Freaks And Geeks.

Can I just gush for a minute about how much I love Freaks and Geeks? Okay, thanks.

This past weekend, I visited my homie Mark in Bellingham and we were talking about our favorite television series of all time. He mentioned Freaks and Geeks, which I had never seen before, and before I knew it we had watched all 18 episodes of the single-season series in less than 72 hours. Yeesh.

Photobucket via

Nutshell synopsis of the show: Set in Michigan in 1980. Lindsey (Linda Cardellini) is trying to break free from her good-girl mathlete image and starts hanging out with the freaks of the school (the word “freak” in the context of the show essentially constitutes anyone who listens to Led Zeppelin, occasionally smokes weed, and engages in questionably hoodrat activities), whereas her nerdy younger brother Sam (John Francis Daley) and his two besties try their darnedest to avoid being pelted with dodgeballs in gym, pushed into lockers by bullies and being generally thought of as geeks, often to no avail.

There are so many things I love about this show. For one, it’s hilarious. It also stars James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel, from back when they were basically no-names, so it’s fascinating and kind of precious to see them so young and unknown and then think about what giant celebrities they are now. The show also has perhaps the best opening credits sequence of all time.

I think the thing I like the most about the show, though, is how astutely it captures the awkwardness of being in high school and trying to navigate your identity and define yourself. A lot of shows about high schoolers implement the standard archetypes of cheerleader and bad boy and nerd, and I guess Freaks and Geeks does that as well but the characters have so much depth and dimension that they seem less like stereotypes and more like real people, with all of their flaws and idiosyncracies.

Photobucket via

I think about my own high school experience and how I didn’t really fit into any one group: I was smart and got good grades, but I was also kind of an outcast, but I was also an athlete. And that’s where I think Freaks and Geeks is brilliant: the characters have social labels, but none of them are forced into reductive impermeable boxes and there is always the possibility of social mobility. For example, Daniel, the coolest of the freaks, ends up playing Dungeons & Dragons with the geeks and really liking it, and Bill, who is perhaps the geekiest geek, ends up making out with the head cheerleader at a party, and not because she pities him either. The show exposes how arbitrary high school labels are, how no one person can be boiled down to simply “freak” or “geek” because there’s more to a person than that.

If you haven’t seen this show, I recommend you watch it immediately! Or as soon as you’re able, I guess. You won’t regret it, I promise.

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127 responses to “Freaks And Geeks.

  1. Best show ever! I recently got it from the library and watched it all in a week. I can’t believe I missed the show when it first aired. I loved all the characters-I was able to empathize with them all. One of my favourite episodes was with Bill and his mom, when she was dating his gym teacher.

  2. A great show! I never watched it until long after it ended, and I don’t even remember how — I just started Netflixing it. And now I want to Netflix it again. πŸ™‚

  3. I was obsessed with Freaks and Geeks when it came out. I watched every episode and was crushed when they cancelled the show. I love it when the cheerleader tells Sam that talking to him is like talking to his sister. I am currently obsessed with Parenthood and was really worried they would scrap that show, too. Thankfully they are signed for a 3rd season!:)

  4. I am totally with you- Freaks and Geeks is possibly the best example (challenged only by Firefly) of a marvelous show with complex characters that was tragically canceled before the plot line could truly be developed.

    When I caught a few episodes back in middle school I remember being somewhat disconcerted by how pretty Lindsey was, despite being a ‘freak’, but upon watching the entire show several times in college found myself glad that they didn’t caricature-ize her by making her super awkward or ugly.

  5. Right?.. Don’t you love it when that happens?! All the episodes in a big O’L dose?…

    Nice! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Freaks and Geeks is our favorite as well, and we watch the DVD series awesome. It is the greatest coming-of-age story…Ever.

  7. My girlfriend loves this show, I think it’s for the same reasons. I think this show was always going to struggle but at least most of the actors made have done great stuff since.

  8. Love that show! It’s the whole reason why I have an uber crush on James Franco πŸ™‚

  9. I haven’t seen it, but you describe it very well with your words!

  10. Love love love that show!
    Glad you enjoyed it so much.

  11. Love it…. and pretty much for all the same reasons!

  12. I absolutely loveee this show! My best friend got me into it. You’re so right – it sweetly captures the awkwardness of high school in a real way. I love it. And the actors are wonderful.

  13. I have never seen or heard or this, but it sounds pretty good – i might have to watch them! I noticed it has Marshall from ‘How I Met Your Mother’ in it!

