Freaks and Geeks

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Freaks and Geeks
Freaks and Geeks.jpg
Created byPaul Feig
Opening theme"Bad Reputation"
by Joan Jett
ComposerMichael Andrews
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes18
Executive producerJudd Apatow
  • Tara Timpone
  • Sean K. Lambert
  • Brent White
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time44 minutes
Production companies
DistributorDreamWorks SKG
Original networkNBC
Picture formatNTSC (480i)
Audio formatDolby Surround 2.0
Original releaseSeptember 25, 1999 (1999-09-25) –
October 17, 2000 (2000-10-17)

Freaks and Geeks is an American teen comedy-drama television series created by Paul Feig and executive-produced by Judd Apatow that aired on NBC during the 1999–2000 television season. The show is set in a suburban high school in Detroit during 1980–1981. The theme of Freaks and Geeks reflects "the sad, hilarious unfairness of teen life".[1] With little success when it first aired, due to an erratic episode schedule and conflicts between the creators and NBC, the series was canceled after airing 12 out of the 18 episodes. The series became a cult classic and Judd Apatow continued the show's legacy by incorporating the actors in future productions.[2][3]

The series has appeared in numerous lists of the greatest television shows of all time, including lists by Time, Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide, and Rolling Stone. It launched several of its young actors' careers, such as James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Busy Philipps, John Francis Daley, Martin Starr, Samm Levine, and Linda Cardellini.[4]


Teenage Lindsay Weir and her younger brother Sam attend William McKinley High School during the 1980–1981 school year. The show is set in the town of Chippewa, Michigan, a fictional suburb of Detroit (named after Chippewa Valley High School, which series creator Paul Feig attended).[5]

Lindsay joins a group of friends that are referred to as the "freaks" — Daniel Desario, Ken Miller, Nick Andopolis, and Kim Kelly; Sam's friends constitute the "geeks" — Neal Schweiber and Bill Haverchuck. The Weir parents, Harold and Jean, are featured in every episode. Millie Kentner, Lindsay's nerdy and highly religious former best friend, is a recurring character, as is Cindy Sanders, the popular cheerleader on whom Sam has a crush.

Lindsay finds herself attempting to transform her life as an academically proficient student, star "mathlete", and young girl into a rebellious teenager who hangs out with troubled slackers. Her relationships with her new friends, and the friction they cause with her parents and with her own self-image, form one central strand of the show. The other follows Sam and his group of geeky friends as they navigate a different part of the social universe and try to fit in.

Cast and characters[edit]

Main cast[edit]

Recurring cast[edit]

Guest stars and cameo appearances[edit]

Guest stars included:[6]

The show's producers were resistant to stunt casting. For example, they resisted the network's suggestion that they have Britney Spears appear as a waitress in one episode;[7] they thought such appearances would detract from the show's realism.[8]

Several of the screenwriters appeared on the show. Mike White played Kim Kelly's oft-discussed injured brother, and first appeared in episode 4, "Kim Kelly is My Friend." Paul Feig, Gabe Sachs, and series composer Michael Andrews appear uncredited as members of the fictional band Dimension in "I'm With the Band."[9]

Numerous actors who starred on Freaks and Geeks would later appear on Judd Apatow's later TV series Undeclared, including Rogen, Segel, Levine, Starr, Phillips, and Melnick, among several others.[10]


The script for the pilot episode of Freaks and Geeks was written by Paul Feig as a spec script.[11] Feig gave the script to producer Judd Apatow, who sold it to DreamWorks, where Apatow was under an overall deal. DreamWorks sold it to NBC, who greenlit a pilot. Before the script was shot, Feig wrote a second episode at the behest of Apatow. He showed this second script to Apatow and pilot director Jake Kasdan, and they suggested that he combine the two episodes to form a stronger pilot. Notable additions include the introduction of Kim Kelly and Lindsay's recollection of her grandmother's death.[11] Feig wrote a final draft after a read-through with the cast, this time incorporating a first meeting between Lindsay and the freaks (in previous drafts, Lindsay was already part of the group).[11]

The show ran for 18 episodes, three of which – "Kim Kelly Is My Friend", "Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers", and "Noshing and Moshing"– were unaired by NBC and not seen until Fox Family ran the show in 2000. The final three episodes premiered at the Museum of Television and Radio prior to being broadcast on television.[12] The list below is ordered by the chronology of the storyline.[13]

