**This was supposed to be posted on Friday, but I was unexpectedly and unhappily without internet all weekend so it’s Freaky Monday instead. The Friday schedule will be in effect though for part 2 and beyond.
Just as a general FYI, on the off chance that there are people who are actually watching the show for the first time along with the posts, I won’t be spoiling future storylines here. You can do so in the comments, just remember to put a big ‘ol SPOILER ALERT warning first. Cool? Cool.
High school, you guys. I think most people would agree that Charles Dickens’ opening line from ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ just about covers it: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I can’t think of a time in my life that was filled with so much emotional intensity, drama, mortification, vomit, bad hair and awkward sexual experiences, and yet…it was also one of the best times of my life, and a period I look back on with both intense nostalgia and an almost crazy desire to relive it. My biggest fantasy in life, I swear, is not getting horizontal with Timothy Olyphant (that’s a close second, though) – it’s that I wake up one morning in like a ’17 Again’ type situation, and have to relive high school with my current brain. But since none of the ancient Indian artifacts I’ve wished on at the stroke of midnight have worked, the next best thing is to live vicariously through television. So, it’s no wonder that I love, love, LOVE Freaks and Geeks.
There have been many, MANY shows about high school over the years, but there have been very few that actually got it right. I loved 90210 and Dawson’s Creek like everyone else, but they were more like you wanted high school to be (Drama! Shopping! Endless stream of reciprocating love interests! BMWs!), rather than how it really was. The only shows that felt authentic to me were FnG, The Wonder Years and My So-Called Life (this totally has to be another DVD Rewatch project, right?) – if I’m forgetting any, please don’t hesitate to yell at me in the comments, but no others come to mind.
I didn’t watch FnG for the first time until I had been out of high school for almost ten years (I missed it when it was on tv) and it was kind of a shock, how visceral the experience felt. I felt like I remembered having those same conversations, laughing at the same things, making the same mistakes as the kids at McKinley High – it was love at first watch.
Obviously one of the huge draws to the show (besides the impeccable quality) is the cast. At the time, these were mostly (all?) unknown actors which was vital to the realism of the world that they were creating. Now, of course, the casting people seem like a bunch of goddam geniuses considering how well everyone has done for themselves.
The award for most changed has to be John Daley, who went from adorable little scamp Sam Weir to the strapping, nerdlicious Dr. Sweets on Bones. He looks so different that you have to remind yourself it’s the same actor. His voice too is crazy different – it’s kind of hilarious to listen to the DVD commentaries with Daley, because they were recorded several years after the show was filmed and he’s got his deep man voice contrasted with his show voice from back before his balls dropped. In fact, I’ll take this opportunity now to say that if you don’t own the DVDs and you love the show, you should really buy the set. It’s one of the best sets ever, in terms of the special features. I’m pretty sure that there are commentaries (sometimes more than one) for every episode and there are tons of other features like deleted scenes, bloopers, audition footage, behind the scenes footage, etc. If you’ve heard me go on about the Community S1 set, you know I’m a total nerd who actually watches all that stuff, so this set is heaven.
Of course, there’s The Franco, who plays stoner ‘bad boy’ Daniel Desario, unofficial leader of the freaks. Who knew he’d go on to obtain every post-graduate degree offered by all of the Ivy League schools, become a huge movie star and host the Oscars? Franco makes me feel really lazy, you guys. Seriously. I get tired just reading interviews with him.
Then there are your Jason Segels, your Seth Rogens, and your Busy Phillips’. Segel and Rogen are huge tv and movie stars in their own rights (and hello, that Muppets movie is the thing I’m most looking forward to in theaters this year, I swear), and Phillips went on to become the reason why the college years of Dawson’s Creek didn’t suck and also one of the stars of Cougar Town, which is awesome and SB needs to totally get on board (ahem).
Most everyone else has had success too – and deservedly so, because they are all fantastic. I particularly enjoyed Martin Starr (Bill Haverchuck) on Party Down as ‘hard sci-fi’ writer and all around dillhole Roman. It’s kind of great to watch him as Bill again, with his adorable mouth-breathing and open-mouthed chewing. He was so sweet, like a little bird with a broken wing and an unhealthy fixation on the show Dallas.
The opening couple of episodes of the show serve to really introduce us to the dynamic of the kids, the Weir home, the school, and everyone’s role in the school hierarchy. Lindsay and Sam Weir, as the main protagonists of the show, are the central characters in these eps; in particular Sam’s desire to become the boyfriend of cheerleader Cindy and less of a walking punching bag, and Lindsay’s desire to move away from her goody-goody mathlete past.
