By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
Producer Judd Apatow, who with creator Paul Feig co-piloted Freaks and Geeks into the pantheon of great lost series, has gone solo with Undeclared, a college-dorm comedy -- a logical chronological next step after F&G‘s neck-deep wade into the backwater of high school. If it’s not quite as ambitious or subversive as was F&G, if it does not aim for its complexity of character or intensity of pain, well, that was then, and this is now: It is very, very funny, in any case, and though very much built on the lines of traditional modern college comedy, much smarter and, though farcical, not devoid of real feeling. For all its fantastical elements, it seems true, in a tidied-up, wish-fulfilled way, to dorm life as I lived it, and like Apatow‘s last show, it does stand up for losers. Carla Gallo and Monica Keena may be wolf-whistle hot, but they’re goofy, too. There is a tall, gangly kid (Jay Baruchel), whose F&G younger self would have been Martin Starr (the divinely geeky “Bill”), though in this friendlier setting he does get to have sex by the end of the first episode. (“Do you have a condom?” asks Gallo. “I have eight condoms,” he replies.) There‘s a handsome English guy (Charlie Hunnam), who in Monkee terms would be the Davy Jones, while Timm Sharp is the sweet, strange Peter Tork. Seth Rogen plays a cleaner-cut but no less acerbic version of Ken, his character on Freaks and Geeks (and he’s a staff writer as well). Consider him the Mickey Dolenz. (There is no Mike Nesmith.) Christina Payano is the now-familiar African-American afterthought (as her absence from original publicity photos seems to indicate), and she‘s as socially backward as the rest; it’ll be nice when she gets some more to do. F&G alumni Busy Philipps and Jason Segel drop in for major guest shots, as do David Krumholtz, Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler -- Apatow is well-connected. Folksinger Loudon Wainwright III is around off and on as Baruchel‘s just-divorcing father -- more off than on, but it’s hard to see how they could use him much more without turning the show into a late-period Bing Crosby musical. Adults barely exist in this world, as they should not.
Trevor Nunn‘s brilliant Royal National Theater production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice opens this season‘s Masterpiece Theater (new night!), and it is reason enough to own a television set. (You can give it away afterwards if you like.) Nunn has set the play in 1930s, protofascist European cafe society to underline the anti-Semitism of its putative protagonists, and through some judicious textual editing, modern body language, an interpolated song and clap of thunder, and some inspired line readings -- Henry Goodman’s well-rounded Shylock and Derbhle Crotty‘s thoughtful Portia are the obvious triumphs, but there’s not a weak link in the cast -- Nunn and company turn what is officially classed as a comedy into a dark, dark drama; it is stunning, in the strict sense of the word. Given the play‘s concern with matters of hypocrisy, bigotry, revenge and mercy (the quality of which is not strained), its arrival at this geopolitical juncture feels particularly fortuitous, and we can always take a lesson or two from old Will, whose interests and understanding seem to defy the practices and prejudices of his time, and whose works, as much as any religious texts, are a useful means to explore what it means to be human. (Memo to zealots of any stripe: “In the course of justice, none of usShould see salvation.”) As recommended as can be.
Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city