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Shout Factory presents
Undeclared: The Complete Series (2001)

Rachel: Have you ever dumped anyone?
Marshall: Almost. But we never actually, like, went out, or talked, or anything.

- Monica Keena, Timm Sharp

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: August 15, 2005

Stars: Jay Baruchel, Carla Gallo, Seth Rogen, Charlie Hunnan, Monica Keena, Timm Sharp, Loudon Wainwright III
Other Stars: Jason Segel, Adam Sandler, Will Farrell, Ben Stiller, Amy Poehler
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (contains some minor adult content)
Release Date: August 16, 2005
UPC: 826663124590
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AA-A- A+

DVD Review

Judd Apatow faced nearly constant frustrations in dealing with NBC while producing the classic high-school drama Freaks and Geeks. It lasted less than a full season, which could have inspired the writer/director to make a safer choice when crafting his next series. Instead, Apatow decided to produce a half-hour comedy about awkward college kids with no laugh track and a more-realistic filming style. The result was Undeclared—a silly, heart-warming series that chronicles the difficulties of college freshmen adapting to life on their own. The highly entertaining show aired 16 episodes on the Fox Network, which tried to market it as a wild comedy and failed miserably. While the ratings were not very strong, a devoted group of fans were again thwarted by the limited airing. Thankfully, this DVD collection allows lovers of smart television to catch all of the episodes (and one unaired entry) on an impressive four-disc set.

The series stars Jay Baruchel (Million Dollar Baby) as the skinny and awkward Steven Karp, who believes his life will change in the college setting. His roommates and other friends will not know about his dorky past and minimal experiences, which should improve his social chances. Upon arriving, he quickly discovers that while his opportunities have improved considerably, college life presents its own share of difficult challenges. Luckily, Steven bonds quickly with his three suitemates: the British babe magnet Lloyd (Charlie Hunnam, Nicholas Nickelby), goofball Marshall (Matthew Timm, Six Feet Under), and straight-laced Ron (Seth Rogen, Freaks and Geeks). These four guys couldn’t be more different, but they grow close through the shared experience of college life.

The co-ed dorm allows the guys to quickly meet some girls, most notably Lizzie (Carla Gallo, Carnivale), who deals regularly with her obsessive long-distance boyfriend Eric (Jason Segel, Freaks and Geeks); and Rachel (Monica Keena, Entourage), a silly gal with some odd ideas about a wide range of subjects. Also along for the ride are a colorful cast of supporting characters, including musician Loudon Wainwright III as Steven’s dad Hal, Jarrett Grode as the white-boy rapper Perry, and Kevin O. Ranken as Lucien the strange R.A.

Apatow’s series inspire audiences because they treat the characters realistically and rarely veer into conventional territory. By chronicling moments that actually happen to people, he builds a connection with the audience that transcends basic entertainment. The humor comes from the unique characteristics of each character and rarely stems from gross-out situations. The scripts may utilize outlandish moments to generate comedy, but they remain unpredictable and avoid the easiest route to cheap laughs. In similar fashion to Freaks and Geeks, the silliness can be difficult, as it depicts people in embarrassing, uncomfortable situations. Because of our connection to the characters, their misfortune is more difficult than the cardboard cutouts of the sitcom world.

The series also includes a stunning collection of cameo appearances for such a young series. Instead of just popping in to say “hi,” many of the actors play a key role in each story. The appearance of Adam Sandler in the dorms gets everyone excited in The Assistant, which allows the star to poke fun at himself. Fred Willard gives one of the series’ best guest performances as a history teacher who tries to spice up his class in So You Have a Boyfriend. Taking suggestions from a bored Marshall, he tries to make history “come alive,” which results in a hilarious train wreck. Will Farrell and Ben Stiller also drop by to play a paper-writing speed freak and Eric’s grimy step-dad, respectively. Along with regulars Rogen and Segel, Freaks and Geeks alums Busy Philipps, Martin Starr, Samm Levine, and Natasha Melnick contribute with memorable appearances.

Every episode features classic moments, but several entries stand out as especially memorable. Pilot effectively introduces the case and each character’s personality without feeling bogged down with too much plot. Eric Visits and Eric Visits Again showcase Lizzie’s older boyfriend’s ridiculous obsessions about her getting with other dudes. Jason Segel played a mildly creepy dude as Nick in Freaks and Geeks, and he goes to another level as Eric. The two-part arc of Rush and Pledge and Hell Week satirizes the ridiculous Greek system that attracts far too many college kids each year. God’s Visit is not of the best episodes, but it is noteworthy for never airing during the series’ initial run.

