How does one write about a show that so often before has been written about, praised, denounced then praised again? Such a show that defines a generation its actors weren’t even a part of, a series that hits every mark and yet only has eighteen episodes total? I suppose we can start by looking at this series for what it is: a heartfelt and hilarious meditation on the trials (albeit sometimes trivial) of teen life, from a wide array of perspectives. This show is the famed series which jumpstarted Judd Apatow’s career: Freaks and Geeks.
In the first episode, school bells are heard ringing as the camera pans over to the football team, missing their best player- the quarterback who is sitting on the bleachers with his beautiful cheerleader girlfriend. Right as you think that you’re about to get sucked into the world of these stereotypical high-school cool kids, the fixed camera moves again, this time panning under the bleachers to the smokers and the weirdos, and again to the geeks playing just behind the bleachers. This entire opening sequence was taken in one continuous shot, suggesting that while these kids in high school seem vastly different in their interests and experiences, they’ll soon come to find their unique similarities along the course of the series- through the help of protagonist; Lindsay Weir.
The series follows the teens through their encounters with young love, sex, drugs, parties, childhood abandonment and most importantly resisting the pressure to be something you’re not. The conversation on identity is special in this show. Each character has their own passion and those who don’t are lost to the point of self-destruction. In one of my favorite moments of the show, Lindsay’s younger brother Sam enters her room and reluctantly asks her if he and his band of “geek” friends could beat up their bully, to which Lindsay answers yes, if they’re together. Next Sam quickly asks Lindsay, “Why are you ruining your life?” This moment feels so pure and sure in itself as representative of the way young kids address serious issues about life. Lindsay reveals that she’s been lost ever since she witnessed her grandmother die, giving a whole new perspective on what Lindsay’s goals and aims are. She has fallen into a teenage existential crisis that the pot-smoking and spontaneous “freaks” help her climb out of. Despite getting hurt by others, and disappointing herself, Lindsay will always find a moment to stand up and dance on her own to her Grateful Dead record. That’s the beauty of this show. In true Judd Apatow fashion, no matter how serious the show gets there’s always a sigh of comedic relief, allowing us to recognize the absurdity of high school stresses.
While this show hits the mark in almost every way, I can’t help but acknowledge the fact that the show probably couldn’t exist exactly as it is today. They live in a suburb in America’s mid-west, so one could argue it make sense that the students attend a predominantly white school, but the complete lack of non-white representation is a bit outdated. That being said, there is a sequence in which Seth Rogen’s character Ken discovers his girlfriend was born an intersex baby with both male and female genitalia, and later decided she identified as a girl when she was a toddler. Ken then goes through a long and complicated process for a to understand just what that means for their relationship, pushing him to explore his own sexuality in an open and healthy way. This sub-plot is about as radical as the show gets in terms of exploring non-normative narratives. That being said, if you take the show for what it is, you can find moments to appreciate throughout. If nothing else, the show serves as a great way to sit back and listen to some Grateful Dead albums.
For a moment you can forget that you’re living in 2017 and escape to a seemingly simpler time where you can just abandon your life in favour of being a rock band groupie. The show sadly was dropped after the first season, but we’ll always have that glorious one season to watch repeatedly and fall in love with every time
Image: FAN THE FIRE magazine @ Flickr