Set in the 1980s, the shows follows teenager Lindsey Weir (Linda Cardellini) and her younger brother Sam (John Francis Daley) in their daily struggles as they attempt to survive through high school. Though the premise is based on the titular social groups, the show employs the rest of its run questioning their rigidity, and eventually breaking them down. For example, in its portrayal of the ‘geeks’, the show doesn’t rely on stereotypes, but rather creates people that could fit into that social group. It stands out from shows like The Big Bang Theory, which exploit unrealistic stereotypes to draw their characters as broad caricatures: Freaks and Geeks delves deeper into geek culture in one season than the sitcom did in twelve.
Although the story could have continued, the finale feels natural
The strong point of this series is its young cast. Through unpretentious performances, the actors are able to craft incredibly flawed and realistic characters. It is not surprising that most of the protagonists went on to become huge stars: Linda Cardellini, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jason Segel and Busy Philips just to name a few. This particularly stands out in the relationships formed between the characters, which feel incredibly real. At the same time, while the charisma of the group of ‘freaks’ is undeniable, it is the family dinner scenes with Lindsey and Sam that create some of the biggest laughs, mainly due to the perfect performances from their parents, played by Joe Flaherty and Becky Ann Baker.
While the ending was abrupt in reality, with NBC cancelling it after one season due to poor ratings, the show is never hurt by it. Although the story could have continued, the finale feels natural, and not rushed: this is because of the fully realised character arcs, carefully crafted by the writers. For example, a lesser show would have reduced the role of Daniel to be the object of Lindsey’s interest, characterizing him only through her eyes as the charming ‘bad guy’. However, he is made into her foil: while by the end of the show she learns to let it go and chase happiness, he finds a passion to embrace, and give him purpose.
With so many TV shows today pandering to teens in all the wrong ways, it is refreshing to watch a show that does not talk down to its audience.