Sunday, August 26, 2007

Freaks and Geeks Rewind: Discos and Dragons

And so we've come to the end of our summer experiment. Very, very, very long spoilers for "Discos and Dragons," the final episode of "Freaks and Geeks," coming up just as soon as I learn to thread the projector...

"Discos and Dragons" was the In Case of Emergency finale. Convinced (rightly) that cancellation was imminent, Judd Apatow told Paul Feig to take as many ideas as he had for the future and stuff them into a single episode while he still had the chance. In fact, they even shot it a few weeks ahead of schedule, just so they would have a proper finale in the can should NBC shut down production early. But the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink aspect to its creation doesn't make the episode feel cluttered. If anything, the three major storylines seem together as if by design. What more perfect ending could there be for this series -- an 18-hour meditation on teenagers struggling to carve new identities for themselves -- than a triptych of stories in which three characters adopt completely unexpected new personas?

It's such a great finale -- one of the best ever, for any show -- that I'm going to ramble on a little more than usual. You may want to print this out and save it for bathroom reading, I don't know.

Let's start with the Dragons portion of the show, in which Daniel hits rock bottom and discovers the geeks are already there, just waiting to invite him to their D&D game.

This subplot actually begins as more of a pure geek story (even though the three central figures of the finale are all freaks). Bill, Sam and Neal are marching down the hallway, speculating on what people are going to write in their yearbooks -- Sam, optimistic, predicts some girl will confess a crush on him, while Neal knows that once again he'll get a lot of "You're a wild and crazy guy"s -- when a bunch of jocks run by, yell their intentions to clean out the geeks, and knock their books to the ground. While this is far from the worst humiliation any of them has suffered this year, it feels like the last straw to Sam, who complains that he doesn't want to be called a geek anymore, and wonders what's so geeky about them. Cue the perfectly-timed Harris, who wanders up with his new Dungeons & Dragons handbook, an easy answer to Sam's question.

Fortunately, sanctuary is only a few doors away, as the geeks arrive at the A/V room, where grown up, unapologetic geek Mr. Fleck always knows just the right thing to say to cheer them up. While puffing on a cigarette (a "cool" behavior he warns them not to imitate), he presents a graph of the lives of the jocks, starting with their early athletic triumphs. "Right there, where they cleaned you out? That's the pinnacle of their lives," he insists, then rattles off all the bad things that will happen to them in the future. The geeks, meanwhile, have nowhere to go but up: Ivy League schools, older girls realizing that they like smart guys, Fortune 500 jobs, and the inevitable moment where the jocks asks them if they want fries with that. (It's a lovely sentiment, but as the show pointed out repeatedly, our three main geeks weren't necessarily that smart -- or, at least, that academically inclined -- and I unfortunately could envision a future where Bill is serving fries to Todd Schellinger.) Sam, because he's 14 and has no interest in the "things get better when you're older" authority figure song and dance, complains that he wants things to improve right away. Mr. Fleck says the best they can do for now is to enjoy the simple pleasures in life... like the 18mm print of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" he just borrowed from his counterpart over at Lincoln. Neal raves that "A/V is paradise on Earth," but Sam doesn't seem convinced.

Speaking of not being academically inclined, Daniel is planning to cheat on Kowchevski's final exam off a guy named Dave, but on discovering that Dave broke his arm in gym class earlier that day, he goes into panic mode and slips out to pull the fire alarm. One problem: Mr. Rosso happens to be rounding the hall and tells him, "Better be a fire, bro." Rosso, as usual, tries to appear down with the young people, suggesting that Daniel thinks he's cool. "Don't think you're the Fonz or something? If a jukebox was broken, think you could hit it and it would start playing?" (Daniel, who probably hasn't watched "Happy Days" since junior high, if ever, just hangs his head in defeat.) Rosso says he's tried to be nice and is tired of Daniel taking advantage of that fact, so now he's going to humiliate Daniel by sending him to... the A/V room. One man's paradise on Earth is another man's Hell, apparently.

As all the geeks are having fun in A/V talking about their experiences screening the "girls' time of the month films," Mr. Fleck breaks the news about Daniel to them. Neal is indignant, both that someone would consider coming here punishment, and that they'll all have to suffer for Daniel's sins. Daniel, mortified and completely shut down (a state he'll remain in until the Dancing Sword scene) enters and tries to appear very, very small and quiet. Sam, who knows him through Lindsay, tries to be friendly without much luck, and the always-optimistic Gordon Crisp asks Daniel if he knows how to fix a projector. Daniel doesn't, and when Gordon offers to teach him, Daniel sinks even lower into his chair and says "Great."

In the cafeteria, Neal tries to get the other geeks to battlestations, insisting that Daniel will ruin the only place in school they like. Gordon shares the usual gossip about the freaks being high all the time and going nuts on drugs, and when Sam tries to defend Daniel as a good guy, Neal rebuts, "Sam, he gave you a porno. I wouldn't say you have a meaningful relationship with him." Over Sam's protests that they don't know him, Neal insists they have to make sure that Daniel shows movies every day so he won't be around to cause problems.

A day or two later, Lindsay, Nick and Kim are in English class with their fop of a teacher, when they're all stunned to see Daniel wheeling in the projector to screen the Zeffirelli "Romeo and Juliet." As the English teacher drones on and on about Zeffirelli casting real teenagers in the title role, Nick coughs out a "Geek!," Lindsay glances at Daniel with pity and Daniel struggles mightily to get the film going. After repeated assistance from some random kid, the projector starts working, the class gives Daniel a round of mock applause ("Saints be praised," sighs the teacher) and Daniel shrinks into a chair again, hating himself.

Daniel tries to throw himself a pity party, but Kim refuses the invitation, saying that it was his own choice to pull the fire alarm. "I suck at math!" Daniel moans. "I suck at everything!" Kim (either fed up with Daniel getting into trouble or feeling sorry for herself about the impending arrival of another crappy summer) has no pep talk to give him, and when Daniel complains that he always listens to her rant about her problems, she tells him coldly, "Why don't you go tell it to the fire alarm?"

(I feel like the episode's missing a scene, or even a line or two of dialogue, that gets more deeply into Kim's reasons for distancing herself from Daniel. It's not like he's done anything to her directly that would piss her off, but at the same time her being on the outs with him helps set up her scenes with Lindsay in the Deadhead plot, as well as Daniel's scenes with the geeks.)

In the hallway, Bill and Neal are getting excited about the upcoming D&D game. Bill wants to be a thief named Gorthon, even though Neal complains that he always falls down a well trying to steal stuff. Neal's going to stick with his Kragenmor the Destroyer character (apologies if I misspelled that one; my F&G script books are packed away right now) and asks Sam if Logan the Huge will be joining them. Sam's still suffering his bout of geek self-hatred and says he doesn't want to play. Neal accuses him of feeling too cool since he dumped Cindy (even though part of the reason Sam dumped Cindy was so he could go back to having fun as a geek). They argue over whether the game's too geeky, and Sam realizes he left a book back in A/V. He goes to retrieve it and finds Daniel slaving over the projector and a manual, desperately trying to learn how to be good at something for once.

The next day in A/V, Harris is boasting about the D&D campaign he has planned for that night (Gordon and Bill naturally go off on a tangent about the hot-looking goddesses in the handbooks) and mentions the use of the Dancing Sword. Daniel, who's been sitting small and silent as usual, stuns everyone by asking what the Da
ncing Sword is. Harris explains that it's a sword that can fight independently of its owner, and when Daniel complains about knights staying home and sending swords into battle for them, Sam tells him that the owner has to be nearby, and that the Dancing Sword is just a gimmick to allow you to fight two enemies at once. Daniel's genuinely impressed by this, and Harris -- who, don't forget, once suggested Daniel might make a good Dungeonmaster -- invites him to come play tonight, to Daniel's confusion and Neal's dismay. Harris insists Daniel would like it, and when Daniel laments that he wouldn't be good at it, Sam talks about how much fun they have telling stupid jokes and scarfing down junk food. Then Gordon -- lovable, always look on the bright side of life Gordon -- puts it in irresistible language for Daniel: "And the best part is, you get to pretend to be somebody you can't be in real life." Daniel agrees to play but tries to manage expectations about how terrible he'll be. Harris says he can't be worse than Bill, then asks Sam if he'll play. With his sister's cool, leather jacket-wearing friend in on the game, suddenly D&D seems more intriguing to Sam and he agrees.

That night in the Weir dining room, the geeks set about transforming Daniel into one of their own. Harris explains that Daniel will have to roll for his ability scores, and when the other geeks complain that Harris likes to use his role as Dungeonmaster to mess with their heads, he says in this marvelously sarcastic (and yet very Canadian) tone of voice, "Oh, I'm sorry. Perhaps I should let you encounter kittens and grandmas, so as not to upset you." Daniel rolls the dice, and it quickly becomes clear that he'll be a dwarf. Daniel doesn't want that, he wants to be a big destroyer guy like Neal plays as, but the guys convince him that dwarves are better at a lot of things than people give them credit for. (Again, this is just the message Daniel wants/needs to hear.) So he agrees, so long as he can call himself Carlos (no doubt an homage to Santana, which he and Nick discussed back in "Tricks and Treats"). "Carlos the Dwarf?" asks Bill, incredulous. "Yeah, you got a problem with it, Gorthon?" Daniel retorts sarcastically. When he sees all the geeks recoil at his tone (again, they don't know him), he laughs and says he was just joking, and from there on out, things go smoothly.

We don't see any actual playing of the game (though there's a deleted scene where Daniel figures out how to get everyone safely out of a dark cavern), but we see a montage of everyone -- especially Daniel -- having a blast. We return a few hours later (a record finish for a D&D campaign?) to Daniel proudly declaring, "Greetings, princess. It is I, Carlos the Dwarf. The dragon has been slain, and you're free to rule your kingdom." Harris congratulates him, the geeks all applaud. Daniel looks the happiest that we have ever seen him and asks if they can play again tomorrow night. As Daniel goes to the kitchen for a soda (after first asking the other guys if he can get them something, another sign of how happy and grateful he is to be in their presence, as he would never make the same offer to Ken), the geeks quietly huddle up and ponder the significance of Daniel's presence. "Does him wanting to play with us again mean he's turning into a geek or we're turning into cool guys?" asks Bill. Sam mulls it over and decides, "I'm going to go for us becoming cool guys."

If it hadn't been for Daniel's stint as a punk in "Noshing and Moshing," and, to a lesser extent, some of the scenes in "Looks and Books" (including the deleted bit where he asks Kowchevski for tutoring), I might have a harder time buying the geek wish-fulfillment aspects of all this. But Daniel's clearly been someone searching for a new role to play other than King of the Dirtbags, so why not Carlos the Dwarf?

