Freaks and Geeks - The Complete Series (Special Collector's Edition) (1999) (NTSC)

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Released 2-Dec-2015

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Drama Audio Commentary
Deleted Scenes
Additional Footage-Auditions
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Multiple
TV Spots
Outtakes
Featurette-Table Readings x3
Featurette-MT&R Q&A
Additional Footage-Raw Footage
Featurette-Multiple
Gallery-Photo
Script-"The Bus"
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 1080
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Multi Disc Set (8)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jake Kasdan
Judd Apatow
Paul Feig
Ken Kwapis
Studio
Distributor
ViaVision Starring Linda Cardellini
John Francis Daley
James Franco
Samm Levine
Seth Rogen
Jason Segel
Martin Starr
Becky Ann Baker
Joe Flaherty
Busy Philipps
Sarah Hagan
Dave Allen
Thomas F. Wilson
Case ?
RPI $59.95 Music Michael Andrews


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     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.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     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.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     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.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     The more barebones release had tonnes of extras, but this edition adds two discs with more video extras and tonnes of additional footage. The hours upon hours of commentaries compensate for the lack of documentaries. Fans of Freaks and Geeks should be in heaven.

Disc 1

Pilot

Audio Commentaries

Deleted Scenes (SD; 3:36)

     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.

Beers and Weirs

Audio Commentaries

Deleted Scenes (SD; 4:53)

     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.

Tricks and Treats

Audio Commentary with Paul Feig, John Daley, Martin Starr, Samm Levine and Lea Sheppard

     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.

Deleted Scenes (SD; 4:41)

     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.

Auditions (SD)

     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.

Behind The Scenes (SD; 2:05)

     A brief snippet of on-set footage involving Daley and Cardellini. The two goof around a bit between takes.

Promos (SD; 1:49)

     A couple of minutes of promos for the show. These are mostly amusing.

Disc 2

Kim Kelly Is My Friend

Audio Commentaries

Deleted Scenes (SD; 1:58)

     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.

Tests and Breasts

Audio Commentaries

Deleted Scenes (SD; 3:30)

     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.

I’m With The Band

Audio Commentaries

Deleted Scenes (SD; 5:37)

     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.

Auditions (SD)

     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).

Behind the Scenes (SD; 2:55)

     More light-hearted on-set footage, mainly consisting of Daley goofing around between takes. Mostly amusing.

Disc 3

Carded and Discarded

Audio Commentary with Judd Apatow, Linda Cardellini, Paul Feig, Joanna Garcia, Samm Levine, Seth Rogen, Mr. Rosso and Jason Segel

     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.

Deleted Scenes (SD; 3:35)

     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.

Girlfriends and Boyfriends

Audio Commentary with Judd Apatow, Linda Cardellini, John Daley, Paul Feig, Samm Levine, Patty Lin and Jason Segel

     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.

Deleted Scenes (SD; 9:20)

     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.

We’ve Got Spirit

Audio Commentary with “The Fans”: Geoff Black, Tami Lefko and Eric Williams

     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.

Deleted Scenes (SD; 7:25)

     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.

Seth Rogen Audition (SD; 1:22)

     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.

Behind The Scenes (SD; 00:55)

     Busy Philipps goofs around between takes.

Disc 4

The Diary

Audio Commentaries

Deleted Scenes (SD; 11:58)

     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.

Looks and Books

Audio Commentaries

Deleted Scenes (SD; 5:11)

     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.

The Garage Door

Audio Commentaries

Deleted Scenes (SD; 2:39)

     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.

Busy Phillips Audition (SD; 1:17)

     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.

Behind The Scenes (SD; 1:06)

     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.

Disc 5

Chokin’ and Tokin’

Audio Commentary with Judd Apatow, Miguel Arteta, Sarah Hagan, Seth Rogen, Martin Starr

     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.

Deleted Scenes (SD; 7:55)

     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.

Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers

Audio Commentary with Judd Apatow, Claudia Christian, Sarah Hagan, Bob Nickman, Busy Philipps, Seth Rogen, Martin Starr and Tom Wilson

     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.

Deleted Scenes (SD; 3:45)

     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.

Noshing and Moshing

Audio Commentaries

Deleted Scenes (SD; 2:03)

     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.

