Freaks and Geeks

Freaks and Geeks is an American television series, created by Paul Feig and produced by Judd Apatow, that aired on NBC during the 1999–2000 television season. Although the show, considered a comedy-drama, garnered much critical acclaim and a devoted cult following, repeated preemption and scheduling changes hurt its ratings. Eighteen episodes were completed, but the series was canceled after only 12 had aired.

A fan-led campaign caused NBC to broadcast three more episodes in July 2000; three others would not be seen until September of that year, when the cable network Fox Family Channel aired them in syndication. The complete series was later released on DVD.


The show centered on a teenage girl, Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini), and her brother, Sam (John Francis Daley), both attending McKinley High School during the 1980–1981 school year in the town of Chippewa, Michigan, a fictional suburb of Detroit. The town likely got its name from Chippewa Valley High School in Clinton Charter Township. Feig graduated from the school in 1980.

Their friends, respectively, constituted the "freaks" — Daniel Desario (James Franco), Ken Miller (Seth Rogen), Nick Andopolis (Jason Segel), Kim Kelly (Busy Philipps) — and "geeks" — Neal Schweiber (Samm Levine) and Bill Haverchuck (Martin Starr) — of the title. The Weirs' parents, Harold (Joe Flaherty) and Jean (Becky Ann Baker), were featured in every episode, and Millie Kentner (Sarah Hagan), Lindsay's nerdy, highly religious former best friend, was a recurring character.

The show's starting point was Lindsay's transition from her life as an academically proficient student, star mathlete, and proper young girl, with Millie as her like-minded best friend, to an Army-jacket-wearing teenager who hangs out with troubled slackers. Her relationships with her new friends, and the friction they cause with her parents and with her own self-image, form one central strand of the show; the other follows Sam and his group of geeky friends as they navigate a very different part of the social universe trying to fit in.

Cast and characters

Weir family




Guest stars and cameo appearances

Early on, the creators of the show were not open to the idea of having guest stars on the show. A denied suggestion from NBC was to have a pop icon like Britney Spears to appear as a waitress in one episode. Many of the program's crew, including producer Judd Apatow, thought that such guest star appearances would greatly detract from the show's quality and realism. However, more unknown "guest stars" would make occasional unhyped appearances on the show. As the producers began to fear an imminent cancellation, Apatow's old friend Ben Stiller made an appearance as a Secret Service agent in the second-to-last episode of the program, but the appearance only aired after the series had been cancelled.

Other notable guest appearances were made by Thomas F. Wilson (in the recurring role of Coach Fredericks), Joel Hodgson (in the recurring role of a salesman who loves disco), David Koechner (as a waiter), Kevin Corrigan (as Millie's delinquent cousin), Jason Schwartzman (as a student dealing in fake IDs), Allen Covert (as the liquor store clerk), Matt Czuchry (as a student from rival Lincoln High), Claudia Christian (as Bill's mother), Shia LaBeouf (as the school mascot that gets hurt), and Ben Foster (who appeared as the mentally handicapped student Eli, and often hyped the show while promoting the film Liberty Heights), Alexander Gould as Ronnie, the boy Lindsey babysits while high. Veteran character actor Kevin Tighe also appeared in two episodes as Nick's father.

Many of the writers appeared on the show at one point or another. Mike White, for instance, played Kim Kelly's oft-discussed injured brother, first appearing in the fourth episode "Kim Kelly is My Friend". Paul Feig and Gabe Sachs appear uncredited as members of the fictional band "Dimension" in "I'm With the Band". Michael Andrews, the original score composer for the series, plays the role of Dimension's lead singer. Steve Bannos played the recurring role of the much hated math teacher, Mr. Kowchevski.

Other notable guest stars include David Krumholtz as Neal's brother Barry, Lizzy Caplan as Sara, and Rashida Jones as Karen Scarfoli, first appearing in the fourth episode, "Kim Kelly is My Friend".

Punk rock band Diesel Boy appears and performs in the "Noshing and Moshing" episode.


The show ran in 12 episodes on TV, in late 2000, ABC Family (then Fox Family) showed the next 3 episodes in syndication, and the last 3 episodes were found on the DVD. In the summer of 2000, the final three episodes were premiered at the Museum of the Moving Image prior to being broadcast on television. Most episodes on the DVD set have two commentaries each and deleted scenes with optional commentaries by creator Paul Feig and chosen cast and crew members.

DVD, CD and book releases

On April 6, 2004, a six-DVD Freaks and Geeks box set was released through Shout! Factory. A limited "yearbook edition" set including two additional discs was also available through the official website for the show. Fans who had signed an online petition to get the show on DVD got priority in purchasing the special set. A CD soundtrack was released on September 14, 2004.