So here's my question: in your imagined second season of this show, how long did Daniel's geekdom last? It's kind of a nice respite from all the crap in his life, but at the same time Daniel's 3-4 years older than his new pals, and if there's been a ruling impulse in his life other than self-loathing, it's a need to seem cool. He agrees to play in part because he's estranged from his own group; Kim and Nick mocked his moment of shame with the projector, and he and Kim had another of their temporary break-ups. What's going to happen when Kim comes back from following the Dead and finds out that Daniel's been hanging out with a bunch of freshman nerds and playing Dungeons & Dragons? How much is Ken going to make fun of him for this? And would Daniel have the intestinal fortitude to stand up for his new friends, or would he immediately fall back into his old pattern of delinquency and not giving a damn? And how exactly would Mr. Weir respond to the hoodlum he didn't want around Lindsay (more on that below) suddenly hanging out with young Sam?

While you mull that over, let's move on to Nick's story of death by disco.

It's the Friday night before Daniel's fateful D&D game, and the bowling alley on 15 Mile is having its weekly disco night (where Mr. Rosso picked up the woman who gave him herpes), DJ'ed by none other than the guy who sold Sam his Parisian night suit. Daniel and Ken show up, dragging Kim and Lindsay (but not Amy, no doubt a victim of the out-of-order production) along for a freak tradition: mocking disco and anything associated with it. Daniel and Ken count to three and yell out "Disco sucks!," which brings the entire dance floor to a halt... including a polyester-clad Nick, who's there with Abba-loving Sara, whom he's been dating on the sly for a while now.

The freaks are all aghast and, back at school, they try to get to the bottom of this strange new relationship. Kim insists to Lindsay that this is just a ploy to make Lindsay jealous. Ken does a slow burn as Sara calls him "Kenny" and invites him to practice dance moves with her and Nick. They're so excessively schmoopy that Ken finally asks Nick, "When does Allen Funt come boogieing out?" Nick, having gone completely to the dark side, starts comparing disco favorably to Led Zeppelin, and Ken bluntly states the making-Lindsay-jealous theory. When Nick storms off, annoyed, Ken grabs Lindsay and begs her to start dating Nick again; "I can't take much more of this."

In his basement -- still bereft of the drum kit -- Nick and Sara practice their moves in preparation for him competing in that week's dance contest at the bowling alley. Nick marvels at how good he is at this, since he couldn't stand disco. Maybe, he suggests, "you end up being the best at something you hate." As if that wasn't enough of a warning sign to Sara, he goes on to talk about how good Lindsay is at math even though she doesn't enjoy it, and Sara wisely calls a time-out to find out what Nick's feelings are for his ex. Nick pledges his allegiance to Sara, and she confesses that he's had a crush on him since the sixth grade. "I can't believe that you like me," she says. (She's Nick's own Nick, way too into him for anyone's sake.)

The night of the contest, Ken literally drags Lindsay through the bowling alley, begging her to help him undo Nick's disco brainwashing, but the DJ spots him as the heckler from last week and tries to mock him in turn. As the bouncer drags him out, Ken points that the place is empty and disco is dead, but the DJ insists (in a marvel of spacey devotion by Joel Hodgson), "Disco is alive! It's alive, I tell you! You know it, and I know it, and" -- as he puts "I Will Survive" on the turntable -- "Miss Gloria Gaynor knows it, too!"

(One person who doesn't know it: the bouncer, who tells Ken he's right, and that Disco Night will be replaced by Foxy Boxing as of next week.)

Lindsay's on her own, and Nick insists to her that he's not doing this to win her back. "I'm not some idiot," he says. "You told me to move on, and so I did." Nick goes on and on about how Sara's introduced him to all kinds of new things, and that he even quit smoking pot. Lindsay -- who might still be with him had he been willing to give up the ganja -- is taken aback, and tries to recover by complimenting him for the achievement. "You seem like you're having way more fun with her than you ever did with me," she says, before wishing him luck in the contest and walking out.

As Nick turns back towards the dance floor, he looks completely and utterly defeated; he was putting on a good front for Lindsay, but everyone was 100 percent right that this entire thing has been one painful, unsuccessful ruse to win her back. (Lindsay's expression as she exits is harder to read; obviously, she's upset he couldn't find the strength to stop smoking pot while he was with her, but I can't decide if she wishes she was still with him now that he's clean.)

The opening bass line of "The Groove Line" begins, and after Nick casts one last regretful look back at the departing Lindsay, he puts on his angry game face and launches into an epic dance routine, at once smooth (the moves themselves, which he's great at) and ridiculous (the look on his face, which is 1000 times too intense for the moment). In one of the commentaries, Apatow laments that intercutting the dance scene with Lindsay's departure casts the scene in a much sadder tone than he maybe wanted, but I think that's what makes it brilliant. It's comic and tragic at the same time: Nick now trapped in a relationship he hates as much as Lindsay hated being with him, discovering that he's a far better disco dancer than he ever was a rock drummer, strutting around that dance floor looking like he wants to kill someone. If it didn't require so much advance knowledge about Nick and Lindsay and their doomed relationship, I would easily pick it as the perfect scene to show to someone to explain the genius of the series. As it is, Segel's dancing is so funny I might use it, anyway.

And even if Nick's dancing gets a little too sad for Apatow's liking, the button to this subplot is so hysterical on its own that all should be forgiven. After Nick's turn is over, he's replaced by "the magical disco stylings of Eugene," a floppy-haired, leisure suit-wearing guy who doesn't so much dance as do a little mime and then start pulling out scarves, canes and playing cards for various tricks. The crowd eats it up, and as Nick sees even this hollow victory slipping away, he protests, "They didn't say you were allowed to do magic!" (As if he would have been able to had he just been allowed.) Sara then commits the cardinal girlfriend sin of rooting for the other guy, saying of Eugene, "Wow. He's really good." (Check the look of disgust on Nick's face in reaction to that; as if he didn't already hate this relationship enough, you know?)

Finally, we come to the one D-word left out of the title: Deadhead.

The same English teacher who took such delight in disparaging Daniel announces to the class that our very own Lindsay Weir has been selected to attend a prestigious two-week academic summit at the University of Michigan. Lindsay doesn't seem pleased by this development, especially after hearing a description that involves daily ranking, competitions and rivalries -- in other words, all the things she gladly left behind when she quit Mathletes.

Mr. Rosso is dumbfounded by Lindsay's unhappy reaction. She protests that she hasn't studied much this year; are the other students in Michigan that dumb? No, Rosso tells her; she's just that darned smart! He starts quoting lyrics from the Grateful Dead's "Box of Rain," which she predictably doesn't recognize, and after a bit of Abbott and Costello ("Quoting the who?" "Not The Who! The Grateful Dead!"), he pulls out his copy of "American Beauty" (the album, not the movie) and explains that it helped get him through a lot of confusing times in college. (Or did it? More below.) Sensing her confusion, he loans her the record to help her get through finals and get her mind right for the summit -- not realizing how badly this one decision will backfire for McKinley High's academic pride.

While Lindsay's walking through the cafeteria, the Deadheads we first met in "Smooching and Mooching" spot the album tucked under her arm and compliment her good taste. Lindsay admits she's never heard it before, and they tell her it's the best album ever. Deadhead Samaire gushes, in her glassy way, "I wish I never heard it, just so I could hear it again for the first time." After school, Lindsay drops the needle on the record, and as "Box of Rain" begins to play, she lets the music slowly wash over her, until she's swinging her arms and dancing around like she's standing in the mud at Woodstock. (Cardellini and Segel must have been killer dance partners when they were still together, no?) Clearly, the music speaks to her like it spoke to Mr. Rosso.

At dinnertime, Jean and Harold rave about Lindsay getting into the summit, and are taken aback when she suggests she might not go. "Are you wacky?" asks Harold. (John Daley has a great moment where he laughs and repeats "Wacky?" with his mouth full of food.) "You are going to that summit, Lindsay. It isn't even open for debate." Jean and Harold explain that she'll be exposed to so many great people, get a foothold into attending any college she wants, and shut down any of Lindsay's attempts to protest.

At the cafeteria, the Deadheads tell Lindsay stories of following the Dead around on tour. Deadhead Samaire talks about a show in Jersey where it started raining, and everyone danced in the mud, and when a rainbow fell over the stage, "I started crying." (The funny thing is, Samaire sounds exactly like she does when she's not playing a stoned character.) The male Deadhead pulls a Gordon Crisp and puts the culture into language Lindsay can get behind: "It's about being together and having a good time... Judging has nothing to do with it. That's not what the Dead are about. It's about being connected and being free." They intend to spend a week and a half after school ends following the Dead from Texas to Colorado, and when Lindsay sheepishly explains she won't be able to go because of the academic summit, they cement their position as her new idols by not judging her about it, saying, "You gotta do what you gotta do."

While walking the halls with Kim, Lindsay complains about the summit and how it'll feel like going back into school. Kim, as she did with Daniel, declines to feign sympathy, instead noting that at least Lindsay gets to leave town for a while and do something, while Kim herself will be stuck behind because she has no money and, besides, Daniel hates going anywhere. Lindsay -- relatively well-off Lindsay, with her functional, supportive parents -- tries to suggest that Kim can go anywhere she wants, but Kim -- she of the ramshackle home, harpy of a mother and creepy stepdad -- replies, "That's easy for you to say, Lindsay, 'cause you get to leave. I don't."

(Watching the episode in chronological order, we then spend a while with Lindsay and Nick at the bowling alley, but when I sorted my notes by storyline, I was struck by the fact that the Kim scene leads directly into the next one. I've always wondered how much of Lindsay's decision has to do with her desire to escape her brainy good girl image once and for all and how much is her trying to help out best pal Kim. I think it's probably 70-30 image reinvention, but I could be persuaded to change that ratio.)

The Weirs walk Lindsay to the bus, Lindsay lying that she doesn't want to be driven to Ann Arbor so she can spend the trip thinking and getting her head straight. Jean and Harold are overflowing with pride, and Sam says he's going to miss her. Neal and Bill run up to say goodbye, Neal offering a box of chocolates as his latest futile attempt to woo Lindsay. (Bill, hilariously, notes that they give the same gift to his grandma whenever she travels by bus -- along with pinning her name and address to her coat in case she gets lost.) Lindsay kisses them both on the cheek, and Neal is naturally outraged over Bill getting equal reward even though he didn't spend a cent.

We hear the acoustic guitar of "Ripple" begin to play, and Linda Cardellini absolutely destroys me with the way she turns back from the bus steps and says, "Hey, Mom?" Jean, ignorant of what her daughter plans to do, beams and says, "Yes, sweetie?" Lindsay, fully aware that she's about to break her mother's heart -- that she's going to fundamentally alter her relationship with her parents, forever -- tries to find a way to apologize in advance, but all she can say is, "I'll see you soon."

