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“Undeclared” Ep. 15 and 16, “The Perfect Date” / “Hal and Hillary”

“Undeclared” Ep. 15 and 16, “The Perfect Date” / “Hal and Hillary” (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 15
The Perfect Date
Written by Judd Apatow & Brent Forrester
Directed by Greg Mottola

Episode 16
Hal and Hillary
Written by Kristofor Brown
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar

“Intercourse you!” — Kikuki

We’re rapidly approaching the end of “Undeclared,” with just one week and one episode left after this column. As “Freaks and Geeks” neared its premature conclusion it reinvested in narrative, bringing Sam Weir and Cindy Sanders’ storyline to a head and throwing Lindsay into an existential crisis about what she was going to do with her summer and, by extension, her life. “Undeclared,” in contrast, appears to intentionally avoid anything resembling a wrap up. Instead, Judd Apatow and company seem to relish the “Undeclared” characters’ ethos of slacking off, hanging out, and doing not much of anything.

Look in particular at episode 16, “Hal and Hillary.” The primary storyline is sparked by Hal Karp’s sudden relationship with Steven’s head RA Hillary (Amy Poehler, a returning guest star from earlier in the series). Their May-December romance enrages RA Lucien (Kevin Rankin), who takes out all of his frustration on Steven, hounding him for playing music too loud or refusing to clean up a sink that someone else had dirtied. After Steven fights back with some “monkeyshines” (with Lloyd’s help) Lucien announces his intention to kick Steven out of the dorm and out of school.

With the end seemingly near, Steven, Lloyd and Lizzie decide to give a big middle finger to Lucien and UNEC by turning the hallway of floor 4 into one enormous Slip N Slide. Replace the words “Lucien and UNEC” with “Fox” (the channel that originally broadcasted “Undeclared”) and you get the idea: you’re gonna cancel us? Well guess what? In our second to last episode, we’re going to spend five minutes just showing kids Slip N Sliding. As Steven says, if this is his last day at college, he’s going out with a fight.

That sort of eff you attitude is soaked into all these late “Undeclared” episodes. The characters, never particularly kind to begin with, have become downright cruel to each other. In episode 15, “The Perfect Date,” Marshall gets an enormous zit and becomes the butt of Ron and Lloyd’s jokes. Later, Ron and Marshall use Steven’s visiting high school friend Theo (“Freaks and Geeks”‘ Martin Starr) to “crotchblock” Lloyd as he attempts to score with the roommate of a woman he slept with and unceremoniously dumped. And in “Hal and Hillary,” Rachel, who has repeatedly shown little to no interest in Marshall despite his obvious feelings for her, intentionally sabotages his relationship with a Japanese exchange student. And though Ron initially comes to Marshall’s defense when Rachel asks for his help in messing with his new girlfriend, he immediately relents and helps her with her prank.

The case of “Freaks and Geeks” was so lovable. Even seemingly villainous characters like the gym teacher Coach Fredricks and school bully Alan White were revealed to have complex and even sympathetic characterizations. The more we learn about the cast of “Undeclared,” the less I like them. Maybe that was part of Apatow’s plan all along, maybe that was a adversarial reaction to network notes demanding he make the characters more appealing. Either way, as we reach the end of “Undeclared” I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed the ride tremendously (and I think “Hal and Hillary” is one of the series’ most purely pleasurable half hours, with some great physical gags and a couple of terrific punchlines), but I won’t miss any of these characters. Alison, do you agree?

Alison: Very much so. There’s a vaguely “Seinfeld”ian vibe to these two episodes, what with all the kind of awful things these alleged friends do to one another in the name of entertaining themselves or proving a point. Rachel and Ron’s messing with Marshall’s awkwardly sweet relationship with Kikuki (played by Youki Kudoh of “Mystery Train” and “Memoirs of a Geisha”) was genuinely dickish, crossing over the line of playfully given your buddy a hard time and into the just plain mean. It’s softened by the hint that Rachel was motivated by jealousy over Marshall’s relationship (“She’s got the boobs of a six year old,” she cattily observes), but while Marshall’s immediately ready to commit to that and breaks things off with Kikuki in order to go back to trailing after Rachel like a puppy, Ron’s not convinced. Neither am I — it sure looks like Rachel is feeling territorial, but that doesn’t mean she’s about to start dating Marshall, just that she likes having his attention. And what’s Ron’s excuse there?

Lloyd’s lothario ways, which have been played as a joke up until this point, also come under fire here, when he tries to pick up an “angel” (“Shark”‘s Sarah Carter) living on the seventh floor, only to have her call him on his bullshit thanks to her having witnessed what he did to her roommate and leave him cold. Lloyd, who usually acts benevolent toward his less aesthetically gifted friends, responds by acting territorially in his own way (“Nobody liked ‘Freddy Got Fingered,'” he tells Theo, clearly having never read A.O. Scott’s review), refusing to believe someone could ever pay even platonic attention to another male when he’s an option. It’s arrogant and awful, and compounded by Ron and Marshall’s using poor Theo as a way to get back at their friend.

Less dislikable than weird is Steven’s over-the-top date of wine, roses and slow-dancing with Lizzie (intercut for full effect with Theo’s wild time at the “Around the World” party). I don’t know what your college romances were like, but staying up all night talking or being brought a coffee at the library were more in the line of the lovable gestures I’d expect. Something like what Steven plans for Lizzie would have made me feel silly and smothered. Misguided male panic has been a theme of this series — recall Ron’s non-sexual encounter with Lloyd’s sister thanks to fears of inadequacy in “Parents’ Weekend” — and here, once again, we see a guy failing to understand what a girl actually wants and expects and attempting to compensate. Lizzie doesn’t care about Lloyd’s nerdy, celibate past, and she doesn’t need Eric-style gaudy gestures.

Even the Hillary and Lucien shenanigans, after running through some true collegiate rowdiness culminating in Hillary and Steven flopping around on a Slip N Slide mat, Steven yelling “You’re not my stepmother!”, become a bit of a buzzkill thanks to Hillary’s weepy announcement about the judgment-free Muslim Awareness pizza party. But enough of that. Matt, how impressive are those monkeyshines, and don’t a fair amount of them seem plain impossible?

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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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