My new and complete obsession is the short-lived TV show by the now can-do-no-wrong writer/producer/director Judd Apatow. Despite finding his movies hit and miss (Knocked Up, 40 Year Old Virgin, Sarah Marshall I like. Superbad I do not) and admittedly vulgar (but usually in a funny way), I have to admit the guy is kind of a genius. He must have grown up a geek, so far as I can tell, because his work (the best of it, anyway) usually has a warm-heartedness to it, a piece that reflects the pleasant side of young and stupid kids. Anyway. I'm kind of fond of him. Freaks and Geeks is his masterpiece, and it's a absolute crying shame that it lasted for only a single season while overdramatic or lazy shows like Dawson's Creek and One Tree Hill and all that other teen crap flourished on the WB & UPN and now the CW. Blows my little mind.
This show has so much subtlety, and takes the approach of Mad Men-- a slow burn, a long set-up. It gives us time to get to know the kids. And their families. And their school administrators, even. It's funny and plays off stereotypes, sure, but it examines those stereotypes and the typical story of girl-comes-of-age-and-encounters-what-might-be-bad-influences. It's also set in 1980 which lends it that Wonder Years sort of feel, eliminating the obnoxiousness and technology of modern settings and focusing on the value of the classic stories and dilemmas that don't age.
The show focuses on Lindsey, who has semi-recently been witness to her grandmother's death. I think she's a junior in HS. She's a supersmart student and has always belonged to that type of group, but upon starting her new year she falls into the burn-out group, the "freaks" as she searches for something new. The other part of the show is about her younger brother, part of the "geeks," in his own social universe, trying to figure things out and be cool. Without being overdramatic in the slightest, the show addresses Lindsey's situation in her new group-- what might appear to be the usual story of girl-goes-kinda-bad becomes much more complex when you're a part of that story. Is it really that Lindsey's going bad? The freaks are likable. Their effect on her is both good and bad, actually. She also pauses to mourn the loss of her previous social clique, as well as admits that her new friends do not challenge her. She has a relationship with one of them, Nick, but it's not satisfying because he's too clingy and smokes too much pot. I loved their relationship, because it's clear that Lindsay cares about him, but it's not as though she's in love with him, and their evolution is so believable. None of the episodes are wrapped up tidily, and much of the time the characters are disgruntled (and yet not annoying!). Anyway. I think I'm going to write about it some more in detail on the other blog, but I felt like mentioning it because it's been very inspiring. The creators and writers really stepped out of the box for F&G, and it's a very natural, wonderful story. I'm a bit inspired by it at the moment, and want to drop everything I'm doing in order to write something truthfully teenagery. Oh well. I suppose I'll leave that to Apatow.
Also, freakin' Jason Segel was so freakin' cute back then. Argh, so precious.