Freaks and Geeks - The Complete Series (1999) (NTSC)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Multiple
|Year Of Production||1999|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (6)
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||
John Francis Daley
Becky Ann Baker
Thomas F. Wilson
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Many quality television programs are cancelled before their time, but the cancellation of Freaks and Geeks remains one of the most heartbreaking injustices in the history of TV. The brainchild of Judd Apatow and Paul Feig, it premiered in 1999 but struggled on its home network of NBC, and although it attracted a number of vocal, dedicated fans, it wasn’t enough to save the show which failed to receive a second season renewal. The odds were against Freaks and Geeks from the beginning, as this is a period piece set in 1980 which provides an honest, at times painfully realistic, depiction of high school life and its associated struggles, representing a departure from glossy soap operas and other mainstream shows at the time. Despite its short-lived life on TV, the show’s legacy has been tremendous - the devoted fanbase continues to grow, and it served as a launching pad for a number of actors and crew.
Freaks and Geeks concerns an ensemble of characters, but the show is framed around siblings Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) and Sam Weir (John Francis Daley), and their respective circles of friends. Entering her sophomore year, Lindsay is intelligent, but seeks to break free of her prim and proper image by hanging out with the “freaks” of the school, including her crush Daniel (James Franco), the rough-edged Kim (Busy Philipps), would-be drummer Nick (Jason Segel), and the more cynical Ken (Seth Rogen). Meanwhile, freshman Sam is unsure of how to navigate high school life, spending time with geeky friends Bill (Martin Starr) and Neal (Samm Levine) as they quote movies and pine for the popular girls.
The primary “hook” of Freaks and Geeks is that it subverts typical wish-fulfilment television shows, as signified by the pilot episode’s magnificent opening scene: A pair of stereotypically hot high schoolers are seen chatting on the sidelines of a football match, before the camera dips underneath the stands to reveal the freaks of the show’s title. Feig, Apatow and the talented roster of writers refuse to go for the obvious resolution to satisfy viewers, and since we are permitted to get to know these kids and care about them, it’s moving when tragedy strikes. We root for Sam to win over the girl of his dreams, but when he does, it’s not as wonderful as Sam had hoped. Nick, meanwhile, plans his entire future around being in a rock band, but he attends an audition and realises he’s simply not as talented as he believed himself to be. It may take some viewers a little while to properly latch onto Freaks and Geeks because it’s so heavily rooted in reality and isn’t interested in typical Disney happy endings, but this aspect is precisely why the series stands the test of time. Besides, this is still very much a comedy show - laughs are frequent thanks to the sharp writing, and the enterprise remains boundlessly charming.
To the credit of everybody involved, every character, line of dialogue and situation within Freaks and Geeks feels wholly authentic. At surface level, the characters may be bog-standard types, but the show carves out real, three-dimensional people right across the board, from the students to the teachers, and even the parents. Both Feig and Apatow have gone on to direct comedies which are far too lengthy and outstay their welcome, but each episode of Freaks and Geeks is only forty-five minutes, necessitating a tight edit without any filler or flab. It works a treat, with taut pacing and jokes hitting hard, yet the show’s rhythm is also precise - it never feels rushed or over-edited. Another thing that stands out about the show is the cinematic style and the use of pop culture staples from the era. (Bill Pope, who went on to shoot movies like The Matrix and Spider-Man 2, served as cinematographer on the pilot episode.) Freaks and Geeks carries the look of an independent movie as opposed to a low-grade TV show, while eye-catching period details litter the frame to make every classroom, household and bedroom look utterly authentic and lived-in. Characters attend the cinema to see movies like The Jerk, and there are discussions about Star Wars, Meatballs and Caddyshack, just to name a few. The music is exceptional, too, with songs from artists like Rush, The Who, Van Halen and KISS, among many others. Hell, even the Rocky II soundtrack gets a look-in. Such touches add plenty of flavour and help to sell the period illusion.
