The first fifteen or so minutes of “The Assistant” are by far the worst material Undeclared ever produced, a messy amalgamation of celebrity cameo, obnoxious humor, and a complete lack of character development. Adam Sandler’s appearance on Undeclared is memorable for all the wrong reasons – and yet, “The Assistant” is not a thoroughly terrible episode, with a third act that mostly ditches the tenants of the first two for some genuine storytelling. It’s stuffed into the last few scenes of the episode, however, and “The Assistant” is never quite able to escape the shadow of the Sandman.
And it’s not really even Adam Sandler’s presence that ruins the episode; there’s something amusing about his laid-back performance around the residents of a fourth floor, who gather to meet him in the lounge after Perry arranges for him to come “hang out” (with Happy Madison collaborators Allen Covert and Jonathan Loughran in tow) with the rest of the gang. Thanks to Lloyd, Hal is there as well, and the evening quickly gets awkward, in typical Apatow Cringe fashion (in a script co-credited to Apatow, Seth Rogen, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall director Nicholas Stoller, this was to be expected).
“The Assistant” is just so mean; from the fratboy approach to how Jonathon is treated by Adam and Allen, to how callously Ron rejects Marshall’s inability to control his fandom. There are moments in here that are fun; Hal singing his angry song, Ron’s shyness around Adam (“Is Dana Carvey – is he like that? Is he, you know, is he like that?”)… but these moments all feel randomly cobbled together, connected only by the aura of negativity established when Adam and Allen continuously embarrass and belittle Jonathon, in turn making Jonathon’s scene pushing Rachel’s professor in the water later that much more horrible later on.
Maybe it was intentional (it certainly feels like it), but none of it is really funny, right down to the way Adam quickly removes himself from the group with Lizzie in tow. Sandler disappears without leaving any comedic imprint on the episode, mostly in observational mode as he sits around insulting his assistant and Marshall – which hey, maybe would be accurate to real life (I really have no clue, obviously), but certainly doesn’t make for compelling television.
Once the sun rises on the following day, though, “The Assistant” shifts into a completely different mode, with Jonathon gone and Lizzie trying to remember whatever Julia Roberts movie her and Adam “watched” in his hotel room. Her scene explaining around her night to Steven is much more aligned with Undeclared‘s brand of cringe humor; it’s endearing how Lizzie lies to protect Steven’s innocent mind, saving herself from a bit of unnecessary shame, and allowing Steven to maintain his (somewhat) pristine image of Lizzie. She knows he’s more important than Adam, but doesn’t want to sacrifice what Steven means to her to be honest with him; and Undeclared gets this point across with a single look from Carla Gallo, setting the stage for the hilarious closing tag when she tells Eric (who could not be more excited, only wishing that Melissa Joan Hart was nearby to return the favor).
It comes in the final seconds, but gives “The Assistant” the touch of resolution the rest of the episode sorely lacked; Sandler’s presence on campus doesn’t add any fun energy to the episode, and Jonathon’s obnoxious, bitter cackle is something I’d rather just forget (seriously: Rachel’s evening with him is just terribly unfunny and pathetic). Thankfully, the moment Sandler and his cronies leave campus is the moment Undeclared really begins to hit its stride, a precursor to the much more rewarding, hilarious show to follow in coming episodes.
[Photo via FOX]