DID YOU READ

“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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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…

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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.

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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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.

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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.

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Forget Public Wifi

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

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Inter-not

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.

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Self Defense

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

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