Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Tribute to Great Television: Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)

With school back in session all over the United States I feel as though I must pay homage to the greatest show about high school, and no it's not Saved by the Bell, or 90210, that's Freaks and Geeks.  While Freaks and Geeks got the shaft from NBC, and only lasted one year, feign surprise if you must, the show is a classic, and if you have not got to experience Lindsey in her fatigue jacket breaking her good girl mold, or the early careers of James Franco, and Jason Segel then its time to make this show a priority on your Netflix.

The show centers around two different types of groups in the 1980s high school scene, the freaks, and the geeks, I wonder if that's where title comes from?  The show focused on two characters Linda Cardellinni's character Lindsey Weir, and her brother Sam Weir played by John Francis Daley. The show brought is both a hilarious and realistic look at those awkward and exploratory years of high school, and the different paths traveled.

Freaks and Geeks was created by Paul Feig, the main who has gone on to direct Bridemaids, The Heat episodes of The Office, Arrested Development, Nurse Jackie, Mad Men, this list could go on and on.  Feig is also an actor, and if you were a Sabrina the Teenage Witch fan you may recognize him as Mr. Pool.  Feig's knack for creating some of the best comedy in recent years is evident through his layered work, but Freaks and Geeks is one of his best creations.

While Feig was the creator Freaks and Geeks had some of the most famous names in film in television behind the scenes as producers, writers, and directors.  Judd Apatow (40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up) directed, wrote and was a producer on this show.  This was the birth  of Apatow's collaborations with Franco, Segel, and Seth Rogen.  Other famous television directors/writers who worked on this show were Mike White who created the television series Enlightened and has acted in films like School of Rock.  Ken Kwapis who has gone on to direct The Office, The Bernie Mac Show, and ER.  Lesli Linka Glatter has also gone on to direct Mad Men, True Blood, and The Newsroom.  The creative team behind this show was one of the best assembled.

As stated above this show not only brought about the careers of some great creative minds, but also launched the careers of Linda Cardellinni (ER, Scooby Doo, Mad Men), James Franco (127 Hours, Spider-Man, James Dean), Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Knocked Up), Seth Rogen (This is the End, Knocked Up, 40 Year Old Virgin), four great careers.  Ironically most of the geeks have played in other things but mostly smaller roles.

Why and how did this show now deemed by many to be, "the best cancelled television series of all time" fail? Critics deemed this show to be "something special" and "out of the ordinary" this was not your traditional sitcom, but fit within the dramedy category with tons of nostalgia to set the background.  Freaks and Geeks was realistic, almost too realistic, capturing that awkward humor that spawned The Office, 30 Rock and many more. At this point in the 90s/early 2000s this type of show did not fit, but stood out as something different much like the freaks and geeks in the show.  One of the other problems was that the show was  not given the proper treatment by NBC, again never surprising.  The show did actually score three Emmy nominations during its run two for Best Writing, and one for Best Casting, the show won the Best Casting in Comedy Series Emmy.  Props to voters for understanding that this show created one of the best ensembles.  Even Emmy knew this show was special.

Freaks and Geeks was ahead of its time, and a great representation of a new age in television. While I did not go to high school during the 1980s, hell I was 6 when the 80s ended this show created a great time capsule for the era, and helped connect you with each friend group, and the families associated with people. Even though this show only had one season, it's a classic, which can't be forgotten.

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