Freaks and Geeks: The Documentary is the perfect way to offer closure to the series should there never be a reboot. I said as much on Twitter during the world premiere at Tribeca in April.
In just over an hour, Brent Hodge manages to reunite the cast and crew of Freaks and Geeks by way of contemporary interviews while revisiting the set of the 1999-2000 series. As the series did so on September 25, 1999, the documentary’s world premiere was also on a Saturday night at 8 PM. It’s truly fitting for a documentary on the beloved series.
Feig grew up in Michigan so it’s only natural that McKinley High School would be in Michigan. It’s because of this that the series also shined a lot on the often-ignored areas of the country. While many series at the time focused on New York and Los Angeles, Feig notes that “the middle of the country was just treated disparagingly.” Michigan wasn’t the only thing about the series to come from Feig’s own life. Because he was an only child, the Weir family would have a brother and sister. At the same time, he was interested in a cheerleader in school but alas, she had a date.
Because of his DreamWorks Television deal, Apatow once told Feig to let him know if he ever had any ideas. Apatow never thought that any thing would happen down the road. This was a different time in television as it was still mostly network television. If it were made today with the same ratings, the series would have been pulled.
When Apatow and Feig started pitching the series, they heard from NBC. Shelley McCrory, a development executive for NBC at the time, was known for saying, “If we don’t make this show, I’m quitting the television business.” Lucky for everyone involved, NBC bought the pilot and executives offered zero notes before casting started.
There’s a substantial amount of time that goes into the casting process. There are so many series regulars that the hour running time doesn’t feel enough in that regard. Apatow described Rogen as a “weird and hilarious dude.” He would go on to become one of the biggest stars in comedy!
What’s fascinating about Kim Kelly is that she was not in the pilot and added on later. As for Samm Levine, he admits to having what he calls “the worst edition ever.” For Bill, Allison Jones looked at Martin Starr as being someone who brought authenticity to the role. Looking back years later, she couldn’t be more right! Sam Weir was the toughest to cast but in John Francis Daley they found a future filmmaker right under their eyes!
Yet this was a cast of characters that would never have been on television. What went for TV in that era was something totally different. Maybe they’d have a fighting chance today. I don’t know. What Feig and Apatow did was something magical. Superstar casting director Allison Jones helped to launch several careers!
Then you have the recurring cast who were so envious because they were not series regulars. This was the case for Jason Schwartzman. Hell, it probably would apply to anyone who calls themselves a fan of the series. Who wouldn’t want to have been cast on the show?!?
“We had no reason to believe we could do the coolest thing ever,” Segel says.
As far as the pilot, the dance was one of the touching hallmarks. It’s one of the most beautiful things to have ever aired on television. Just watching Sam Weir (John Francis Daley) walking up to Cindy Sanders (Natasha Melnick) is emotional some twenty years later. It’s enough to get the tears to start falling. Moments like these in the series were why we watched Freaks and Geeks! It’s a moment that wouldn’t happen without Styx’ “Come Sail Away.” Without this song, the story and heart might not even be there.
While it’s not addressed during the documentary, Freaks and Geeks touches on the intersex condition when Rogen’s Seth Miller dates Amy Andrews (Jessica Campbell). Even though the writer’s room discussion had started as a joke, the episode touches on it in a sincere way that doesn’t make fun of those born with both sexual characteristics. Feig touches on this in a 2012 interview with The A.V. Club. As a transgender woman myself, the episode (“The Little Things”) is one that’s super important to me. This was an episode that aired in 2000 but was set in 1981. Culturally, these issues weren’t even thought about at the time in terms of importance.
There’s some fun anecdotes during the documentary. One of which involves Sarah Hagan, who was cast as Millie Kentner. Another involves Becky Ann Baker, who was cast as Jean Weir. I won’t say what they are as you’ll find out when you watch the documentary.
“In my head, I would think, this is just an episode of Freaks and Geeks,” Apatow says about his career following the series.
Fans of the series will laugh and cry their way through the 72 minute documentary that takes us back nearly 20 years. This was a series that created a family. As is the case with any family, the breakup is tough. Even though the series was canceled, many of the cast and crew have worked together again over the years. It’s the sense of loyalty to Freaks and Geeks creator Paul Feig and executive producer Judd Apatow. Apatow told Jason Segel that if he ever wanted to have a movie career, he would need to write his own material. Meanwhile, Seth Rogen comments that he is “totally okay with having a career that is based on vengeance and rage.”
Freaks and Geeks was the series that treated both comedy and drama in the way it should be. What Freaks and Geeks: The Documentary does is is allow its fans to close the doors on a beloved series. While we would love to have a reunion special or another season, Freaks and Geeks is perfect as is.
DIRECTOR: Brent Hodge
FEATURING: Paul Feig, Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Linda Cardellini, Busy Phillips, James Franco, John Francis Daley, Joe Flaherty, Becky Ann Baker, Steve Bannos, Dave Allen, Sarah Hagan, Natasha Melnick, Stephen Lea Sheppard, Tom Wilson, Jake Kasdan, Ken Kwapis, Gabe Sachs, J. Elvis Weinstein, Jeff Judah, Jason Schwartzman, Allison Jones, Dennis DeYoung