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Paul Feig Walks Us Through Freaks and Geeks
April 9, 2012 9:00 AM   Subscribe

In the first of a five-part series, Paul Feig walks through the origins of and provides an episode-by-episode analysis of Freaks and Geeks
posted by The Gooch (42 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
YES, PLEASE.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:09 AM on April 9, 2012


Oh my god this is so fucking great.
posted by eugenen at 9:24 AM on April 9, 2012


The wife and I tore through the series again a few months back. There's very little wrong with the show from start to finish. I honestly don't understand why it was never given a fair shot. While I don't love it as much as some of the usual suspects in the "cancelled too soon" crowd, it's got way, way more universal appeal than most of those.
posted by SpiffyRob at 9:25 AM on April 9, 2012


The way all the stories came about is that we basically holed ourselves up in a room for two weeks, and Judd and I wrote out 20 questions for everybody. “What’s the worst thing to happen to you in high school? What’s the best thing to happen to you in high school? What’s the most embarrassing thing?” And everybody filled it out, wrote their stories, and we sat around for two weeks telling the stories. That was where we found all the stories for the episodes.
Well so that makes perfect sense, then.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:27 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I might as well change this weekend's plans from "clean the garage" to "Freaks and Geeks marathon" right now. There's no way I'm going to be able to read this and not want to watch every episode again.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:31 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I honestly don't understand why it was never given a fair shot.

I think this is a bit connected to why Jim from The Office is such a rosy-cheeked achiever compared to gray beleaguered Tim from the BBC original. For it to have been successful, they would have had to call Freaks and Geeks something like The Cool Kids or something. For a lot of people who self-identify as freaks and geeks or remember fondly their own freakhood and geekhood, identifying with that label is no great leap. For people who either actually have sashayed through life without an awkward moment, phase, year, decade or who want to pretend that's true, it's harder for them to buy into it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:33 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I honestly don't understand why it was never given a fair shot.

Not to suggest that NBC went balls-out for it or anything, but it's a tough sell almost by its very nature. There's a reason why most high school shows cast gorgeous twentysomethings rather than real high school kids as the students.

As with Arrested Development, I'm just grateful it got a chance to air at all.

And [*SPOILER*] I really look forward to Feig's comments on the ending. I know the show was cancelled pretty abruptly, but I thought the end of the last episode, with Lindsay driving off to follow the Grateful Dead on tour with her friends instead of going to UM summer school or whatever, was utterly perfect to conclude the show. It made me cry happy tears.
posted by eugenen at 9:41 AM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


The scene from the pilot episode with the kids walking to confront their bully while "Renegade" by Styx plays is one of my favorite uses of rock music in a TV series ever. Probably at least five more of my top ten uses of rock music on TV also come from Freaks and Geeks. They really knew how to use the perfect song for the perfect scene.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:51 AM on April 9, 2012


As much as people bemoan the fact F&G was cancelled prematurely, in hindsight, I kind of like the fact the show never had a chance to deteriorate in quality and we are left with a perfect 18-episode series with a conclusive ending, without a bad episode in the batch.
posted by The Gooch at 9:51 AM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


why Jim from The Office is such a rosy-cheeked achiever

um
posted by Edison Carter at 9:58 AM on April 9, 2012


Yeah, between a show being cancelled too soon and one going on too long, I slightly prefer the former.
posted by box at 10:01 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


um

Comparatively. Jim looks like the kind of guy who might make a fruit smoothie after his morning run. Tim looked like the kind of guy who woke up late and put expired milk on his cereal.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:09 AM on April 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


Yeah, also worth mentioning that a lot of the stuff that was planned for Season 2 wound up getting put in Season 1 because they knew they were getting cancelled, so in the hypothetical universe where the show continued past its first 18 episodes, those first 18 episodes might actually be uneven and awful in places.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:10 AM on April 9, 2012


For people who either actually have sashayed through life without an awkward moment, phase, year, decade or who want to pretend that's true, it's harder for them to buy into it.

Wait, these people actually exist?

(I'm serious.)
posted by madcaptenor at 10:28 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


For people who either actually have sashayed through life without an awkward moment, phase, year, decade or who want to pretend that's true, it's harder for them to buy into it.