    Great post, described the series well and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed

  14. This show sounds freekin’ awesome. Especially because I’m pretty much in love with Seth Rogan. I’m wondering if it’s not netflix! I’ll have to check ASAP! Anyways, this blog was fantastic and now that I’ve read this one I will indeed have to read more of your blog! πŸ™‚

  15. wow, this sounds great, i’m always looking for good series. thanx πŸ™‚

  16. YESS!! You discovered Freaks & Geeks! πŸ˜€
    My boyfriend is a serial TV-show-watcher, and I must say that’s one of his best finds since we watch some together. I totally agree with your analysis of why it’s good: even while many things are exaggerated for humour’s sake (but it works! it’s very funny), it still portrays high school life in an accurate and subtle way. How you hate your boring, weird family only to discover that it’s not so bad after all, how you hate being categorized as a geek or a good girl, but eventually can’t live up to all the things “being cool” supposedly implies…
    I’m sad it only lasted one season. We’re giving a shot to some other shows right now, but I miss the enthusiasm with which we’d go, “Let’s watch Freaks & Geeks!” every evening we were together for the last couple of weeks.

  17. I love this show so much!! I was gutted when it didn’t get renewed, I so badly wanted to see where else they would take the characters. It’s some of the best character writing on television. Great post!

  18. I agree with PEPaTalk def was where I started my crush on James Franco. it was such a great show I may have to netflix it now!!!!

  19. Amazing show! I watched it about 4 years ago because I had developed a super-crush on James Franco and actually ended up truly loving the show. It’s too bad it had only 1 season…I want a reunion!

  20. I’ve never seen the show before, but I think that if I start watching it, I’ll be as hooked as you are!

    Just one question: does James Franco squint as much when he was younger as he does now?

  21. Never watched this show. Now I’m super intrigued!

  22. mewithmycamera

    Great show, but died because NBC had it airing on Saturday nights which is the kiss of death for any tv show, I missed it tremendously when it was cancelled

  23. I do really like this show, too. For me the best is the historical context: the 80′ are quite good represented, it really seems that the show was shot in that year, though I’m not american and I can get all the simbolic meanings af the show. However, I would say that the last but one episode is the best. It’s a pitty that it had to be cancelled.

  24. I’ll admit to never having watched an episode…but after your synopsis, I’m inspired!

    (and I love love LOVE Seth Rogen…)

    Thanks for gushing! πŸ˜‰

  25. I was 16 yrs old in high school in 1980 – the year Freaks & Geeks was set in. I totally “love” F&G but at the same time find it slightly disturbing because they totally nailed that era.

    They have so many images and symbols from 1980 that brought me back to high school days: from Atari videogames to those plastic drink containers in the school cafeteria, to cheesy Styx ballads to those crazy nylon gym shorts.

    Oh yeah…I was a total Freak! ….but also Sporty and sometimes Geeky (although I never played D&D).

  26. thanks for introducing me to this show.. awesome

  27. I love this show! I’m so sad it was canceled so soon!

  28. Never seen it but you’ve aroused my curiosity!

  29. i remember when i first heard of this show. i was interested, but never really found an avenue to really sit and watch any episodes…until a few months ago. and how i enjoyed it! similarly, it reminded me of the joys and thrills of high school (note the sarcasm).

    yeah, i was definitely a geek, trying to be a freak. ended being a _________.

    you wouldn’t by any chance like the show “how i met your mother”? because i’m planning on writing a post about in the coming days.

    i appreciate your writing. long live the 80s!

  30. apocalypsecakes

    Glad someone is giving Freaks and Geeks its due. This show is VERY important. I watched it while I photoshopped images for my evil cake project and it was quite inspirational. http://apocalypsecakes.com

  31. It still baffles that this show only lived through one season. I loved it then, so much that I had the whole series taped on VHS. We just recently Netflixed the whole thing again and it is just as amazing now. Glad to hear about another enthusiast!

  32. the best high school movies and television shows always were the ones that made you feel connected to the characters. loved this show, too. still do.

  33. Thanks for the intro – I’ll have to check out the show. And congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  34. This show was amazing! I love the Halloween episode. haha. And James Franco was awesome back before he was even awesome. Jason Segal and Seth Rogan, too. Awesome, awesome even back then. It sometimes airs on IFC

  35. I never saw that show before but seeing the cast, it definitely looks like something I’d like to look into. Thanks for sharing!

  36. Such a great show!!! For any girl who was smart in high school and didn’t care about being pretty, Lindsay was it. (It was so weird to see Carmellini all grown up as the badass on ER, though.)

