Here’s the thing, Judd Apatow’s high school comedy Freaks and Geeks is a good show. It’s cited as one of the greats among the “brilliant but cancelled” elite, sparked a ton of young actors’ Hollywood careers and is considered one of the most painfully accurate portrayals of high school life ever on television. It has real, honest and multi-dimensional characters and believable yet humorous story-lines.
But I don’t really get it. Or at least I thought I didn’t get it.
I didn’t go to that school. I didn’t know those kids. The stoners I knew sang tenor and spoke Latin. The geeks I knew published comic books and were on the improv comedy team. The religious kids I knew still knew the realities of the world instead of being completely sheltered by their faith. The drummers I knew all took lessons and I simply didn’t know any mathletes.
But then I watched more. I started to see pieces of the Shakespeare quoting, squash playing, show tune singing, website designing freaks and geeks I knew in the kids on the show. and what’s more… I started to see me.
When Sam was forced to adhere to the sibling code even though he knew Lindsay’s party was a mistake, I completely understood. When Nick gave Lindsay a speech about how he lives for drumming, I saw one of my best friends. When Daniel proved to be a slightly nerdy nice guy beneath his sleazy exterior, I realized that I know at least 5 real-life Daniels. I saw my own parents when the Weirs helped out Nick, I saw my friends when Kim and Daniel fought and I saw my newly cool big brother when Barry Schweiber came home from college. And when Lindsay worried that her friends didn’t inspire her I got a little concerned that Judd Apatow had been reading my diary. (yes I’m kidding. I do know that this show was made in 1999. I also do not even keep a diary. but you know what I mean).
But even after I began to relate to the characters I couldn’t quite grasp what was so remarkable about this show. For every uniquely wonderful moment such as Ken falling for Tuba girl because she was sarcastic and mean and thus perfect for him, there was something that reminded me why I’m pretty consistently not an Apatow fan (like Lindsay ditching her mom to go drive around and smash pumpkins like a real rock and roll loser). Luckily I have a few friends who believe so strongly in this show that I was forced to watch it the entire way through. It turns out that once you wade through a lot of the “I’m an idiot teenager and thus must rebel” crap near the beginning, you’re left with some really great episodes of TV. The Neal-centric episode when Barry returns and Daniel finds his way back to Kim was incredibly touching. Anything involving Ken and the Tuba Girl is magnificent. You’ve got to love Kim, Daniel, Ken and Nick for showing up to cheer Lindsay on at the mathlete scrimmage. Nothing says friendship like when Millie bails Lindsay out when she has to babysit when stoned even though she doesn’t approve. What’s better than Sam dumping the prettiest girl in school because she’s boring? And few things can rival a good helping of “Carlos the Dwarf”.
So while the first couple episodes and the last couple minutes simply made me wonder why a girl as smart as Lindsay can be such a moron (even at 15), Freaks and Geeks turned out to be a pleasant surprise. and while my love of Jason Segal didn’t gain any ground from his turn as Nick, Seth Rogen’s role as Ken earned him serious points that maybe just maybe may redeem him for Knocked Up.