Wait, these people actually exist?


Remember the popular kids from high school? Most of them still live in that bubble, no matter how long it's been since then and how downtrodden they are.
posted by Etrigan at 10:43 AM on April 9, 2012


Wait, these people actually exist?

My wife and I were discussing some pop song or other a while ago, and I mentioned that it perfectly encompassed the feeling of being dumped, and she sheepishly responded that she wouldn't know, because she had never been dumped. I mean, I knew that intellectually (we met in high school, so neither of us have a long list of priors), but when she phrased it like that, it blew my mind. She was never exactly a "popular kid" because she moved in 8th grade and then again just before 12th grade), but she just always broke it off with her boyfriends instead of having it done to her. I kind of pity her for missing out on that aspect of young love, really.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:16 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


For people who either actually have sashayed through life without an awkward moment, phase, year, decade or who want to pretend that's true, it's harder for them to buy into it.

Wait, these people actually exist?

Remember the popular kids from high school?


I thought one of the themes of Freaks and Geeks is that even the popular kids are super-awkward in high school, they're just better at masking it.
posted by muddgirl at 12:02 PM on April 9, 2012


I honestly don't understand why it was never given a fair shot.

I didn't like it at the time (gave up before the first episode was over) for the same reason I didn't finish Easy A. Watching kids act like mean little assholes in completely believable ways reminded me too much of middle/high school and I had no interest in revisiting that time.

Maybe that was only one scene in the first episode, but I wouldn't know because I changed the channel. It's been a long time since then, so I should probably give it another shot.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:04 PM on April 9, 2012


I know that bailing during the first episode means I'm totally unqualified to comment about this show and know basically nothing about it. Just giving my reason for not watching while it was on.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:06 PM on April 9, 2012


There's a certain element of cringe comedy to the show, but it's so warm and affectionate toward its characters that most of the time I don't even notice how uncomfortable and awkward the situations are.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:11 PM on April 9, 2012


SpiffyRob: "The wife and I tore through the series again a few months back. There's very little wrong with the show from start to finish. I honestly don't understand why it was never given a fair shot. While I don't love it as much as some of the usual suspects in the "cancelled too soon" crowd, it's got way, way more universal appeal than most of those."

I think it's honestly because the usual suspects who would watch this show -- namely the me and you and people we know -- just plain didn't watch it for some dumb reason. I know one person who watched it when it was originally on and I should have listened to her. As much as network programming is magical weird crapshoot, I just think this is one of those things that is simple: nobody watched and nobody was talking about it.

I think it's the biggest difference between 1999 and 2012, pop culture wise. In a world where a perfectly fine show but not that special show like Jericho or a wonderful but admittedly niche comedy like Community can seems larger than they really are because of the Internet, something like Freaks and Geeks would be a darling in a way that just wasn't happening yet in 1999.

Speaking of the weirdness of network television, from the article:
But it was the year Welcome To The Dollhouse came out, that Todd Solondz movie, which I loved. So the networks were trying to develop a show kind of with the same feel.
Please insert emoji for "eyes-bugging-out-of-my-head-cartoon-style-and-shouting-What-the-What?!?!?" here.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:46 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


They really knew how to use the perfect song for the perfect scene.

Jason Segal's character, Nick, joining in with Lindsay's gawky Christian friend on "Jesus is Just Alright."

Just perfect. Totally defines something about Nick, about his passion and generosity of spirit, that carries him through some future scenes where he'd seem like just another self-absorbed pain-in-the-ass otherwise.
posted by gompa at 12:51 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah that Nick would jam with Millie on 'Jesus is Just Alright' and would also totally dig the guidance counselor playing Alice Cooper makes his [terrible] drumming audition just that much more painful-- look how generous his spirit is! Watch the universe crush him!
posted by shakespeherian at 1:12 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Some of those chords are really hard!
posted by box at 1:15 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's one of my favorite shows of all time, but I didn't watch it when it was first on. I don't know if my experience is typical, but I remember specifically choosing to NOT watching it, because I skeptically assumed it was going to be like every other high-school show. I knew the title, but I thought, "Yeah, right." I was SURE the geeks would be good-looking kids with taped-together glasses slapped on them. I didn't know anything about Paul Feig, and I had no idea that he was striving for as much authenticity as possible. And I certainly didn't trust network television to get it right.

