By Emily Ashby,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
First-rate college dramedy has drinking, sexy stuff.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
The series takes a comical look at the awkward college years through the eyes of a well-intentioned freshman who stumbles through coming-of-age experiences like losing his virginity and getting his first job. The characters don't always make the best choices, and the consequences for their mess-ups are predictably inaccurate, but it's all in good fun. Steven tries to stay on the straight and narrow as much as possible, but when he pushes boundaries, he always learns something from the result. Overall, he shows integrity and self-control.
Positive Role Models
Steven is a likable fellow who tries to stick to his strong values even when it's not the popular trend. He loses his virginity in a one-night stand, but wishes for a meaningful relationship rather than a repeat event. He helps save a relationship even though it means sacrificing his hopes for a girl's attention. Those around him are less principled, prone to drinking, drug use, and casual sex, but his presence can be a positive influence on them. Older college students come off as clueless, sex-crazed (even trolling for freshmen), and burned-out druggies, but even they cause little harm.
Violence & Scariness
Playful fistfights and minor injuries.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Not surprisingly, sex is a frequent topic of conversation among these college kids, who aren't bashful about discussing phone sex, STDs, blue balls, etc. It's common knowledge that much of the student body is sexually active, especially Lloyd, the popular English bloke who has a different girl in his bed nearly every night. The act itself isn't shown, but couples kiss and are shown together in bed.
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"Damn," "hell," jackass," and "sucks," but they're not a constant presence in conversation.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Copious drinking in some scenes (as when the friends inherit a keg and set out to drink all of it in one sitting). There's often talk about drug use, typically in the form of bongs, and some collegiates are said to have hit the bong too hard and act a little spacy.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Undeclared is Judd Apatow at his best: relatable, imperfect characters in real-life situations with riotously funny results. This short-lived series was Apatow's second, a follow-up to Freaks and Geeks, and takes place in college, so the content is slightly more mature (though nothing like his later works) and frequently deals with sex, drinking, and, to a lesser degree, drug use (though nothing's shown). Teens talk frankly about sleeping around and "experimenting" with sex, plus there are implications of masturbation and intercourse itself. They also drink -- a lot at times -- and it's presumed that this is the norm. Apatow's protagonist is an earnest, well-intentioned frosh trying to experience all the college years have to offer, but even in the midst of the mayhem and temptation, he usually shows impressive self-control.
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What's the Story?
For freshman Steven Karp (Jay Baruchel) in UNDECLARED, college is a new start, a chance to reinvent his nerdy high school personality and really experience life. Lucky for him, his new friends are up for the challenge, especially Lloyd (Charlie Hunnam), his ubercool playboy British roomie who's all for anything that will loosen up his bunkmate. Steven immediately takes a liking to his dorm neighbor, Lizzie (Carla Gallo), and the feeling seems mutual ... until she tells him about her longtime boyfriend and throws a wrench into Steven's plans. What with the relentless uncertainty of their relationship, the contrasting fervor of Lloyd's sex life, and his recently divorced dad's (Loudoun Wainwright III) revolving presence in his life, it's looking like the freshman 15 is the least of Steven's worries.
Is It Any Good?
Laugh-out-loud funny and resplendent with talented cast members and guest stars, this series does for the college years what Freaks and Geeks did for high school. Undeclared taps into familiar late-adolescent insecurities for poignant humor. Steven's journey will ring true with many adult viewers who remember well the struggles to define one's self amid the chaos and temptation of the college years. But it's not all hoots and hollers; mixed in with the laughs are some very heartfelt moments of friendship, self-discovery, and even family relationships that mark the show's true-to-life content.
Apatow has a sixth sense for picking stars, and he does well by drawing on the considerable talents of Freaks and Geeks alums like Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Busy Philips, and Martin Starr for recurring and guest roles in Undeclared. With others like Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, and Fred Willard dropping by to share the screen, it's no wonder this underappreciated series has garnered such acclaim since it first aired.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Undeclared's presentation of college life. How accurate do you think it is? How might the characters' actions result in different consequences in the real world?
Have you seen any of Judd Apatow's other works? How does the style of this show's comedy compare to those? Who do you think is the target audience for this show?
Take this opportunity to talk to your teens about your family's rules as they relate to the characters' experiences with alcohol, sex, and responsibility.
How do the characters on Undeclared demonstrate integrity and self-control? Why are these important character strengths?
- Premiere date: September 25, 2001
- Cast: Carla Gallo, Charlie Hunnam, Jay Baruchel
- Network: Fox
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models
- Character Strengths: Integrity, Self-control
- TV rating: TV-14
- Last updated: January 24, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
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