The ultimate goal for filmmaking is to entertain us. Film and television is first and foremost a business. They like to see what audiences will want and profit off of that. This is why we get a lot of film and television that feels familiar. Why is Songland on NBC practically every night? It's cheap to make, people tune in and the channel makes money. This is what unfortunately doomed the show Freaks and Geeks when it came out. Freaks and Geeks premiered on a Saturday night on NBC in 1999. It's almost as if the channel was trying to kill the show before giving it a chance. Theories over the years have been made about the unfortunate demise of Freaks and Geeks which was first shown as a public failure for NBC. Creators Paul Feig and Judd Appatow wanted to make sure all the amazing actors who worked on the show had great careers and that certainly became the reality. This show introduced the world to talents like Jason Segal, Seth Rogan and James Franco to name just a few. The show has in the past twenty years gained a big cult following thanks to streaming sites. Several people consider Freaks and Geeks one of the greatest shows of all time now.
I discovered the show my Sophomore Year of High School scrolling through Netflix one day. I decided to watch the first episode and I was instantly hooked. I watched the entire series in about a week (which is unfortunately a mere 18 episodes long) but I got invested in it. When it was over my heart broke to think that this brilliant series ended so soon. Freaks and Geeks understood me and my High School experience more then any other show of its kind. A lot of shows present High School as a glossy place. Some will get into the struggles that High Schoolers face but in a very surface level way. The people in shows about school are usually models, in their late twenties and there because they want posters sold of the cast at a Walmart.
Freaks and Geeks doesn't feel manufactured. The freaks and geeks of the show look like actual freaks and geeks. The show casted relatively unknowns to not distract from the characters they were portraying. Paul Feig sold the show about 'High Schoolers who aren't all gorgeous all the time' and it really works. From the first episode, characters talk over each other and aren't always perfectly coherent. There's a bit of a mumblecore aspect to the film which I appreciate immensely. Characters don't feel like they are reading off a script. The show never feels shallow.
The film is able to perfectly balance petty high school drama with actual emotional depth. These characters have deep routed issues that are explored beautifully. The show is also never judgmental to any of the characters for their choices or worldview. It would have been so easier for a lesser writer to take a side they preferred when it came to the social circle. The freaks in the show are shown to be irresponsible and wreckless but each one has a reason for being this way. All of the freaks are never judged for their behavior yet the show also shows the consequences for their actions. You see why they act the way they do and the baggage each one holds. The geeks are the same way. They make similar mistakes the freaks do and screw up and they have the same insecurities. This is a show that was bringing people together and showing that everyone that has empathy can relate to one another in some way even if they are wildly different then individuals.
That whole concept could have come across so fake and shallow if in the wrong hands. However the cast sells this whole show because they look like normal High School kids. It makes the show feel so real. The geeks here aren't perfect looking. Sam is shy and small, Bill is scrawny and one of their friends is obese even. Yet, the show is able to show these characters as sympathetic and loving. The show is able to show them as humans and not just running gags. It's very admirable and I think that's why the show has resonated with so many people since its cancellation. Simply, there's at least one (if not multiple) characters in the show that you will relate to in a way. It makes us who felt insecure in High School feel a little less alone and realize that maybe people did appreciate our presence.
The level of empathy the show has for all walks of life is something that I don't see many shows be able to accomplish. That makes the whole show feel so warm and inviting. While it has some really emotionally heavy scenes, the show is able to balance this with warmth and love for simply being alive and growing up. It means the absolute world to me that this show was able to exist and while it breaks my heart there isn't more of it- I know that the 18 episodes we got will always have a soft spot in my heart.