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A show produced by Judd Apatow fresh off the critically acclaimed but ratings deprived/executive meddled Freaks and Geeks. This show was about equally successful with only 17 episodes and equal amounts of Executive Meddling, but was similarly on Time magazine's "Top 10 New Shows." The show was produced in autumn 2000, but didn't air until autumn 2001.
Steven Karp (Jay Baruchel) is a brand-new freshman at North East California University who is excited with his chance to escape his Geek status from high school. The title comes from Steve having an "Undeclared" major. Despite feeling overwhelmed by being out on his own for the first time and with roommates who are slightly aloof to him, he trudges forward in an attempt to be less awkward then he really is. One of the bright spots of Steven's first day was striking a friendship with a girl in the dorm across the hall, Lizzie (Carla Gallo). During the first party of the year, his dad shows up and with news that he is getting divorced from his Mom. Steven tries to be his Dad's friend but it ends up overwhelming him and he spends time in his room alone crying.
Lizzie accidentally stumbles into his room and tries to console him and herself, the reason being that her long-distance boyfriend Eric can go from affectionate and loving one minute and then yelling and dumping her the next minute, only to apologize the next day and start the pattern all over again (A male version of a Tsundere). Lizzie, tired of it all, proposes sex with Steven to help them acclimate to the college experience.
The next day Lizzie is surprised and a little ashamed at what she did, expecially when Eric calls and apologizes. Steven, on the other hand, can't get her out of his mind and feels that she is his future girlfriend. And this is all on the first episode.
Subsequent episodes elaborate more on Steven's roommates and Lizzie's roommate Rachel (Monica Keena). While Steven has not quite shed his geek image, his roommates warm up to him. Lloyd (Charlie Hunnam) is a Theatre Major from England and shares the same bedroom with Steven. He is quite popular with the ladies and becomes a sort of mentor to Steven. Ron (Seth Rogen) is a Business Major and for the most part the more sensible one of the group, though he has his own issues with girls and dating. Marshall (Timm Sharp) is a Music Major with a big crush on Rachel and who could be slightly neurotic, trying to pick up on Lloyd's mannerisms.
Steven and Lizzie are the main characters and the entire show is mostly about him trying to get the girl and then keep her. Steven becomes cooler and more confident in himself. He and his roommates grow into a close-knit, protective circle -- defending themselves against other groups at the college. An especially troublesome group is the Fraternity that Steven earns the ire of. Rachel is trying to find her own identity and slowly finds herself becoming a bit of a party girl. Steven's recently divorced dad Hal (Loudon Wainwright III) becomes close friends with his roommates.
The show did not use a laugh track and relied heavily on improvisation from the actors. The characters' personalities were actually based on the actors; the first episode was not written until the actors were cast. The series strove to be as true to the college experience as possible on network television; parties, sex and drugs are alluded to but are not explicit. Judd Apatow said that he didn't intend for the show to be as autobiographical as it became. Seth Rogen was one of the writers, which made no end of jokes on his behalf when he wrote the episode where his character makes out with a Love Interest.
The actor playing Lizzie's boyfriend Eric, Jason Segel, was actually the one Apatow wanted to play Steven, but the network wanted more of an underdog or everyman for the role. (Opinions may vary but part of Baruchel's appeal in the show was that he subverted the male Hollywood Homely type, something Segal would not have done.) As a result, Eric made an appearance in nearly every episode, either on the phone or in person as a sort of Take That to the network. By coincidence the last episode focused more on Eric than the other characters.
Undeclared provides examples of...
- A Date with Rosie Palms: In "Hell Week" when the guys are trying to get Steven to quit his fraternity, the guys share embarrassing secrets with him, Marshall confesses to masturbating when Ron is asleep... only for Ron to reveal he does the same thing, and are accidently doing it at the same time, horrifying both of them.
- Air Vent Passageway - Subverted. Steven tries to escape from Eric in the laundry room and the vent collapses.
- Bishonen - Lloyd.
