A Look At The Era of Apatow

Back during my sophomore year of college (2000 to be exact) my friends and I stumbled upon reruns of a recent canceled television series on the Fox Family Channel. The series was Freaks and Geeks and it was my first encounter with the comedic guru Judd Apatow. Even back then Apatow was assembling his team with directors like Jake Kasdan and Ken Kwapis. He also discovered a lot of great young comedic talent with Seth Rogen, Samm Levine, Martin Starr, and Jason Segal. There was also some all-around great acting with Linda Cardellini and James Franco. And it was the tone of the show that was so different. This wasn’t filmed before a live studio audience or went for obvious jokes; it was a subtle humor that struck a nostalgic chord with many viewers. However, the executives at NBC didn’t quite seem to understand the show and allowed it to get shuffled around the schedule and postponed until they could cancel it for low-ratings. Apatow made a comeback in 2001 with FOX’s Undeclared, a comedy about freshman at a fictional California university. He brought back Rogen and Segal with many of his same directors, adding Greg Mottola to the mix. The series was not quite as good as Freaks and Geeks, going for some broader humor. It was still light-years ahead of most television comedy but happened to debut right before September 11th. The series was pre-empted for weeks and eventually died a similar death to Freaks.

Apatow became a bit more elusive for the next couple years, producing a couple failed sitcoms. He began to rear his head again as producer of Anchorman. Freaks and Geeks also got a DVD release thanks to Shout Entertainment and the die-hard fans of the show got to relive the episodes while tons of new fans discovered the series. Apatow fully came back onto the scene with 2005’s The 40 Year Old Virgin. Not only did he make a star out of Steve Carrell, he brought a studio value to his name that he’d never had before. The best part was that he didn’t compromise his comedic style and incorporated Seth Rogen once again along with Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, and his wife, Leslie Mann. The humor was combination of slapstick and improvisational dialogue. The slapstick was funny but it was the loose, organic conversation that was so fresh and original for the comedy scene. He followed up by producing Talladega Nights and then directing this year’s Knocked Up. Knocked Up showed a stealthy move to incorporate elements of the romantic comedy and merge them with Apatow’s more “blue” style of comedy and as box office returns have shown, it worked like gangbusters. Superbad, a film he produced and Mottola directed, is currently making extremely good money for an August release and Team Apatow seems to be clear of flops so far.

Apatow currently has no directorial projects lined up but will be producing Jake Kasdan’s parody of Walk The Line called Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, David Gordon Green’s Pineapple Express, the Jason Segal vehicle Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the Adam Sandler-scripted You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, and Adam McKay’s Stepbrothers. Looks like he’ll be a busy man for quite awhile.

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~ by Seth on August 21, 2007.

One Response to “A Look At The Era of Apatow”

  1. I hope I’m not cursing the man to fall into obscurity, but Judd’s films have a lot of dirty jokes, sure, but they also have a lot of heart. Furthermore, given his penchant for retapping the same actors again and again, Apatow may be the John Hughes for this generation. He hasn’t made a Breakfast Club (unless it’s Freaks and Geeks) as far as I’m concerned, but he’s made several 16 Candles. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

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