A number of actors (who are now well-known) got their starts on the series, making Freaks and Geeks fascinating from a historical perspective, especially since many of the performers were teenagers here. Daley, who has progressed onto writing and directing, turns Sam into a three-dimensional kid with hopes and desires, delivering an incredibly nuanced performance despite his young age. He interacts well with Levine and Starr, with the trio sharing a palpable, credible buddy dynamic, and Starr is a comedic firecracker with his understated line delivery. Cardellini is a revelation as Lindsay, carving out a textured, fully-former character - there is not a single false note from her in any of the show’s eighteen episodes. Franco, Rogen and Segel are also terrific as some of Lindsay’s friends. None of the actors truly stretch their abilities, but that’s part of the appeal since they feel so real. It’s especially interesting to see Rogen here as he finds his comedic personality. Meanwhile, Becky Ann Baker and Joe Flaherty are superb as Sam and Lindsay’s good-hearted parents, and the show also has Thomas F. Wilson (Biff Tannen from the Back to the Future trilogy) on hand as a gym teacher. It’s fun to spot other actors in smaller roles throughout the series, including Ben Foster, Shia LaBeouf, Rashida Jones, Lizzy Caplan, David Koechner, Ben Stiller and Kevin Tighe.
Freaks and Geeks was reportedly cancelled primarily because NBC simply didn’t “get it”, and pushed for Apatow and Feig to turn the show into more of a wish fulfilment fantasy, closer to a run-of-the-mill sitcom. But the show-runners stuck to their guns, refusing to change one of the primary things which made the show as special as it is. With this in mind, perhaps it’s for the best that Freaks and Geeks only ran for a single perfect season. On top of the network’s demands and the obvious law of diminishing returns that may have taken effect if the show was renewed, the show’s cancellation also allowed the talent to go onto bigger and better things.
I wish there was more of Freaks and Geeks, but I am grateful for the eighteen perfect episodes we are left with.
Freaks and Geeks looks about as good as can be expected. The show was shot on film stock, but was edited and completed on video, framed at 1.33:1, which was standard for shows before widescreen teles were so commonplace. Shout! Factory recently remastered the show in 4K, going back to the original camera negatives in order to re-edit every episode in widescreen HD, but Via Vision utilise the original full-frame video masters which date back to 1999/2000, so temper your expectations. Nevertheless, these DVD presentations are acceptable, all things considered.
There is an inherent softness to the image, with mediocre detail across the board. Colours are faded to an extent, never popping, while the palette is very muted - blacks are not especially deep or inky, though this is nice contrast to the image. Grain is intact, which does serve to add a bit of texture, and, fortunately, it does not look as if DNR was applied during the creation of these masters. There are some artefacts here, as well - glasses tend to suffer from aliasing at times, there is mosquito noise, and I also detected some ringing. Nevertheless, the video is fairly stable on the whole and is always watchable, in spite of its inherent shortcomings.
For a cult television show of this vintage, Freaks and Geeks looks sufficient without ever being outstanding. Casual or unfussy viewers will find little to complain about.
No subtitles are available.
Although the show has been remixed in 5.1, these DVDs come with a simple, basic Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track. There is not much in the way of deliberate surround activity, but it’s still nice that the audio fills the rear channels to make for a more enveloping watch. Freaks and Geeks is mostly dialogue-orientated, and all the chatter is audible, even if it’s not as sharp or as precise as a Blu-ray lossless track. Music also comes through cleanly, though the subwoofer is not exactly used much.
One of the things which held back the show from receiving a DVD release for a few years was the complicated legal issues surrounding the music. Freaks and Geeks features a whole heap of songs from famous artists, but Shout! Factory managed to sort out the rights for its Region 1 release, and it appears that Via Vision have accomplished a comparable miracle. This DVD appears to contain all the original music, which is the only way to watch the show. Marvellous! Now let’s get a similar release for Daria...
I did not detect any hisses, dropouts, or any other bothersome anomalies. This is a smooth track that gets the job done.
|Surround Channel Use|
I hope you have a couple of weeks to spare for those wanting to chew through the supplemental material here...
Five deleted scenes are available for this first episode. The first three are single shots which are played with slating at the beginning, and a “Cut!” at the end, while the final two are actual edited scenes which are presented in abysmal quality, presumably from VHS masters. All of these are worth watching, supplying a few extra laughs. There’s optional commentary with Judd Apatow, Martin Starr and John Daley, but they don’t have a great deal to say.