The bus pulls away, the Weirs and Neal and Bill waving enthusiastically as Lindsay has to live with her decision. But by the time the bus pulls up to a stop (still in town? in Ann Arbor? I'm never clear, and it's obviously an LA city street), she's clearly made her peace with it, and steps off to see Kim leaning against the Deadheads' VW Microbus (of course they drive a Microbus), waiting to greet her for the start of their journey along the concert road. Lindsay strips off the conservative jacket she'd been wearing and gladly pulls on her familiar Army jacket (embracing her freakdom once and for all). Everyone piles into the van, and Samaire drives them up to the corner where the bus is sitting and then off in the opposite direction.

The End.

I've always loved that ending, but it really angers some people I know well -- including my wife and one of my sisters, both of whom attended summer academic events in high school and had a great time. I feel like, having gone back and looked at all 18 hours of this series, Lindsay was no longer a person who was capable of enjoying herself at an event like that. "Looks and Books" clearly showed that. If it wasn't the Dead, or Kim's need for some kind of summer adventure, she would have found another excuse not to go. It's who she had become, for good or for ill.

And while we're debating whether Lindsay made the right choice or not, let's also have a spirited argument about my old good-looking corpse theory: that I'd rather have one perfect season of a show than witness it get watered-down over the years as producers repeat themselves, try to attract a bigger audience, etc. It's a theory directly inspired by this here show. While we have no way of knowing what the creative team would have been able to do in the event of a miracle renewal, I imagine NBC would have put on major pressure to make the show more commercial, just like "Homicide" wound up featuring all those serial killers and evil drug lords and beauty queen detectives as a compromise for its continued survival.

For what it's worth, I asked Apatow what remaining plans he had for a second season that didn't get used up by episodes like this and the Sam dates Cindy arc, and this is what he wrote:
I wanted to write about Lindsay having a real drug problem. Bill's mom would marry the gym teacher and Bill would be forced by his step dad to play on the school basketball team. And I would have explored Neal's parents' divorce trial and his life as he lived with his mom and saw dad on Sundays.
If Paul Feig or any of the other writers are out there and want to share any other stories they hoped to do in year two, fire away. Clearly, though, there was lots of material still to be written about these characters. (Lindsay having a drug problem -- no doubt part of her time with the Dead -- would have set up an unexpected role reversal with the suddenly-clean Nick.) But do you think the show could have still been the show we all worshipped if it came back? And what would you have wanted to see in a second season? (As I mentioned last week, my big hope was for some scenario, any scenario, that put Bill and Kim Kelly in a room together for a few minutes, just to see what happened.)

Some other thoughts on "Discos and Dragons":
  • Because I hadn't seen most of these episodes in so long, when Harold banned Lindsay from ever hanging out with the freaks again after the car crash in "Looks and Books," I couldn't remember whether we saw him relenting in a later episode or if the writers just let it slide. Based on Harold inviting Nick into their home in "Smooching and Mooching," it feels like the latter. I just wish it had been more directly addressed at some point, as it would have added an extra layer to Lindsay's decision to forsake the summit in favor of following a hippie band with her freak best friend. In our mythical season two, Joe Flaherty was going to rain some major hellfire and brimstone down on Lindsay for this.
  • One last possible chronological boo-boo: "American Beauty" was released in 1970, only 10 years before the series began, yet Rosso talks about listening to it while he was in college. How old is he supposed to be? Dave Allen was in his early 40s at this point; would Rosso have needed to still be in school to dodge the draft in his early 30s, or is he supposed to be significantly younger than the actor playing him?
  • One other "American Beauty" question: how do hardcore Deadheads feel about that album? It and "Workingman's Dead" are the only two albums of theirs I own, in part because, as I understand it, they're atypical of the band's studio output, as well as the concert jams that made them famous. Would Deadhead Samaire really have been that over the moon about that record?
  • Speaking of Dave Allen, Mr. Fleck is played by Steve Higgins, who, along with Allen and Higgins' brother David Anthony Higgins (from "Ellen" and "Malcolm in the Middle"), were the stars of "The Higgins Boys and Gruber," one of the first series on The Comedy Channel (one of the two channels, along with Ha!, that merged into Comedy Central). The creator and producer of that show? Mr. Joel Hodgson.
  • And speaking of Hodgson, I've neglected until now to mention that one of his "MST3K" co-stars, Trace Beaulieu, appeared repeatedly on this series as the biology teacher, Mr. Lacovara. He has a very funny moment here in the cafeteria, where after assuring Lindsay that attending the summit put him on the path to his current level of success, he turns and knocks over a student's lunch tray. As the students all jeer, he raises his hand and says, "That was me! I'm a clumsy clod!" in an overly-cheerful way that suggests he suffered many such humiliations when he was younger before learning that self-deprecation is the only way to survive them. (God, this show was great with the little moments like that, wasn't it?)
  • Another lovely little touch: the beret Sam wears while playing D&D. (Also, even though Sam keeps the other geeks hanging about his involvement until the last minute, they wind up playing the game at his house; chalk that one up to the Weir dining room being one of the show's standing sets, I guess.)
  • Seth Rogen's Canadian accent didn't come out too blatantly for the most part during the season, but there's a line where he's complaining about Nick's love of disco and says, "No, thank GAWD!" like he's on the verge of ordering a Molson's and some back bacon.
Up next: B'dee, b'dee, b'dee, that's all folks! Sorry. (If you're coming to the party late, you can find all the recaps by click on the Freaks and Geeks label below, or just clicking here.) This has been a fun little experiment. Some of these episodes I had only ever seen once, and most I hadn't watched since the real turn of the millennium. So it's been a pleasure to watch them again and rediscover certain things (James Franco was funny! Joe Flaherty was a good dramatic actor!) while reconfirming things I already knew (Martin Starr, genius! Jason Segel, completely unafraid of public humiliation!).

I know at least a few people who worked on the show have seen these. Apatow's aware of it, and Gabe Sachs stopped by the "I'm With the Band" post to talk about how cool it is to see everybody praising the show so many years later. If anyone else wh
o was lucky enough to be involved with this series is reading this, I hope it's gratifying to see so many people haven't forgotten the love. (Also, judging by the comments and some of my e-mail from people who just bought the DVDs, there are still people willing to experience it for the first time all these years later.) It was a classic as soon as it aired, it is a classic now and it's going to stay a classic for as long as there are teenage outcasts (or semi-reformed adult outcasts).

At the tail end of my "The Little Things" recap, I said I'd like to do this again next summer with another brilliant but canceled selection, and there are already a lot of suggestions in those comments. Feel free to keep 'em coming, keeping in mind some of the following criteria that made "Freaks and Geeks" such a good choice: 1)Only ran one season (and less than the full 22, at that); 2)Is readily available on DVD so the people who didn't see it can catch up if they want; 3)Is deep enough to merit extended recapping and analysis (this would leave out most straight comedies -- including, much as I love it, "Undeclared"); 4)Is just old enough that there's some nostalgia to revisiting it (that would probably leave out something like "Firefly"); and 5)There's an ending. Maybe it's not a definitive, all your questions answered ending, but the creators got to go out on the note they wanted. Anyway, when the upcoming TV season starts winding down in May, I'll look back over the suggestions and consider my options. (It took me seeing "Knocked Up" in early June to give me the idea in the first place; be nice to have a head start this time.)

Whew. What did everybody else think?

97 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've really enjoyed these recaps. It was nice to revist a show I hadn't watched for two years or so.

Another show that might work is My So-Called Life, but it is another highschool drama, which might be a problem.

SCS said...

Thanks so much for doing these, Alan. I loved watching along with you. For next summer: I know it's more of a straight comedy, but I haven't rewatched the British Office in a while. Perhaps you could do the 12 episode series plus special?

Barabajagal said...

Another pat on the back for doing these, they've been a great read. Some of my thoughts:
First, Daniel is older than most of his freak friends, too. I'm guessing that by this point he's hitting 19 soon. He's probably maturing a bit, getting away from the iconically high school need to be cool, regardless of his personality. He may have learned his lesson from his Noshing and Moshing days, that letting your identity define you as opposed to the other way around can be dangerous/fruitless. It's a pretty age-appropriate epiphany for him. Speaking of which, at this point is it even realistic to suppose he would return to high school in the fall anyway?
Regarding Lindsay's look as she leaves Nick, I believe she didn't buy Nick's tale anymore than we did. I think it's a wierd mix of pity and hope-hope that maybe what he's trying to convince himself is true will eventually become true.
And regarding American Beauty, I don't think many Deadheads really give a care about ANY of the albums, except possibly the Dick's Picks collection. It's all about the shows. That said, Deadheads of that age probably FIRST heard the Dead with that album, so I can believe that it would hold special place in their hearts.
As touching as the scene where Lindsay is getting on the bus is, it's always hit me as really strange that Neal and Bill show up. Has she really had a moment with them since Beers and Weirs? It was a nice ending to the series, but in reality always struck me as unnatural.

Rick said...

Another great post, Alan. Lots of fun reading these...

In a second season I'd just love to see the characters change. So often in television the way a character acts in episode 1 is exactly how the character acts in episode 190. Freaks and Geeks seems to be a show that is more than willing to lets its characters personalities and identities change just as they would if they were actual teenagers. I've always thought of high school as being a time in one's life where you go from being the person you were to the person you are. Being able to chart this development on screen would have been remarkable. (Not that I'm complaining... it's far more fun to speculate on this than to have to worry about the network getting in the way and mucking it all up)

Dan Jardine said...

Alan, I also want to add my voice of commendation. You did a great job of cracking this show's nut, and enhanced the already considerable pleasure I got from watching the show in the first place. You really can't ask much more of a critic than that. First rate work, all around.

Unfortunately, my nomination (Spaced, the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost, Edward Wright/Julia Deakin TV series) despite having nearly the perfect number of episodes (14 over two seasons) for such a summer recap, is not so readily available in DVD unless you can play region 2 discs. A shame, really, cuz the series is hilarious, and gives us a pretty clear indication of where these cats will be going in the not-so-distant future (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz).

Jefferson said...

Alan,

Thanks so much for doing these. they have been amazing and I have watched along with you. I don't know if this has been suggested for next year, but maybe Sports Night? It had more that one season, but they're a half hour, so the two season (season and a half?) can equal one whole season of an hour long drama. Though, I don't know if you want to go down Sorkin-land next year. It can be a doozy sometimes.

