As most of us know, Hollywood would like us to believe that it can capture the college experience and regurgitate it back out glamorized and inspired, awaiting our viewership. Of course, rarely does this filmed reality come close to grasping the truth, a la “Felicity” (Does anyone actually fall for their Resident Advisor?). We have learned, and quite quickly, that college isn”t “Animal House,” nor is it “Revenge of the Nerds.” Instead, our college experiences are as varied as the genres of movies and television shows that would like us to believe that it is our “life” that they are depicting.
A shining light through the dark has finally appeared on the small screen, and although it cannot be classified as the absolute truth, “Undeclared” captures the college “experience” that most other shows have been missing. Finally, FOX has parted the waves of teen dreck that have enveloped our senses (thanks in large part to the WB) and produced an extremely intelligent comedy about the best four years of one”s life.
The father of this brainchild is Judd Apatow, whose crowning glory was the critically acclaimed, but now defunct “Freaks and Geeks.” “Freaks and Geeks” presented high school life in a fresh perspective, presenting teen angst with intelligence instead of just for comedic laughs. Apatow now dares to depict the life of a college freshman with the same feelings of rebellion and rejection that garnered him acclaim in the beginning.
“Undeclared” stars Jay Baruchel (“Almost Famous”) as Steve Karp, a geeky and nave freshman at the University of North Eastern California. Looking forward to starting anew and away from his awkward high school identity, Steve is ready, willing and able to kick start his college career without a major of course. After the goodbye lecture from dear old dad, Steve jumps into the mass that is affectionately called “move-in” full of overzealous parents with video cameras and students overridden with anxieties.
Entering his room, Steve encounters suitemates Ron (Seth Rogan, a “Freaks and Geeks” alum and “Undeclared” writer) and Marshall (Timm Sharp) playing a drinking game probably developed to break up the monotony of “Hi, my name is so and so, what”s your major?”-type conversation. Before Steve can even unpack, his roommate Lloyd, a suave Brit, informs him about the party they are having that night. Of course, party can mean only one thing women.
What ensues is one mishap after another on the adventure to finding women for the party. While Lloyd douses the ladies with his uncanny charm, the other three are basically inept when it comes to the opposite sex. Pretty soon Steve is just asking anyone, including cute frat boys. (In an interesting twist, the frat boy Steve asks to the party is, in fact, Tom Welling, the new Superman on the WB”s “Smallville.”)
While the boys play, the new girls are situating themselves into their new freedom. Lizzie (Carla Gallo) obsessively adorns her dorm walls with pictures of her boyfriend Eric (Jason Segel, another “Freaks and Geeks” alum), but secretly yearns for a life without restraint.
Her roommate Rachel (Monica Keena, “Dawson”s Creek”), is given to panic attacks, but eventually learns to deal with her new situation.
Not only is the writing effective and intelligent, but also each character seems to be made for the respective actor. This is in part due to the fact that “Undeclared” was cast before Apatow wrote the pilot.
Each actor convincingly portrays his counterpart, and actually seems to be having fun. Apatow doesn”t allow any of his characters to fall by the wayside, unlike many of the television shows today, and revels in each character”s quirks.
Don”t expect “Undeclared” to follow the conventional, because based on the first episode”s surprise ending, this show is anything but usual. Do expect a fun and intelligent show, one that truly makes the grade.