Created by Paul Feig and Judd Apatow, FREAKS AND GEEKS aired on NBC in 1999-2000, with 18 episodes eventually airing before it was finally cancelled after the first season. I finally watched the entire season on Netflix and was astounded by what is nearly a perfect TV show.
After 15-year-old Lindsay Weir’s (Linda Cardellini) grandmother dies with regrets, Lindsay decides to shed her perfect mathlete schoolgirl image and live life to the fullest, gravitating toward a group of cool misfits (“freaks”), which include Daniel (James Franco), Ken (Seth Rogen), Nick (Jason Segel) and Kim (Busy Philipps). Meanwhile, Lindsay’s 14-year-old brother Sam, a “geek,” struggles with his friends (Neil, played by Samm Levine, and Bill, played by Martin Starr) to survive the daily challenges and abuse high school dishes out. The acting is terrific; the show launched a number of successful careers among the young cast.
The show is set in 1980-81 and fully realizes the time (at the intersection of rock and roll, punk and disco), though it doesn’t do any ham-handed nostalgia referencing. The kids simply live in that era, which is presented matter of fact. I loved that aspect of it, but what I loved most were the characters and the realistic situations they found themselves in. The characters come across as flesh and blood people dealing with very real struggles in high school–finding themselves, measuring success, discovering love, trying to be cool and fit in. Nothing struck me as contrived, and the show never takes the easy way out or tells the viewer how to feel. It’s an extremely grown up show about the realities of being a teenager. When my kids reach that age and stop listening to me, I’m going to show it to them as an owner’s manual for their teenage years.
For me personally, it really struck home. The character Sam is 14, and I was 13 at the time. I identified with almost everything Sam did and went through. It was a fantastic experience watching FREAKS AND GEEKS. I’m sorry there’s no second season, but it was too good for NBC. No surprise it was listed in/as:
* TIME’s 2007 “100 Greatest Shows of All Time,” placing third in its list of greatest TV shows of the 2000s
* 13th best TV series of the past 25 years in 2008 by ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
* Best School Show of All Time by AOL TV
* #21 Top Cult Shows Ever in 2007 and in the 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time in 2013 by TV GUIDE
I know I’m late to the party with this show, but I get to invite you to check it out if you haven’t seen it yet. Fantastic show.