It's been a long time since 1999 (hasn't it, symbol-man?), so it's very unlikely that there will ever be any other network "picking up" this show. The shallowness of the world of Hollywood and high-priced television networks would make P.T. Barnum rewrite his oft-quoted phrase with a larger dose of bitterness. It would make Samuel Goldwyn revise his famous quote, "You will never underestimate the tastes of American moviegoers" to include a darker and more sarcastic tone. All I'm saying is this: The fact that this show only ran for 18 episodes, episodes which were getting better and better each week, tells you all you need to know about the reason you have 150 channels and there is nothing on worth watching.
The year Paul Feig's show was cancelled, the major networks chose to renew production and airing of other hour-long shows as:
And I could go on. But I think you get the picture. I have never watched more than part of one episode of any of the above shows. They insulted my intelligence before the second commercial and I never went back. Some of them, like the Gilmore Girls and Charmed, make me want to hurt someone, just thinking about them. And yet a show like Freaks and Geeks gets cancelled after one season? As I said, this is all you need to know about the cocaine-addled wankers in suits who run the networks.
Luckily for you, there is now a complete DVD boxed set of all these 18 episodes, and you can watch them at home and then discuss with your loved ones why The Apprentice and The Simple Life will be back next year when shows such as the one you just watched on DVD could not. It's actually a very telling and quite damning story.
We were renting these discs from NetFlix and were up to awaiting the shipment of disc number 5 (of 6) when one of my daughter's friends bought her the boxed set for a belated graduation present. My daughter and I saw most of these back when it was either on or in reruns, but my wife had never seen any of them. We all watched the entire series during the past few days, and I can assure you that you could not find a better TV series to rent or buy. There was hardly any one episode that didn't have me tugging for the Kleenex, and I'm a manly man.
Why does this series get to me so hard? I guess it's because I was Lindsay. I was the straight-A student who was trying to find the wild side of high school. Once I found it, I discovered that the wild side kids had some issues with kids who were straight-A students trying to fit in with their world. It's not easy and in fact it's kind of dangerous, as Lindsay and I both found out, but it can be done in one fashion or another.
We just watched the very last episode tonight, and when Lindsay makes that final decision as the Grateful Dead's American Beauty album ratchets up on the soundtrack, there could not have been a better metaphor for the way her life is going to go; as well as the way my life went after high school.
I think my daughter likes it for the same reasons. I haven't discussed this particular point of view with her, but I think she probably identifies with Lindsay, too. As for my wife, she didn't like the show at all during the first couple of episodes, but by the end she admitted that it was a wonderful series. She hated Lindsay in the beginning. She hated Ken in the beginning. But, as she said, they all "grew on her" as it went along.
The fact that Lindsay is such a crucial character doesn't mean that it's not her interaction with the other "types" in the show which make it all worthwhile. As with life itself, it's the folks you meet along the way that teach you the most about yourself. And this show reminded me how important all those "types" were in my life.
Lindsay's dad is Harold Weir, played by Joe Flaherty. I remembered him from his days as Guy Caballero (along with other characters) on Second City TV. This was a show back in the mid-70s which could be called a Canadian version of Saturday Night Live, with the exception that it was consistently funny. On Freaks and Geeks, Flaherty's Harold Weir is an upper middle class hardware store owner who votes Republican and maintains all the decorum he can in his house, consisting of Lindsay (16) and Sam (14). The defining moment in Harold's character comes in Episode 16 ("Smooching and Mooching") when one of Lindsay's new "burn out" friends gets kicked out of his house.
Nick's dad is a veteran and has finally gotten fed up with Nick playing drums and smoking dope instead of applying himself in school. This leads to Nick living in his car or wherever he can, eventually landing him in Lindsay's house due to her dad's soft heart under that bearish exterior. Lindsay's not happy about Nick being in her house, for several reasons, but she seems to be mostly upset with her dad for taking time to talk to Nick and try to work through his problems. She tells her dad that he never talks to her like that when she has troubles. This is when Harold tells her about his old man being a real hardass and how she doesn't understand what it's like to be a dad, especially with a daughter. She tells him that he is a hardass with her. This is when her dad looks at her with a whole lot of love and says, "You don't understand what being a hardass father really is. Believe me, Lindsay. You don't." I said I was Lindsay as a kid, but nowadays I'm Harold. I'm definitely Harold.
