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What 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?
How do the characters on Undeclared demonstrate integrity and self-control? Why are these important character strengths?
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