Undeclared Season 1 Episode 17 Review: “Eric’s POV”

Undeclared

There’s no denying “Eric’s POV” is an unsatisfying end to Undeclared, which had really found a groove in the back half of its first season as it careened towards cancellation. Turning the show into a Kopy Shop sitcom for a half hour is a frustrating way to end the series: the characters aren’t nearly as well-defined as those on the UNEC campus, even with the wonderfully complex Eric at the center. Sure, Ben Stiller is fun to see as Eric’s stepfather Rex (playing essentially the same character he played in Dodgeball, with less money and spandex), but he only exists on the fringes of Eric’s world, never able to penetrate the story in any kind of affecting way. And with the members of Steve’s dorm sitting around watching Girls Gone Wild (on freaking VHS), there’s nothing there to explore – yet somehow, “Eric’s POV” is still a good, if completely unfamiliar, episode of Undeclared.

The only thing the episode really does well is parallel the maturation of Steven and Eric both – or more accurately, the lack of maturity on both their parts when it comes to Lizzie. Yet the two of them have important moments of growth, once Steven’s done being a baby about supporting his girlfriend, and Eric has some girl’s tongue stud somewhere in his digestive tract: as the episode slowly builds to their inevitable confrontation, Undeclared closes its series by offering a bit of hope for both its main characters. Steven is able to swallow his pride and apologize for being a jerk (which let’s admit, was a little out of character for him; this is the kid who was sending Lizzie teddy bears earlier this season, after all), and Eric prevents his own jerk-iness by not interrupting Steve and Lizzie’s reconciliation in front of the elevator.

“Eric’s POV” really builds to that moment in a somber way, focusing on the depressing details of Eric’s life, and offering him one morsel of hope when Lizzie RSVP’s to his group birthday party e-vite (remember when those were a thing?), only to crush him in those final moments when the elevator opens. Yet it speaks volumes to his emotional state that he’s able to walk away from that image, just as what’s happening outside the elevator is a big marker for Steven’s emotional growth as a boyfriend. Their love for Lizzie drives both their behavior, and creates this arresting final image of Eric holding himself back while Steve and Lizzie embrace, bringing an otherwise lifeless episode to a wonderfully awkward, poignant end.

Unforunately, that’s all there is to “Eric’s POV”; it barely feels like an episode of Undeclared, with most of the main cast sitting in chairs for the entire episode, and literally doing nothing except either watching porn, or dyeing Lizzie’s hair. It’s such a frustrating end to the series, especially after some of the stories it introduces in the penultimate episode: all “Eric’s POV” consists of is manufactured conflict (this all happens because Lizzie and Eric can never get each other on the phone) and a few asides about Girls Gone Wild from the rest of the crew (does Marshall even have a line in the finale?). I imagine it’s designed this way, as an f-you of sorts from a frustrated Apatow to the network – but even despite director Jon Favreau’s (yup, he directed the Undeclared finale) attempts to bring this material to life through tracking shots, it never comes together, sadly ending the series with a disjointed, weightless final half hour, that’s only engaging in the abstract, and only entertaining in the smallest of moments (one final montage of the girls singing loudly, for example).

Other thoughts/observations:

– That brings my look at the underappreciated, but wildly influential (if you think about it, its cancellation reshaped mainstream comedy in the early 21st century, with all the talent it unleashed on television and film) Undeclared to an end. Thanks for joining me the last few months!

[Photo via FOX]

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