It has come to my attention that Karen, who graces us with her presence every week on the Starbase 66 podcast, has never seen Freaks and Geeks. I was astonished. And after mulling it over, I have for her 10 reasons why she should seek out the 1999 TV series right away.
- First of all, it’s frighteningly accurate. Set in a Michigan high school in the early 80s, it’s a spot-on capture of what life was like back then. I remember receiving the pilot on VHS in a screening package from CHCH television in Hamilton (As a TV critic, I used to get to see all the pilots before you did), and within the first minutes I was hooked. This was like nothing else that had been on TV before. Harsh, funny, weird and real, it was 80s life.
- The producers captured the 80s clothing, music, slang and behaviour perfectly. Better than anyone else ever did. Even in the 80s, they didn’t get it right. Oh, my ex-wife used to mix up Freaks and Geeks and Square Pegs all the time, in case you wanted to know why that marriage didn’t work out.
- Judd Apatow is often credited with creating this show, and yes, he did hone his craft on it, but it was actually created by Paul Feig. You may remember him as a small-part actor in the early 90s, or as a producer/director on the U.S. version of The Office.
- Why isn’t there a Canadian version of The Office? And if one is ever made, can I be in it?
- Freaks and Geeks starred a new crop of young actors, all unknowns: James Franco, Linda Cardellini, John Frances Daly, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, Busy Phillips, Samm Levine and my personal favourite, meganerd Martin Starr as Bill. Most of these actors have gone on to great success, some of them alongside Apatow, who has made a career out of creating humour you think is lowbrow, but really isn’t. I particularly like the first glimpse we get of Rogen’s timing, and the proof we’ve always needed that he’s a better supporting actor than he is a lead.
- Speaking of which, I saw Apatow’s latest, Funny People. It wasn’t very funny. But it was quite good. I think Adam Sandler is brilliant. Rogen should not do crying scenes, though.
- Canadian Joe Flaherty played the father of the central characters in Freaks and Geeks. He was brilliant. “You know who else smoked? Jimi Hendrix. And where is he now? DEAD!” But the actress playing his wife steals the show. I forget her name, though.
- Only 18 episodes of Freaks and Geeks were made, and only 12 of those aired. The DVD box set is usually a really fair price, and worth buying. I’ve almost worn mine out.
- The later episodes got a little more televisiony, with some sitcom-like plot developments. It got very strange when the coach, played by Biff Tannen, started dating Bill’s mom. But they were still fantastic. There’s a scene involving a remote-control garage door opener that’s both funny and heartbreaking.
- My favourite character is Neil, played by Levine. He’s an undersized bigmouth with a weird fashion sense. In other words, me in Grade 9.
In conclusion, Karen, I urge you, again, to seek out this fine series. Not only does it set the stage for what smart comedy became in the 21st century, but it’s damned entertaining. And it may offer you a glimpse into what nerdery was like for us old fogies.