Gone Too Soon: 'Freaks and Geeks'
by Jason Hughes, posted Feb 22nd 2010 4:02PM
Created by Paul Feig and produced by Judd Apatow, 'Freaks and Geeks' is one of those rare television treasures that no one saw or appreciated until it was too late. Okay, that's unfair. Critics, the press and the loyal fans who did find the show on NBC immediately knew that it was something special. Unfortunately, it didn't find wide enough appeal to last beyond its first season.
Ironically, the show's cast of virtual unknowns now reads like an all-star comedy troupe, which is a testament to the brilliant casting that went on behind the scenes of the show. Finding such talented kids, and then coupling them with brilliant writing crafted on of the most revered television shows of all time.
What was it?
[Spoiler Warning!] 'Freaks and Geeks' was a sometimes painful, often hilarious and incredibly true-to-life depiction of the harsh realities of high school. That it was set in 1980-81 only gave it a sense of nostalgia, as most of the themes and situations the characters found themselves in are timeless. It was certainly a better ambassador of the decade than 'That '80s Show.'
The series focused on the Weir siblings, Lindsay and Sam. Lindsay went from a well-behaved good student to a troublemaking slacker when she fell in with a "cooler" group of kids, leaving her former best friend Millie behind. Sam, meanwhile, simply continued his journey as a geek trying to get by socially. Friends and family rounded out the cast.
Their journeys through the muddy waters of high school made up the bulk of the plotlines, with the characters' stories intertwining with one another throughout the series, until it simply ended with many dangling story threads and unresolved relationships and situations.
Why did it have to go?
'Freaks and Geeks' found itself pulled from the air after a twelve-episode run on NBC during which it averaged less than seven million viewers (enough to be considered a "hit" by modern NBC standards). A fan-campaign convinced NBC to burn off three more episodes in July 2000, but by then the show had been officially canceled. Eventually all 18 produced episodes would air between NBC's initial offerings, and Fox Family Channel's syndication pick-up later in 2000.
Perhaps had the internet been at a more advanced stage, that fan movement might have convinced NBC to have a little more patience with the show, or 'Freaks and Geeks' could have shifted to one of NBC's family of cable networks, or struck a co-production deal with DirecTV like 'Friday Night Lights.' But this was the 2000 NBC desperately looking for their next 'Friends'-sized hit, and they needed to find it sooner rather than nurture an under-performing show in the hopes it would become something big later. They're still looking.
How do I find out what happens next?
Apatow would tap into this talented group again for GTS candidate 'Undeclared,' as well as may of his subsequent feature films. Many fans consider 'Undeclared' to be a thematic and unofficial sequel series to 'Freaks and Geeks' as it moved the action from high school to college, while still exploring many of the same themes.
In an interview with UGO, Feig revealed that he was looking to have Sam to try out for drama club, only to wind up on the stage crew. Neil would join swing choir, and Bill would get on the basketball team. Feig was anticipating that Martin Starr, who played Bill, was going to become a much bigger and better looking young man, so planned to have his character move socially away from the "geeks" group.
The idea was to mix up the groups and have the kids genuinely change dramatically, as teenagers often do. And he intended to have Kim Kelly knocked up throughout the entire second season, because who hasn't known that girl.
Where did the cast wind up?
- Linda Cardellini (Lindsay Weir) has knocked around animation doing voicework over the years, but is probably most known for her six-year run as Samantha Taggart on 'ER.'
- John Francis Daley (Sam Weir) continued work on television through 'Boston Public,' and 'Kitchen Confidential,' among others, before landing his current role as Dr. Lance Sweets on 'Bones.'
- James Franco (Daniel Desario) transitioned successfully into blockbuster film work with films the 'Spider-Man' franchise and 'Pineapple Express,' as well as appearing in a wide variety of venues, including a recent run on 'General Hospital.'
- Samm Levine (Neal Schweiber) has kept his toes in television, appearing as regular guests on countless shows, but has become more known for his film work, including 'I Love You, Beth Cooper' and 'Inglourious Basterds.'
- Seth Rogen (Ken Miller) stuck with Apatow to become a bona fide movie star, headlining films like 'Pineapple Express,' 'Knocked Up' and 'Zack and Miri Make a Porno.'
- Jason Segel (Nick Andopolis) has starred in films like 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' and 'I Love You, Man,' but is mostly known as Marshall Eriksen on 'How I Met Your Mother.'
- Martin Starr (Bill Haverchuck) has continued working with roles in television and the movies, before landing the role of Roman DeBeers on Starz' 'Party Down.'
- Busy Philipps (Kim Kelly) moved on to 'Dawson's Creek,' 'Love, Inc.,' 'ER,' and appeared very pregnant on 'Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles' before securing her current role as Laurie Keller on 'Cougar Town.'
- Most of the rest of the cast has continued appearing in films and television, because they're all that talented.
Just look at that list of actors and more people care about this show than even they realize as it spawned so many big stars. Universally considered to be one of the greatest high school dramas of all time, 'Geeks' appears constantly on "Best Of" lists for television. Time ranks it among the 100 Best TV Shows of All-Time, while Entertainment Weekly ranked it 13th among the New TV Classics: their 100 best shows between 1983 and 2008.
When can I see it?
Most importantly Shout! Factory cared enough to put together the only DVD set Feig and Apatow would approve; one that included all the original classic rock music from the series. They had offers to change the music to keep costs down, and altered music was used during its syndication run, but the soundtrack was too much a part of the series for them to allow it to exist in a permanent form without it.
So you can see it whenever you want, the way it was intended, by picking up 'Freaks and Geeks - The Complete Series' on DVD. If you're a true fanatic, pick up 'Freaks and Geeks: Yearbook Edition,' which offers two additional discs of behind-the-scenes material. Plus, it's packaged in a beautifully produced 40-page yearbook filled with new quotes written by Feig and tons of photos from the series.
[via AOL, Wikipedia, IMDb and more!]