  37. So you’ve joined the ranks of the “F&G” people. Now go and re-watch it again a few times. The experience actually gets richer on repeated exposure, (unlike, say, “Small Wonder,” which I’d imagine only gets worse).

    Martin Starr’s character Bill really ended up being my favorite character in the series. Episode after episode, if somebody said something awesome, it was probably Bill. “I kinda wish I didn’t come to school today.” “We’re kinda here to beat you up.” “Well, you, you got, you, you gotta dump him!” “That was very dominant.” Just astoundingly funny.

    Harris Trinsky also emerged as The Man. How can you not love lines like, “Every day’s a make out party with us,” “Mostly she just wants scented oils and plenty of time with her man,” and “I recommend the Cressman Conundrum?”

    • I completely agree with you- Martin Starr was amazing in this show. I don’t think a character- television or movie- has ever made me laugh so hard.

  38. It was such an awesome show, I watched it in elementary school and recently introduced my mother to it (I don’t know how she missed it the first time around). Definitely cancelled before it’s time. But you are right, it is very fun to go back and watch all these actors you’ve seen elsewhere back when the were skinny high school kids.

  39. I’d never heard of this show but it looks marvellous! I’m defo going to watch it, thanks for sharing. Great blog. x

  40. I’m with the comment about James Franco LOL. Thanks for sharing:)

  41. GAHH….I love this show!

  42. Bill Haverchuck for president!!!!

  43. Such a great program. My local public library had a Freaks and Geeks night, where there was a screening of several episodes with special guests Samm Levine (Neal Schweiber) and Steve Bannos (Mr. Kowchevski the math teacher).

  44. Great show! I got to watch all of the episodes on IFC. Judd Apatow has done a lot for this new era of comedy.

  45. This sounds like an awesome program, never heard of it til I read this blog – gonna track down a few episodes of it now! Thanks! πŸ˜€

  46. Freaks and Geeks is also one of my favorite series. I especially love seeing Franco, Cardinelli, Rogen and Segel in their young days as new comers to the industry.

  47. Am still upset and disgusted that this awesome show was cancelled! BOOO! I loved every real and awkward moment of that show. The feeling of it sort of came back a little with the movie “Napoleon Dynamite”, which I also adore. Great bringing this show back in your blog!

  48. The best show no one’s ever seen… and I was absolutely heartbroken when it was cancelled. Definitely- anybody who hasn’t checked it out- should!

  49. I have heard so much about this series, I’m going to have to invest the time to watch it I think! Thanks!

  50. The show was pure brilliance. There will never be anything like it ever again. Too bad it was so short lived.

  51. I am SO happy I found this post because now, I’m going to set out and watch this show. I absolutely love Jason Segel & Seth Rogan!

  52. Best tv-series ever! ❀ πŸ™‚

  53. I have to say that I am a series-addicted person! And it was just kinda like 2 years ago that I watched this wonderful piece of pop culture during one day, because I couldn’t stop looking! Just great!

  54. Funny, funny! I also loved your list: “23 before 24” – great take! ;o)

  55. So true. No one really fits any stereotype perfectly. Be who you are instead of trying to mold yourself to a type.

  56. Too bad that NBC didn’t know how to handle the show: scheduling it on Saturdays was a huge mistake. That show could have easily lasted four seasons otherwise.
    One thing I liked was that the show avoided period cliches. Although “Freaks and Geeks” took place in the ’80s, it resembled more like the ’70s because of its small-town Midwestern setting. Also, the comedy was more character-driven than punchline-driven.

  57. Loved that show as much as I loved Square Pegs….it’s great rooting for the underdogs.

    Congrats on being Freshly Geeked, I mean Freshly Pressed.

    Have a great day!

    Mr Bricks

  58. Chris de Serres

    Nice review. Much like My So Called Life, a truly brilliant show got the can before it even got going. Maybe because it was so ahead of it’s time. It encapsulates the high school experience so well. A TV show version of Dazed and Confused. It’s a shame how unready primetime TV is for a genuine, quality show like this.

  59. Great material and being a Michigander it couldn’t have been set in a more beautiful state. I played a little D&D as a kid too…maybe that’s the reason…

    Keep up the wonderful blog.

    Make it a great day!

  60. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed, my husband loves this show. We watch it all the time. He was a geek then and still is, I on the other hand was the opposite and still am. It works I un-geek him from time to time. LOL

  61. fortheschmucks

    i love this show!

