TV Review–Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)

Available on Netflix, HuluPlus, and Amazon Prime Instant Video

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Sam, Bill, and Neal discover a porno.

I only lived in the 80s for about ten months, so I have no memories of that decade. But when I watch Freaks and Geeks, it’s like that era just comes alive. Not the leg warmers, big hair, and track suits. I mean real stuff–the stuff my mom talks about. The eighties were filled with strange new political and social issues, and the state of American youth was in a major flux. But I’m making it sound boring. It’s not. This show manifests those issues into the lives of real people, then kicks up the hilarity with some of the best writing in TV history.

Comedy is created through exaggeration, a strategy masterfully employed by the show’s characters. Remember that nerdy kid that sat next to you in Chemistry? Turn up his geek level a few notches–make those glasses a tad bigger, hike up the pants a few more inches, and abra kadabra, you’ve got Bill (Martin Starr). Make the stoners a little bit more stoned and you’ve got Daniel, Ken, and Nick (James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel). Everybody in the show is an exaggeration of a very real kind of person, from the half-assed rebel Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) to her father, the overbearing chauvinist Mr. Weir (Joe Flaherty). The extreme nature of these characters leads them into many moments of equally extreme awkwardness. But it’s the kind of awkwardness that works perfectly for drama and comedy alike, especially in a high school setting. It makes the situations feel incredibly authentic.

Most fans of Freaks and Geeks will automatically connect Judd Apatow with the creation of the show, and forget to mention Paul Feig. Both men were heavily involved in its success, and both men have since gained monster amounts of fame and critical acclaim with Hollywood blockbusters. This is because they are natural storytellers. Movies and TV shows are always better when the teller has a heart for the tale, and Freaks and Geeks was written by men who have a bittersweet recollection of their youth. Nostalgia is the key factor, and it’s palpable here. If you grew up in the 80s you’ll find something to love, whether its great characters that ring true or the references to laser shows and the Star Wars movies. If you didn’t grow up in the 80s, you’re still going to fall for the witty dialogue and good natured laughs that populate every single minute of this great show.

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3 1/2 out of 4 stars

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