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
US viewers
1"Pilot"Jake KasdanPaul FeigSeptember 25, 1999 (1999-09-25)1009.17[14]
A group of high school students in 1980 faces various social struggles. Lindsay Weir rebels and begins hanging out with a crowd of burnouts, courtesy of an invitation from Daniel Desario. Her affiliation with this gang of freaks and her quitting the mathletes worries her family and her friend Millie. Her depression started after her attempt to stop the teasing of a special education student goes terribly wrong and ends in him being injured. Meanwhile, freshman Sam Weir struggles to find the courage not only to confront his and his friends' bully Alan, but also to ask cheerleader Cindy Sanders to the homecoming dance.
2"Beers and Weirs"Jake KasdanJ. Elvis Weinstein & Judd ApatowOctober 2, 1999 (1999-10-02)1015.58[15]
When the Weir parents go out of town for the weekend, Lindsay's new friends suggest she throw a party. Lindsay hesitantly agrees in the hopes of impressing Daniel, who has broken up with Kim. She asks Sam not to tell their parents and he agrees, though the thought of serving beer at a party worries him after going to a school assembly focusing on alcohol-related deaths. When Sam discusses the matter with his friends Neal and Bill, Bill suggests that they switch the real beer with non-alcoholic beer. Despite the fake beer, the rowdy teenagers begin to think they are drunk and Lindsay soon finds herself having a terrible time when she sees that Daniel is back with Kim.
3"Tricks and Treats"Bryan GordonPaul FeigOctober 30, 1999 (1999-10-30)1025.02[16]
Halloween approaches and Sam persuades his friends to go trick-or-treating with him. The neighborhood reacts awkwardly to the freshmen trick-or-treaters and matters become worse when Alan picks a fight with the gang. Lindsay agrees to stay home and hand out candy with her mom on Halloween night. However, when she gets an invite to go cruise around town with Nick, Daniel, Ken and Kim, she ditches her mom to hang out with them. Lindsay enjoys her first taste of vandalism with the freak gang until she accidentally takes things too far.
4"Kim Kelly Is My Friend"Lesli Linka GlatterMike WhiteSeptember 5, 2000 (2000-09-05)[a]103N/A
Kim’s friend, Karen, bullies Sam; writing "Pygmy Geek" on his locker. Sam doesn't take to the label kindly and finds himself in an argument with Neal over who is geekier as Sam is assigned to write a 500 word essay about vandalism in school. Kim invites Lindsay to dinner, explaining that she needs to introduce a nice friend to her parents, so they will stop hassling her to sell her car. After Lindsay realizes what an abusive home Kim is living in, the two flee the scene in Kim's car. When Lindsay suggests that Kim lie low at the Weir house, the Weirs find themselves in for a long night.
5"Tests and Breasts"Ken KwapisBob NickmanNovember 6, 1999 (1999-11-06)1046.14[17]
When Mr. Kowchevski threatens to force Daniel to repeat algebra for another year if he doesn't pass an upcoming test, Lindsay offers to help him study for it. Instead, Lindsay finds herself helping Daniel to cheat after Daniel manages to steal a test from the teacher's office and he asks Lindsay to help him fill in the answers. Mr. Kowchevski, suspicious of Daniel's surprisingly high grade, accuses the duo of cheating. When Lindsay becomes unsure of what to do, Daniel tells her they should deny everything. Sam begins sex education class and Daniel tries to help Sam with questions he has by giving him a pornographic film. After viewing it, he is even more confused.
6"I'm with the Band"Judd ApatowGabe Sachs & Jeff JudahNovember 13, 1999 (1999-11-13)1055.08[18]
Nick realizes if he doesn't make a career out of being a drummer, his father is going to make him join the army. Lindsay attempts to remedy this first by pressuring the band to practice more, which results in the band breaking up when Nick thinks he is better than they are. Lindsay then gets Nick an audition for the band Dimension. Unfortunately, the audition goes miserably and Nick comes to terms with the fact that his drumming isn't going to save him from joining the army. Lindsay tries to comfort Nick. Meanwhile, when the physical education department at McKinley mandates that all students must shower after class, Sam avoids the shower at all costs, afraid to be naked in front of his peers.
7"Carded and Discarded"Judd ApatowJudd Apatow & Paul FeigJanuary 10, 2000 (2000-01-10)1107.59[19]
