Set in 1980 at the fictional McKinley High in Detroit, Freaks and Geeks focused on two groups of outsiders: the stoners, tough kids and bad girls; and the brains, nerds and squares. Although this Emmy award-winning series ran for only one season, it has remained a cult favorite and a benchmark of quality television.
A funny and authentic portrait of high school life with all of its horrors and triumphs, Freaks And Geeks resonates with anybody who has ever felt like they don’t quite fit in. The series’ legacy – including the ongoing success of many of its key personnel, from creator Paul Feig (Bridesmaids), to executive producer Judd Apatow (The 40-Year Old Virgin), to cast members such as Linda Cardellini, Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Jason Segel – is undoubtedly secure in the hearts and minds of its passionate (and ever-growing) fanbase.
It's very rare that I connect with a show so strongly that I feel like I actually lived the series with its characters. It's only happened a couple of times out of the vast variety of television series I've watched, but I'd have to say that 'Freaks and Geeks' is the number one show that perfectly captured my childhood and high school years. Unfortunately for the series, NBC cancelled the show after one season from 1999-2000, even though it averaged almost 7 million viewers per episode.
Not only that, it involved a bunch of amazing writers, directors, and actors at the time who have all gone on to be some of the most successful people in Hollywood, including Judd Apatow, Paul Feig, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jason Segel, Linda Cardellini, Samm Levine, Martin Starr, and Busy Phillips to name a few. It was a show that was ahead of its time and jump-started many careers. The series was laugh-out-loud funny, charming, witty, endearing, and smart with a heavy dose of nostalgia.
But how I related to this show, as I imagine a lot of people related and connected with the show, were the true and inspired interactions between family members, friends, teachers, bullies, and acquaintances at school. Most of the instances that happened in this show literally happened to me in real life. It was as if someone was secretly filming my childhood and high school years and made a TV show about it. In addition to that, you have a young Judd Apatow and Paul Feig who are the leaders of this modern coming-of-age comedy where dialogue and relationships are for front and center with a ton of heart and soul, as well as excellent humor, and it just works on every level, with a great mixture of comedy and drama. There's a reason so many people still say this is one of the best shows on television.
'Freaks and Geeks' takes place in the school year of 1980-1981 at McKinley High School in Michigan, where we mostly center on the Weir family. Lindsey Weir is a high school senior who is the smartest in her class, but after her grandmother's death, she looks at the world different;y and starts to try new things, including skipping class, experimenting with drugs, and seeking out new friends known as the freaks. Her younger freshman brother Sam is considered a geek, because he's smart, loves comics, science, Steve Martin, Monty Python and is short and skinny. Luckily he has a couple of friends who stick by him, who are also geeks. Together, they all try to avoid the bullies from class to class and make each other laugh with impressions or the latest television quotes.
Meanwhile, the freaks have taken Lindsey under their wing and have shown her that being a high school student isn't all about studying, but rather getting into trouble. Episodes take on getting fake IDs, throwing a party while your parents are away, Halloween, single parents, school dances, the first kiss and crush, drugs, and even dungeons and dragons. I know this sounds like an after-school special, but it definitely isn't. There's no preachy subject here, but rather just excellent relatable characters with amazing writing and performances that completely transport you back to this time period with the friends you used to remember walking down the hall with.
My life was that of the geek's. Just like in the show, I dared friends to drink a concoction of household food items that were blended up into a chunky brown mess, got egged on Halloween by older kids, got picked on, did science projects for fun with friends, and always thought our skin would melt off if we spilled something, tested miniature rockets, was scared to shower during gym class, and was part of the AV Club, just to name just a few things that I related to. There were plenty of other scenarios brought up in the show that happened, but I'd be here until next week discussing them with you.
The point I'm trying to make is that Feig and Apatow totally tapped into a generation's childhood and teen years, and got it right on every level. It's awkward, hilarious, and sentimental, and it not only tackles funny issues, but some serious ones too without over-doing it or over-playing their hand. Really, 'Freaks and Geeks' is timeless, there's just something that everyone can relate to, even if it's just a good memory from a time they enjoyed years ago. I don't think any show will come close to what' Freaks and Geeks' did, and I still hope for that rumored sequel film to come out sooner than later.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Freaks and Geeks' comes with 9 - 50GB Blu-ray discs that are Region A locked from Shout Factory. There are three separate Blu-ray cases here. One of the Blu-ray discs holds almost all of the extras, sans the audio commentaries and a few deleted scenes. The other eight are split in half as four of the discs contain the widescreen transfers, where the other four discs contain the original 4x3 format, all in high definition. These are housed in a hard blue plastic case and are virtually similar with the exception of the original broadcast aspect ratio being a red color, and the widescreen edition being a blue color. There is a 37-page booklet included that is all incased in heavy cardboard sleeve.
