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Critic's Notebook: Judd Apatow's 'Undeclared' comes to IFC

November 5, 2010 |  1:36 pm

Its re-airing of the divine high-school comedy "Freaks & Geeks" having concluded, IFC will now begin airing "Freaks" producer Judd Apatow's subsequent TV project, the 2001 college-set "Undeclared." (Back-to-back episodes of its single season air Fridays at 11 p.m., with Monday-night encores at the same hour.) It is not quite the thing of wonder that was "F&G": It's more conventional, with no support for the moments of existential dread the earlier series embraced, and poignancy of any sort would wither here in an instant. But it's just as funny in its way, and shares some of "Freaks'" best features: a respect for the real -- we are firmly in the realm of (at least) the probable -- and an abiding affection for, and amusement over, layered human strangeness: Here, as before, and after, Apatow is more interested in the crazy things that people feel than in the silly things that they do. His is a sweet, not a sour temperament. He believes in love.

As in "Freaks," casting is key. Jay Baruchel is our gangly, gawky, geeky hero, hoping to remake himself in a new place, with new people. Fresh friends and dorm-mates include acerbic Seth Rogen (Ken on "Freaks & Geeks," and also a staff writer on this series), cute Briton Charlie Hunnam (now on "Sons of Anarchy") and Timm Sharp, odd and quizzical in the Stan Laurel mode; Carla  Gallo and Monica Keena hold down the  main female roles, representing innocence and experience, roughly, but only roughly -- even the "sophisticated" characters are bound by their own relative ignorance of the wider, older world. "Freaks & Geeks" players appear in recurring or guest roles: Jason Segel (hilarious as Gallo's jealous ex-boyfriend), Busy Philipps, Natasha Melnick, Samm Levine and Martin Starr all drop by. And from Apatow's stock company come Will Ferrell, David Krumholtz and Adam Sandler. Loudon Wainwright III recurs as Baruchel's divorced dad, who likes to come visit. Note also Jenna Fischer in the clip above, and Amy Poehler in the clip below.

As much as "Undeclared" belongs to a familiar class of comedy, watching it then, and watching it again, I felt as if I knew these characters; they had their counterparts in my own college years. And the series wholly catches the flavor of what it's like to go off and live for the first time with people your own age, and the accidental bonding that occurs by virtue of room, suite and floor assignments.

-- Robert Lloyd


Critic's Notebook: "Freaks & Geeks" comes to IFC