Starring: Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daley, Samm Levine, Martin Starr, Jason Segel, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Busy Phillips, Sarah Hagan, Natasha Melnick, Becky Ann Barker, Joe Flaherty
Creator: Paul Fig
Freaks and Geeks was an incredible TV show with outstanding, rising talent that unfortunately got cancelled prematurely. All of the episodes of the first season weren’t even broadcasted on TV, which is mind-boggling. Freaks and Geeks is a daring show that took a chance. It focuses on the people that normally wouldn’t get recognition; the misfits. We are shown two sides of it, the rebels who are thought to be too edgy and dangerous for others’ acceptance and those who try but just don’t fit in and are subjected to bullying; the freaks and the geeks.
Lindsay Weir (Cardellini) is one of the brightest students at McKinley High School. She was in the mathletes and was one of the star contenders. However, after her grandmother died, it caused her to start thinking about her life. This made her realize that she really wasn’t very happy with it. Lindsay just didn’t feel like this is the real her anymore. So she quit the mathletes and stopped hanging out with friends like Millie (Hagan), who is a mathlete as well, very religious, and complete straight edge. Lindsay starts to make friends with a rougher crowd including Daniel (Franco), Nick (Segel), Kim (Phillips) and Ken (Rogen). They are known as the burnouts in school who are much more concerned with drugs and sex than they are with school itself. For a while Lindsay doesn’t feel like she really fits in with her new friends or her old friends. Daniel and Nick go easier on her, but Ken and Kim still think of her as a good girl and put up a very strong front in hopes of scaring her off.
Lindsay’s family isn’t too happy about her new friends. Her parents think they are a bad influence. Lindsay’s younger brother, Sam (Daley), isn’t too fond of them either. He is a small, scrawny freshman who is a science fiction nut and has really had no experience with girls. With all of this, he gets picked on a lot. Lindsay’s new friends, as a few of the school’s biggest bullies, pick on him, making his resistance to Lindsay hanging out with them stronger. As Lindsay becomes closer to them, she eventually gets them to leave him alone. Sam does have his two best friends there for him, Bill (Starr) and Neal (Levine), who are interested in the same things and are there for each other throughout their struggles as outcasts.
There are a lot of family troubles shown throughout the series. Lindsay and Sam think their parents are pretty embarrassing and overprotective, which does end up bringing them together. Soon, they learn that compared to others their family really isn’t that bad. Nearly all of Lindsay’s new friends have bad home lives. Nick’s father is a retired military man that is pushing Nick to have that same life that he had. He is extremely strict and doesn’t appreciate Nick’s band and drumming, which is his passion, drive, and joy in life. There is no understanding between the two of them, both fearing what Nick’s future will result in.
Kim’s parents have very little faith in her and make everything in to a screaming match rather than just talking to her. They always assume and even expect the worst from her, giving her hardly any chance to prove them wrong. Nick, Daniel, Kim, and Ken want to prove the low expectations and assumptions that are given to them by parents, teachers, peers, and just about everyone else around them that don’t take them seriously, wrong. Neil is struggling as well with the suspicion that his father is having an affair. He really doesn’t know what to do with this; stuck between breaking up his family and letting his father get away with his deceptions.
Freaks and Geeks may be of a different breed than the typical teen drama, but it still has the crushes and relationships that are part of high school. The biggest difference is it deals with it in a more realistic way. Majority of the relationships don’t work out in the end, which is what real life, at that age especially, is like. Even the ones that do are more dysfunctional relationships.
The acting is spot on and is a large reason why it feels so real. The actors improvised a lot of the lines to make it seem more authentic and how teenagers would really talk. Linda Cardellini plays the lead wonderfully. She really seems like a normal teenager, she isn’t easily defined, which makes her an accurate portrayal of the viewers watching.
John Francis Daley exposes to us the fine line between the geeks and others in the school. It is very easy to relate and sympathize with him even if you seemingly have nothing in common with him. Samm Levine’s performance as the horny geek was done very well and he nailed this character type so well the image really stuck. Since then he has played similar roles in Undeclared, That 70’s Show, How I Met Your Mother, My Name is Earl, and Veronica Mars just for starters. I would really like to see him in a different role as he proved here that he has many dimensions to his acting and shouldn’t be subjected to flat character.
I absolutely adored Jason Segel as Nick. I loved the passion he had for music and his willingness to open up, especially to Lindsay. It was mesmerizing just to watch him when he was with Lindsay. I hated to see how she turned away since he put his heart and soul on the line. The most valuable thing about his performance is the vast amount of change and vulnerability he shows to represent his character. He goes through a lot between not feeling accepted and feeling that love is rejecting him altogether to feeling lost and taken advantage of. At times he feels stupid and misunderstood to feeling helpless and weak, yet driven at the same time. This is not an easy range of emotions to covey, but Segel does all of this beautifully with such understanding. When he does find hope in something, his expression is priceless and speaks to you.
