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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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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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GIFs via Giphy

Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

via GIPHY

IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

E.coli-class-

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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