"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 Dancing 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.
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.
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 who 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?