In honor of its 10th anniversary, I decided to watch the pilot of a little show that lasted only 18 episodes, Freaks and Geeks.
It’s 1980 in Michigan. High school kids are doing high school things. Each social group is shown in the first minutes with its own little musical intro. Not much explanation is needed since, if you went to high school in the 80s—or ever—you know all the players.
The main plot centers around an older sister, Lindsay and younger brother, Sam, a freak and a geek, respectively. The brother is an adorable pre-growth spurt John Francis Daley (Bones’ Lance Sweets). Other recognizable faces abound: James Franco, Seth Rogan, and Jason Segel.
Although it’s by and large just another school day, for a pilot there has to be something in transition. We eventually find out that Lindsay has been acting differently since the death of her grandmother. She’s less interested in being a mathlete, and more interested in becoming friends with a bunch of stoners. She’s also a defender of the weak, be it her brother or the token retarded kid.
The characters are three-dimensional and engaging. I can imagine getting to know them over the season would be a fun ride. And I must give the show kudos for bucking a stereotype for having a cheerleader who’s not a total bitch.
This show has been lauded by fans for being cutting edge. Maybe it was. Today geeks are cool, and maybe this show paved the way. But really, the geeks aren’t even that geeky, compared to say, the cast of The Big Bang Theory. And it has a similar aesthetic to My So-Called Life, which debuted 5 years earlier. Other shows debuting in the fall of 1999 included Big Brother, Judging Amy, Law & Order: SVU, The West Wing, and Angel. Maybe Freaks & Geeks stood out by way of comparison to adult-centered dramas and reality shows. What is this show anyway, a comedy or a drama? At any rate, it didn’t last, but it did launch writer Judd Apatow and several successful acting careers.
Quotable line: “She’s a cheerleader. You’ve seen Star Wars 27 times. Do the math.”