Re: American Beauty album, love that album dearly. Always have. When I initially watch, Rosso had that line on how he always puts it on and I do the same, so it felt like a little shout-out. Ripple and Box of Rain are two of my favorite Dead songs and them being singled out and featured here, was great.

par3182 said...

as much as i would have loved another season, this was a pretty much perfect ending. the reveal of kim waiting at the bus stop was a true surprise to me, and my sky high admiration for lindsay went even higher. no other show has ever had me so concerned over the fate of fictional characters.

thanks for the recaps; and hallelujah for dvds

Patrick Wynne said...

This is probably my second favorite F&G episode of the series and definitely one of my favorite finales ever. Such a bittersweet ending and one that never fails to give me that tight feeling in my chest and not a little moisture in my eyes. Daniel and Lindsay's endings are just so perfect for their characters. (Nick's I'm less sure about, though it is still a great development for him.)

There are times I wonder what became of these characters after "Discos and Dragons" but other times I think it's best not to wonder too much and to just accept this episode as the end.

Thank you so much for doing this rewind, Alan. I hadn't rewatched F&G since just after the DVDs came out and your reviews inspired me to watch them again. What a wonderful experience. I think Deadhead Samaire summed up how I feel about this show perfectly: I wish I'd never seen it just so I could watch it again for the first time.

Richard Cobeen said...

Alan,

Can't thank you enough for these recaps. This is still my favorite show of all-time and one that I have passed around to as many people as possible. Three years ago we watched it with our children, now 16 and 14, who also rank it right up there with Arrested Development, Veronica Mars and The Wire (we finally relented and let them watch it). You did the show justice.

You hit almost all the amazing moments and I agree with you about the perfect corpse. Two things about Lindsey going off with the Deadheads: 1) My wife, the lawyer, had a similar reaction to yours about Lindsey taking off, but she also understood how it was the correct thing for the character to do; 2) The old rock critic in me always wonders if Lindsey was disappointed once she actually went to a Dead show, since they generally had a 3-to-1 crappy-to-good ratio during the four hours, and the rambling shows were nothing like American Beauty, Lindsey's only exposure to the Dead that we know of. It's another indication of how great the show is that my heart flies when Kim sees her (you forgot to mention the amazing look Busy Phillips has when Lindsey gets off the bus) and they ride off together even though they are going off to follow the Dead.

I don't think any of the people involved in Freaks and Geeks should be ashamed of the fact that they haven't created anything as great as this in the last seven years (high praise considering what some have done). They should simply be proud that they were involved in creating an entertaining and affecting work of art, particularly in such a hostile environment.

Jimmy Aquino said...

While watching this wonderful series finale last week so I can read your recap, I caught an amusing blooper that's not mentioned in the audio commentary or in the goofs section of Freaks and Geeks' IMDb page. It's surprising to see in a show known for its music geekery. During the rock-vs.-disco debate with Ken, Joel Hodgson's DJ brings up the Stones' "new song" "Miss You," which came out in 1978. "Discos and Dragons" is set in spring 1981. Or this could be a deliberate error by the writers: the "new song" flub could be perceived as showing how hilariously out-of-touch the DJ is. But because this ep was rushed into production and there are quite a few other bloopers too (dig the present-day van that passes by the Deadheads' Microbus in the final shot), I take it to be a genuine flub.

Thanks for unpeeling the many layers of each ep in these great extended recaps. They made me go dust off my copy of the Freaks and Geeks Yearbook Edition and revisit my favorite eps (like "Girlfriends and Boyfriends"), as well as watch for the very first time eps I had never seen before ("Noshing and Moshing"). I mentioned in my blog (http://afistfulofsoundtracks.blogspot.com/) that maybe you should compile these recaps into a book, like that Neptune Noir book of essays about Veronica Mars.

The recaps also made me revisit past articles I've collected about the show, like an interview in which Paul Feig indicated that had Freaks and Geeks been allowed to continue for a few more years, he would have added new characters to the main cast after the freaks had graduated--or dropped out ("I had always from day one conceived of it not as a high school show, but a show about a town. People would graduate, and you'd see who left town, who didn't leave the town."). The writing on this show was so strong during the single season that I wouldn't be surprised if the show still had legs after say, Franco or Cardellini left. Or it could have turned into Freaks and Geeks: The Jenny Piccolo Years. We'll never know.

Ideas for next summer's recap series: since you don't want to recap a straight comedy, then the only readily available shows I can think of that meet your criteria are Twin Peaks (which will now be complete on DVD with the long-awaited Region 1 release of the pilot) and The Prisoner. But those shows have been dissected enough.

notjon said...

First off, loved the posts, the rest of the blogs, etc.

Anyway, Apatow's comment about Lindsay's drug addiction reminded me of one of the little scrapbook notes they have in the back of the scripts collection (the first one). On one of the last pages in the bottom corner is a little typed up list of "Darker Stories" that includes such ideas as "Lindsay takes heroin", "Kim is raped by her father", "Cindy gets pregnant", "Nick tries to kill himself", and others.

These were probably from really early on in the brainstorming process (most seem a little too dark and melodramatic for the show) but they're still pretty amazing.

My favorite: "Bill stabs one of his mom's boyfriends" That's an image that would have stuck with you.

J said...

Thanks for this Alan. They've been a highlight and something I really look forward to reading (please keep up the MAD MEN commentary!). They really enhanced my understanding and thinking about this show. I desperately wish more critics had such a deep and abiding love for TV like you do. Too often it's viewed as disposable, even by those who cover it.

Count me in the TWIN PEAKS crowd, since it fits most of your criteria. Although personally, I'd love to see it done for EVERWOOD because a) I feel it's criminally underrated b) there's still only ONE season out on DVD (despite everything else being out on DVD) c) It's interesting to see the themes that creator Greg Berlanti is drawn to, especially in light of his becoming a TV producing superpower (with Dirty Sexy Money, Eli Stone, Brothers & Sisters in production currently). I desperately wish JACK AND BOBBY was on DVD. That would fit your criteria.

Also, as mentioned above would be cool to see the original OFFICE or SPACED done, though I understand why not for SPACED, since it's only available as an import right now. Hopefully with Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's success, that will change and they can sort out the music rights that have made it so hard.

Dark Tyler said...

Well, I hope "Karen Sisco" can come out on DVD this year so that you do that one.

By the way, thanks for these recaps, Alan. I haven't watched the show yet, but when I decide to, I know that after each episode there will be a great piece of analysis waiting.

Anonymous said...

Excellent job on the recaps. I tried to catch this show when it first aired, but instead of seeing the Weir family on my screen I would be looking at Stone Phillips. Then this past April ordered the first disc on Netflix, and twenty minutes in I turned off the DVD player so I could buy the box set. Best purchase I've made all year.

The thought of Bill playing on the basketball team was interesting, because to make the team he'd have to display more athletic ability than he showed in the first season. Was the proposed plot point a way to unleash Bill's untapped athleticism, or subject him to torment at the hands of his stepfather? I'd like to have thought it was the former, because I've read that Martin Starr is actually a pretty good athlete. I also would have liked to have seen was the newly sober Nick try to get back on the basketball team. I also wondered what Coach Fredricks' reaction would be to the Pistons drafting that young buck Isiah Thomas from Indiana.

Once again, great job.

Anonymous said...

I had never watched the show until I began renting it earlier this summer. It quickly became an obsession. (I gave up on renting and bought the box set after seeing the first two episodes). Havging no one to discuss this with (no one I know watched it), I happily found this blog. I even began posting when I knew no one was reading just to have an opportunity to express my feelings about the show. As a brainy geek girl who began a crossover to being a stoner in high school in the early eighties, this show resonated with me like nothing I've ever seen.
As for this last episode--the sad, wistful feeling is staying with me for days. Such great moments. Lindsay on the steps of the bus. Kim's face as Lindsay gets off the bus. Nick and Lindsay at the disco. (By the way, I feel that there was a shot at the two of them reuniting--even if this wouldn't necessarily be the right decision-- but they're simply speaking at cross purposes. I also felt there would be a chance for them in the future, once Nick learned what it was like to be liked too much by someone). Also, Sara's attempt to fit in with Nick's friends--"Finals. Who cares, right?"--falling horribly flat.
All of that having been said, I do have some issues. Nick and disco--while I believe Nick would do almost anything for love, it would have to be for someone he really loved. Hard to imagine him taking this on for Sara. Second, and more important--the Dead? Lindsay? Her anti-drug stance is pretty clear, and if there's a single thing that defines a deadhead, it's not being non-judgmental. It's doing massive amounts of drugs. As beautiful as the scenes of her dancing and getting off the bus are, this is one of the only things in the show that ever felt like a plot device to me.
Despite these criticisms, this show is the most real, best-acted, best-written, and poignant things I have ever seen. Started over from the pilot last night.

Eric said...

I'd like to see "My So-called Life," but I think that ground is pretty well trod (by the TWoP recaps, among other sources.) But related possibilities would be "Relativity" or "Cupid." I'm actually not all that familiar with either series, but I know they have their champions.

CM said...

No commentary on the episode, which I haven't seen in a long time, but just wanted to join the chorus thanking you for writing these recaps. I really enjoyed reading them, not just to relive the show, but to hear your take on it all. Now I have to be sad that it's over all over again.

Nancy said...

Please, please, please, please, please do this retro recaps thing again with "Wonderfalls". It fits all your criteria perfectly.

Anonymous said...

Loved this series of commentaries on my favorite show, but I must be the only one who was disappointed by the ending with Lindsay. She loves her parents, even though they annoy and embarrass her at times, and I just can't see her doing something this drastic. Not going to the U of M summit, sure, but taking off for TX to follow the Dead? I have a hard time buying that one.

Adam said...

I know everybody else has already said this, but Thank You very much for all of the recaps this summer. As someone who just watched the show for the first time, it was nice to have new reviews to read.

I'm glad there is still somebody out there that seems to enjoy his job and makes my TV viewing more fun.

God bless Martin Starr.

Alex said...

I've had the F&G DVD for at least 3 years, and I haven't been able to watch D&D without the commentary because it slays me THAT MUCH. Nice choice of picture, by the way.

Alan, this has been a great ride... thanks so much for doing this summer re-wind business. It's been a real pleasure to read, and it inspired me to re-discover the show's goodness all over again.

In terms of another "brilliant but canceled," I'd second "Everwood," but only if you can stand all of the glorious cheese and awesome.

Anonymous said...

Alan, it's truly been a pleasure to revisit one of my favorite shows of all time with your recaps. Your thoughtful analysis and detailed summaries took me back to all of these wonderful episodes and made me see even more in a show I love. Thanks again for taking the time to do this.

As for future brilliant but cancelled show suggestions, I highly recommend "Wonderfalls" -- a show cancelled after only four episodes, but one in which the creators envisioned a full and complete single season (later released on DVD) when they realized it would end earlier than expected. It's a gem of a show.

Lindy said...

