It was in Australia in 2000, while I was backpacking for a year and had very little chance to watch much new TV, that I stumbled across an episode of Freaks and Geeks for the first time.
It wasn’t immediately clear what year it was set in or if there was any arc to the series which meant I wouldn’t be able to work out what was going on with just one episode, but what was obvious was that this was Something Different.
Set in Michigan in 1980, the series follows the lives of schoolkids who are simply trying to get their grades and avoid the humiliation that comes with being a teenager. Split roughly into two groups of the freaks (those kids who were always smoking in the toilets and who never bothered to study) and the geeks (the Bionic Woman-loving kids who watch from the sidelines as their cooler contemporaries got drunk and got the girls), the series was created by Paul Feig and executive produced by Judd Apatow. Yes, that Judd Apatow.
Though Freaks and Geeks must rank as one of the most acutely observed, beautifully written, well acted and all round near-perfect series made for television, it only lasted 12 episodes before it was pulled from the air. The other six episodes eventually made it to TV, but it was too late. The series, like so many teenage dreams before it, had died.
A funny thing happened though. In 2007, Time magazine added it to their 100 Greatest Shows of All Time, as well as placing it third on their list of the greatest television shows of the 2000s, just behind The Wire and Lost. In 2008, Entertainment Weekly ranked it the 13th-best series of the past 25 years.
Many of its stars, including James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segal and Linda Cardellini went on to have bigger careers and Apatow created a comedy genre of his own.
Elsewhere, TV fans around the globe heard it was pretty good and bought the DVDs or borrowed them off their friends. At least, any friends that were brave enough to let their Freaks and Geeks DVDs out of their site. I think I’ve only managed it once, and that was before I hassled Judd Apatow to sign the set while he was in Edinburgh a few years ago.
The point of all this was really just to say that some video from a recent reunion at the Paley Centre in Los Angeles is now online, both official and fan made over on YouTube. Only 11 minutes of the official stuff can be seen on the Paley website, but it’s better than nothing.
Enjoy, and please head over to Amazon to buy the DVDs (if you can afford them, sadly they rarely come down in price).
There’s also some footage from the Freaks and Geeks “sequel” series, Undeclared: