Updated: November 7, 2020 6:02:43 pm
The world of teenagers has fascinated content creators for ages but since the shows and films based on their lives are usually a romanticised version of real experiences, what we ultimately get in the name of a ‘real high school’ show is an imaginary life that we wish we had. The teenage genre has gone through many makeovers in the last 20 years. While there is stuff like Mean Girls and That 70s Show that abides by the stereotypes sincerely, there have also been movies like Superbad, Easy A and Booksmart which break down those classic cliches. In many ways, that new approach to high-school drama started with Judd Apatow and Paul Feig’s 1999 show Freaks and Geeks.
Starring Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and Busy Philipps among others, Freaks and Geeks is one of those TV shows that has developed a loyal fan base over the years.
What is Freaks and Geeks all about?
Freaks and Geeks follows two groups of high school students who are labelled as ‘freaks’ and ‘geeks’ by their peers. The ‘freaks’ bum around all day long and aren’t really serious about anything apart from just chilling. The ‘geeks’, on the other hand, are studious, self-righteous teens who are usually kicked around by the popular kids. Freaks and Geeks’ plot unravels from the point of view of Lindsey Weir (Linda Cardellini) who stands somewhere in the middle of these two groups. Her character subverts stereotypes.
The show understands the struggle of teenage years and doesn’t offer simple-minded solutions to those problems. It acknowledges those problems and does not make false promises to impressionable teens. It understands the vulnerability of teenage years and empathises. The best part of Freaks and Geeks was that it never watered down any tough conversations but was, in fact, very open to the idea that teenagers are still struggling to find their identity.
The show avoids over-the-top drama and has a certain ease. The ease with which Lindsey decides to breaks up with Nick is still something that we don’t see on screen, even though it is closest to the real experience of a casual break up. The characters here understand friendship and are dedicated as friends without the nauseating pressure that we often see in movies.
The legacy of Freaks and Geeks
Freaks and Geeks ran for only 18 episodes and was cancelled just after one season. But over the years, it has become one of those TV shows that has developed a cult following, and it’s mainly because of the tone of the series that is relatable. The show kick-started the careers of James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Linda Cardellini and Busy Philipps. It was also one of the early projects of Martin Starr (Bertram Gilfoyle of Silicon Valley), John Francis Daley (who is now a screenwriter and director of films like Horrible Bosses, Game Night among others) and creator Paul Feig. Feig has since directed shows like The Office, Arrested Development, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, and films like Bridesmaids, The Heat and the new Ghostbusters.
The show even won an Emmy for Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series for its only season, apart from two other nominations.
Freaks and Geeks was on air before any of these cast and crew members made it big. The show was cancelled at the time mainly because the executives at the network did not really believe in it much and Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow have often spoken about it openly. The show was tossed around in different time slots, and the executives did not really understand the essence of the ‘new kind of high school show’ that the creators were attempting to make.
Over the years, the show has impacted many other creators in redefining high-school dramas. The centerstage that ‘geeks’ got here was later magnified with shows like The Big Bang Theory.
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Freaks and Geeks is one of those TV shows that is a must-watch. Even though it’s more than 20 years old at this point, it remains just as fresh, and that’s because of its essence that is timeless. It encapsulates the teenage experience in a way that doesn’t diminish or glorify it, but makes it feel like a diary that we wished we maintained to remember those years.
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