he’d listen to one over and over for weeks on end. To this day, I know every word to every song on that Goo Goo Dolls album and I have never willingly listened to it in my entire life. So I feel Rachel’s pain as Tina plays “How Bizarre” over and over, though I acknowledge that the storyline’s conclusion — Rachel and Tina get into a bad music battle, trying to one-up each other with obnoxious pop songs until they discover common ground in the form of Enrique Iglesias — is pretty contrived.

Rachel and Tina’s imbroglio highlights the other major theme of this two-parter besides fraternity craziness, and that’s the problems inherent in randomly assigned roommates. Steven only joins the frat because of how poorly Lloyd, Ron and Marshall have been treating him, calling him names and picking on him as the designated punching bag of the suite. And in “Hell Week,” a second tiff erupts in the girls’ room, as Lizzie and Tina try to confront Rachel about her overeating and weight gain, which prompts a massive name-calling dust-up. Theta ringleader Books (Samm Levine, cast against “Freaks and Geeks” type as a BMOC) may be a power-mad douche, but he makes a damn good point during his sales pitch: as freshmen, we don’t pick a lot of our friends at college as much as colleges pick them for us. That was definitely the case with me: most of the guys on my floor were boring drunks and I spent the majority of my first semester alone in my room.

But enough about my pathetic excuse for a life at 17; I want to hear about your pathetic excuse for a life, Alison. Actually, even though we’ve been co-workers for more than five years, I don’t even know the answer to this question: were you in a sorority in college? For all I know you were a Theta sister, living a life of debauchery and popularity. Do you have any experiences that make these episodes ring particularly true or false? And did you know what a “GDI,” the insult Books slings at Lloyd, is? I had to look it up.

Alison: GDI = God Damn Independent, aka a non-fraternity or sorority affiliated student, though I’ve never heard anyone actually use the term. The Greek scene was pretty minimal at Yale, despite G. W. Bush being a proud member of DKE in his undergrad era, during which he reportedly branded incoming pledges with a heated coat hanger. (And Steven thought pickles were bad!) Frats actually died out entirely in the mid ’70s, and the ones that eventually grew back were low key and based out of the same crumbling rented houses most of us who moved off campus shared.

If you really felt like your life would be improved by weird rituals and promises of eternal brother or sisterhood, you held out for a secret society senior year, a grittily realistic portrait of membership in which can of course be found in the 2000 film “The Skulls,” starring Joshua Jackson and Paul Walker as a legacy kid whose name is, no kidding, Caleb Mandrake. To make these episodes closer to my freshman year college experience, they would have to involve kids around the dorm getting tapped for a cappella singing groups, which have always been a big thing on the ol’ campus. Singing! So much singing! I get hives just thinking about it.

12102010_undeclared11b.jpgSo no, I was never in a sorority or a fraternity auxiliary group, which apparently are (or at least were) real things. Did you notice Cindy Sanders herself, Natasha Melnick, appropriately cast as the leader of the Little Sisters? They’re basically portrayed as cheerleaders for the frat, sneaking into Steven’s dorm and decorating it like Cindy decorated Todd Schellinger’s locker before a game in “Freaks and Geeks,” and kept around to date or hook up with one of the frat boys whenever the opportunity comes up. It seems repellent, but as you point out, Matt, these episodes emphasize the underlying arbitrariness of college connections. Lloyd, Marshall and Ron seem justified in wanting to rescue Steven from TDZ, but what more do they have in common with him than the frat boys? They all just happened to be housed in the same suite, and they put him through their own version of hazing. It’s proximity and time spent together at least as much things in common that determines friendships in this environment — or romantic relationships, for that matter. Would Lizzie and Steven have ever hooked up if they weren’t living on the same flood?

While we’re reminiscing about our college days, I feel the need to point out that while I fully understand stress eating and witnessed many a fellow student “catch,” as Tina puts it, the freshman 15, I actually spent my first semester away eating only cheese and tomato sandwiches, returning home skinny and anemic enough to make my mom cry. If only I’d had a George Foreman grill, that great dorm room cooking equipment staple on which the boys cook bacon in order to store up enough grease to throw at Books, I wouldn’t have fared so badly (I remember someone telling me about how they would grill cookie dough on theirs). Matt, what’d you live on in college? And do you believe in the frat’s embrace of brotherhood through shared humiliation?


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


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

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.