'Freaks and Geeks' comes with an impressive 1080p HD transfer presented in two different aspect ratios. In fact, there are two different Blu-ray cases here. Both are the same with the exception that one is in a new widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio, while the other is in its original 4x3 1.33:1 aspect ratio. According the letter in the booklet from Paul Feig, this new transfer is from a 4K scan. He also prefers the widescreen edition. I haven't seen a high definition version of this show ever, so I was pleased to see this new transfer, which looks amazing.
The image just pops now and looks very realistic and never flat or overly grainy, like in past presentations of the series. Detail is sharp and vivid throughout now, giving new life to this early 80's comedy. Closeups reveal every pimple, freckle, and bit of acne on the actor's faces as well as the small stubble that crops up on their young faces. Daniel's leather jacket now shows the wear and tear nicely with scuff marks as does Lindsey's green army jacket. These were things that weren't noticeable in previous releases.
The interior of the school walls and lockers show more detail in the imperfections or scribblings from students. Wider shots are also sharp too, never going soft, giving this image some depth. Colors are natural and realistic. I wouldn't say there is an over-abundance of bright primary colors here on display, but some hefty browns, greens, and blues are prominent, which plays into that early 80's scenario in the suburbs of Michigan. Nothing is overly-saturated, but rather well-balanced and organic. Black levels are deep and inky here with no crush and the skin tones are very natural. There is still a light layer of grain to keep the series in that filmic format, which never fluctuates. There were no major video compression issues on hand here either, leaving this new video presentation with great marks.
This series comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and sounds excellent. The show mostly consists of conversations between the characters, but there are enough sequences that involved either concerts, cars cruising down the street, or a party scene to give your speakers a decent work out. The real spotlight here is on the soundtrack of the show, which might be the best soundtrack of any show since 'The Wonder Years'. Luckily, the booklet outlines every piece of music in each episode for us, in case we wanted to purchase the music individually.
The songs and fun score radiate through the speakers, whether it be Styx, Joan Jett, or The Who, the music is well mixed and balanced, giving a full sound. Sound effects are natural as well with Daniel's hot rod car sounding loud and Nick's drum solos picking up every precise sound on each drum kit, which uses the full surround capabilities. Ambient noises sound robust too, especially at the party and concert where people are yelling and talking to each other. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, and hiss. This new audio presentation brings new life to the show.
This Blu-ray set comes with almost everything you could want in bonus features from the show. Every previous extra is imported here on the Blu-ray discs, most of them being on the extras "bonus" disc from the Yearbook edition. The only new extra I noticed here was the new 46-minute conversation with Paul Feig and Judd Apatow. I do wish they also included the more recent Paley Fest Q&A here too instead of just the one from 2000 though. Still, there are plenty of hours of extras to sit thru here.
Blu-ray Series Set
Audio Commentaries - There are 28 different commentary tracks to choose from across 18 episodes. Some episodes contain one commentary track where others contain two options. Each episodes features select cast and crew from main roles to minor roles as they all talk about making the show. There are some fun anecdotes from the set, information about the story and writing process, similar stories from their lives, and trivia from the set. They are a great listen. In addition to this, there are some fun commentary tracks added as well, such as some of the actors doing the commentary in their character from the show, a couple of commentary tracks with fans of the series, and themed commentaries, meaning the parents, the girls, or the geeks do a specific commentary. It's a lot of fun, and if you have the time, please give each of these a listen.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 25 Mins.) - There are scattered deleted scenes, bloopers, and raw footage mixed in here throughout each disc. All of these scenes are worth watching and were edited out to keep time with the networks.
Extra Blu-ray Disc
In Conversation with Paul Feig and Judd Apatow (HD, 46 Mins.) - Paul Feig and Judd Apatow sit with film critic Robert Lloyd present day and discuss how the two met, came up with the show, filmed the series, cast the characters, the writing process, and some fun stories from the set. A must-watch.