Thank you so much for these recaps, Alan -- they've been wonderful summer reading!

I was another one of those girls who did academic summer events in high school, and I loved them, but none of the ones I attended sounded as intense as the one Lindsay was going to. Daily rankings? Yikes. The ending was definitely right for her character, and I'm willing to buy her "conversion" to Deadhead because I think it's an excuse to skip the summit more than anything else.

My reaction to Nick's disco storyline was quite different from Alan's. I thought Nick was more conflicted about the relationship. On the one hand he's still in love with Lindsay, but on the other he seems to like the fact that Sara is so into him and that he's finally good at something. The fact that he's quit smoking pot while dating Sara suggested to me that he does get something out of the relationship. And I think Lindsay's reaction shot conveyed some jealousy that Nick had not given up the drug use for her ... I'm sure the writers had Season 2 plans for these characters.

Edward Copeland said...

One of the few times the Emmys pleased me was when, more than a year after the series' cancellation, they nominated "Discos and Dragons" for comedy writing (Since it aired in the next eligiblity year). Unfortunately, it didn't win, but I literally cheered when I read about that nomination.

Alan Sepinwall said...

As touching as the scene where Lindsay is getting on the bus is, it's always hit me as really strange that Neal and Bill show up. Has she really had a moment with them since Beers and Weirs?

Neal attempts to hit on her a few other times over the season (in "The Garage Door," he tries to invite her to see "Ordinary People" with him), and of course has that horrible moment where he discovers her kissing his brother in "Noshing and Moshing." Bill, I assume, tagged along because Neal and Sam were going to be there, and what else was he going to do?

maybe Sports Night? It had more that one season, but they're a half hour, so the two season (season and a half?) can equal one whole season of an hour long drama.

But it'd be twice as many posts, even if each one would, in theory, be half as long. It's a possibility, though, if only to rekindle my affection for Sorkin's work after "Studio 60."

Was the proposed plot point a way to unleash Bill's untapped athleticism, or subject him to torment at the hands of his stepfather?

I included everything Apatow wrote to me, but my guess would be the latter -- not so much intentional torment, as Fredricks again ineptly trying to bond with Bill and not understanding that not every boy dreams of sinking the winning bucket in the state championship.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comment about Nick being more conflicted re: his relationship with Sara. After all, as he says to Ken, he's been trying for a long time to get a decent girlfriend. I think the change of someone liking him a lot is a great ego-boost. On the other hand, he still loves Lindsay and would clearly rather be with her.

As for Lindsay's reaction--it hearkens back to Kim's comment that when Nick gets a girlfriend, Lindsay will want him back and the whole thing will start all over again.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

What about doing Slings and Arrows next summer? There are only 18 episodes and plenty to chew on in each one...

Ezra said...

Great recaps, I completely agree that the show was probably made stronger by having only a single season, though some of Paul Feig's future ideas definitely sound intriguing. What's he up to nowadays anyway? I checked on IMDB and it doesn't say much.

CJ said...

Ooh--I would vote for either "Wonderfalls" or "Slings and Arrows"--or perhaps, even both since the two each have so few episodes. . . Could we get that lucky? (And I already own both on DVD.)

Anonymous said...

I vote for Sports Night. I know there are more episodes but you could do amazing recaps with the writing and character development - much like with F&G.

Jennifer J. said...

Alan: Thank you so, so much.

P. Wynne: You took these words right out of my mouth, "I think Deadhead Samaire summed up how I feel about this show perfectly: I wish I'd never seen it just so I could watch it again for the first time."

Any F & G people reading: thank you for making a brilliant and beloved show. Thank you for giving so much of yourselves to it. I will carry it with me always.

Chris W said...

I think the MST3K connection is through a writer on F&G, Josh Elvis Weinstein. He was one of the originators of MST3K including Dr. Forrestor's first assistant and the first person to play Tom Servo. Thus the appearance of MST3K alum.

Jake said...

I eighth Sports Night--especially because its resolution, while "final" in some ways, is so incomplete. It would be succulent grist for the analysis mill. You could do it in 2 episode chunks to do approximately the same number of recaps (and there's enough plot continuity that I think it would make sense that way). I'd also enjoy a British Office recap, but I think it's probably a bit shallow on plot to be very satisfying.

I enjoyed these recaps a lot--I was a latecomer (I netflixed the series last fall) and appreciate the context you gave to everything. Thanks!

Pete said...

Cupid would be a great one to recap if it ever gets put out on DVD.

Jacob said...

oh man.. this was the episode that finally got me crying.. twice! during both dead songs. being a univ of michigan alum and part-time deadhead, this episode really felt like it was created just for my pleasure. while deadheads will always tell you it's all about the live show, their most sublime moment in the studio was 'american beauty' which showcases their brilliant songwriting and vocal harmonizing. it's certainly the best representation of falling into the lovely world of the dead i've ever scene in a show or movie; the sequence of her discovering the album catches perfectly that feeling of losing yourself in new music for the first time and feeling that youve touched something beyond this world. in response to a commenter above who remarked that lindsey would never become interested in the dead because she has too much sense as all deadheads are massive drug users- true, many people found a dead show was the perfect environment to explore hallucinogens in a relatively safe supportive setting, but many fans are upstanding members of the community who understand that the spontaneous wonder of a dead show is intoxicating enough without any substance abuse. and yes, lindsey does seem anti-drug when we last see her, but it's amazing how quickly kids will drop that stance once they decide to shift their perspective on right vs. wrong. i could easily imagine her 'expanding her mind' and enjoying the new worlds afforded to her upon experimenting with hallucinogens. all the drug talk aside, a wonderfully unexpected ending to a show that was always challenging our expectations. although i watched the whole season a few months ago, i just went out and bought the dvd set this weekend so i can force it upon anyone who enters my lair, spread the word and convert the masses.

Anonymous said...

I vote for My So-Called Life -- it was the first TV show that spoke to me on such a deep level, and at the perfect time (I graduated from high school in 1995, putting me smack in the middle of the show's angsty-teenage-girl demographic in real time). I was HEARTBROKEN when it was cancelled, and would love for you to give it the same loving treatment as you did F&G. Question, though -- since you seem to relate to the F&G characters as much if not more than I related to Angela Chase, do you think you can tap into MSCL in the same way, or do you need to "live" the show in order to do it justice?

Dan Jardine said...

For those who think Lindsay's escape from the brainiac's camp is implausible, I think you need to consider that she is doing this as much for Kim (who has zero chance of getting out of this town, given her situation) as for herself. It isn't the first time she's taken heat for her freak friends, although (alas) it turns out to be the last.

Anthony Foglia said...

Great suggestions of "Wonderfalls", "Sports Night", and "Slings and Arrows." I was trying to think of others, and started with this list of best TV shows to only last one season from The Onion AV Club (1-15) and TVAddict.com (16-18).

1. Cop Rock (Fox, 1990)
2. Harsh Realm (Fox, 1999)
3. The Dana Carvey Show (ABC, 1996)
4. Now And Again (CBS, 1999)
5. Cupid (ABC, 1998)
6. Nothing Sacred (ABC, 1997)
7. Profit (Fox, 1996)
8. Freaks & Geeks (NBC, 1999)
9. Undeclared (Fox, 2001)
10. Stella (Comedy Central, 2005)
11. Firefly (Fox, 2002)
12. Police Squad! (ABC, 1982)
13. Action (Fox, 1999)
14. TV Funhouse (Comedy Central, 2000)
15. That’s My Bush! (Comedy Central, 2001)
16. Grosse Pointe (WB, 2000)
17. The Comeback (HBO, 2005)
18. Miss Match (NBC, 2003)

When we remove the comedies that obviously aren't deep enough to warrant long blog posts (3, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16), not too fresh in the public's mind (11, 17), and already done (8), that only leaves 7. I haven't seen most of these though, don't know if they are on DVD, nor do I know if any have endings.

"Miss Match" and "Cupid" are light and fun, but perhaps not deep enough to discuss.

"Now and Again" would be interesting because it had some really great episodes, but it also had a lot of repetitious plots and fluctuating characterizations. It does have a cliffhanger ending, but something actually interesting.

(Other good shows listed in the comments of those posts: "Nowhere Man", "American Gothic", "Brisco County Jr.", "Flying Blind", "Lucky", "The Job" (2 seasons, but only 19 episodes), "EZ Streets", "My So-Called Life" (2 seasons, 19 episodes))

Iamhopkat said...

Thank you so much for the recaps. I came to F&G as a person who was in high school in the late 70's and early 80's, and I loved the show. Both story lines spoke to me, as I was a geek and I wanted to be a freak.

Regarding future recaps, I say :

Retire the recaps.

Just as F&G was the perfect show to recap due to it's short-lived life, I say retire the recaps because "Season 1" was perfect.

Julie said...

As much as I loved My So-Called Life, I am going to have to beg that you not do that one. I feel like the only way one could possibly procure a copy of that set is by selling their young. Alas, I have yet to procreate.

THANK YOU for doing this, Alan!

Robert O. said...

Alan,

When I started renting the discs from Netflix and re-experiencing F&G (actually experiencing it for the first time; it made a lot more sense with "Kim Kelly is My Friend" in place), it was like uncorking a sublime vintage wine.

But no one else in my peer group remembers the show, so when I would talk about it with them, I'd get a lot of blank looks; its best moments are very hard to translate through explanation.

(My 20-year-old daughter loves the show; she has a strange fixation on the newly crowned King of Comedy, Seth Rogen -- an upcoming SNL guest host, I hear.)

So, Alan, your leisurely, in-depth F&G posts were a pleasure; I felt as if I were sharing something special with a kindred soul. And I almost invariably drew some insight from them and was able to enjoy the eps more.

The final image of Discos and Dragons, Lindsay's rendezvous with Kim and the Deadheads, may seem jarring but it was an appropriate finale. Like its heroine, F&G was smart but generally wore its heart on its sleeve.

As for a hypothetical 2nd season ... it's better that there wasn't one, maybe.

Remember "That '70s Show?" Similar setting and themes, pretty good cast, some novel approaches, and pretty soon it all went south, a victim of its own success. Not that such a fate awaited F&G necessarily, but money and fame can do strange things to people's priorities. I hear.

Scott said...

I am not adding much that's new but thanks for doing it. I love dthis show when it first aired and haven't seen it since the DVDs first came out. You made me pull them out of mothballs and give them a second watch and I'm loving it again!

I think my favorite part was the relationships between the characters. Both the Geeks and the Freaks seemed like real friends (albeit with very different dynamics) and, especially, Sam and Lindsey seemed like a real brother and sister.

As far as suggestions, I would nominate My So Called Life. Just teh right legnth and the mix of angst and comedy works. The only criterion I think it may not meet is the ending.

Thanks again for this.