Five deleted snippets are available to view here, which can be viewed individually or via a “Play All” function. All five are single shot off-cuts which were trimmed for timing reasons, and are played with slating at the beginning and “Cut” at the end. All scenes can be played with optional commentary featuring Apatow, Starr and Daley, who do share a few anecdotes and visibly enjoy watching the footage.
Only one audio commentary for this episode, and it’s another appealing group track, with scene-specific trivia and production anecdotes. The commentators also cover the sets and the actors, and even talk about the detail in the production design.
As with many of the other deleted scenes on this disc, these are mostly just single shots which were trimmed for timing, rather than fully-edited scenes, and slating is included. The clips can be played individually or via a “Play All” function. There’s optional audio commentary with Apatow, Starr and Daley, who have a few interesting things to say.
Two short audition clips are available here, which were clearly shot with a VHS camcorder, so do not expect top-notch quality. These clips are worth watching for fans, and it’s easy to see why Linda and Jason were cast.
A brief snippet of on-set footage involving Daley and Cardellini. The two goof around a bit between takes.
A couple of minutes of promos for the show. These are mostly amusing.
Only two excised segments here. One is an assembled extended scene from an old VHS master, and the latter is actually an outtake. As usual, there’s optional commentary with Apatow, Daley and Starr.
The first and last are edited moments that were trimmed for timing, whereas the “Geeks Watch Porn” segment is just a single shot with improv, flubbing and cracking up. Amusing enough. There’s the obligatory commentary from Apatow, Daley and Starr.
Nearly six minutes of excised footage here. As per usual, video quality is pretty poor, but it’s still nice to see what didn’t make the final cut. Apatow, Daley and Starr are still on hand for an optional commentary.
Another selection of audition tapes, clearly recorded with a VHS camcorder. It’s interesting to see the genesis of these roles. Levine’s audition contains his William Shatner impression which basically landed him the gig (according to his commentary on Disc 1).
More light-hearted on-set footage, mainly consisting of Daley goofing around between takes. Mostly amusing.
Only one commentary is available for this episode, and it’s a full roster of names. They manage to keep the conversation lively throughout, with the group all sharing random pieces of trivia, talking about co-stars (Ben Foster is discussed), and generally goofing around. Dave Allen even stays in character as Mr. Rosso, which is amusing. And since this commentary was recorded circa 2003, mention is actually made of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, which was in post-production at the time. It’s fun to hear them plug it all these years on, especially with the sequel already out. Anyway, this is a good fun track.
Three things that didn’t make the final cut. All are single shots. The final scene with David Koechner is particularly funny, with John Daley and Samm Levine struggling to keep a straight face as more and more takes are ordered. As per usual, there’s optional commentary here from Apatow, Daley and Starr.
Another packed, lively track in which the commentators all vie for the microphone. As per usual, there are some scene-specific anecdotes in regards to filming and the actors, and there’s plenty of joking around. Not the best commentary on the set, but it is enjoyable.
More minor off-cuts and sequences that didn’t make the grade. Most of these are worth watching - the amusing “Korea” segment is basically a gag reel in itself, and the “Selling Yearbooks” scene has a couple good laughs. As usual, there’s optional commentary which discusses the segments and why they were cut.
Even though a fan was present in one of the commentaries for the pilot, this is an out-and-out fan commentary, with three super-fans sitting down to discuss the episode and their love for Freaks and Geeks. Topics include screenings of unaired episodes with hundreds of audience members, the campaign to save the show, and aspects they enjoy the most. There is some dead air as they watch the episode, and they don’t seem confident the track is worthwhile, but it is fascinating to hear another perspective.
A fair chunk of excised material is available here. Some of these are better than others, but it’s obvious why these were cut. Apatow, Starr and Daley sit down for an optional commentary track as per usual.
Wow, talk about a young Seth! He even has acne! Shot on an ancient VHS camcorder like the other auditions, this is an amusing audition clip, and it’s easy to see why he got the part. This is the only audition on this disc.
