Freaks and Geeks is one of those shows that everybody kept telling me was so awesome but I never got around to watching. It just sounded like another dumb teen dramedy. However, when it finally came out on DVD and the raves just kept rolling in, I got curious. But I never got off my ass. Fortunately, a friend bought it for me as a gift, and now I’ve watched the entire series. And I’m glad I did.
The show is very much like an 80’s version of The Wonder Years without Daniel Stern and with a much richer supporting cast of characters. It follows Sam Weir (John Francis Daley) and his older sister Lindsey (a pre-Scooby Doo Linda Cardellini), both in high school, both charting different social paths. Sam is the freshman geek with his two dorky friends Bill (Martin Star) and Neal (Samm Levine), struggling to fit in. Lindsey is the good girl getting good grades until she falls in with the “freak” burn-out crowd populated by Daniel (a pre-Spider-Man James Franco), Nick (Jason Segel), Seth (Ken Miller), and Kim (Busy Phillips), with whom she struggles to fit out, as it were. Alienation and awkward growth lessons ensue.
What sets this apart, aside from peerless writing that sets a realistic, yet warm tone, and outstanding performances from all involved (especially Martin Star) is what this show discovered about halfway through its run. It’s similar to what The Simpsons discovered about four seasons in. It has a rich body of supporting characters whose stories are more interesting than the leads’. The show was already good. Once it discovered this, it became great.
So watch the first few discs to establish the characters, but keep going to see what really made this show stand out. Also, keep an eye open for fantastic cameos from MST3K’s Joel Hodgson (Best. 80’s Hair. Ever.), Jason Schwartzman, and a priceless guest turn from Ben Stiller in the next to last episode.