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Any Major Freaks & Geeks

November 16th, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

Every two or three years I make a pilgrimage to my set of 18 episodes of the short-lived TV series Freaks And Geeks. It is not only the greatest series ever to be cancelled after only one season, but one of the greatest TV series of all time. Almost every scene is a marvel.

To me, it completes the great American Schools Trilogy: The Wonder Years, Dazed And Confused; Freaks And Geeks. The first outlived its magnificence by about two or three seasons; the Linklater film absolutely needed no sequel; but Freaks And Geeks was put to death prematurely.

All three narratives about schooling succeeded because, though set in US schools with the culture that comes with it, the characters are almost universally recognisable. We’ve all met them, or some of them. Maybe we were them.

I went to school in Germany, where there no high school sports teams, and the sub-cultures were different. We had punks, poppers (New Romantic conservatives), rockers, Neo-Nazi skinheads… and mostly unaffiliated people. Not being much of a joiner I was among the unaffiliated. In Freaks And Geeks terms, I’d have been a “Freak” — though, like the Geeks, I loved Bill Murray and the movie Stripes (I even agree with Neal that the second half of that movie is best forgotten).

But whatever differences in the sub-cultures, I have known Wayne Arnold (who might as well have been modeled on my school nemesis, Marvin) and Paul Phyffer in The Wonder Years, Mitch Kramer and his two pals, Mike Newhouse and Tony Olson, Randall “Pink” Floyd, Fred O’Bannion and Don Dawson (another nemesis) in Dazed And Confused, and Sam Weir, Neal Schweiber, Bill Haverchuck (they were all my friends at some point), Alan White (bullies are all the same), Nick Andopolis and Ken Miller in Freaks And Geeks.

I’m on less safe ground identifying with girls, because if you’re a boy, your school domain is largely male. Still, I know Kim Kelly — the great Busy Philips in Freaks And Geeks —very well.

To me, Freaks And Geeks resonates in particular because in 1980/81, when the show is set, I was 14, the same age as the junior trio of Sam, Bill and Neal. While the cultural markers are different, these characters are my peers.

And so, if we can recognise the characters, or identify with them, then their experiences need not mirror ours exactly for us to be part of the story.

As in The Wonder Years and Dazed And Confused, the music is an important character in Freaks And Geeks (indeed, I did a mix of songs from The Wonder Years a few years ago; the mix has been re-upped). Here I cannot draw from the well of nostalgia. That American 1980/81 is not my 1980/81. And still, of the songs on this mix, which all featured on Freaks And Geeks, I owned six at the time (since you ask: Bowie, Seger, Billy Joel, Deep Purple, Supertramp, Jethro Tull).

As a bonus track I add “Lady L.”, the hackneyed love song Nick (Jason Segel) writes for Lindsay (Linda Cardellini), which has attained something of a cult status. The music-related scene that sticks with me, however, is the one where the Weir parents listen to The Who’s Squeeze Box to determine whether the British band’s concert is suitable for their teenage daughter.

The CD-R length rule required me to omit some worthy contenders; indeed, I expect to be hated for choosing Supertramp ahead of XTC (but I really don’t like No Language In Our Lungs) or Rush (whom I don’t really like, full stop). Maybe there’ll be a follow-up…

As ever, CD-R length, homeworked covers, PW in comments.

1. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Bad Reputation (1981)
2. Joe Jackson – I’m The Man (1979)
3. Warren Zevon – Poor, Poor Pitiful Me (1976)
4. Bob Seger – You’ll Accompany Me (1980)
5. Little River Band – Reminiscing (1978)
6. Billy Joel – Rosalinda’s Eyes (1978)
7. Kansas – Dust In The Wind (1978)
8. Jethro Tull – Aqualung (1971)
9. George Baker Selection – Little Green Bag (1969)
10. The Who – Squeeze Box (1975)
11. Deep Purple – Hush (1968)
12. Van Halen – Little Dreamer (1978)
13. Journey – Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’ (1979)
14. Styx – Renegade (1978)
15. David Bowie – Fashion (1980)
16. Supertramp – Take The Long Way (1979)
17. Charlie Daniels Band – The Devil Went Down To Georgia (1979)
18. Pure Prairie League – Amie (1972)
19. Grateful Dead – Ripple (1970)
20. Jason Segal – Lady L. (2000)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    November 16th, 2017 at 07:02 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Days of the Broken Arrows
    November 16th, 2017 at 17:32 | #2

    “The Wonder Years” might have gone on a season or two longer than it should have, but its closing episode “Independence Day” is one of TV’s best — especially the final fifteen minutes. If you haven’t seen it (or forgot about it), I’d recommend watching it — and not the truncated version on YouTube but the while thing.

  3. John V
    November 16th, 2017 at 19:09 | #3

    I don’t care about XTC, but how could you not include April Wine – Roller?

  4. Dave B
    November 16th, 2017 at 22:05 | #4

    I can relate to this! The family and I have watched Freaks And Geeks through and occasionally rerun episodes. You speak the truth; it IS the best show to ever get cancelled after one season.
    Now, other shows with great soundtracks come to mind. We’re blowing through the new season of Stranger Things at the moment….

  5. halfhearteddude
    November 16th, 2017 at 22:45 | #5

    Oh yes, great soundtrack, and I’m thinking of doing something similar with that. Or other shows…

  6. halfhearteddude
    November 17th, 2017 at 07:01 | #6

    It was on my shortlist, alongside Rush’s Spirit Of The Radio. With the CD-R length rule, some songs always fall by the wayside.

  7. Stephen Mitchell
    November 18th, 2017 at 17:48 | #7

    Nice mix. Disappointed the wonder Years mix download site is not available.

  8. halfhearteddude
    November 19th, 2017 at 13:31 | #8
  9. potzorbie
    November 22nd, 2017 at 07:47 | #9

    I’ve been making my own complete/expanded soundtracks for a couple of years now. The only 2 TV shows I’ve done were this and Stranger Things. I couldn’t believe they fit over 100 songs in just one season!

  10. Jungle Jim
    November 23rd, 2017 at 04:53 | #10

    Great post in tribute to a great show!
    So true to life and representative of the types of kids and problems one faced every day back in that era.
    I always laugh at that episode when Sam goes to slow dance with a girl (Styx: Come Sail Away) just when it becomes full-out rock. DOH! Same experiences here with Stairway To Heaven.
    Thanks for maintaining such a great blog!

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