One thing this show isn’t afraid to do is bring back the pain and awkwardness that is pretty much forefront for everyone’s high school years. The storyline with Lindsay trying to do the right thing with developmentally-disabled Eli which ends up backfiring and making things much worse (she calls him retarded and he ends up breaking his arm running away from her) is one of those moments. God, you can’t help but cringe watching it but everyone’s had a moment or two where they unintentionally acted like a huge asshole, right? Who can’t identify with that?
I have to say, and this is probably the case for a lot of you, but I felt super connected to Lindsay because I totally WAS her in high school. When I got there in grade 9 (Canadian – deal with it), I was a fantastic student and eager to please my teachers and parents – I had represented my school in a nation-wide math competition in grade 8, and my friends and I were the types who (in elementary school) went in a few days before it started every summer to help the teachers set up the classrooms – true story. By the time I left high school, it was at the request of my Vice Principal (which is a nice way of saying I was expelled), so I had a bit of a personal journey over the course of those formative years too. I very clearly remember wanting to get out of my comfort zone and start rebelling, and the desire to befriend the kids on the fringes of our school’s ecosystem.
Lindsay began that journey in the pilot episode. Her progression to the ‘dark side’ is explained by the fact that she had a crisis of faith after her beloved grandma died and claimed to see nothing in the way of harps or angels or even light as she did. My own beloved Grandma died when I was pretty much the same age, and while I don’t think it was the catalyst for me that it was for her, it’s one more thing we have in common. She starts wearing her dad’s old army jacket, reaching out to the ‘freaks’ on the smoking patio and even (gasp!) skipping class. Then, in episode two, she makes that critical high school mistake – she has a party at her own house.
This is something that I managed to avoid, probably because I had been scared straight by episodes of Growing Pains and Saved by the Bell, which to be fair, Lindsay didn’t have the benefit of in 1980. I saw way too many houses get destroyed (literally in one case – the living room floor caved in when too many people were dancing to ‘Jump Around’) to ever dare to have more than my closest friends over. I may have been rebellious, but I wasn’t stupid. Can you imagine how much worse this problem is now that the internet exists? One Facebook post could have the whole school at your house within an hour.
The worst part of it all, and the part that rang the most true, was that Lindsay only agreed to have the party at all because she totally wanted to impress and possibly smooch Daniel, and then his on/off girlfriend Kim showed up and totally cockblocked her IN HER OWN BED. This is what I’m talking about with the realism – this would not have happened to Jen Lindley or Kelly Taylor. At least not without some big dramatic scene to cap it off. Nope, it was just Lindsay, having her heart quietly smashed to pieces, and then realizing that she’s got this terrible party happening around her and spinning out of control and it was all for nothing.
Sam fared a little better – his friends stood up to a kid that, for no reason other than boredom and assholery, decided to torment their little group. Sure, they didn’t necessarily WIN and considering it was three on one, yikes – that’s actually pretty embarrassing. But they got some self-respect back, and that’s something. Sam also made a bit of headway with Cindy Sanders, getting to dance with her (to Come Sail Away by Styx, which was way before my time, but will forever remind me of high school thanks to this show and The Virgin Suicides) and hanging out with her at Lindsay’s party.
Other moments of note:
- The party full of kids acting drunk on non-alcoholic beer was so perfect. I thought it was so realistic as something a bunch of kids at that age would do – they could actually conjure drunkenness because they just wanted it so fucking badly.
- Nick’s drum kit has ten cowbells
- Rogen’s character Ken is fantastic – I SO knew that guy who was like, too cool and always fucking with your head and trying to throw you off. And I had the same cringe-worthy, too-earnest, not-getting-the-joke-but-pretending-to reactions that Lindsay has to everything he says. Perfection.
- The Weir parents are two of my favorite characters – especially Mr. Weir and his constant reminders that poor decisions will result in death (‘You know who else cut corners? Janis Joplin!’)
- Nick tried to unhook Lindsay’s bra before he even kissed her – classic rookie mistake, and he paid the penalty.
So, that about wraps it up for me – I’d love to hear your thoughts on the show. Like I said, if you mention upcoming storylines in your comments, please put a spoiler alert in case someone hasn’t watched the show yet (although the beauty of FnG is really in the details and not so much the crazy plot twists anyway). Come back Friday for part 2 of the rewatch, where I’ll be covering ‘Tricks and Treats’ and ‘Tests and Breasts’. Now hit the comments and don’t be afraid to discuss your own high school trauma. This show brings my memories to the forefront, so I’m sure you’ll be reading a lot of embarrassing stories from me over the next several weeks – how about I show you mine, you show me yours?