Freaks and Geeks is that rare thing; a perfect television series. It was helped in part with being cancelled after just one eighteen episode season, allowing Paul Feig to finish the series in a way that shows the growth in the characters without falling into the narrative traps growth inevitably brings.
The show was also a cleverly written, well-acted study of self-acceptance and teenage angst. The protagonist Lindsay Weir, (Linda Cardellini) begins by trying to leave her geeky friendship group to become cool and one of the “freaks”. In the first few episodes, she helps Daniel (James Franco) cheat on a test, and eggs her younger brother on Halloween. We are told that this is not who Lindsay used to be, as she is smart and sweet but wants the rush of being part of a group that experiments with teenage/adult boundaries. This change of friends causes Lindsay problems with her hilariously stale parents, the perfectly hippy guidance counsellor and her old friends, who can’t understand why she would, as one puts it, “Throw her life away”.
The show also follows Lindsay’s brother Sam and his friends, dubbed the “geeks”. Sam is a geek, but like Lindsay doesn’t want to be. Although he is uncomfortable with most things, for most of the show he is happy with who he is, even if he doesn’t like his social status. Most of the humour comes from Sam and his friends, who in their naive ineptitude fall foul of bullies, parents and teachers. Following two sets of characters helps justify the 45 minutes run time, as both groups get a share of the time, but the length is unusual for a show which is primarily a comedy. The drama justifies though, and the running time never feels forced or self-indulgent on the part of Feig.
The actors also elevate the show with James Franco giving a stoned precursor to his role as James Dean, Jason Segel giving a zany twist on his mannerisms we’ve come to know and with Martin Starr stealing every scene he’s in. Other well-known actors came from the show such as Seth Rogen, Busy Phillips, Rashida Jones and a small cameo for a young Shia LaBeouf. Every character develops from what might seem like stereotypes to start with. Even Seth Rogen’s Ken gets an episode or two to show a bit more to him, meaning the show is full of formed layered characters.
As well as the actors the show had on board, Freaks And Geeks had now successful talents behind the camera such as Judd Apatow, (Knocked Up and most American comedies from the last 15 years) and Mike White, (School Of Rock) writing and producing. Both have gone on to bigger things in the film and television world, showing the strength in the writing. The pilot also included Bill pope as the cinematographer. This set the tone of the show and with him going on to big projects such as the Matrix, Spider-Man 2 and Baby Driver, it is clear he was a massive find.
Freaks And Geeks is only available from America meaning that it’s expensive to buy and only able to be watched by people with multi-region players. This means it hasn’t had the following it deserves over in the UK, but if you have Netflix, you can watch it on there, and I recommend that you do.
Fun Fact: The day they finished filming the pilot was the day The Matrix came out. The crew had a feeling that Pope might not do many more TV pilots.