It took about four friends to say, "You REALLY should watch this," for me to give it a try, and by that time it was too late for me to watch it aside from in reruns.

There's definitely a big-enough audience for the show, and had it been on HBO*, I would have given it a try right away, but I'm wondering whether the main reason it didn't catch on was because its core audience was mostly people like me -- people who hear "network show about high school" and say "No thanks" without even giving it a try.

* Every once in a while, I have a fantasy of pitching a remake of the show to HBO. Feig actually had a show in development with them a few years ago, but it never went anywhere. But I'd bet if HBO bought the title "Freaks and Geeks" from whoever owns it and brought the original writing team on board (and, of course, they'd have to recast it), it would be very popular. And on HBO, the show could explore avenues it couldn't touch on networks.
posted by grumblebee at 1:25 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


If they're recasting it, they need to make it a different show. I refuse to watch a Sam Weir who isn't John Francis Daley.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:45 PM on April 9, 2012


Yeah, it would work better as a different show, set at a different high school, but with the same basic premise.

On the other hand, I tend to feel the way you do at first, if I see a remake of something I really love, but if the remake is well made and the new actors are brilliant, I get over it.
posted by grumblebee at 1:49 PM on April 9, 2012


It seems weird to remake something that is entirely character-based and not really much at all situation/plot-based.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:12 PM on April 9, 2012


One-page version.
posted by scottjacksonx at 2:15 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think half the potential audience thought the title was so awful they never bothered to tune in---it really is an unpromising title. And of those who did tune in, lots couldn't handle the cringe factor. That was my wife's experience---after Nick's audition episode, she just couldn't bear to watch any more.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:16 PM on April 9, 2012


Usually I would agree with you. I would only be into a remake if Feig (or someone with his sensibilities) was at the helm of it. The idea would be to develop a show that was about the outcasts in high school -- without glamorizing or romanticizing it.
posted by grumblebee at 2:16 PM on April 9, 2012


Paul Feig covered a lot of this ground with Marc Maron on WTF. Freaks and Geeks fans probably want to check this out, too. Feig came off as a very nice guy.
posted by puckupdate at 2:22 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Freaks and Geeks is a pretty special piece of entertainmentproduct for me, because it was, of course, great and filled with little and large truths about growing up, but mostly, I think, because its characters were living at a time and at an age that matched my own personal experience precisely.

In 1980, I was 14, and I was, like the POV character Lindsay, straddling both sides of the freak/geek divide.

I'm going to have to rewatch the series this weekend, too.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:35 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Part two.
posted by box at 6:09 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Part 3
posted by SpiffyRob at 6:43 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The famed Farting Chair scene described by Feig in Part 3 (and I guess I'm revealing my real age here as 12 since I love this scene so much I appear to have posted it to Mefi twice in the past couple weeks)
posted by The Gooch at 8:16 AM on April 11, 2012


My girlfriend hadn't seen most of the show and me mentioning this thread to her inspired a watching, and man... it's so great. Oddly, I kind of hate cringe humor, but the parts of the show that rely on it are pretty spread out, and the characters are so great that I can enjoy them.

And Martin Starr is the best.
posted by flaterik at 1:25 PM on April 11, 2012


Quattro
posted by Rock Steady at 6:42 AM on April 12, 2012


5
posted by box at 5:34 AM on April 13, 2012


"I have to laugh, because over the years, people always go like, “Oh it’s too bad you didn’t have the last episode, because I wish I could have seen what happened to everybody, and finish up.” And I’m so happy with that last episode. I have no regrets. To me, we said goodbye to all the characters. They would have been different the next year, and then the year after that, they would have been different again."
posted by box at 5:44 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was so great. I'm totally buying the DVD now, just for all the deleted scenes they referenced in that interview. Thank you for posting this.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:44 AM on April 13, 2012


The DVD set is great. Commentaries, outtakes, all sorts of stuff. Plus a show of some kind!
posted by shakespeherian at 6:20 AM on April 13, 2012


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