Freaks and Geeks

It is almost impossible for a TV show to be perfect.  Everything – from the acting to the writing to the directing – needs to be perfectly in sync, and needs to both start out and sustain that level of quality.  That being said, Freaks and Geeks is a perfect show.  It is funny, sad, beautiful, and occasionally uncomfortable — often all at the same time.  Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give the show is that it doesn’t feel like TV – it feels like you’re watching real characters going through real problems and having real conversations.

This realism is really the hallmark of Freaks and Geeks.  While other high school shows went for schmaltzy romantic storylines, zany plots, and featured characters who acted more like 25 year olds than high-schoolers, Freaks wasn’t afraid to zero in on the inherent awkwardness of adolescents who are still trying to grow up.

Like many others, I was drawn to the show years after NBC canceled it after just 12 episodes.  I couldn’t help but notice that seemingly half of the Judd Apatow comedy crew (i.e. Knocked Up, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Superbad), including Apatow himself, worked on the show, along with successful actors and writers outside of it.  I thought there was just no way this much talent could have spawned from one show by coincidence (I was right).

The ensemble cast is truly one of the best in the history of television, featuring Linda Cardellini as Lindsay Weir, a former “mathlete” who attempts to migrate to the group of “freaks” led by James Franco, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, and Busy Phillipps.  The geeks side features the tiny John Francis Daley as Lindsay’s brother Sam, along with Samm Levine and Martin Starr as his best friends.  While other shows tend to reduce both groups to broad stereotypes, Freaks brought depth to every single character, showing their family life and what makes them who they are.

The early cancellation of Freaks and Geeks adds an element of “what if” to pretty much any discussion about it.   But, truthfully, getting canceled might have been the best thing for Freaks and Geeks.  For one season, the show explored a fascinating group of characters, and told groundbreaking stories about topics rarely discussed. Thanks to the stellar cast, along with the creative genius of creator Paul Feig and Judd Apatow, the show was able to tell an amazing story, from the very first scene (one of my favorites in any TV show) to the last.  Even if you’re just interested in seeing the early work of some of the cast, Freaks and Geeks is a show that you owe it to yourself to see.

Josh Epstein
jepstein01@hamlineuniversity.edu

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