I finished Freaks & Geeks and I have thoughts. The first thought is that I’m watching waay too much TV this year.
I ended up enjoying it quite a bit, although I suspect I’d have loved it if I’d seen it at the time. Although, if I’d seen it at the time it might have been missing some episodes and generally messed around with, so maybe it’s better to see it later.
But watching it now, it doesn’t seem hugely revolutionary… so it’s a bit hard to judge how it felt at the time. I also felt slight deja-vu at a few points, so I wonder if either I had seen some of it, or it influenced or was influenced by something I have seen.
I think it might also be a British TV / American TV thing. It seems like part of what was revolutionary about it in 1999 was that it was showing real kids with real lives and messed up families, rather than the perfect good-looking kids of most US teen shows. But UK kids/teen shows had been doing that since the 80s… there’s stuff in Grange Hill that’s grittier*, and that was a kids show from the 80s.
[edit: *actually, I think ‘un-varnished’ would be a better word than gritty for F&G /edit]
That said, it does do a great job of avoiding falling into genre tropes, and usually not going where you think it’s going, and also does really nicely at developing almost every character into someone human and relatable. Some of the bit part characters or somewhat generic characters from early episodes get to show hidden depths, and while nothing ends up perfectly wrapped, it turns out most of them are reasonably decent under it all.
I think I was thrown initially by they way the just throw us in with Lindsay’s sudden decision to change her life. That and the fact that they seem to be going for James Franco’s character as being her romantic interest… but then it all goes off in a different direction.
I was constantly annoyed that Busy Philips and her character of Kim aren’t in the main credits, despite her character becoming a much more important one than either Franco or Seth Rogen who are. Turns out it’s because the original plan was for Franco to be the love interest and her character to get written out, but they liked her and decided to keep her.
Which was a good choice, as her character and episode (Ep3) remain probably my favorites. It seems nuts now that the network cut that episode, as it is both really good and also has massively important character progression.
Lindsay is somewhat of a passive protagonist, in that she tends to be mainly reacting to things (with her very good horrified face) and also reverse-psychology doing the opposite of what people advise her to do. But by the end it worked for me, and I became quite attached to her and all the characters.
A couple of the later episodes veered a little too far into the cringe-comedy that I don’t really like, but nothing too terrible.
Although it got cancelled, the final episode kinda works quite well as an ending, though a few of the side characters don’t really get the ending they deserve.
Now I have that sad ‘i finished a series and won’t see those characters again’ feeling again.