Sam, Neal and Bill befriend Maureen, a very pretty and friendly new transfer student at McKinley. When the popular crowd shows interest in her, the geeks take Maureen out on a night of all-you-can-eat dining in an attempt to keep from losing her. Lindsay and the freaks try to buy fake IDs to see the band Feedback perform at a local bar. However, after they go through the trouble of getting their IDs and going into the bar, the group is stunned to find out who the hot local band's lead singer is.
8"Girlfriends and Boyfriends"Lesli Linka GlatterPatty Lin & Paul FeigJanuary 17, 2000 (2000-01-17)1067.55[20]
Nick begins making more aggressive advances towards Lindsay, most of which end up making her feel more disturbed than love struck. Tension is created between Sam and Bill when Bill is paired with Sam's crush, Cindy, as a science partner.
9"We've Got Spirit"Danny LeinerMike WhiteJanuary 24, 2000 (2000-01-24)1077.23[21]
Sam becomes the McKinley basketball team's new mascot after the former mascot breaks his arm. He hopes to become closer to Cindy. Instead of winning her heart, however, he increasingly becomes frustrated with her apparent desire to be nothing more than friends as well as her obsessive crush over the basketball team's star athlete, Todd Schellinger. He eventually becomes so fed up that he allows Neal be the mascot during a basketball game, though Neal is much more interested in getting laughs than following orders from Vicki, the bossy head cheerleader. Lindsay tries to figure out the best way to break up with Nick. The freaks, meanwhile, have a sudden interest in sports and school spirit after they get beaten up by a gang of McKinley's rivals at Lincoln.
10"The Diary"Ken OlinStory by : Judd Apatow & Rebecca Kirshner
Teleplay by : Rebecca Kirshner
January 31, 2000 (2000-01-31)1088.22[22]
Bill is tired of being confined to deep right field during PE baseball games and always being the last one picked. He is constantly embarrassed by Coach Fredricks in front of his classmates and is convinced he could be a great athlete if he were simply given a chance. Instead of confronting Coach Fredricks with this dilemma directly, Bill makes two prank phone calls to him, one of which consists entirely of insults. Meanwhile, when Lindsay's parents fear that her new friends are having a negative effect on her, they forbid her from hanging out with Kim and Harold suggests that he and Jean read her diary. When they do, what they read sends their marriage into a crisis.
11"Looks and Books"Ken KwapisPaul FeigFebruary 7, 2000 (2000-02-07)1096.98[23]
After Lindsay crashes the Weir family car while trying to help drive Daniel and his friends around, her parents indefinitely ground her and forbid her from seeing the gang of freaks ever again. Shaken up by the experience, Lindsay gladly abides and tries to reassociate herself with her old friends, including Millie. In the process, she rejoins the mathlete team and reveals her competitive side. Meanwhile, after a new hair style doesn’t impress Cindy, Sam decides to dress more attractively, buying a powder blue disco jumpsuit. The attire gives him nothing but negative attention.
12"The Garage Door"Bryan GordonGabe Sachs & Jeff Judah & Patty LinMarch 13, 2000 (2000-03-13)1116.57[24]
Sam and Bill both admire Neal’s father until Sam accidentally sees Mr. Schweiber hugging a strange woman. Fearing that Mr. Schweiber may be cheating on Mrs. Schweiber, Sam tells Bill and then Neal. Soon after, Neal finds an unfamiliar garage door remote control in his father's car. The three friends start hunting around the neighborhood on their bicycles, searching for the garage door the remote control belongs to. Meanwhile, Ken reveals his first crush to be on a girl named Amy who plays the tuba in McKinley's marching band. The freaks, along with Amy, go to the local laser dome to see a Pink Floyd laser show, but things don't go quite as planned.
13"Chokin' and Tokin'"Miguel ArtetaJudd ApatowMarch 20, 2000 (2000-03-20)1126.04[25]
Lindsay smokes marijuana for the first time. Moments later, her father reminds her that she had promised to babysit for neighbors that night. Afraid to babysit by herself, she pleads Millie to babysit with her. Millie not only takes care of the child they are babysitting, but also takes care of Lindsay while she anxiously deals with the effects of smoking pot. The geeks are embarrassed in front of their peers when Bill reveals their allergies and ailments to Ms. Foote. Not believing that Bill is actually deathly allergic to peanuts, Alan puts peanuts into Bill's sandwich. After Bill eats one bite of the sandwich, Alan realizes that Bill was telling the truth and Bill is rushed to the hospital. This episode also reveals why Alan bullies Sam, Bill, and Neal.