  62. I never watched this show when it originally aired. But my husband and I discovered it recently on Comedy Central and we were hooked! We recorded and watched all the episodes. So sad it ended so quickly!

  63. I’m so sorry to have missed this the first time out. Watched the whole series on dvd and loved it right from the first episode. I wish there would be some type of reunion show or at least, do 1 movie to see what happened to the characters.

  64. This was a truely inspired television show. It’s just a shame that some of the best ideas for shows don’t get enough time to find their audience. Another one that comes to mind is, My So Called Life.” What a shame!

  65. This show is awesome! I used to watch it when it came on but no one I know has seen it. 😦

    Sooo many people were on that show, too! Glad to see I don’t stand alone, haha.

  66. I remember watching this show! I loved every moment of it especially when they traded the keg at that party and got drunk lol! I was sad when it did not continue…

  67. imaginecreation

    I just added it onto my Netflix Queue! Haha, sounds great and I love Seth Rogen. =D Thanks for the tip! . . . I had no idea this series existed.

  68. Sounds like an extremely interesting show; one that holds alot of truth.

  69. Jason Segal singing “Lady” is probably one of the most deliciously cringe-worthy solos of all time. Great review. I love Freaks and Geeks!

  70. I have done this 72 hour freaks and geeks marathon – i love this show, i was so sad they canceled it. Also, started my undying love for Jason Segel ❀

  71. I wonder why it only comes in a single season. It’s one of the best shows ever.

  72. i need see this…

  73. I love this show. I watched it when it was on television, and was so sad when they cancelled it. Great music in the show, too!

  74. I was an instant fan of Freaks and Geeks from the first time it aired. I have to agree with you. It is one of the BEST t.v. series ever. I was seriously bummed when it wasn’t renewed.

  75. One of my top 5 shows ever. I re-watch it periodically.

  76. after reading your introduction, i also want to watch this series.

    hope i would like this series.

  77. It’s an awesome show!! Love it! I remember when I watched it first, it was a few year ago. Anyways, superb!

  78. Glad this show is getting some buzz! I saw it for the first time a few years ago and it was amazing, I even wrote about Freaks & Geeks for college. If anyone’s interested I’ve put it on WordPress: http://blastedgoat.wordpress.com/freaks-and-geeks-the-best-cancelled-show-in-television-history/

    No matter how many times I go back to watch it I’m pulled in again! You can’t beat the feel or look of the show and nearly everyone involved went on to do great things!

  79. This is more awesome because I just realized you posted this on my birthday! Sweet πŸ˜€

  80. That was a GREAT show. I think they captured a classic moment when Sam finally gets to dance with the cheerleader who he invited to the school dance. The song playing is Styx’s “Come Sail Away”, which starts out slow, perfect for Sam. But little does he know that it breaks into an up tempo beat in the middle of the song. The sheer terror on his face is priceless when he realizes he is going to have to “fast dance”. Every 14 year old boy’s nightmare. And Joe Flaherty as their father was great too, “You know who else died from smoking? Jimi Hendrix. That’s who!” Great writing, great acting. Just goes to show that most of America doesn’t know good entertainment when it sees it.

  81. I may have to check this out.

  82. Definitely a classic! I was impressed with the performance of the troubled blonde who played James Franco’s semi-girlfriend in the show – I can’t remember her character’s name.
    You should know that the actor who played Lindsey’s younger brother can be seen (all grown up) in the show “Bones”. I recognized him immediately – there is no mistaking that face!

  83. GigglesandShits

    I’ve never even heard of this show. It looks kind of entertaining though, it kind of looks like something close to, “Degrassi”… I never heard of that show until my health teacher showed it to me, based on the quality of the video I would guess that this show was from the 80s-90s? Do you know where I can watch some episodes?

  84. Definitely a show that speaks to my own high school experience. I can’t quite understand how it was cancelled. It was just TOO good, maybe.

  85. I have never seen this show but it sounds good. It sounds better than all the TV shows we have now

  86. Nice review….I’ll look it up!

  87. I love how what was geeky back then is now what high school kids would look at and deem “cool”. It is a good show though. πŸ™‚ That and Saved By the Bell.

  88. I watched this show when it was on the air and loved it! Most people haven’t heard of it so glad to see it being recognized.

  89. People just didn’t know what they had until it was gone. This show should have lasted much longer than 18 episodes!

  90. It totally breaks my heart that the world just wasn’t ready for “Freaks and Geeks.” It makes it on my “Top 3 TV Shows of All Time” list. The characters are brilliantly developed, considering the show lasted for less than a season!

