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04.01.2004

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must-see dvd tv: firefly, freaks and geeks  by Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2
continued from page 1

freaks and geeks
buy the complete series

Speaking of shows with which I am madly-to-the-point-of-irrational-
obsession in love, Freaks and Geeks gets its long-awaited -- well, by fans like me anyway -- DVD release on April 6th. When the show first aired on NBC back in 1999, it suffered from the get-go from a crappy Saturday night time slot that made no sense given the fact that its primary target audience, namely (quasi- and full) adults, tend to have better things to do on a Saturday night than sit around watching the boob tube (or so we like to kid ourselves). When ratings proved, rather predictably, lousy, the network's solution was to put it on hiatus and bounce it around from one random time to the next, so that in a given week, even the most loyal of the show's small but devoted group of fans had a hard time figuring out if or when to set our VCRs.

Set in a small Michigan town in 1980, the comedy-drama centers around the high school tribulations of the Weir siblings. Big sis Lindsay is a junior whose identity crisis following her grandmother's death has resulted in a new mission: making the near-impossible attempt to change cliques mid-way through her high school career. Tired of her status as a geek, she ditches the math team as well as her best friend Millie, dons a tatty green army jacket, and starts hanging out with the Freaks -- the school's self-imposed outsiders, the ones who feign a too-cool-for-school attitude in part because they genuinely believe in rebelling against the expected, but also because they secretly suspect that their futures don't hold a whole lot in store for them anyway. The Freaks include bad-boy hottie Daniel Desario, his scary girlfriend Kim Kelly, affable pothead Nick Andopolis, and cynical schlub Ken Miller -- none of whom are quite sure what to make of their new brainy friend. Little brother Sam has his own social problems. As a scrawny freshman, he's one of those poor late bloomers who're always getting picked on by his more mature-looking classmates. Sharing in the social outcast misery are his two best friends from childhood, Neil Schweiber, a dweeb who favors sweater vests as the foundation for his personal style, and Bill Haverchuck, for whom the words "rather unfortunate-looking" are really too kind a description of his appearance.

Though it gets its early 80s time period exactly right, Freaks and Geeks could take place in just about any bland American suburb in any time period - references to Dukes of Hazzard and Atari notwithstanding. The genius of the show comes from its ability to capture a certain universal high school experience that everyone can identify with -- former geeks and freaks especially, but also prom queens, jocks and all the rest. In less able hands, the show would have been a simplistic portrayal of the high-school-haves versus the high-school-have-nots, the sort where everyone is reduced to a neat stereotype. Instead, every single character, even the minor ones, is allowed to be more complex than their high school labels might indicate. The cast members are each so perfect in their roles that as soon as you see these kids, you think you know exactly what they're going to be like. (One of the most remarkable things about the show is that these kids actually look and talk like real high school kids, in all their awkward, sometimes-unattractive glory.) But each one reveals so much more going on beneath the surface. Some of the funniest-looking, weirdest dorks end up being the lucky few who actually like who they are, while the cool kids often betray the biggest insecurities. Extremely funny, sincerely sweet, and always deeply authentic (sometimes painfully so), Freaks and Geeks is a class act through and through -- and possibly the best TV show ever made.


more must-see dvd tv:
twin peaks, the sopranos, buffy the vampire slayer | six feet under, my so-called life, sex and the city

looking for a recommendation? 
find a flick to suit your mood

or browse the 
complete list of flick picks

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