Busy Philipps goofs around between takes.
Another selection of excised scenes, improvisation and bloopers. The “Parents Search Room” clip is particularly funny, thanks to Flaherty. As per usual, there’s the obligatory commentary from Apatow, Daley and Starr. They occasionally provide some insight, but do a fair amount of laughing and watching. They even question why somebody would turn on the commentary.
More excised stuff. As usual, some of these are edited scenes taken from low quality masters, while others are outtakes or raw footage of improvisation. Apatow, Starr and Daley are still on hand for an optional commentary - and they’re clearly getting bored.
Two extended scenes in rough workprint form. I found the first scene quite amusing, while it’s easy to see why the latter was trimmed. Apatow, Daley and Starr are all on hand for an optional commentary, of course, which got a few laughs out of me.
The only audition on this disc is that of Busy Philipps, though her name is misspelled in the title of the extra. Once again shot with a VHS camcorder, but it’s nice as a curiosity.
It’s Levine’s time to shine. A bit over a minute of footage of Levine goofing around on the set and talking to a camera. As usual, this is mildly amusing.
This track is worth a listen. A group track, it’s funny but also insightful, with the commentators providing scene-specific analysis and relaying production anecdotes.
Another chunk of excised material, a combination of edited scenes (taken from poor quality masters) and alternate or unused single takes. As per usual, there’s an optional audio commentary. The commentators are clearly running out of things to talk about here, but they do have some funny things to say.
Another episode, another busy commentary track. Apatow and Nickman briefly touch upon the ideas behind the episode, Wilson has amusing anecdotes from the production, Claudia leaves partway through, and so on. There is dead air, and they all enjoy watching and laughing at the show, but the track remains enjoyable.
Two full single takes that did not make it into the finished episode. Apatow, Starr and Daley are back for more commentary, and they are clearly bored by now.
You know the drill by now. More optional commentary is available. They don’t have much to say since the two short scenes speak for themselves.
Outtakes from the show. I laughed. I laughed a lot.
The usual assortment of scenes which did not make it into this episode. All of these scenes are fully edited and rather beefy. An obligatory optional commentary is included with the usual suspects. The three commentators are clearly bored, and try their hardest to fill the dead space by talking about pointless things.
Another standard-order commentary track, with some episode-specific anecdotes and even discussions about the TV show Undeclared. Apatow, Kasdan and White are open about the writing process and delve into decisions behind character arcs. Not essential listening, but a nice track all the same.
More excised material. Easy to see why these were cut. The third “scene” here is more of a blooper, and it’s quite amusing. Apatow, Starr and Daley are back for another optional commentary full of faffing around.
Funnily enough, this commentary doesn’t kick in until the title sequence, which might lead some to wonder if there’s an encoding issue. Anyway, this is a group track to cap off the series, with a selection of cast and crew chiming in to talk about the show as a whole, the episode, and the production. And of course, there is a fair amount of goofing around and random discussions. This is a nice track, and somewhat poignant as well.
The final selection of deleted scenes. We have one short scene, and an extended take of some dancing. Of course, Apatow, Starr and Daley are on hand for a commentary, in which they sound very pleased that this is it.
Another small collection of flubs and on-camera goofing around. Very amusing.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This is the more barebones DVD release of the show, which misses the additional two discs of extras that can be found on Via Vision's Special Collector's Edition set, and the Region 1 Yearbook Edition. Compared to Region 1, the only other thing this set misses is a remixed 5.1 soundtrack. This does give the Region 1 edition the edge, but I leave the decision up to you.
Freaks and Geeks is a cult show for good reason. A single season of eighteen episodes is not enough. The writing is so perfect and the actors are a joy to watch. Its reputation speaks for itself. If you haven't yet watched Freaks and Geeks, no time like the present...
Via Vision's more barebones release is still mightily impressive. The substantial amount of audio commentaries reveal information and production tidbits more than any single documentary ever could, and the deleted scenes, outtakes and auditions are fascinating. This set comes highly recommended.
|DVD||PlayStation 4, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 42LW6500. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||LG Tall Boy speakers, 5.1 set-up, 180W|