9/10 Watching “Freaks and Geeks” for the first time felt like I had stepped into a time machine. Not only due to the 1980-1981 time period, which is expertly recreated in its costumes, vehicles, production design (characters’ homes might be my favorite example of this), etc. but also because both the cast and crew were just starting out and for so many of them, this was their big break and the first major work of their careers which would lead to bigger and better things. One of the highlights for certain is how perfectly cast this show is. Many shows cast late 20s/early 30s aged actors to portray high schoolers but here, each and every actor is generally the appropriate high school age (with a few minor exceptions) and looks as such. Seeing people like Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, etc. in their early years before their careers took off is quite a sight to behold. Even random actors like Lizzy Caplan, Ben Stiller, Ben Foster, Shia Labeouf, Leslie Mann (who had recently married Judd Apatow) pop up in memorable roles. As for the behind the scenes talent, people like the aforementioned Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin”, “Knocked Up”), Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”, “Spy”), Mike White (“School of Rock”, “Nacho Libre”), Jake Kasdan (“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”), Ken Kwapis (“License to Wed”, “The Office”), and more worked on this show. As you can see from the films/shows they have worked on over the years, this was an extremely talented group of writers and directors assembled for a comedy show. This is one of the most authentic shows I have ever seen. The series substitutes the normal, over the top, extremely wacky hijinks of most high school set shows for the realism of what high school was and is actually like. Episode plots focus on struggling in school, dealing with having a crush or being rejected, putting up with dorky parents who desperately want to connect to their kids, passing classes, etc. Every episode felt relatable and genuine, which was extremely refreshing. The relationships the friend groups share here are so well done and all of this goes to the strength of the writers who worked on this series. Another element that surprised me was how incredible the soundtrack was. Shows and movies have to pay royalties to artists to use their music and based upon just how many excellent and A grade songs were in this show, I am sure a decent chunk of the show’s budget went there. Not only were the songs used great but they always fit what was going on in the episode and reminded us of the time period on display (Apatow’s use of Billy Joel might be my favorite). Finally, this is a comedy and although it isn’t the funniest show I have ever seen, there were plenty of genuinely laugh out moments and hilarity to be had which came about due to the combination of the brilliant scripts and the actors’ portrayals of their characters who were delivering their lines, as well as improvising. The only minor complaints were a few plot lines were established in episodes and then either abandoned or not touched upon until many episodes later. One romantic interest is built up for virtually the entire season and then disbanded within one episode which felt anticlimactic. Finally, the season/series finale was basically like any other episode and didn’t have a grand finale or closing feel to it. Minor complaints aside, if you are able to find this show, it is a must watch. I feel bad that such an amazing show was canceled after only one season, but if your show is only going to get a single season, you might as well be great from start to finish like “Freaks and Geeks” was.
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