Though it didn't even make it through its inaugural season on NBC, this 1999-2000 cult hit helped launch the career of many a fine young actor and attracted a huge new audience upon its elaborate DVD release in 2004. An ensemble comedy drama about a group of misfits growing up in the Detroit suburbs in the early '80s, Freaks and Geeks was the ...Read MoreThough it didn't even make it through its inaugural season on NBC, this 1999-2000 cult hit helped launch the career of many a fine young actor and attracted a huge new audience upon its elaborate DVD release in 2004. An ensemble comedy drama about a group of misfits growing up in the Detroit suburbs in the early '80s, Freaks and Geeks was the brainchild of executive producer Judd Apatow. With a writing staff that included indie-film mainstay Mike White, Apatow set out to chronicle those twin crossroads of adolescence: the move from junior high to high school, and the choice between stoner antics and goody two-shoes academics. To unite his two titular cliques into a single fictional framework, Apatow created the Weir family: Lindsay (Linda Cardellini), a brainy "mathlete" newly turned on to the thrill of rebellion; Sam (John Francis Daley), her swooningly romantic pipsqueak brother; and their rock-solid if painfully earnest parents, Harold (Joe Flaherty) and Jean (Becky Ann Baker). James Franco, soon to find movie stardom in the Spider-Man flicks, portrayed freak king Daniel Desario, a charismatic layabout and the object of Lindsay's secret affections. Busy Philipps, a future Dawson's Creek star, played his volcanic girlfriend, Kim Kelly, while Seth Rogen and Jason Segel played beta-male losers Ken Miller and Nick Andopolis. As for the geeks, young Sam found himself joined at the hip by asthmatic Bill Haverchuck (Martin Starr) and dapper, if tiny, Neal Schweiber (Samm Levine). With storylines that bounced back and forth between both groups and broke down the mythic high-school hierarchy developed in the '80s oeuvre of John Hughes, Freaks and Geeks earned plenty of critical praise upon its inaugural run. Despite its rich, character-driven humor and nostalgic, retro setting, the series dealt with all sorts of weighty issues: domestic violence, drugs and alcohol, single motherhood, and simple adolescence. NBC declined to air one episode, "Kim Kelly Is My Friend," deeming its family psychodrama too disturbing. The series was soon canceled, leaving several unaired episodes. But thank to Internet fandom and growing word of mouth, Freaks and Geeks cemented its status as the coulda-been hit that was snuffed out too early, and the clamor for a DVD release reached a deafening roar. By the time the complete series, including unaired episodes, was released in 2004, the show's reputation had grown to the point where a deluxe edition -- including a fake high-school yearbook -- could be released and even the regular edition boasted more commentary tracks than there were episodes. Since the show's cancellation, star Cardellini has gone on to greater fame in the Scooby-Doo movies and on ER, while her cast mates have turned up in all sorts of unexpected places. But for a large contingent of obsessive Freaks and Geeks fans, the actress will always be identified with her character's signature green jacket. Brian J. Dillard, RoviRead Less
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