It’s a crime that Freaks and Geeks only got one season.
Freaks and Geeks captures so many of the nuances of high school life that other shows tend to gloss over, and just thinking about certain scenes makes me emotional as I remember the first time I saw them. I’ve laughed and cried and cringed and grown with these characters; even though it’s sometimes ridiculously uncomfortable to watch because of how freakin’ relatable and realistic it is, important issues are touched upon with grace, candor, and an earnestness that just makes me want to hug Paul Feig and thank him repeatedly for creating this wonderful show.
At its core, Freaks and Geeks is about Lindsay Weir and her journey between different social groups at McKinley High. She starts out as a mathlete, someone known only for her smarts and not much else, but then she starts to hang out with Daniel, Ken, Nick, and Kim, known as the “Freaks.” Lindsay’s little brother, Sam, and his friends, Bill and Neal, are known as the “Geeks,” and are also trying to find their way through high school and where they fit in in the scheme of things.
Although most of the scenes take place at McKinley High, the show also discusses some more difficult things a teenager might be facing in their lives. Abusive home lives, cheating parents, questioning your sexuality, bullying, bad drug trips, testing friendships, and dating are all brought up throughout the show’s run, and the frankness with which each issue is dealt is a nice way to show kids that hey, they aren’t alone with their problems, even though it might feel that way sometimes.
One episode in particular that stands out is “The Little Things,” where Ken starts dating Amy, a really cool girl that he likes a lot, but then one night she tells him that she was born with both male and female genitalia. He freaks out, questions his own sexuality, and ultimately decides that he has to break up with her. However, after running into Sam in the bathroom one day at school (Sam is having relationship problems of his own – the crazy popular Cindy Sanders is now his girlfriend, but she’s not the amazing girl he thought she’d be), Ken realizes that Amy is perfect for him, and apologizes to her and they get back together. The sensitive nature of everything in this episode was handled so well that it was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award.
When I think of Freaks and Geeks, though, there’s one scene in particular that comes to mind every time, and it’s one of my all-time favorite scenes of any TV show ever. It’s a pretty simple scene — Bill goes home after school, makes himself a grilled cheese and a piece of Entenmanns’s chocolate cake, and sits down in front of the TV and watches The Dinah Shore Show.
The scene is dubbed over with The Who’s “I’m One,” so all you really see is Bill making his food, then laughing and enjoying the special, but it hits me so hard because it’s such an intimate moment, and he’s just so happy. All the issues and rough times at school melt away, and we get to see this glimpse of Bill enjoying himself and having fun, and it’s perfect.
At its core, Freaks and Geeks is a show about learning to find yourself and what path works for you. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s one of those shows that I’m going to be so excited to show my kids one day. Even though I’m still disappointed that we won’t get more stories from McKinley High and its students, I’m also happy that we’ve been left with this gorgeous series that’s amazing from episode one all the way through to episode eighteen.
Allison Racicot is the Audiobook Reviewer at Girls in Capes. She’s a recent graduate of Emerson College in Boston, and has a degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing. She spends too much time listening to podcasts and getting overly attached to fictional characters.