Undeclared appears to be simply another comedy about young adults acting silly and hooking up, but it actually moves well beyond the typical formula. First of all, it wisely avoids the laugh track, which lessens even well-written material. Secondly, very few storylines follow the expected comedy formulas. The attractive, popular girl actually falls for the lovable loser, and her reasons are totally understandable. The supposedly cool guy who gets all the girls is not always happy, as he connects with them only on a superficial level. The stress-inducing environment of college life is not utilized simply for comedic purposes, as emotionally difficult scenes also occur. These examples represent just a small portion of the countless reasons to seek out this compelling series. The limited run was extremely disappointing, but its artistic success will remain on display thanks to this long-awaited DVD release.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Undeclared utilizes its original full-frame transfer and offers a clear picture. Most of the scenes take place indoors or in basic outdoor settings, which do not provide many opportunities for visual invention. However, the images are bright and effectively present the material during each episode. The television source material does limit the overall sharpness, but this transfer still maintains a consistent quality level.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: This energetic series includes numerous songs that inject considerable life into each story, so a top-notch audio transfer is almost essential. This set's 5.1-channel Dolby Digital track succeeds in providing the necessary power and complexity for this type of show. The rear speakers are utilized effectively, especially with the music cues, which enhances the overall experience. The audio movement isn't groundbreaking, but it works much better than the typical television release.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 0 cues
75 Deleted Scenes
18 Feature/Episode commentaries by Various cast and crew members
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Auditions
  2. Rehearsals
  3. Loudon Wainwright III Live
  4. Museum of Television and Radio Q&A
  5. Script
Extras Review: In the tradition of the wonderful Freaks and Geeks boxed set, this collection offers an excellent collection of extra features. Each individual item is described in the sections below:

Commentaries
Every episode includes a commentary track on this set, which is a daunting task but well worth it for devoted viewers. Judd Apatow leads groups on many of the discussions, but numerous other cast and crew members also inject worthy comments. Very few television series (especially half-hour comedies) offer this breadth of information about each individual story.

Unaired Footage
This set includes an extremely large amount of unaired footage with every episode. A total of 75 deleted scenes are spread across the discs and offer more hilarious moments. Many are extended versions of aired moments that include the entire scenes, which allows both the regular and guest actors to strut their stuff.

Auditions
This 22-minute collection of cast auditions includes all the main actors, with some playing different roles. They all seem to have a good grasp of the characters right away, which is not always apparent in auditions. One of the most extensive and amusing scenes involves Seth Rogen and Jason Segel discussing pillow cases, which captures the series' humor.

Rehearsals
This type of extra is pretty rare on DVD releases, which makes this eight-minute section very enjoyable. The six scenes include several guys asking the senior (Jenna Fischer, The Office) to the party and the silly freestyling skills of Perry (Jarrett Grode). Much of this material is obviously improvised, which draws considerable laughter from the crew members watching the rehearsals.

Loudon Wainwright III Live
This 30-minute acoustic concert nicely highlights Loudon Wainwright III's unique musical style. Highlights of this eight-song set include Bill of Goods, When You Leave, and White Winds. This impressive concert will undoubtedly draw more fans into Wainwright's growing audience. This area also includes a biography, which offers some background on the songwriter's career.

Museum of Television and Radio Q&A
Along with the commentaries and cut footage, the other major bonus is the 71-minute salute to Undeclared from the Museum of Television and Radio. Following more than eight minutes of introductions, Judd Apatow presents two episodes—Hal & Hillary and Eric's POV. Following the shows, the large panel discusses the origins of the series and the creation process. This panel includes creator Judd Apatow, director Jake Kasdan, supervising producer Victor Hsu, and actors David Krumholtz, Samm Levine, Martin Starr, Jarrett Grode, Loudon Wainwright III, Jason Segel, Timm Sharp, Carla Gallo, Charlie Hunnam, Seth Rogen, and Jay Baruchel.

Script
This unaired script for Lloyd's Rampage offers us a glimpse at the possible first episode of the 2nd season. In this tale, Lloyd grows angry when he's embarrassed at a theatre seminar, and Marshall does some serious public puking.

Extras Grade: A+

 

Final Comments

Although it only aired for 16 episodes, Undeclared was one of the best half-hour comedies released on network television in recent years. This four-disc collection includes the entire series, one unaired episode, loads of deleted footage, commentaries, and other compelling extra features. If you missed out on its original television airing, you owe it yourself to acquire this highly recommended DVD release.

 


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