TV Review: Freaks and Geeks

In an age of overproduced and oversimplified coming-of-age television shows, one might look forward to a future of quality teenaged series. Luckily (for those of us with a Netflix account), this isn’t necessary—in 1999, Paul Feig and Judd Apatow created subtle perfection in “Freaks and Geeks.”

Set in 1980 suburbia, “Freaks and Geeks” honestly portrays the difficulties of adolescence while understatedly rejecting the ideals of an American society obsessed with “normalcy.”

In the series, Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini) and her younger brother, Sam (John Fracis Daley), work through a year of high school in Michigan while in two different social circles. Lindsay, a star-student sick of her place as captain of the mathletes, befriends a crowd of “freaks” who smoke weed, have sex, and belittle school-related activities (including class). Sam, on the other hand, hangs out with Neal Schweiber (Samm Levine) and Bill Haverchuck (Martin Starr), two “geeky” boys who enjoy computer science, card games, and brainstorming ways to seem attractive in the eyes of cheerleaders.

While most shows might shy away from delving deeper into the actual realities of these clichéd stereotypes, “Freaks and Geeks” proves itself fearless in this sense. Though flawed, both groups of teenagers mean well and are merely trying to survive the hell that is high school.

The experiences of all the characters are reminiscent and humorously uncensored. When the geeks struggle with a P.E. teacher who follows the heinous policy of “team-picking” on baseball days, they decide to prank call their instructor telling him his procedures are unfair and unkind. When they are allowed to pick
teams as captains, they are liberated by the sense of empowerment that comes with being a “jock,” only to find out that they aren’t any good at the sport and don’t find it fun at all. After having an intense crush on Cindy, a super friendly cheerleader at school, for a long time, Sam (who charmingly seems to be two feet shorter that Cindy) finally asks her out. It doesn’t take him long to realize that, although pretty, Cindy completely lacks any kind of personality.

Though labeled as burnouts and hated by parents, the “freaks” offer Lindsay another way to view the world. Together, they manage to get in trouble for cheating, crash Lindsay’s dad’s car, attempt to get fake IDs, and kill an uber-religious classmate’s cat. But, they’re not all bad. Lindsay helps them with family and relationship problems, and in return, Lindsay finds friends who accept her and truly support her.

Lindsay, alone, is an impressive character. Though incredibly smart, she isn’t phased by her parents’ opinions of what true success is. Openly liberal, she (respectfully) rejects her parents’ political beliefs and lifestyles and when Vice President George Bush visits her high school, Lindsay openly expresses her dislike of the politician.

Though “Freaks and Geeks” was canceled after only 18 episodes in 1991, its popularity has only increased since then. Today, it is perhaps best known as the show that gave current stars Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and James Franco their first roles. While the three of them perform very well as “freaks”, they are hardly the only talents on the show.

In episode eight, Sam Weir says, “I don’t need another friend. I already have two. I mean, how many more friends does a guy need?” Relatable, humorous, and honest, this quote sums up “Freaks and Geeks.” If in need of an outlet for procrastination the week before exams, look no further than adolescence in 1980.

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