    I confess one of my (many) favorite parts is when…
    Ah! I just realized I can’t pick a favorite. From hickies, ambiguous genitalia (brilliantly done), infidelity (heart-wrenching), dungeons and dragons, government security guards that just want to take off their suit and tie and put on a T-shirt and jeans and go make pancakes somewhere, eggings, fake IDs, school counselors, straight talk about sex and more, there’s no way to choose a favorite moment.

    Do I know the show too well? Does it make me weird that I get REALLY excited at how well many of the actors are doing? =)

  91. I want to watch this now too.

  92. Now I have a new show to add to my life.
    I love 80s shows, and this looks like a keeper. One season shows are the best anyway.

  93. umma go watch this now!!! πŸ™‚

  94. wonderful blog love it

  95. I love that show!!! I was introduced to it after it aired via DVD by a friend and have watched it over and over! Fab.

  96. One of the most fantastically underrated television shows of all time! This post made me so happy!

  97. Oh my god, Freaks and Geeks is my all time favourite.
    I watched it when i first came out -i was 11 and none of my friends have a clue what it is.
    Its my little secret hahahah
    x

  98. Thanks for this! I’d never even heard of it before (I’m only admitting this because my comment is anonymous so this will not make me any kind of e-outcast, unless no one reads my blog but hey, c’est la vie) BUT I’ll definitely get started on watching this show πŸ™‚

  99. the show looks awesome. i hope i can still find a dvd of it so i can see it. πŸ™‚ great post! congrats on freshly pressed!

  100. Ahhh….I keep reading/hearing about this show. Adding this to my list of shows to watch right now, gonna try to find it on dvd.

  101. It’s right up there with Seinfeld for my greatest show of all-time. We moved recently and got rid of a ton of DVDs but there was no way I was parting with F&G. I usually watch the whole series beginning to end at least once per year. Fave ep is where Neil’s brother is home from college and the Schweibers throw the party and Neil does his ventriloquist act and Mr. Weir gets drunk… the ending montage with “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You” tears me up every time!

  102. I love, love, love this show and was the nerd that stayed at home on Friday nights to help the ratings any way I could. The DVD commentary is awesome because they’ve all come full-circle as actors, writers and directors and it’s nice to hear everyone wax nostalgia. Cindy’s chair fart is my favorite moment. Beginning of her downfall to normal person status.

  103. Pingback: Five Television Shows Murdered Before Their Time « Amanda Rudd's Blog

  104. My all time favorite. Coincidentally, i just linked them to my blog too, My hubs and i have it on DVD and watch it every New Years Day as a marathon. Even my older kids and nephews love it. how could you not? Favorite episode is when Sam is the Viking mascot…..classic.

  105. Oh my gosh! My sister and I watched that show while it was on. We were so sad and confused when it was taken off the air.

    Whenever I see Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Linda Cardelinni (ER) or John Francis Daley (Bones) now, I always feel a special connection because I feel as if I knew them “way back when” πŸ™‚

  106. I need to watch this show.

  107. Oh, and Busy Phillips!!!! LOVE her

  108. good post keep posting frnd thanks 4 sharing

    • Yeh thanks for sharing, just went out and og the DVD, had been looking for a TV show to watch and completely forgot about this show, even after a heap of recomendations from friends.

  109. Well you sold me. Just went to netflix and ordered it. They don’t have it streaming :-/ so I’ll have to wait for it to come in the mail.

  110. I’ve seen it but never watched it. Going to have to change that! Thanks for sharing! Great summary!

  111. It is a great show! I am going get the DVDs from Netflix and watch it all over again.

  112. Need to watch this..

  113. Never knew James Franco was a child actor. Will def watch this show. Thanks for sharing.

  114. Never seen it, going to watch Now!

  115. So glad you were able to watch this show. I thought it was so fabulous–my favorite episode is the Halloween one where the Mom finds out they are throwing her homemade goodies on the lawn outside. 18 episodes in 72 hours—you rock!

  116. I’m still waiting for a UK-friendly boxset, it would sell so so so well here.

  117. I can’t believe I missed the show when it aired!! Thanks for opening my eyes:)

  118. realanonymousgirl2011

    I still haven’t seen this show but I think I will have to add it to my Blockbuster queue! Thanks!

  119. I’ve never seen this show before, but now I HAVE to check it out! It sounds like something I’d love and I can’t believe it had such a star-studded cast!

  120. Your post might just pushed me over the edge to finally watch this thing.

    It just might… yes ma’am.

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