'Freaks and Geeks' Q&A at Paley Fest (SD, 73 Mins.) - Unfortunately, this is the Paley Fest Q&A from 2000 with most of the actors and producers from the show. It's still fun, but I wish it was the more recent one from 2011. The video quality isn't good, but it was cool to see how young everyone was sixteen years ago.
Table Reads (SD, 151 Mins.) - There are three episodes from the show where the table read was filmed with all the actors. Pretty fun to see everyone read and laugh thru the lines. Three separate selectable episodes.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 10 Mins.) - There are five deleted scenes in total, all of which are worth watching, especially with the optional commentary with Sam Weir and Bill Haverchuck in character, talking about what's happened since the show. Neal is off backpacking in Europe, so he wasn't there.
Auditions (SD, 51 Mins.) - The Freaks and Geeks, as well as most of the minor roles, all have audition tapes, and each actor has a few minutes of their audition tape here with the exception of James Franco. There are 27 different audition tapes here to watch, some of which include the actors auditioning for other roles that went to other actors on the show.
Long Live Rock! (HD, 8 Mins.) - Here are three scenes from the show that involved music, which is more or less the raw footage of the performances, including Jason Segel and Sarah Hagan singing 'Jesus is Alright' at the house party, along with Dave 'Gruber' Allen singing '18' with his acoustic guitar in his school office as well on stage at the local bar.
Sober Students Improv Players (HD, 5 Mins.) - The raw footage of the improv sequence about drinking and driving with some laughter from the actors.
Tale of the Secret Service (HD, 8 Mins.) - The raw footage of Ben Stiller talking about working for the secret service in character. Hilarious.
Behind the Scenes (SD, 19 Mins.) - Basically, there is 19 minutes of most of the actors acting goofy and making each other laugh in between takes and setting up shots. They are all hams, but you can tell there is real chemistry between everyone.
Raw Footage (HD, 27 Mins.) - There are nine scenes with raw footage of single takes of each scene, including the awkward 'Lady' rendition from Jason Segel. So good.
Odds and Sods (HD, 26 Mins.) - This is more or less a collection of extended scenes, bloopers, deleted scenes, improv, or alternate takes from the show, all of which are worth watching with director's coaching in the background and even a makeup test is shown.
NBC Promos (SD, 28 Mins.) - A ton of promos and trailers for the show, along with vintage news interviews with cast and crew for NBC spots. In addition to that, there is some on set footage of the series. This looks like it was a big Press Kit for outlets back sixteen years ago that networks or papers could edit into a promo.
Bloopers (SD, 6 Mins.) - A collection of laughter, missed cues, flubbed lines, and props gone wrong.
Seven Minutes in Heaven (SD, 2 Mins.) - Here we have Martin Starr and JoAnna Garcia kissing each other in the closet for two minutes, set to the song 'Kiss You All Over' from the 'Spin the Bottle' episode.
Graduation (SD, 3 Mins.) - Home video camera footage of Seth Rogen, Martin Starr, and Samm Levine in cap and gown, giving a short speech on graduation, which was part of the wrap party.
Extra Goodies (HD, 15 Mins.) - Here is some more hilarious raw footage, with laughter, bloopers, and improv. Samm Levine doing his schtick while driving a Go-Kart is hilarious. There is even some old footage of Jason Segel and Seth Rogen playing music at a school dance and fight choreography between the geeks and Alan. It wouldn't be complete with out a Karaoke version with screen text of Jason Segel's 'Lady L'.
Thanks, Goodbye (HD, 3 Mins.) - A fun montage of the cast dancing, singing, and key moments in the show, set to 'Come Sail Away'.
Digital Yearbook - Just another menu page that tells you to access the yearbook at www.williammckinleyyearbook.com - Once there, you can download the PDF of the yearbook, that gives information on each episode, articles, interviews, and pictures. There is also another link on the page with an 88-page script for an unaired episode of the show.
Booklet - A 37-page booklet that has letters from the creators, a Q&A, cast information, and detailed information on each episode with tons of images.
'Freaks and Geeks' is one of the best shows ever made. There's a reason so many fans of the show still cry out to have more episodes made or even a film. This was cancelled way too early in many people's opinions. It showed the early careers of many of today's successful actors and directors in Hollywood and brought us back to simpler times in high school and growing up. There is enough comedy, heart, and soul in the series to last a lifetime. The new video and audio presentations are both excellent and the there is a treasure trove of extras here, all of which have been imported into this new Blu-ray release from previous versions. Only one new extra is added here. This is a must own for everyone!