James Franco does very well as the biggest rebel and bad boy of the group, which is somewhat different then some of the roles we have seen him in since. Still, he is completely convincing as Daniel. He is smooth and confident, yet we are exposed to his insecurities. He fears the future and the thought of having to resort to being the low life everyone thinks he is, not smart enough to have a real future. Busy Phillips did very well making us unsure whether we hated or loved her. As time went on and the humanity in her was depicted more, we saw that she is really fragile but puts up a tough front to protect herself.
Seth Rogen did well and was probably the most low key main character. There was an ongoing joke about his voice always sounding sarcastic. I liked it that as the season went on, through his relationship with Amy, they went in to his character more, letting us see a more serious side to him as he was dealing with some life changing questions about himself.
Martin Starr was hilarious as Bill, one of the geekiest of the geeks. However, his comedy wasn’t through this stereotype, but just his personal characteristics. Bill’s outlook and unique way of seeing things and simply even the way Starr used the dialogue and showed his expressions was extremely funny.
Another very comical character was Millie played by Sarah Hagan. Her character is everyone’s idea of the perfect child. Millie is appalled by drinking, drugs, any type of sexual acts, even kissing. She particularly is disgusted my Lindsay’s new friends. She is pretty much an activist against them and is trying to “save” Lindsay. Her reactions and just how astonished she is by the simplest things is pretty wild. When she is faced with crisis, she ends up going the opposite direction, which seems even more bizarre.
Natasha Melnick as Cindy Sanders shows us the shockingly nice cheerleader. She talks to Sam as an equal rather than looking down on him like the others too. Having one nice cheerleader in the cluster of self-centered, snobby, mean cheerleaders is believable. I like that through Sam and Cindy’s relationship it was exposed that being nice and attractive isn’t enough, there has to be a connection behind it. Lindsay and Sam’s parents played by Becky Ann Barker and Joe Flaherty were full of life and were given some depth as well as comedy.
There were some great guest appearances too. One of my favorites was David Krumholtz as Neil’s older brother who is visiting from college. As much as I wanted Lindsay and Nick to be together I couldn’t help but adore what he had going with Lindsay. It was just one night so they weren’t even dating, but they seemed to really get one another, which made Lindsay’s need for distance from Nick more understandable. I also loved how he described college as being a whole new start and an entirely different life than high school, which is very true. Krumholtz has a lot of experience as the geek, which showed that college took that away and let him be whoever he wanted to be. This just happened to be a much more confident and happier person.
Lizzy Caplan is in a few episodes as Nick’s new girlfriend, Sarah. She turns him in to a disco loving dancer, very different from his rebellious rock and roll spirit. Caplan plays a sweet girl and much more of a product of pop culture than we are used to. Really her character is selfish and tries to conform Nick to what she wants him to be. Ben Foster has an interesting performance as Eli, a mentally challenged student at McKingley High. Despite some bad treatment, he is proud to be himself. The interactions Lindsay in particular has with him say a lot about her character.
Rashida Jones has an appearance as an even more intense Kim Kelly through her bullying and flirting with Daniel. Ben Stiller makes a small appearance as the security of the president and ends up talking about his problems with the guidance counselor, Mr. Rosso played by Dave Allen. Mr. Rosso is a hippie type, but speaks out against drugs. He tries to save the “freak” crowd and takes a special interest in Lindsay. His casualty combined with his ideas of the extreme circumstances seem to be opposite, but end up working together to make him a very colorful character.
Freaks and Geeks depicts high school with great honesty. It has excellent character development. The script is wickedly funny through its uniqueness yet also deals with so many universal issues in life, especially those for teens. It takes place in the 80’s and it is true to the time period, but it also manages to put everything in to perspective reaching everyone. I think this is a show that will age even better. After all, it has been almost a decade since this was aired and you would never guess it by watching it. It is truly astonishing just how many talented people were involved with the show that put commitment and truth in to every second that they are on screen. The way everything blends together so perfectly is unbelievable and is a showcase of the dedication and intelligence that was put forth.
Freaks and Geeks is very much for the fans. It is for the misfits, which translates to it being for everyone. No matter who you are there is some point in everyone’s life where you rebelled about something or in a specific situation didn’t fit in. It deals with everyone from the freaks, the geeks, the troubled parents, the concerned parents, the popular crowd, the bullies, and even the teachers. It isn’t just one perspective; it deals with everyone and gives justice to all of them. The show speaks to everyone and gives us all a very true reality. The world of Freaks and Geeks is one we can relate to, appreciate, and have a genuinely enjoyable time watching, which leaves us wanting more and leaving us with a sense of pride.