Perry: "You're hotter then most chicks! What are you doing in college anyway? People like you don't even need to know how to read!"
- Bottle Fairy: Rachel
- California Doubling - Southern California (specifically, USC) doubling for Northern.
- Celebrity Paradox: Will Ferrell is referenced and appears in an episode as a dealer in term papers. The gang are also fans of Adam Sandler but fail to recognize Ben Stiller who also starred in Happy Gilmore.
- Kyle Gass plays one of Eric's co-workers but there's a Tenacious D poster in one of the dorms.
- Credit Card Plot
- Cringe Comedy
- Dawson Casting - Averted, with the exception of Gallo being 25, Sharp being 22, and Keena being 21, all of the characters playing 18-19 year olds were between 18-20 years old, some fresh out of high school themselves and out of their parents house. In fact Jason Segel was supposed to be about 7 years older than Gallo, but he was 5 years younger.
- Deadpan Snarker - Perry.
- DVD Commentary - The series DVD has one for every episode, but sometimes they throw in about 5 commentators and they go off on tangents not related to the show at all.
- Executive Meddling - Par for the course but it didn't help that Apatow essentially gave the network the finger late in its run because of how frustrated he was after Freaks and Geeks.
- Expy - Jason Segal's character Eric, the overly-devoted boyfriend, is very similar to the his character Nick from Freaks and Geeks.
- Seth Rogen's character Ron also shares similarities with his former character Ken from Freaks and Geeks.
- Fan Service - The opening of one episode had Lizzie and Rachel casually walking into the guys suite in their bras as a sign that they considered the guys to be like brothers.
- Genre Savvy: Perry, moreso than any freshman should.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: "Have you seen Will Ferrell's Bush? Have you seen Ferrell's Bush?"
- Loads and Loads of Characters - Most of the extras in the background had names and occasional larger roles.
- A Man Is Not a Virgin - Mocked. One character pretends to be a virgin during a game of "Truth or Dare" so that the girls will seek to rectify that situation. It works.
- Master of the Mixed Message - Lizzie. In one episode she would walk around in her underwear to see if she would get a reaction from Steven. She then interpreted him avoiding eye contact as a sign of disinterest and not him trying to give her respect.
- Missing Episode - The second episode had a major subplot with Steven and Lizzie change to an outdoor movie showing instead of a Ted Nugent lecture because the network felt it didn't flow very well with the episode and the budding relationship. (They may have also had political concerns.)
- A later episode was kept from airing. It focused on Steven getting religion and Lloyd getting depressed about faith after a philosophy class. It really wasn't all that controversial and became more infamous for being a missing episode than what it actually talked about.
- Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud
- Screwed by the Network - FOX aired several episodes out of order, resulting in inconsistent relationships from one episode to the other. Steven would finally get together with Lizzie and the following episode she would still be with Eric. Same thing with Ron who spent an episode trying to woo a girl, an episode where Ron is still struggling with dating and then they are together again.
- Sexiled - Steven given Lloyd's womanizing tendencies. Though Steven got to do this to Lloyd a few times, some just out of spite and a couple of times for real with Lizzie.
- Soundtrack Dissonance - Played for laughs. When Eric is chasing Steven all over campus, the Mortal Kombat theme song plays, even though Steven is running for his life and spends the entire episode trying to avoid a fistfight.
- Special Guest - Adam Sandler and Ted Nugent playing themselves. Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Kyle Gass and David Krumholtz played minor characters in certain episodes.
- Spiritual Successor: To Freaks and Geeks. Unfortunately it was equally Screwed by the Network and Too Good to Last.
- Throw It In - Improv throughout the series gave it a very relaxed and realistic feel.
- Villain Episode - Sadly the last episode, meaning the main characters were hardly in it.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield? - Various clues place UNEC in the Sacramento area. Or do they?
- White-Haired Pretty Boy - Lloyd
- Will They or Won't They? - Considering the first episode was Steven and Lizzie hooking up, it was more a matter of when they'll get back together. They tried to be Just Friends for a few episodes but it didn't drag on the drama for too long.