I’ve had my review copy of Freaks and Geeks: Yearbook Edition for awhile – but only now have I managed to get through all of its many features. This is the kind of DVD package that you have to actually see, full-size, to really appreciate.
Freaks and Geeks, of course, is the classic one-season wonder set in 1980 that revolved around siblings Lindsay [Linda Cardellini] and Sam Weir [John Francis Daley]. Unlike other shows that used metaphors for “high is hell” [Buffy the Vampire Slayer], or “high school is cruel” [Veronica Mars], Freaks and Geeks proud asserted that high school is real – and it may seem earth-shattering while you’re, but in the end? It’s high school. By using siblings who were at different ends of the school population’s periphery, the series [all eighteen episodes] gave us a look at an institution that was far more real than we’d seen before – and because we saw it through the filter of a newbie freak [Lindsay] and an entrenched geek [Sam], it brought back all the epic highs and devastating lows of that period of our lives.
The series was loosely based on some of the events of creator Paul Feig’s time in high school [frequently mentioned in the copious audio commentaries] and thus, had a lot of truth at its core. From Sam discovering that a pretty cheerleader actually liked him, to freak Daniel Desario [James Franco] discovering that he had a sense of pride, Freaks and Geeks worked because of that sense of reality. Even the Weirs’ parents felt real [if slightly exaggerated] with their over-the-top efforts to keep their children safe [“I know a kid in high school who smoked. You know he’s doing now? HE’S DEAD!].
The cast was a roll call of past future stars – in front of and behind the camera. Judd Apatow [how many hit movies?], Linda Cardellini [Scooby-Doo, ER], John Francis Daley [Kitchen Confidential, Bones], Seth Rogen [see: Judd Apatow movies, Undeclared], Zack & Miri Make a Porno], James Franco [James Dean, Spider-Man 1,2 & 3, Milk], Paul Feig [The Office, Arrested Development], Jason Segal [Undeclared, How I Met Your Mother, Forgetting Sarah Marshall] and Joe Flaherty [SCTV] – to name a few.
The series was also able to find a bit of creative in the dross of its early cancellation. Because they new when the show would end, the writers were able to bring Freaks and Geeks to a satisfying conclusion, with all the major characters finding themselves in a better place than when the series began. Who knew that Daniel would be good and Dungeons & Dragons, or that Sam would’ve been the one to break up with the cheerleader – or that Nick would find a talent for disco dancing? No one could have predicted that a major character would become a Deadhead, or that guidance counsellor Jeff Russo’s loan of American Beauty would have such an impact?
As a member of one of the peripheral groups in high school, I found Freaks and Geeks echoed many of events from my personal experience, though time had made them both funnier and less painful [though Dungeons & Dragons came along well after my high school years – and, yes, I did play it].
Freaks and Geeks: Yearbook Edition is exactly what it says it is – the complete series plus two discs of bonus features in a copy of the William McKinley High School Yearbook. It’s a full-size yearbook package with all the things you remember: the inside front and back covers are covered in messages and signatures from classmates; there are candid [and frequently embarrassing] photos from the school year; The Class of 1981; student photos [with the names listed at the bottom of the page [I never did understand why they did that], and a number feature articles about the series – Greetings from the Front Office [Paul Feig’s essay on the series: from making it to doing this ultimate set]; Answers to Questions You Haven’t Asked [Judd Apatow on the such topics as “Why did this set take so long to come out?]; From Our Favorite Substitute Teacher [Director/Consulting Producer Jake Kasdan reminisces]; and so much more – the pages that act as the episode guide also list all the music credits for each ep! And we haven’t even gotten to the actual DVD Bonus Features!
Discs One to Six – Twenty-eight Audio Commentaries [involving various configurations of cast, crew, writers, fans]; Extra Credit [clips and deleted or expanded scenes from each episode]; Auditions; NBC Promos [Disc One only].
Disc Seven: Museum of Television and Radio/William S. Paley Festival Q&A [Instructions for a Freaks & Geeks drinking game at bottom of page]; Table Read: Kim Kelly Is My Friend; 5 Deleted Scenes; Auditions: The Freaks [Linda’s First Audition, Grandma Scene; Linda’s First Audition, Cold Open & Dinner Scene; Jason Segal Audition, T-short Scene; Seth Rogen Audition, T-shirt]; The Geeks [John’s First Audition, Cold Open; John’s First Audition, Cindy Scene; Martin Starr Audition, Geek Talk; Samm Levine Audition, Fight Talk]; Students of McKinley High [Sarah Hagen Audition, Dance Discussion; Sarah Hagen Audition, Academic Decathlon; Natasha Melnick Audition; Chauncey Leopardi; Mark Allen Staubach; Shaun Weiss Audition]; Smorgasbord: Raw Footage; Odds & Sods; Long Live Rock; Sober Students Improv Players; Tales of the Secret Service, and Photo Galleries.
Disc Eight: Table Reads: I’m With the Band, Boyfriends and Girlfriends; NBC Promos [Original NBC Electronic Press Kit, Five More Promos]; Auditions: F&G Alternate Universe: Linda’s First Audition [As Kim Kelly]; Samm Levine’s First audition [as Sam with Shatner]; Busy Phillips’ Audition [As Lindsay]; Seth Rogen audition [As Geek]; Joe Flaherty Audition [As Mr. Fredericks]; The Authority Figures: Joe Flaherty Audition [She Died]; Becky Anne Baker [Smoking Scene]; Becky Ann Baker [Homecoming Dance]; Tom Wilson Audition [Dodgeball]; Steve Bannos Audition; Dale [Gruber] Allen Audition; Stephen Lea Sheppard Audition [Geeks Fighting]; Stephen Lea Sheppard [Freak Reefer]; Smorgasbord: Raw Footage; Odds & Sods; Seven Minutes in Heaven; Graduation, and Thanks, Goodbye.
Grade: Freaks and Geeks – A+
Grade: Features – A+
Final Grade: A+