Derelict Junction

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

No Hope for Television.

I've forgotten who suggested to me that I watch the show "Freaks and Geeks", but whoever it was, you have my gratitude.

Here's a little background: The show only lasted one season (1999), and might be mistaken as another, predictable high school comedy, but it's so much better. In stark contrast to the likes of "Beverly Hills 90210" and "The O.C.", where pouting James Dean flunkies and swimsuit models burden the audience with their dismay over not having more useless shit than the next, this show is believable in look and in situation. Maybe that's why it got cancelled, I can see some obnoxious television producer sitting behind his desk saying, "Freaks? Geeks? These people aren't good-looking enough to be on my network! There's not one person in that cast I'd have sex with!"

Since it's cancellation, the list of actors, writers and directors has become a "Who's Who" of young, talented Hollywood. For instance, directors include Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl) and Jake Kasdan (Orange County). Producer Judd Apatow went on to produce Anchorman with Will Farrell and writer Mike White is better known for penning Chuck and Buck and The Good Girl. Even a minor character actor, Seth Rogen, went on to write for one of the most genius television shows still in production, "Da Ali G Show".

The pilot of the series is the best pilot I've ever watched. Some of the later episodes are mediocre, but only a couple, most are worthy of repeated viewings. The characters are written so well, with such depth and complexity, you'll find yourself immediately connecting with their plights, even if you miss some of the 1980 pop culture references. The acting is superb, but the way the writers weave in tense, uncomfortable situations is its real accomplishment. Unlike any teenage, coming-of-age show I've seen, these characters finally portray high school the way I remember it, painful, confusing, and wonderful. Compared to the overly-stylish work of John Hughes, this show looks like a documentary. -A very funny, honest documentary.

So why is there no hope? Immediately after watching the first episode, I was reminded of something Sean said when the "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" show was cancelled after one season. He said, "If a show that good gets cancelled, there's no hope for television." Now, I don't think Sean had any hope for television in the first place, but his point is still dead-on.

So, I urge you to rent the "Freaks and Geeks" DVDs, and enjoy them. Enjoy them right up until the point where you find yourself shaking your head and saying, "That show gets cancelled?! -But Charlie Sheen and Jim Belushi get to have their horrible shows renewed?!"

Also, the show provides me the giddy pleasure of watching the great Canadian comic Joe Flaherty of SCTV fame chew out his kids as the square father. He's one of those comics (like Fred Willard) who's funniest when he tries to be serious. Here he is as Count Floyd on SCTV:


(And the gym teacher is played by Biff, of Back to the Future fame!)
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