I suspect we’ll be slinging a lot more shit at Fox before we reach the end—and because we’ll have reached the end—of Undeclared, so let’s savor this moment: The network really did have the show’s best interests at heart at the beginning of its run. Judd Apatow and his team sold the series in a way that aligns more with the British model of television than the American one, where its worth was measured on the basis of six episodes, rather than a standalone pilot. (Here’s a scary thought: Imagine a world where, rather than being able to savor 17 episodes of Undeclared on broadcast TV—and 18 episodes on DVD—the show is only six episodes long and exists only as a bootleg.) This is why Undeclared feels so fully formed, even in its early episodes—it’s also why the second of those episodes exists in two versions. After shooting wrapped on that initial package, Fox gave the producers $1 million for reshoots, with specific instructions to excise a largely unfunny cameo by Ted Nugent that submarines the A-story of “Full Bluntal Nugety.” For what might have been the last time, the people pulling the strings at Fox revealed that they had a well-informed sense of humor: “Oh, So You Have A Boyfriend” is a solid example of what Undeclared would become, whereas “Full Bluntal Nugety” is a somewhat sloppy example of an embryonic series that doesn’t yet know what to make of its protagonist.
Nugent’s lamentable contributions aside, the biggest difference between “Full Bluntal Nugety” and “Oh, So You Have A Boyfriend” is the episodes’ portrayal of Steven. In both versions, he’s taken by surprise by the news that Lizzie is in a long-distance relationship; only in the original version, he reacts by being like the scared little boy Lloyd warned him not to be, making a scene in front of a crowded lecture hall and forcing a strained volley of insults between himself and The Nuge. In “Oh, So You Have A Boyfriend,” Steven takes the news just as hard and reacts almost as childishly, but ends up verbally sparring with Eric—and therefore only embarrassing himself in front of Lizzie. (In the original version, we hear nothing from Eric directly, which is a shame given the fact that nearly everything he says in the air version is uproariously quotable.) In terms of character development, the decision to minimize the severity of Steven’s humiliation gives him less to work back from in his simultaneous quests for reinvention and Lizzie’s heart—but it also gibes better with the series’ ultimate relationship to discomfort humor. We don’t want to see these characters look like fools in front of the entire campus—just in front of one another. “Full Bluntal Nugety” turns Steven into a minor social pariah, while it also creates an uglier version of the character that I wouldn’t want to hang out with on a weekly basis.
Elsewhere, “Oh, So You Have A Boyfriend” is just flat out tighter than its discarded predecessor. It stings to lose some of the dialogue between Marshall and Professor Duggan (a delightfully daffy Fred Willard), but most of it is unnecessary—all of Willard’s best stuff remains in the “history comes alive” montage, where he gamely inhabits the role of a stuffy academic attempting to reach his apathetic students through bad impressions, fake beards, and winking conspiracy theory. It’s a better episode for Timm Sharp as well, as his brief interactions with Rachel and unnoticed hints (“See, love works out in the end,” he says while giving an embrace too tentative to be termed a hug) land better than his “Full Bluntal Nugety” insistence that Rachel run her hand up his thigh.
The “boys’ club” mentality that Apatow’s oeuvre is frequently criticized for possessing surfaces briefly in both takes on the episode. Fortunately, writer Kristofor Brown tempers Hal’s “women are crazy” rant by having Rachel repeat the same non-advice—and then making Steven and Lloyd behave just as irrationally as Lizzie and Hillary (Amy Poehler), the newly introduced head RA and object of Lloyd’s episodic affections. Poehler’s in signature “screw-loose seductress” mode here, which makes her all the more attractive to Lloyd—and all the more terrifying to Ron, who begins the episode unacknowledged by Hillary, only to end up so high on her shit list that he can’t keep certain types of fruit in the room for fear of expulsion. Of course, Lloyd’s wavering interests are completely to blame here—when Hillary pounces on him, exclaiming that she’ll “go fast—like a man,” he reacts like some sort of scared little boy. Or worse, some sort of impulsive, vagina-having woman. (Wump wump wump wahhh.)
Alas, those iffy sexual politics aren’t something Fox could’ve kept out of the episode, but with the way they’re handled in Brown’s script, you’ll barely notice them upon first viewing. And while an unjustified cameo and the wrong kind of awkwardness make “Full Bluntal Nugety” entirely skippable, it remains valuable within Undeclared’s abbreviated run, an alternate version of the show with a little less heart and one more use of Nugent’s preferred preferred pejorative, “gomer.” It’s all the better that the episode figures into the series’ alternative history—had more episodes gone the “Full Bluntal Nugety” way, all of Undeclared might be lost to the ether. Grades: “Oh, So You Have A Boyfriend”: A-; “Full Bluntal Nugety”: C+
- I love that Marshall, who’d be the unrelenting fuck-up on nearly any other comedy, is frequently presented as the most levelheaded member of the principal cast. He comes unglued a couple of times, but he’s already declared a major (music), and he’s legitimately excited for Duggan’s first lecture.
- This is one of the few episodes where nearly every musical cue was cleared for use on DVD—though it obviously didn’t take much to get the rights for Loudon Wainwrigh III’s “Daddy Take A Nap.”
- Great read by Wainwright, responding to Steven saying that Lizzie’s looking to explore at college: “Then let her date Magellan. Vasco Da Gama.”
- Both Eric’s tirade on the phone and the “history comes alive” montage are so good, I can’t think of a single line that stands out from either. Eric’s implication that he’s going to “Van Damme” Steven’s head off is pretty good, though.
- First reference to Eric’s “ex-step dad” heard in “Oh, So You Have A Boyfriend”—he’ll turn up in the hilariously mulletted flesh in the de facto series finale.
- “What does Ted Nugget do?”
- “Bring a beard, if you’ve got one.”
- I picked the screen cap for this episode on the basis that it’s a scene that’s featured in both versions, and then didn’t end up talking about that scene at all. In short, it’s a sweet little exchange that adds an extra kink to the Steven-Lizzie relationship. It’s also a great showcase for Jay Baruchel, whose reaction to Lizzie’s kiss—wide, shocked eyes and an under-the-breath “What the hell”—speak well to the strange and inadvisable experience of campus infatuation.