If you ask the masses what their high school experience was like, you will always hear differing stories. For years, those stories have been translated to movies and television, each interpreting the experience differently. The stories the audiences tend to enjoy are the stories of the underdog and how they overcome the obstacles in their lives. When it comes to those of us who were, or still are, freaks and geeks, they try and make it seem like there was always a silver lining; that the mean, popular kids and the bullies always got what was coming to them. Those are the stories that the audiences tend to love. But, there was once a show where the popular kids and bullies never really got their due, and the freaks and geeks struggled through high school day-to-day just trying to make it.
Freaks and Geeks was the realistic side of the high school experience. It showed what it was often truly like for the geeky and unpopular. Primarily, the show followed Lindsay Weir, played by Linda Cardellini, as she embarked on a new high school experience by going from geek mathlete to a “freak” who hangs with the “burnouts.” The other side of the show followed her little brother Sam Weir, played by John Francis Daley, as he navigated his first year of high school. Although the underdogs never really won, they managed to learn how to navigate those dim halls in their own way.
Because the show’s main writers, Paul Feig and the very well-known Judd Apatow, refused to change the way the underdog triumphed, the show was cancelled after one short season. The fact that the show was cancelled despite its all-star cast is shocking. Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Seth Rogan, Jason Segal, Martin Starr, John Francis Daley, and Busy Phillips were all headliners for the show. How in the world didn’t it last?! How could they cancel a show so cool as to have “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts in its opening?
The show aired on NBC. Executive Garth Ancier was the culprit behind its cancellation when Judd Apatow refused to change the outcomes for the characters. Apatow wanted Freaks and Geeks to be realistic, where the underdog finds comfort in friendship. In addition to that, the show needed to continue with its theme that sometimes you just have to learn to navigate high school and take it for what it is until it’s over. It also could be said that Apatow wanted to continue to portray the lives of the characters as he saw fit for its cult following. However, Ancier thought the “Freaks and/or the Geeks should win the occasional victory over the cooler kids,” according to a Time article referencing the insanity of anyone who would cancel the show.
What was so special about the show was how it handled the real problems we all faced. How to handle working up the courage to talk to your first crush. Being one of the geeks who gets picked last in gym class. Not knowing what it’s like to kiss a girl/boy and wondering if you’re going to suck at it. The show also has a kick-ass script. In its very first episode, Sam Weir is being bullied. His sister Lindsay approaches as the bully is saying to Sam “I always wondered what it’d be like to hit a girl,” to which Lindsay responds, “I’m a girl. Want to see what it’d be like to fight me?” She completely shuts the bully down, and that’s just the first episode! Another line that was so special was a scene where Sam and his friends are walking home, a bully harasses them and claims that they are geeks and losers and always will be. In response, Sam and his friends pose the question, if we are geeks and losers, why are we the ones walking home amongst friends while he rides off on his bike alone?
The show revealed what it was really like when you weren’t super popular, when you weren’t on the football team, when you weren’t the most beautiful/handsome, and when you were honest and open about what really interested you. The show was real. My request is that they bring back Freaks and Geeks and place its all-star cast in the role of parents this time around. Much of the cast has had very successful careers, especially in comedy. How great would it be to see how they would deal with their own children going through the same things they went through? I think Judd Apatow should come back as a writer and continue his vision for the show. A cast like that with the comedy vision of Apatow is far too magical to let it only be binge-watched on Netflix for one season.
Many of the show’s cast were sad the show didn’t receive a renewal. According to this 2014 Time article, the all-star cast never really got over the cancellation of such a genius show. Sam, Lindsay, and all their freaky and geeky friends are all of us. They really need to come back and rest the weary hearts of those of us who related so much to the show. Not only that, they need to reboot the kind of show that really told it straight and made us all feel a little less alone.
Featured image credit: Apatow Productions, Dreamworks Television