BEDA #4: Freaks and Geeks and me

I think the time has come for me to gush about Freaks and Geeks. Freaks and Geeks was a TV show made for NBC in 1999–2000 about the ‘freaks’ and ‘geeks’ at an Amer­i­can high school in 1980. The show was pro­duced by Paul Feig and Judd Apa­tow (Knocked Up, Super­bad and The 40 Year-Old Vir­gin) and much of it was based on Paul Feig’s own humil­i­at­ing high school expe­ri­ences. But Freaks and Geeks (despite it’s off-putting name) is a killer show. At a Freaks and Geeks reunion panel last year Pat­ton Oswalt called it ‘the best 18-hour indie film ever made’. The con­cept isn’t new or even close to orig­i­nal but the writ­ing and act­ing make it com­pul­sory viewing.


The freaks – an older group of kids who would be regarded as ‘alter­na­tive’ these days – are headed up by a cool kid called Daniel (James Franco), but it’s mostly through the eyes of Lind­say (Linda Cardellini) that we view the world of freaks. Linda Cardellini plays Lind­say as the independent-minded girl bal­anc­ing her recently-new world of boys, drugs and ‘freaks’ with her old world of school, home life and Math­lete friends. How­ever I think it’s the ‘geeks’ that give the show its sparkle. Sam (John Fran­cis Daley), Neal (Samm Levine) and Bill (Mar­tin Starr) are the geeks in ques­tion and they were all so close to the ages they play when the show was made that you get the result that the British drama Skins har­nesses so effec­tively: tal­ented young actors play­ing young peo­ple, which leads to an amaz­ingly acted, pro­duced and believ­able tele­vi­sion production.

Whilst the show is often very cute and funny (like when the geeks switch the freaks’ keg of beer with a non-alcoholic keg at a party and every­one still gets drunk on the placebo effect) there’s a lot more going on that. One episode fea­tures a plot that sees Bill hos­pi­talised when some kids put peanuts in his sand­wich to see if he really is aller­gic like he says. As he lies uncon­scious in hos­pi­tal we get a short scene between Bill’s and Sam’s moth­ers where Bill’s mother won­ders if her heavy drink­ing whilst preg­nant with Bill is the rea­son that he is the way he is. Pretty intel­li­gent stuff for a show that, on the sur­face, appears to be just another high school dramedy.

There is no DVD release of Freaks and Geeks in Aus­tralia but you know how to get it. And I highly rec­om­mend putting a cou­ple of days aside to watch this stun­ning show. OK. Gush over.

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