Regardless of what my wife thought at first, Ken was always one of my favorite characters. He's the smartass guy hanging with the freaks. He's the one with the muttonchops who never has anything but sarcasm for any comment which comes his way. Wait, I said I was Lindsay. I think I was really Ken. I misspoke. How Ken and I kept from getting our asses whipped more often is a mystery only solved by the art of fast talking.
Ken's defining moment in the series is in Episode 14 ("Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers") when all the freaks are waiting to go to a Who concert. Nick has written a song for Lindsay which he calls "Lady L." The abject horror of this song could not be described, and I would suggest you fast forward the DVD to avoid listening to it. However, Ken listens when Nick debuts it for his approval and tries his best not to judge. He shows compassion on a one-on-one situation. Later, when he sees that Nick is about to foist this monstrosity of a song on Lindsay, Ken pulls out the only trick in his bag. He yells, "Hey, I'm Pete Townshend," grabs Nick's guitar (in an Animal House moment) and smashes it on the pavement. He tells Nick in private, "I just did you the biggest favor ever." Nick realizes he's right.
Nick takes some getting used to. At first, he comes off like a stoned slack-jawed loser. Later, when you get to know him better, you realize that he's really a stoned slack-jawed loser. The defining moment in Nick's character is in Episode 6 ("I'm with the Band") when Lindsay convinces him to audition for a "real band." This band, Dimension, which actually gets paying gigs and knows how to play more than chords has recently lost their drummer. When nervous Nick goes to their place and sits down to a regular drum set, he mentions that he's not used to playing on a set this small. As he's leaving, totally humiliated after being unable to keep a simple beat, the comment that "one more" piece would give him "an even thirty" ranks right up there with the these go to eleven moment in Spinal Tap. This is when Nick realizes what a stoned slack-jawed loser he is and likely always will be. It's actually kind of sad.
The head of the freak crew is Daniel. Since he's got a semblance of my name, it'd be easy to say that I was Daniel. In fact, there's something to this. No, wait. He's the one having sex in high school. That's not me. The defining moment in Daniel's character arc comes early on in Episode 5 ("Test and Breasts") when he and Lindsay are trying to figure out how to cover up the fact that she helped him cheat on a math test. He talks her into his scheme with an emotional pitch about how he was always considered the "stupid kid," even at a very young age. Lindsay buys it until she hears the exact same speech, complete with a teary ending, given to the math teacher. She cracks up laughing. Excellent moment. However, by the end of the show, when Daniel is playing D&D with Sam and the other geeks, you realize you've always liked this character, no matter what he's done to try to make you feel otherwise.
Sam is Lindsay's little brother, and he is the primary focus of the set of three geeks in the show. The disturbing thing about Sam is that his lips are just a little too pretty for a boy his age. His buddies are Bill, the consummate dork, and Neal, the Jewish comedian. The story lines about these kids didn't seem as important to me as the character arcs of the older freaks. I'll let someone else who might have felt differently go into detail about this part of the show.
My only real point is to tell you that the show is out on DVD and that you should see it if you haven't already. Well, that and to remind you of how screwed up a network system is where shows as good as this die after one season.
Linda Cardellini as Lindsay Weir
John Francis Daley as Sam Weir
James Franco as Daniel Desario
Samm Levine as Neil Schweiber
Seth Rogen as Ken Miller
Jason Segel as Nick Andoplois
Martin Starr as Bill Haverchuck
Becky Ann Backer as Joan Weir
Joe Flaherty as Harold Weir
Busy Phillipps as Kim Kelly
Dave (Gruber) Allen as Jeff Rosso
Tom Wilson as Coach Ben Fredricks
Stephen Lea Sheppard as Harris Trinsky
Sarah Hagan as Millie Kentner
Steve Bannos as Mr. Kowchevski
Kevin Tighe as Mr. Andopolis
Sam McMurray as Dr. Schweiber
Chauncey Leoplardi as Alan White