Anonymous said...

I also feel that Lindsay wasn't necessarily going to become a deadhead. Didn't Samaire say they were going for a week and a half? I think of it more as something she was doing to make a significant break from her parents, even though she loves them, and to do something for Kim. It's a watershed moment in growing up--when you realize that the relationships you are forming take precedence of those you were born into. The look on Lindsay's face as she leaves her family says it all--she is altering the relationship irrevocably, and they will never look at her with those expressions on their faces again. It's the act itself--leaving--that is significant, rather than what she's leaving for.

Carol said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carol said...

Alan, thanks for the F&G recaps - loved the show when it aired & still do.

The one show I wish you'd review [fits most of your criteria - quality writing and acting, one season, deep issues, & more] is Frank's Place. Unfortunately, and much to my continuing distress, it's not available on video of any kind. Since availability is the #1 criterion for any reviewer, I'll have to keep wishing and hoping and pining away.

It's been nearly twenty years since Frank's Place was canceled, but I still remember it with great fondness, and still regret that it lasted such a short time. The show has such a vivid texture and feel. What a pity it's not available.

http://tinyurl.com/2v7u6a

anon said...

Like anthony foglia, I went back to the AV Club list (and comments). But F&G is a tough act to follow: Eight cast members (just sticking with the freaks and geeks of the title) plus a large number of supporting characters. Very few single season shows hit the ground running in the way F&G did, much less doing so as both a comedy and a drama. Even "dramedies" that had nice chemistry among the leads -- Now and Again, Karen Sisco, Cupid -- didn't have huge casts, and I think episode by episode recaps would begin to feel repetitive (leaving aside the fact that none of them is available on DVD -- which I think is the biggest problem I think you'll have with this exercise). Firefly had a reasonable sized cast, as would Twin Peaks, but I don't think you're inclined to go down either of those routes.

And while I think you might find it worth revisiting The Job -- it'll feel like a distillation of all the parts of Rescue Me you seem to like, and I think it holds up pretty well -- I don't know if you'd get enough long posts out of the entire series.

I also feel you could probably do a skit by skit breakdown of the upcoming 5-disc The State box set, but I don't think that's the direction you want to go either. But I admit, I'd read it.

So I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest Undeclared. I know you've ruled it out already, but consider that:

1) It has a fair sized cast -- Six regulars, all of whom were allowed story arcs over the shows short run, plus several reasonably developed secondary/supporting characters.

2) Its core story is the one on which the Apatow empire is currently built. It's all about men learning to bond with each other while being deeply insecure about their relationships with women. (Lloyd's an exception, but I assure you I can make this argument work.) I will always think of F&G as fulfilling Feig's vision, particularly after reading his biographical books -- The disco scene? The upstaging by the magician? Based on Feig's scarily depressing adolescence.

3) Undeclared follows naturally from F&G -- It complicates the rosy picture Barry Schweiber paints of being able to reinvent yourself at college; it acknowledges the people who couldn't make it to college; it acknowledged the distinction between the college kids who had to work and those who didn't; it addresses getting your first job, your real credit card, your first friend not from your hometown, and your first real girlfriend. While some might argue with you about F&G being the best TV show about high school, who could argue with Undeclared being the best TV show truly about college?

4) Cameos/Guests by Busy Phillips, Martin Starr, Samm Levine, Jason Segel, Natasha Melnick, Fred Willard, David Krumholtz, Amy Poehler, Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Ted Nugent (in a deleted scene), and Adam Sandler. A few brief appearances by Jenna Fischer. And I'm sure there are a few tiny cameos by people who went on to bigger things.

5) It is available on DVD.

I'm not saying it has the depth of F&G, and I know that its appeal is even narrower (fewer people go to college than high school, after all), but I still think you wouldn't find it that hard to write a post on every episode. I also wanted to make a defense of it since Sports Night has gotten so many votes -- if you're leaving the door open to half hours, I think Undeclared should remain a contender. (Sorkin may have had more high drama, but Apatow had better jokes.)

Anon

Cameron Hughes said...

Kidnapped would be a great Summer recap. Good sized cast, plenty of depth, and it tells a complete story with an ending, and if it ever hits DVD, Taye Diggs's greatly underrated Daybreak would be great too

David said...

I've enjoyed these re-caps immensely. I watched F&F when it first aired, and the series set has been a perennial gift for the friends who have everything. I, too, was moved to watch the whole series as a result of this blog.

I liked the idea of Daniel becoming like Jason London's character in Dazed & Confused, who was clearly one of the cool kids, but also participated in regular poker games with the keeks played by Anthony Rapp, Adam Goldberg and Marissa Ribisi. Someone who was confident and respected enough to migrate between cliques.

For a future re-wind, I would recommend the first season of The Newsroom. While the show did run more than a single season, subsequent seasons didn't begin for more than six years after the initial brilliant airings, and what I've seen isn't so great anyway.

The Newsroom is the only work by Ken Finkleman I've seen, save for Airplane II: The Sequel and Grease 2. I stumbled across it on PBS something like a decade ago, and was blown away by the depth and sentimentality contained in such a cynically funny show. There are thirteen episodes, including a 45-minute finale. Both the last episode of the series, the finale of a three-parter about a local nuclear emergency, and "Campaign," which uses all the Newsroom characters in a new context, provide powerful endings to the series, which can be undercut by viewing the sequels. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the first and purest season. I guess there's a year to talk you into it.

Dan Jardine said...

David, a great call on The Newsroom. This is a terrific, intelligent, vicious show, and one that could well stand up to the scrutiny of Alan's recaps. Finkleman has done a number of shows for the CBC over the years, including last year's miniseries At the Hotel, and all have had merit, but nothing comes close to his evisceration of the massest of all media in The Newsroom.

Bruce Reid said...

This has been a fun and rewarding experiment, and I hope it continues next summer--though with programming changing the way it is I wouldn't be surprised if you're too busy with new shows to keep it going.

Since no one has suggested it, I'll toss Tanner '88 and Tanner on Tanner in the ring for recaps, assuming their miniseries status doesn't disqualify them. They'd even be timely come next summer.

Anonymous said...

Alan, thank you so much for doing these. I just discovered F&G this summer and have never had such a visceral response to a TV show before. Imagine my excitement when I found your blog and found that others shared my enthusiasm.

The manner in which Apatow was able to capture the awkwardness, pain and fleeting joy of high school is perfection. As much as I wish there was a second (hey, tenth!) season, I agree that it probably would have lost much of its juice over the years and I am resigned to admit that a perfect first season may have been the best place to end.

I love to imagine that Daniel and the Geeks were able to coexist, that Nick and Lindsay found true love (sidenote: the fact that F&G has formally introduced me to Jason Segel is reason enough to love this series) or that Kim somehow found her way, I realize that Apatow would, again, have known what was best, even as we fought it, and had them live a true high school experience, as anti-fantastical as that may be.

Alex said...

No mention of Lindsay and Kim's silent discussion in the last scene.

Kim: I broke up with Daniel.

Lindsay: What!

Hug.

Dan Jardine said...

Yeah, but as Nick has pointed out, they break up, like, every week. The hug that Kim delivered at the end of Moshing and Noshing tells me that this breakup is surely a temporary thing. She just needs to get outta Dodge for awhile, but when she returns, she'll gravitate back to Daniel.

Anonymous said...

"As a brainy geek girl who began a crossover to being a stoner in high school in the early eighties, this show resonated with me like nothing I've ever seen."

[Change "girl" to "boy" and this could've been a direct quote by me. I truly feel this way about the show.]

"I liked the idea of Daniel becoming like Jason London's character in Dazed & Confused, who was clearly one of the cool kids, but also participated in regular poker games with the keeks played by Anthony Rapp, Adam Goldberg and Marissa Ribisi. Someone who was confident and respected enough to migrate between cliques."

[Or, it could have been the other way around with his character. He may have started out as a geek, earned acceptance by the cool people, as well as retained acceptance from the geeks he started out with.]

Anonymous said...

Have to comment about Jason Segel. I agree that discovering him was one of the great benefits of watching the show. Hard to say where he excels most--in comedy or drama. He's certainly responsible for some of the funniest moments I've ever seen on television. But he's also brought me to tears with the pathos he brought to Nick. I hyope that his talents are fully used in his upcoming movie, because "How I Met Your Mother" can't begin to do him justice.

CJ said...

Julie--you might not have to sell your young, after all, to get a copy of "My So-Called Life"--there is a new box set coming out this fall, priced just under $50 at Amazon.com (I've already ordered mine).

I would love a recap of this probably as much as I would of "Wonderfalls" or "Slings and Arrows"!

Marc said...

I wish you'd drop the requirement that the show be only 1 year. How about blogging just 1 year of a classic show?

The reason I make this request is because the only series I can think of that compares in subtlety, depth, large numbers of characters being developed, and humor is Arrested Development. Since it was almost cancelled after the first season, why not just pretend it was?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I wish you'd drop the requirement that the show be only 1 year. How about blogging just 1 year of a classic show?

It's not a "requirement." None of the things I mentioned are requirements. They just sort of made F&G ideal for this format. Long time between now and next May/June. We'll see what happens, but Arrested is definitely a contender.

Marc said...

Bless you.

In keeping with my previous suggestion for classic seasons of shows, I would also nominate the second season of Taxi. The only problem (and it may be sufficient to disqualify it) is the presence of a laugh track/studio audience. It destroys any semblance of subtlety. How can a show have any layered meaning when it is telling the audience when to laugh. (And that includes Sportsnight.)

Ossian said...

Thanks for the retrospective, Alan! It's been terrific to revisit a series that I almost missed the first time around. As to next year...

My ideal suggestion would be the short-lived Michael Madsen vehicle Vengeance Unlimited. At 16 episodes, it's just the right length; its 1998, post-O.J. sensibility is arguably ripe for nostalgia and analysis; and I remember the show as a well-written, cleverly conceived ass-kicker. (Of course, I was 13 at the time, so that opinion may be suspect).

Unfortunately, the series isn't legally available on DVD. If that doesn't change by next summer, then there are always Profit, Space: Above and Beyond, and The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. All from Fox, naturally. It's like they're in business just to abort shows.

Tosy And Cosh said...

Know I'm late to the party, but if the rules aren't rules as much as guidelines, I'd cast my (seemingly lone) vote for Once and Again - a show that featured a pretty wonderful, self-contained first season and wonderfully honest and authentic-feeling stories and characters.

Karen said...

Wow. This has been such a pleasure, Alan; thank you! I've been on the edge of my seat, waiting for this final recap, since it blew my mind so completely when I finally saw it for the first time.