In November 2004, two Freaks and Geeks books were released, titled Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Scripts, Volume 1 and Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Scripts, Volume 2. Both published by Newmarket Press, each book covers nine scripts from the series as compiled by Paul Feig and Judd Apatow themselves. Extra content includes behind-the-scenes memos and notes, photos, additional plotlines and excerpts from the Freaks and Geeks series bibles.

On November 25, 2008, the deluxe "Yearbook Edition" boxed set will be re-released; the set will feature all of the episodes, commentaries, and special features of the "Complete Series" 6-DVD set, plus two extra discs and deluxe packaging. It is packaged as a 80-page color yearbook with essays, pictures, and episode synopses.


One of the distinguishing characteristics that separated Freaks and Geeks from similar television series at the time was its authentic soundtrack. The creators made it a priority to feature genuine, period-specific music that would help to create the tone of the show. Clearing such names as The Who, the Grateful Dead, the Moody Blues, and Billy Joel would prove to require much of the show's budget. Eventually, this would become an obstacle in releasing the show on DVD due to the difficulty and expense of clearing all of the music rights for the series. Many television shows (such as Dawson's Creek and WKRP in Cincinnati) had music cues changed or removed in order to facilitate relatively inexpensive DVD releases. The creators of Freaks and Geeks, however, chose to wait to release the DVD until they could find a company up to the challenge of gaining clearance for the music, as not to upset the fans of the show. Shout! Factory, a music and video company specializing in comprehensive reissues and compilations of classic and sometimes obscure pop culture eventually brought Freaks and Geeks to DVD with all of its music intact.

The opening credits of each episode were accompanied by the song "Bad Reputation" performed by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.


The show was nominated for two Emmy Awards in 2000; one for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (Paul Feig, "Pilot") and one for Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series (Allison Jones, Coreen Mayrs and Jill Greenberg). The show won the Emmy for Outstanding Casting.

The show was nominated for an Emmy once again in 2001 for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (Paul Feig, "Discos and Dragons").

In addition to the Emmys, the show has been nominated and won numerous awards for writing, directing and acting.

Detroit/Michigan references

There are many references to the Metro Detroit area in the show (as Paul Feig grew up there). Some of these include Faygo, Cobo Arena, Detroit Lions, Pontiac Silverdome, Farmer Jack, a party store, General Motors, mile roads, Bill Laimbeer, pop, Ted Nugent, Bob Seger, Iggy Pop, and the North American International Auto Show.

Millie makes reference to playing against the "Mount Clemen High School". It is actually Mount Clemens, a city directly adjacent to Clinton Township. There are also mentions of 15 and 16 Mile Roads. (Metro Detroit is anchored by the "mile road system").

The freaks successfully sneak into "the Rusty Nail", a bar in Clinton Township, Michigan on Groesbeck Ave., where they ultimately are found to be underage by their guidance counselor who was performing with his band on stage. As of May 2007, the Rusty Nail is open for business and features live music most nights.

In Episode 4, Kim Kelly tells her mother that she went water skiing with Lindsay at Lindsay's (imaginary) house in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

In Episode 8, Mr. Rosso tells Lindsay that he contracted herpes from a girl he met at a bowling alley on 15 Mile Road.

In Episode 18, Lindsay Weir is asked to participate in the "Academic Summit" at the University of Michigan.

Harold Weir mentions television channels 2, 4, and 7. At the time, these were the Detroit affiliates of CBS (WJBK), NBC (WDIV) and ABC (WXYZ) respectively. (WJBK has been a Fox affiliate since 1994.)

Nick Andopolis took drum lessons from Terry Breese of the Huber & Breese music store in Fraser, Michigan.

Undeclared and beyond

In 2001, several of the actors featured in Freaks and Geeks appeared in a new Judd Apatow college half-hour comedy called Undeclared, which aired on Fox Network. Apatow fought with the network to include Freaks and Geeks actors, but only picked up Seth Rogen (who was already committed to the show as a writer) as a regular cast member. However, Jason Segel became a recurring character, and Samm Levine, Busy Phillips, and Natasha Melnick guest starred in multi-episode arcs, as did prominent Freaks and Geeks guest stars Steve Bannos and David Krumholtz. Martin Starr was prominent in another episode, and a scene with Sarah Hagan was shot, although it was cut for television broadcast. Despite garnering a cult following, the show was also canceled abruptly during its first season.

Six years later, actors from the two shows comprised the bulk of the starring cast of Apatow's film, Knocked Up, with James Franco making a brief cameo appearance as himself. In addition, many of the extras starred as teachers and principal tertiary characters from both shows. Martin Starr, Steve Bannos, and David Krumholtz all appeared as extras in Superbad, which was produced by Apatow and co-written by Rogen (who also has a supporting role in the film). Walk Hard featured Bannos, Krumholtz and Starr in minor or cameo roles.

In 2008, Rogen and Franco co-starred in the Judd Apatow-produced comedy film Pineapple Express.

External links

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