The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 8, 2005 -11A
College sitcom revived on DVD
By Punit Mattoo @
Daily TV/New Media Editor
With almost every age group represented in suc-
cessful television shows, it's a mystery why no cur-
rent sitcom or drama has been able
to accurately depict college life.
Established series with characters
in high school attempted the tran-
sition, but most failed; studio heads
might blame the demise of "Beverly
Hills 90210," "Saved By the Bell"
or "That '70's Show" on fans not
Main St.'s Improv inferno will host a Hurricane Katrina benefit show this weekend.
IMPROV INFERNO AIMS TO HELP HURRICANE VICTIMS
By Bernie Nguyen
Daily Books Editor
Improv Inferno, one of Ann Arbor's most unique
comedy experiences, will be celebrating its one-year
anniversary in an unusual way. On Saturday, Improv
Inferno will hold a 12-hour comedy marathon to raise
money for disaster relief to benefit the victims of Hur-
Mainly focused on improvisational comedy, Improv
Inferno opened in Ann Arbor on
Sept. 10 of last year. The majority
of the club's shows are completely Improv
improvised in front of audiences, Inferno:
similar to TV's "Whose Line is it Comedy
Anyway?" Only a few of the acts Marathon
performed involve sketches or
skits, like those on shows such as Saturday, Sept. 10
"Saturday Night Live." 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Dan Izzo, co-founder and artistic $5
director of the improv theater, said At Improv Inferno
that the idea for the benefit was
originally the brainchild of Sabrina
Harper, co-owner and managing director of Improv
"She is originally from New Orleans, and her par-
ents still live there," Izzo said, "so it's kind of an issue
that's really near and dear to her." Both Izzo and Harp-
er came to Ann Arbor from Chicago, where they were
involved with the Second City improv troupe.
Izzo's expectations for the comedy marathon are
centered mostly on its potential to assist in hurricane
relief. 'It will be our one-year anniversary, so it's ...
celebrating (it) in a way that will help people, instead
of a self-indulgent way of celebrating. (Comedy) is
really the only thing that we have at our disposal to
raise money. It's kind of one of those situations that
everyone does what they can to help, and use every
resource they have, and the resource we have is a com-
edy space ... We have to marshal those resources to
help out," he said.
During the course of the event, many different per-
formers, including local stand-up comedians such as
Ann Arbor's Jesse Popp, who has appeared on Comedy
Central's "Premium Blend," a variety of improv groups
and some comedic magic will be featured to fill half-
hour and 15-minute time slots.
Despite the short notice, planning the marathon went
"The response from the performers was really great,"
Izzo said. He added that more performers volunteered
than could be fit into the event. "We're running solid
for 12 hours," he said. "Really, the tricky part was just
accommodating everybody who wanted to perform."
It's clear that Improv Inferno's main goal for the
comedy marathon is to make a strong effort to aid hur-
"It's important that we kind of rally around the peo-
ple in our society that are having problems right now,"
Izzo said. "We had a 24-hour marathon to help the tsu-
nami victims ... but this is kind of closer to home. It's
really crucial that we, as a country and as a society,
step up and help one another."
Tickets to the event are $5 and allow access to all
12 hours of the marathon. Izzo said that a voluntary
donation would be requested for each hour of the event
attended: All proceeds will be donated to the Washt-
enaw County Chapter Red Cross.
accepting the new surroundings for the characters, but
it's the shows' unrealistic depictions of college that were
their biggest failures.
Coming off the cancellation of his critically acclaimed
"Freaks and Geeks," Judd Apatow created "Undeclared,"
which essentially became "Freaks and Geeks Go to Col-
lege." Although it stands as one of the funniest sitcoms
in recent memory and as the most realistic portrayal
of college life, "Undeclared," like "Freaks and Geeks"
before it, aired for only one season. With the release of
"Undeclared: The Complete Series," old fans have the
chance to revisit the show, and new viewers have the
chance to discover this inexplicably overlooked gem.
The series follows the life of Steven Karp (Jay
Baruchel, "Million Dollar Baby") and his three screwy
suitemates: Ron's (Seth Rogen, "The 40-Year-Old Vir-
gin") sarcastic nature and off-color comments make him
a perfect foil for level-headed British charmer Lloyd
(Charlie Hunnam, "Cold Mountain") and the geeky
music-major Marshall (Timm Sharp, "Six Feet Under").
Rachel (Monica Keena, "Entourage") and Lizzie (Carla
Gallo, "Carnivale") are the girls across the hall and the
boys' best friends.
The pilot episode introduces the characters on their
first day at the fictional University of North Eastern
California, during which Steven loses his virginity to
Lizzie. Rather than following cliched drunken parties
and random hookups evident in so many college movies,
the show perfectly nails the small details of dorm life
and the absurd.situations kids manage to get themselves
involved in. Being "sexiled," having to work a crappy
job and gaining the "freshman 15" all get treated as
major plotlines and none of them fall short of genius.
Aside from the show's main stars, "Undeclared" fea-
tures an assortment of off-kilter characters. Former folk-
singer Loudan Wainwright III shines as Steven's father,
Hal. Following his divorce, which he tells Steven about
during his first night at college, Hal avoids becoming a
stereotypical TV dad and instead regresses to his youth,
getting drunk at a hall party, watching "Girls Gone
Wild" videos with Steven's roommates and eventually
dating Steven's RA (Amy Poehler, "Saturday Night
Live"). Elsewhere, Jason Segal ("Freaks and Geeks")
perfectly nails the role of Lizzie's insanely obsessive
long-distance boyfriend, Eric. Within five minutes of
dropping her off, he's crying on the phone, telling her
how much he misses her. A running joke in the series
is the creepy photo tributes he makes to her using his
copy-shop job, which only gets funnier as his presents
get more and more over the top.
Apatow's experience on "The Ben Stiller Show,"
"Anchorman" and with other comedians leads to a full
slate of memorable guest appearances. Will Ferrell is
hilarious as usual as a speed-riddled townie who writes
papers for students. Ben Stiller plays Eric's overly macho
stepfather in what seems to be the inspiration for his
"Dodgeball" character. Adam Sandler, Fred Willard and
"Thank you, sir. May I have another?"
Tenacious D's Kyle Gass also make appearances that,
while big draws for nonviewers, were unable to save the
show from cancellation.
Although not extensive, the four-disc DVD's special
features are indeed worth multiple viewings. Commen-
taries by Apatow, the writers and the actors are included
with each episode (including the unaired "God Visits").
Commentators openly discuss other people on the show,
their personal lives and their feelings toward certain
scenes. Only on limited occasions do they discuss the
technical aspects of the show, and these comments
are usually sarcastic and rib the respective director or
writer. A particularly amusing highlight is Seth Rog-
en's admission to Monica Keena that while surfing for
celebrity pornography on the Internet, he came upon a
freeze-frame of her from that particular "Undeclared"
episode. Also included are deleted scenes, rehearsals
and screen tests that reveal that the characters were
essentially based upon the actors' different personali-
ties. A full cast discussion at the Museum of Television
& Radio and the script for what would have been the
second-season premiere allows fans greatly disappoint-
ed by the sudden cancellation to get a hint of the show's
potential future, as well as its origins.
Like many shows that came before and after it, "Unde-
clared" was shuffled around too much and cancelled
before it had the chance to develop the large audience
it greatly deserved. With its recent release on DVD,
"Undeclared" should become required viewing for all
college students, not only because it will make them
laugh out loud, but also to remind them of all the little
things that make college life so special.
Special Features: ***I
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