Freaks and Geeks Forever

Freaks and Geeks is arguably the most honest depiction of high school in television history. Produced by Paul Feig in partnership with Judd Apatow, the audience is taken through 1980’s suburbia through a band of perfectly cast misfits, phenomenal scoring and intentionally drab scenery. Unlike most television shows set in high school, Freaks and Geeks is not a drama centered around the rich and popular, while the other cliques are used as two dimensional props. Each character is developed in a multi-faceted manner, evoking both compassion and frustration from the audience at different points. Although only one season long, these 18 episodes have woven their triumphs and tribulations into the hearts of teenagers who, like the characters, are doing their best just to figure it all out.

The series opens with goody-two-shoes Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini), obtaining rocky acceptance into the “freaks” of the school. Charismatic Daniel Desario (James Franco) is the leader of the group. While charming, he is often selfish and manipulative, although insecure about his grim future. His on-off girlfriend Kim Kelly (Busy Phillips) is known for her short temper and “fast girl” morals, but as the show continues, the audience is given insight to her unsavorable family life and the good heart she possesses. Lindsay is eventually swept into a romance with the likeable but pathetic Nick Andropolis (Jason Segel), whose passion for his 29 piece

drumset disappoints his militaristic father in a heart breaking way. Ken Miller (Seth Rogan) is the wise guy of the group, quick with one liners at the expense of those around him. This sudden change in company is not met without the dismay of her Cleaver-esque parents (Joe Flaherty, Becky Ann Baker) and former best friend/personal police Millie (Sarah Hagen), who declares with conviction that she “will have more fun than any of you–SOBER!” Lindsay’s younger brother Sam (John Francis Dayley) and his two best/only friends Neil Schweiber (Samm Levine) and Bill Haverchuck (Martin Starr) are positively endearing. From their admiration for Bill Murray to their plan to avoid bullies “the same way Hans Solo dealt with Jabba the Hut”, the crew provides comedic relief as they tug on heart strings.

The ensemble cast of Freaks and Geeks Press Released Photo
The ensemble cast of Freaks and Geeks
Press Released Photo

There is not much context given as to why the heroine abruptly shed her academic decathlon awards in exchange for her father’s army coat, but one scene in particular does highlight a possible cause. In a tender first episode, Sam comes into her room to ask why she is throwing her life away. Instead of answering him directly, she reveals to him that as their grandmother was on her deathbed, she was terrified for what came next. “She was a good person all her life, and that’s what she got–no light, no nothing.” Maybe Lindsay realized that everything she had worked so hard for would mean nothing in the end, maybe this was a form of grieving. Maybe the writers gave vague reasons for this transformation intentionally, to emphasize the fact that Lindsay should not need an excuse to behave one way or the other. Even Millie eventually comes around during the very last episode when she says, “You know, Lindsay, when you started hanging out with them, I felt kinda bad for you, because I thought you were gonna turn into a dirtbag. But then I realized that you were just exploring, and now I guess I’m kind of exploring, too.” By simply existing, she is entitled to experiment with different versions of herself.

This is why the series initially failed. Given a time slot of 7 p.m. on a Saturday night, the target audience was not at home–but their parents were. These four crucial years are synonymous with growing pains, both internally and externally. Necessary but never pretty, growing pains include making mistakes of all sort, and learning from them. Parents watching in the living room would have rather not thought about where their offspring actually were that night, even if they themselves were up to the same mischief at that age. Fox Family’s tagline describes the downfall beautifully: “Everything you remember about high school…that you choose to forget.” Freaks and Geeks’ authenticity cemented itself as both immortal yet doomed to fail.

However, it would be a grave mistake to write the series off as a waste. Feig and Apatow used an extremely young cast, many of whom experienced their first on screen kisses during filming. Now, these actors are household names, catapulted into fame by their work. Freaks and Geeks has garnered a devoted cult following, as well as many accolades: Time magazine’s 2007 “100 Greatest Shows of All Time” list, as well as placing third on the magazine’s list of greatest television shows of the 2000s. It was also ranked #21 on TV Guide ’​s Top Cult Shows Ever. In 2008, Entertainment Weekly ranked it the 13th-best series of the past 25 years The same year, AOL TV named it the Best School Show of All Time. In 2013 TV Guide included it in its list of The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time and ranked it #1 on their list of 60 shows that were “Cancelled Too Soon”. Now available on Netflix and DVD, Freaks and Geeks continues to make the audience laugh, cry and celebrate with the painfully relatable plotline. High school is not a comfortable place, and more often than not, good intentions are won over by awkwardness and embarrassment.  In the end, Lindsay never fully leaves her old self or returns to it. She only collects the pieces of herself, the freaky and the geeky parts, to build a dynamic young lady who makes it out alive.