Bloopers (SD; 2:58)

     Outtakes from the show. I laughed. I laughed a lot.

Disc 6

Smooching and Mooching

Audio Commentaries

Deleted Scenes (SD; 7:11)

     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.

The Little Things

Audio Commentary with Judd Apatow, Jon Kasdan, Seth Rogen and Mike White

     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.

Deleted Scenes (SD; 5:41)

     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.

Discos and Dragons

Audio Commentary with Judd Apatow, Linda Cardellini, John Daley, Paul Feig, Samm Levine, Lea Sheppard and Jason Segel

     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.

Deleted Scenes (SD; 4:53)

     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.

Bloopers (SD; 2:24)

     Another small collection of flubs and on-camera goofing around. Very amusing.

Disc 7

Table Reading of “Kim Kelly Is My Friend” (SD; 49:37)

     Here we have a table reading, with Feig reading out the stage directions. There is plenty of cast laughter, improvising and faffing about, though only hardcore fans will probably be bothered enough to sit through this entire thing.

MT&R Q&A (SD; 72:12)

     Here is a Q&A session with cast and crew from the Museum of Television and Radio’s William S. Paley Television Festival. Filmed in March 2000, before the show was cancelled, the video and quality is more than acceptable (it was professionally-filmed), and a number of participants take part. The introductions take up a whopping eleven minutes before the questions actually begin. The questions are fairly bog-standard on the whole, but there is still plenty of meaty info here, even covering topics that weren’t addressed in any of the extensive audio commentaries. All of the participants have a great time, too, as they crack jokes on a frequent basis. It’s heartbreaking to hear Feig and Apatow talk about the show’s future as they had hoped to stay on the air for a few years. We all know now that this was not to be.

Deleted Scenes (SD; 8:28)

     Against all odds, there are still more deleted scenes to see here from the vault. All of these snippets are raw single takes, complete with slating, off-camera directions and the occasional stuff-up. None of these scenes add much, so it’s easy to see why these were cut. Alas, there is no available commentary, though that’s probably for the best at this point.

Auditions (SD)

     Another batch of short audition clips, presented in rather poor quality, clearly taken from a VHS camcorder. A nice inclusion for fans if you’re interested in this sort of thing. Here’s what we have:

Smorgasbord (SD)

Disc 8

Table Readings (SD; 98:59)

     Two more table readings are available to watch here, again presented in middling quality with a tonne of video artefacts. It’s a fun novelty to see the whole cast sitting around reading the scripts, especially with all the improv and Feig reading the stage directions, but again it’s hard to imagine anybody other than hardcore fans sitting through these. These can be watched individually, or via a “Play All” function.

NBC Promos (SD; 25:53)

Behind the Scenes (SD; 10:35)

     Four little chunks of behind-the-scenes footage, shot with poor quality consumer camcorders. The last segment is particularly poignant, showing the last day of the shooting for the season.

Auditions (SD)

     More auditions, which are broken into two categories - “Alternate Universe” and “Authority Figures.” As usual, these are in poor quality. Another extra only for the hardcore fans who are interested in seeing how these characters were shaped.

Smorgasbord (SD)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Compared to the Region 1 Yearbook Edition, this set only misses out on the remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track. This does give R1 the edge, but I leave the decision to you.

    Compared to the recent Region A Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory, this set only misses out on one recently produced extra: a 45-minute conversation with Feig and Apatow. The Blu-ray release is easily the best option, as it offers the show in 1080p at both 1.33:1 full-frame, and 1.78:1 widescreen. It is region locked, however, so if you wish to import, you will need a suitable player.

Summary

    I loved Freaks and Geeks, and I cannot recommend the show highly enough.

    Via Vision's Special Collector's Edition features acceptable video/audio presentations and a whole stack of extras that will keep fans busy for months. Seriously, this is one of the most extensive extras packages I have ever seen. Short of putting all the dailies onto a disc, I doubt much more could be done. All in all, this set receives my highest recommendation.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Monday, June 13, 2016
Review Equipment
DVDPlayStation 4, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 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 DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationLG BH7520TW
SpeakersLG Tall Boy speakers, 5.1 set-up, 180W

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