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April 5, 2007

Freaks and Geeks

Harry Brighouse may have stirred up a hornet's nest at Crooked Timber by saying that Freaks and Geeks was the single best show on American television in the past twenty years.

But surely he is right about the bizarre misreading of one episode by Jake Kasdan, one of the former directors of the show. In the show in question, one of the early-adolescent "geeks" manages to start dating the girl he has adored from afar, only to discover that she is actually a vacuous Reaganite yuppie larva.

According to Kasdan, the audience is supposed to feel frustrated by this -- as if the kid has suffered some kind of defeat:

....he discovers what the rest of us have known from the beginning -- that she is a shallow nitwit, utterly unworthy of his time or attention. So, he loses. The audience's longing to cheer for him is frustrated.

But Kasdan is wrong. We were delighted that Sam discovered the true nature of the object of his desire. Not because it made him happy, exactly, but because his reaction to it showed that he knew himself, and [it] bode well, very well, for the future. He learned that his friends mattered more to him than she did, that he was, in the nicest possible way, too good for her, and got a hint that the constantly unreassuring message that he and Bill got from his parents that when they were older there'd be girls who would like them might, after all, be true. We, at least, were happy for him.

Exactly right. I don't think anyone who hasn't seen Freaks and Geeks can imagine just how beautifully developed the characters were. We've watched the show three times now -- first when it aired, then a couple of times since Rita got me the DVD edition as a birthday present a few years ago. The writing and acting were extraordinary, and it's safe to say it's something we'll revisit in due course.

I wrote about Freaks and Geeks for Newsday when it was on the air (though quite obviously doomed) and also did a column about Undeclared, which had some of the same writers and actors.

Posted by smclemee at April 5, 2007 11:08 AM


Glad to hear you celebrating Freaks and Geeks. My wife and I got addicted to it, getting the discs through Netflix, and we were severely depressed after we watched the last one. I can't believe that show didn't last longer.

Posted by: James at April 6, 2007 6:46 PM