I'd watched F&G when it first came out, but inconsistently (before DVRs!). And I'd lost track of it completely before the end. When the DVD set came out, I bought it right away, and watched it all the way through over a weekend. When "Ripple" began playing, it broke my heart, but when Lindsay ran off the bus to join the Deadheads, I just burst out crying. It was so perfect.

I was in the class of '76, myself, a smart, good girl who went seriously bad my sophomore year: from good grades and neat clothes to cutting class, smoking pot, and having a lot of meaningless sex. Lindsay was my stand-in, but she was also so much better than I'd been: she had more character, more self-esteem, and more courage. It took courage to step off that bus, a courage I'd never been able to muster at her age.

I can't imagine the second season living up to this first. I agree with all your points about Daniel; I really can't see him standing up to the freaks to stay with the geeks. That D&D night was his one night of glory--just like the way he wanted Nick to have some fun before he had to ship out. And I don't know that I would want to see the turn that would be taken in Harold and Lindsay's relationship after the Summer of the Dead. Harold had had his trust in his daughter shaken so often already--the cheating, the car wreck--and I'm not sure I'd have had the strength to deal with his anger and disappointment.

About Lindsay and the Dead--I was at the 1977 concert at Englishtown Raceway (the Dead, Marshall Tucker Band, New Riders of the Purple Sage), and it lasted all day and all night, and I never sparked a single doobie. I'd given up drugs in '76. I may not have been a follow-the-sun Deadhead, but I went to a lot of their concerts, and I never felt I had to be stoned to be there. And I LOVED "American Beauty"--that and "Europe '72" were my two favorite albums. I loved Cardellini's depiction of falling into the Dead, and I loved that Lindsay went off in search of more of that feeling. I like not knowing what happened to her next. It felt like graduation.

As to what next--you know I've already voted (more than once!) for "Shameless," but I would second "Slings and Arrows" with profound enthusiasm, and I wouldn't mind seeing what you had to say about "Cupid" (was he or wasn't he?).

stephanie said...

Call me crazy but have you considered Due South? Paul Haggis' early work. It lasted more than one season (technically 4) but Canadian seasons are shorter and the Haggis versus Paul Gross as producer make it easy to separate into a managable chunk.

Just me? Okay.

Ian Baker said...

Alan - just wanted to add my thanks for the recaps of F&G over the past weeks. I've followed your reviews since your early NYPD Blue review days ; keep up the good work! It would be interesting to see if there is a spike on sales of the DVD box sets following your blog reviews.

As regards a recommendation for next year, I'd suggest the BBC Series "Life On Mars" (Seasons 1 and 2 combined). BBC America showed a "trimmed for ads" version of Series 1 last year, and both series are available on Region 2 DVD from Amazon.

I'd also cast a vote for the British Office series plus the final special.

The Engineer said...

Put me down with those who were continually irritated by Lindsay's behavior.

Is it really impossible to both have friends in the freak crowd AND do good in school? Her freak friends clearly supported her in her sole mathlete event.

Her irrational behavior - the the basic premise that any high school kid HAS to choose a single group/identity - put a major damper on the entire series for me.

Anonymous said...

Loved your Freaks and Geeks blogs.

Two things about your blogs:

1-the blog about the comedy writing class with Ken Levine glitches and there is no way to read the part that begins with Sam Simon.

2-My so Called Life would be a great show for you to do next summer!

Bobman said...

I finally got around to watching this entire series, and can't tell you how much I enjoyed it. My enjoyment was definitely helped by having your recaps to read after watching each episode. I had heard of Freaks and Geeks but never really had any reason to go back and watch it until I saw your reviews, so thanks for both the recommendations and the great recaps.

Simon Rich said...

Thanks for the great recaps Alan, you hit all the important details. What an amazing show.

Susan said...

Alan, I just want to tell you how much I've enjoyed reading your recaps of F&G. My husband and I have been slowly netflixing and watching the show, and we just finished it last night. After each episode, I've come here to your archives to read your recap and the other comments, and it's always pointed out little bits I missed, or made me appreciate certain moments more, or just made me glad to be sharing in the experience of loving a show so much. I'm not sure I would have even started watching the show if your recaps hadn't sparked my curiousity (okay, that, and my sister constantly telling me that I MUST see this show). So thanks for both the inspiration and the recaps. :)

And to answer the question you posed long ago last summer... no, I don't think Daniel would have stayed with the geeks, although I can see him popping in for a D&D game now and then. In many ways, Daniel isn't "King of the Freaks" - he seems like a leader, but I think he would wither under Ken's scorn for the geeks and D&D. I could easily see Daniel going back to his old ways next year, or still trying out alternate identities, trying to find something that fits or something else that he's good at. Or like someone else said, I could see him dropping out of school. Sad, but true - that's the way F&G would play it.

Jeff W. said...

I just want to add my thanks for this fantastic walkthrough and for introducing me to shows like Freaks and Geeks and Mad Men, and for being a place to go when I have no one to talk to about these great shows. This blog is amazing. Put up a tipjar or something.

Brandon said...

I also wanted to thank you for these recaps. I started the series a few days ago, and read your recaps after each one. I cant wait to buy the DVD set soon.

If you're still looking for a show to recap this upcoming summer, I vote for Arrested Development too.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to express my love for the original music in F&G. Several of the DVD menus I could leave on for hours.

K!ko said...

Dear Alan,
Thank you for your wonderful recaps I enjoyed to read, as much as the discussions that followed.
Excuse y english, we - in France - are not so familiar with foreign languages... ("Cultural exception", I guess)
We, in France, don't know this amazing show because it was aired only once on a cable station.
That's why I started a petition for a french release of the complete serie dvds (region 2).
In fact, I'm not so naive to believe the efficiency of such an action, especially in France, but I intend to make french medias talk about this show because Apatow becomes very popular here and has very good press with his movies.
Could you help me to spread the information, if you have french friends, or american friends living in France, or whatever...
The site is in french, and you access to the petition on the left banner.
Thank you to let know this show worldwide !

Anonymous said...

Great series. And you've done an excellent job recapping. Kudos!

Now, onto possible character development in the hypothetical second season:

Perhaps I'm only saying this because I know that James Franco enjoys painting in real life (he has stated that he has been doing art longer than he has been acting)...but I think it would have been interesting to see his character Daniel translate that angst and frustration into art. As we saw in "Noshing and Moshing" and hints from other episodes, he is experiencing a lot of inner turmoil, and that is what best fuels creative expression...I could see him being good at it, and I feel it would have been a believable turn for his character, and maybe finally something for him to feel he is "good" at. Just a thought!

Boris Parsley said...

I came looking for an authoritative quote for the great Harris "Oh, I'm sorry. Perhaps I should let you encounter kittens and grandmas, so as not to upset you" line and stayed for the tremendous recap. Good thoughtful comments too. Many thanks!

Nate said...

I just finished watching the show and your commentaries. This show blew my mind and almost ruined television for me; now I know just how excellent it can be.

Though my time in high school ended rather recently (almost three years ago), I felt as if my high school experience was duplicated on screen. Sam Weir and Co. (and to a bit lesser extent, Lindsay and the freaks) were exactly the kind of kids I hung out with, with Neal and Bill strongly reminding me of my two best friends throughout high school. Jean and Harold Weir are my mother and father VERBATIM.

I agree with the train of thought that says its better to have one perfect season than to have it get popular and watered down. Besides, I kinda feel like I lived the show.

Thanks for the wonderful recaps.

Joe K said...

I'll put in another vote for Wonderfalls. Tremendous series and it's just as ideal for this sort of treatment as Freaks and Geeks.

Bryan Murray said...

Thanks again Alan--these are really fun. I always heard how great this show was but resisted because I hate being told how great something is all the time. I had the same initial trepidation with The Wire and BSG, two of the best shows ever on TV. I plowed through F&G on Netflix in a couple of weeks and personally take the blame for its cancellation. Not really, but I did choke up at the end of this episode because there will be no more...

Anonymous said...

I love the scene where Lindsey dance in her bedroom to "Box of Rain,'' just the look of awakening and rapture on her face. It's such a teen girl moment, the dancing in the room alone--although I kind of wondered whether she would have instinctively done the Dead dance that soon.
Also, I loved "Freaks and Geeks'' so much I wished it would go on forever. I'm sad that I won't see anymore new episodes.

Carrie

Jim said...

Wow. That was just heart-breaking. The little group is drifting apart, and that trip is going to be the highlight of Lindsey and Kim's friendship, and you just know it's all downhill from there. When they get back, Lindsey will refocus on academics, go off to college.... Kim will stagger through her senior year, probably wind up with a GED and two kids before she's twenty.

Daniel will lose interest in D&D the next time Ken scores a case of beer.

A good looking corpse indeed. A great argument for the British model of planned brevity in a TV series. This one was just beautiful.

Jimbo said...

Just wanted to say "Thanks so much" for your brilliant, insightful reviews, which have added another dimension to my viewing experience of one of the most warm, tender and heartfelt television series I've ever had the pleasure of watching.

Justin said...

I got into F&G because a coworker of mine recently watched the series and got into the Dead, and started borrowing my CDs - American Beauty and then into deeper stuff. He insured me that this was a series I should watch and that it reminded him of me - that I could have been one of these guys. I'm about 10 yrs too young, but what the heck. I was going to watch it just for the Dead references.

Of course, I loved this series and realized that I missed out on something great when it was on TV and that all of these actors were linked together - suddenly movies like Knocked Up and Superbad started to make sense - the cameos etc. I even recognized Sam Weir as 'that guy from Bones!'

By the end of the series, I had forgotten why I started watching in the 1st place and when it came to the last episode, I was actually surprised when there was a Deadhead arc to the story. I had goosebumps when Lindsay was discovering American Beauty (as I had in 1989), and shed a tear when she 'got on the bus' as I also did in the 90s. It was perfect and I could totally relate.

Box of Rain was also my 1st introduction to AB and I fell in love with it as Lindsay did and then progressed into Brokedown Palace and Attics of My Life - both equally as moving to me. It is not representative of the Dead's earlier or later work or live jamming, but is just as important in the band's history. The coolest thing about the album may be the cover in which the word Beauty also spells Reality - I always thought that was so cool!

Todd said...

On the Lindsay Nick story line...

I personally saw Lindsay taken back a little bit, and actually a little upset about their relationship. I think you saw scenes throughout the show that showed that Nick was a guy she really could of liked if he wasn't high all the time and wasn't so creepy. There is one deleted scene she seems to really be into him.

I thought it was cool how they reversed the situation... Lindsay was freaked out by Nick because he was so into her, and that Sarah girl was the same way to Nick and you could see it in his eyes when she said "I can't believe you like me."

Apatow said things like they wanted Lindsay to come back with a drug issue... Since the show was on NBC I can't imagine it being anything more than pot which I think shows Lindsay and Nick in a reverse situations again. Not to mention his connection with the weirs... I doubt that Nick and Lindsay were done.

