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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Undeclared



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#1 of 8 Steve Tannehill

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Posted August 16 2005 - 01:33 AM

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Undeclared

Studio: Shout Factory / DreamWorks Television
Year: 2000-2001
Rated: TV-14
Aspect Ratio: 4x3
Audio: English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0
Captions/Subtitles: English Closed Captions
Disc Format: Single Sided / Dual Layered (4 disc set)

The Feature:

Welcome to the world of Steven Karp. In the next 24 hours he will start his freshman year at the University of North Eastern California, attend his first kegger, learn that his parents are separating, and lose his virginity. No, this is not the next season of 24. It is the first episode of Judd Apatow’s Undeclared. Like Apatow’s previous series, Freaks and Geeks, the show did not last a full season. And also like Freaks and Geeks the show is marked with great writing and terrific acting. It’s a shame the show did not make it, but we can now revisit it through this DVD set.

Jay Baruchel, whose other gigs included the Zeppelin savant in Almost Famous and “Danger” in Million Dollar Baby plays Steven with a kind of youthful sincerity that will allow you to overlook the occasional slip of a Canadian “oot” instead of “out.” Singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III (and real-life father to singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright) plays Steven’s father. Their relationship is open and awkward, as it often is in real life

The young supporting cast is both familiar and often hilarious, not only for their performances, but also for the situations in which they are placed. Sex and beer and rock’n’roll stars are the order of the day, but we also get to see what happens when unlimited food is made available from the cafeteria (I may never eat spaghetti again), when people avoid doctors in favor of herbal remedies, and even when small animals go bad.

The older supporting cast (thus far) is also top-notch. Fred Willard is his usual funny self as the bored professor who comes up with amateur theatrics to spice up history class. In the alternate version of episode 2, Ted Nugent (yes that Ted Nugent) proves that he is the master of slings and arrows when it comes to a verbal free-for-all.

I’ve been watching the DVD set of Freaks and Geeks in preparation for Undeclared and so far, I identify more with the Geeks of 1980 since it was set during the time that I was in high school. I don’t identify as much with 21st century kids in Undeclared-- maybe because I never lived in the dorms, but maybe because it’s just not quite as innocent today as it was back in the early 80’s. Or maybe it was just as raunchy in the 80’s and I just did not know what I was missing.

Disc 1 of Undeclared, which was provided for review, contains the following episodes, each just over 22 minutes in length:

Episode 101: “Prototype”
Episode 102A: “Oh, So You Have a Boyfriend?”
Episode 102B: “Full Bluntal Nugety”
Episode 103: “Eric Visits”
Episode 104: “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs”
Episode 105: ”Sick in the Head”

Fun fact: according to the commentary for “Full Bluntal Nugety,” Fox paid $1,000,000 for the production company to fine-tune the first six episodes of the series, and part of the tune-up involved getting rid of the Nuge, hence the second version of Episode 2. Bummer, it was a funny show. But we get to see this director’s cut on DVD, so all is not lost.

The Feature: 3.5 / 5
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Video:
I often watch TV on a smaller, non-calibrated display through television speakers (gasp!) just because it is in my living room and convenient to the rest of the house. There are times that I prefer to just watch the show, and not the picture. With that in mind, video and sound ratings would not apply.

But I did take this up to the home theater, on the ISF-calibrated big-screen, because I know you expect that. Colors appeared to be accurate. I noticed a bit of grain-like noise in the backgrounds, just enough to be distracting, as well as a slight lack of detail. I guess I’ve become spoiled by HDTV, but this is not quite the picture quality I’ve come to expect from a show shot in the last 5 years.

Still, if you are like me and just want to watch the show—I think you won’t mind the occasional video distraction.

Video: 3 / 5
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Sound:
The English soundtrack is primarily dialogue-driven, with no noticeable surround activity in the 5.1 mix, and very little directional activity on the front mains. Still, the sound is robust and understandable, and seems suitable for this kind of TV show.

Sound: 3 / 5
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Extras:

According to press materials, the 4-disc DVD set includes:

- The complete series, 17 episodes including one that never aired, and the director’s cut (Episode 102B: “Full Bluntal Nugety”)
- Eighteen commentary tracks with the director, writers, and various members of the cast
- Deleted scenes, auditions, outtakes, rehearsals, and long takes
- Live concert footage featuring Loudon Wainwright III
- A Q&A with the cast and creators at the Museum of Television & Radio
- An unreleased script from the second season titled “Lloyd’s Rampage”

The retail version of the set also includes a 28-page booklet.

I’ll have to take it on faith that the bulk of the supplements (which were not available for review) are worthy of your time; I am reminded, however, that many of us purchase a DVD for the primary content.

Of the deleted scenes that I was able to check out, their video quality was distinctly less than the rest of the show. I listened to a bit of the commentary on “Full Bluntal Nugety” and it was entertaining.

Still, without seeing the bulk of the supplements, I can only score based on quantity, not quality. Caveat Emptor. And please let me know what you think when you see the full set.

Extras: 4 / 5
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In Conclusion:
So far, I like what I’ve seen of Undeclared. It’s a shame that Judd Apatow’s work just seems to be too good for television, but it also seems that he is now branching out to movies in a big way (he directed and co-wrote the upcoming The 40-Year-Old Virgin). Meanwhile, we can enjoy both Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared on DVD, and revel in what the network executives were unable to see.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5
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Release Date: August 16, 2005




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#2 of 8 TravisR

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Posted August 16 2005 - 01:38 AM

Sweet! My copy is in the mailPosted Image

#3 of 8 Jesse Blacklow

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Posted August 16 2005 - 03:14 AM

A curse upon DDD's cheapest delivery option! I won't be getting it for another week or so, and it's killing me.
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#4 of 8 NeilK

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Posted August 16 2005 - 07:33 AM

No Undeclared DVD set to be found in Montreal. Had to order from Amazon.com

I want my Undeclared!

#5 of 8 Steve Tannehill

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Posted August 16 2005 - 11:23 AM

I just saw three on the shelf in a Dallas Best Buy--which surprised me. Their stocking strategy seems to be fairly obscure these days, which has driven me to mail order, as well.

- Steve

#6 of 8 Steve Tannehill

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Posted August 21 2005 - 01:33 AM

There is a problem with the episode order in this set, as detailed in this thread at HTF.

Thankfully, Judd Apatow has addressed this on the Undeclared website, complete with a downloadable PDF of the preferred episode order.

- Steve

#7 of 8 SteveSs

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Posted September 06 2005 - 06:16 AM

This is a great set. My only complaint is about something no one can do anything about. And that is the feeling of emptiness I had after watching the last episode. I really really wanted to see more and learn more about what happens to the characters. I didn't feel this way with Freaks and Geeks, probably because it was dealing with the end of high school for most of the characters. Undeclared was about beginnings, and had so much to offer.
Dropping cash into the DVD black hole since 2000 

#8 of 8 TravisR

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Posted September 06 2005 - 06:23 AM

What depressed me was when I realized that the show would have ended by now anyway since the characters would have graduated at the end of '04-'05 TV season. Unless of course they were on the "five year program". Posted Image