Kim Kelly said it best when she said that as soon as Nick got a girlfriend she would be jealous and want him back. I think you saw some of the jealousy, not really wanting him back... yet...

I also read about how they wanted to go into Sam getting away from being a geek, and Bill being on the basketball team... I think Nick would try to get back on too. Bill + Nick scenes could of made a second season worth it by themselves.

I also would of loved to see the darker neal divorce episodes. I think the show still would of been a classic if they got anther season. The characters were great, the writing was great, and the goal of the show was great. It's too bad it wasn't as loved then as it is now...

Great job on the recaps and thanks for having a site where us fans can continue to love and discuss this show.

James M. Barrie said...

Guess I'm about a year and a half late to the party, but I had to post a comment on how great reading these recaps was.
Thank you so much, Alan, for making this already awesome show even better for me. I know you're probably not even reading these anymore, but I'm saying this just in case.

I'm Brazilian, from Rio de Janeiro; I finished high school (or the closest thing we have to that here in Brazil) just two years ago, at a school that was nothing like McKinley, I'm not at all familliar with the homages in the show - never seen The Jerk or heard Grateful Dead -, and yet F&G struck me like nothing before. It is absolutely amazing and honest and funny, and the fact that I can identify with it in such a deep level, even though I live in a place completely different from Michigan, is an indication of how good it was.
[Although I'm not that different from the geeks - their half of the show always had a bigger impact on me than the freaks one. Just to bring back some of the references from the finale, I love Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and I'm a D&D man myself].

I was only ten when the show first aired, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't even on here in Brazil at the time.
But, a couple of years ago, I bumped into F&G at a cable channel. It was Tricks and Treats that was on. I remember it so vividly because I had just graduated from high school the day before. I was instantly in love with it.
Don't know what happened with the cable channel, though, because never saw the show on there again.

At the beginning of last year, reading stuff on the internet about Judd Apatow (and having just watched - and absolutely loved - Knocked Up and Superbad), I found out that he was involveld with F&G. Tracked it down and downloaded.
Watched the whole thing in less than a week, but never got around wachthing the finale. I didn't have the guts, I didn't want it to end. So I put it on hold.

So, about a month ago, I ended up here at your blog, following a friend's indication, to read your reviews of Lost (which I absolutely adore, too). I really liked them, so I started exploring your blog too see if I could find more cool stuff. So I bumped in these recaps of F&G, and I went nuts. It seemed like the perfect oportunity to re-watch the whole show, and this time getting to the finale.
So I did. And came here after every episode to read your recap. And it was such an amazing experience. Thank you, thank you so much, Alan, for inducing me, very inadvertedly, to finish watching F&G.
Just wanted to share this with you.

And quoting Samaire Armstrong a.k.a Anna from the O.C.:
"I wish I'd never seen it just so I could watch it again for the first time."

Richard said...

I see this recap was written almost 2 years ago, so I don't know if anyone checks it much anymore, but I thought I'd post anyways.

I remember this show coming out when I was in highschool. I was a freshmen in 1999 so I was basically the exact age as the Geeks.

I've always remembered the show being really good, so I recently purchased the series on DVD and I'm blown away at how amazing this show is. It's easily one of my favorite television shows of all time, and it's seriously depressing that there's no second season.

One thing I noticed, when I first saw the show I was always more interested in the Sam/Geeks storylines, but this time around I was always more interested in the Lindsay storylines, although both storylines in every episode were brilliant.

This is one of the rare shows where I can't think of a single episode that I thought was subpar. Even in the shows I love, there's always a few I'm pretty "eh" about. Even BSG had "Black Market". I can't really think of many other shows where I love every single episode...maybe the British version of The Office, and I haven't seen every season of The Wire but there wasn't an episode in the first two seasons I disliked.

I've now made it my mission to use my DVD's to introduce as many people as possible to this show. I already got my sister to watch it, and she was hooked from the first episode.

If they really want to expand the potential audience, I wish somebody would consider putting the series on Hulu for awhile. It was an NBC show after all, right? Seems like it'd be a great way to get people into the show who missed it during the original run, people who might not want to shell out forty bucks for a DVD set but who would certainly take the time to watch an episode on the internet.

Anonymous said...

wow. alan.

i hope you see this post of mine.

thank you for this wonderful series review. i saw pretty much all of this on youtube. but because of the music, there were some segments that had the audio blocked (from the oddest musical acts... like the grateful dead and others that you would not think would be so uptight about their music being on display. its a tv show on youtube. lowcast youtube. one would think they would love the exposure to encourage album sales. i guess not. assholes. whatever.)

but post-freaks i did watch the entire undecladed series, just to see what judd was up to next.

undeclared was amusing, but it is no freaks and geeks. not even close. so if you want to do another one and done, pass on this one.

and, after watching freaks and geeks, i am now totally convinced that neal is so alan. or alan is so totally neal. i can't get it out of my head.

smartass...




so totally convinced.

old salty said...

We just completed watching the series last night and your commentary added so much to the experience. Thank you. It is much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I originally watched Freaks and Geeks when it aired on NBC. Years went by, I watched a bunch of other stuff, but whenever I would see a reference to F&G, I would instantly remember the last episode, especially Linda Cardellini dancing around her room while listening to the Grateful Dead. YEARS after, that beautiful sequence is so vividly remembered and treasured as one of the most emotional moments I've ever viewed on television. I rank it up there with that look of adoration on Angela Chase's face when Jordan takes her hand in "Self-Esteem"; they are both clips that are so powerful, so poignant that they are impossible to forget.
I just watched F&G again for the first time in a long time and discovering you wrote recaps for the show made me, as Bill would say, so happy I thought I would cry. Beautiful work.

Anonymous said...

Not much to add other than the comment right above me (July 8, 2009) has it absolutely correct - I remember stumbling on this episode when it originally aired in the summer of 2000 and, being a fan of "American Beauty" will always remember the scene where Lindsay puts on and falls in love with "Box of Rain." What a great end to the series.

Anonymous said...

I posted something yesterday that hasn't shown up yet but I thought of something else while listening to "Box of Rain" this morning. It is absolutely the perfect song for Lindsay in this situation. Not only is it the first song on "American Beauty" (which gives the song chronological sense in the scene), but it is a song about dealing with family member's death (bassist Phil Lesh's father). Thus, the placement gives it another level of importance since Lindsay spent the whole season dealing with how her grandmother's death affected her life. She ends up finding solice and comfort - whether it is temporarily or permantly we won't know - in a song that deals exactly with what she is going through. Brilliant stuff from the F&G people.

Anonymous said...

I REALLY wish there had been another season, just for that storyline about Nick and Lindsay, with Nick being clean and Lindsay having a drug problem. Some episodes with them in summer vacation would have been awesome too.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I'm about two years too late, but I thought I'd post a comment anyway.

I saw a lot of people putting it on their best of the decade so it finally gave me the incentive to watch it and I was blown away.

The show is amazing. I'm just a junior in highschool so most of the references I had to google, but the 80's stuff was only a small portion of the show.

I'm a geek so I found it much easier to relate to Sam than Lindsay, even though I'm closer in age to her, and almost always able to relate to him.

It was kind of hard to believe that she would go off on the tour, I never would have had the guts to do it, but it still struck a deep chord. I'm in favor of not have a second season because of that scene. I can't imagine how Harold and Jean would deal with that if it came back. And I like F&G as a lighter drama than a darker one, which seemed like the direction it was going to go next season.

The commentary helped a lot while watching. I don't think I'll meet many people that have also watched it since it's almost 10 years old now. So this is about as close as I'll get.

Anonymous said...

"For what it's worth, I asked Apatow what remaining plans he had for a second season"

On one of the DVDs or commentaries or something, he mentions that Daniel would've gone to prison in the second season.

A friend of mine always hated the fact that Lindsay "wound up" as a deadhead, but, to me, it always seemed like a passing phase, I didn't think she'd still be doing in too much down the road (though the drug problem is alarming!).

Anonymous said...

I just got into the show because of your blog and after each episode I'd come here to read your recap and all of the user comments. I just have to say this show is truly one of a kind. So many of the characters and stories ring true, there's an authenticity here that I've never found in another television show. The finale nearly brought me to tears with Lindsey leaving and Daniel finding a bit of happiness for once. When Lindsey got off that bus and I saw Kim standing there I couldn't stop smiling. Thanks for sharing this experience with me.

Anonymous said...

I actually think the Nick/Sara relationship is more like the Sam/Cindy relationship than the Nick/Lindsay relationship. Sara never comes across as creepy or stalker-like the way Nick was with Lindsay. At worst, she just seems a little needy with the way she deliberately blows off finals just to better assimilate with Nick's friends and the "confession" she makes to Nick when they're in his basement. But, otherwise, there's nothing really wrong with her.

The problem, like Cindy with Sam, is that she's just a bad match for Nick. She doesn't at all fit in with his friends, and she and Nick have almost nothing in common (Nick's clearly forced disco/Zeppelin comparison pretty well affirms this).

Leave it to Freaks And Geeks to be one of only a handful of comedies to show how, in real life, baseless crushes like the one Sara has on Nick usually don't make for successful relationships.

Anonymous said...

I may be several years late with the discovery of both these recaps and the show itself, but F&G was just a damn fine show. I feel bad for never bothering to watch it earlier, even though I knew it hald a cult following of sorts.

rob! said...

Another years-late comment, but what the hell.

I finally saw all of F&G on DVD a few years ago, and my gf and I practically didn't sleep for two days so we could watch all the shows as soon as possible; it was that good.

After the recent reunion article in Vanity Fair, we watched them all over again on Netflix and of course the show is even better. These recaps have made me discover lots of little details I missed the first time around; it's truly amazing how deep and detail-oriented F&G was.

Watching the final episode over again, the part that makes me the saddest (aside just from knowing it's all ending too soon) is imagining just how much heartbreak Lindsey is going to deliver onto her parents. While they may have been stodgy and out of touch, the show always presented the Weir parents as decent, caring people. They will simply be CRUSHED when they learn what Lindsey did and even though it's fiction it still leaves me feeling so sad after the credits have run out.

It will never happen of course, but I still think there's some merit to the idea of doing a reunion special. If fan fervor can bring Arrested Development back from the dead, I don't see why there isn't a market for a F&G one-off special; if anything, I'd say there's even more demand, because so many of the F&G cast are now big stars.

I realize the odds of it ever happening are slim--to-none, and if it did happen, that it would be good are even slimmer than that, but the enduring love the makers for the show clearly still have for their creation makes me think that they'd all sign on for a F&G movie/special in a heartbeat.

Maybe I just need to see for myself that Lindsey and her parents made up.