14"Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers"Judd ApatowJudd Apatow & Bob NickmanOctober 10, 2000 (2000-10-10)[a]114N/A
Lindsay and Kim accidentally run over Millie's dog one night. Lindsay wants to come clean to Millie, but Kim threatens that if Lindsay confesses, she will react violently. Feeling guilty, Kim befriends Millie and asks her to join the freaks to witness The Who, live in concert. Meanwhile, Nick teaches himself to play guitar and writes a love ballad for Lindsay, and Bill, already having a rocky relationship with Coach Fredricks, is devastated to hear that his mother has been dating him.
15"Noshing and Moshing"Jake KasdanJ. Elvis WeinsteinOctober 17, 2000 (2000-10-17)[a]115N/A
While trying to escape his problems with his parents and Kim, Daniel becomes attracted to Jenna Zank, a dropout from McKinley who is into the punk scene. To try to impress her, Daniel changes his appearance and meets her at a punk show and brings Nick and Ken along. Trying to cope with the knowledge that his father is unfaithful to his mother and whether to tell her, Neal focuses all of his energy into his new ventriloquism act, neglecting school in the process. The Weir parents become intoxicated at the Schweibers' party, while Lindsay becomes attracted to Neal's older brother Barry, who is back in town from college. Lindsay is given detention after coming to the aid of a girl being attacked by a boy.
16"Smooching and Mooching"Jake KasdanSteve BannosJuly 8, 2000 (2000-07-08)1164.07[26]
After Cindy breaks up with Todd, Sam finally asks Cindy out on a date after she tells Bill that she has a crush on Sam and wants Bill to persuade Sam to invite her to a party. Sam, Neal, and Bill find themselves nervously attending a make-out party. Much to Lindsay's disappointment, the Weirs allow Nick to stay the night at their house after Nick's father sells his 29-piece drum kit.
17"The Little Things"Jake KasdanStory by : Jon Kasdan & Judd Apatow & Mike White
Teleplay by : Jon Kasdan
July 8, 2000 (2000-07-08)1175.26[26]
After Ken's girlfriend, Amy, reveals to him that she was born an intersex woman, Ken questions his sexuality and his over-analysis of his relationship with her leads him to the conclusion that he has to break up with her, but reconsiders after talking with Sam. Sam is having a terrible time dating Cindy, who reveals herself to be shallow, rude, and egotistical. He tries to find the courage to break up with her. Lindsay struggles with asking Vice President George Bush a question during an assembly.
18"Discos and Dragons"Paul FeigPaul FeigJuly 8, 2000 (2000-07-08)1136.75[26]
By chance, Lindsay and the freaks find out that Nick has been dating Sara and she has been teaching him to dance for an upcoming disco competition. Daniel, afraid of failing another test, is caught trying to pull the fire alarm. As punishment, he is forced to join the Audio/Visual club. The geeks respond to his presence coldly at first, but they later invite him to a game of Dungeons & Dragons. As a result of Lindsay's outstanding grades, she receives an invitation to an academic summit at the University of Michigan taking place for two weeks during the summer. However, she is unsure of whether she wants to attend. Instead, she pretends to leave for Ann Arbor on a bus. She disembarks at the next stop where she and Kim meet up with two classmates and leave for a series of Grateful Dead concerts in Colorado.

* ^ Initial airing occurred on Fox Family.

Planned storylines[edit]

In a 2012 interview with Vanity Fair, Paul Feig detailed what would have happened to the characters if the show had continued: Lindsay would become a human rights lawyer, years after following the Grateful Dead. Sam would have joined the drama club. Neal would cope with his parents' divorce by joining a swing choir in school. Bill would join the basketball team, becoming a jock and leading to tension with the geeks. Daniel would end up in jail. Kim would become pregnant on tour while following the Grateful Dead. Nick would be pressured by his strict father to join the Army.[27]

Media releases[edit]

DVD and Blu-ray[edit]

On April 6, 2004, a six-DVD Freaks and Geeks box set was released through Shout! Factory and Sony BMG Music Entertainment. A limited "yearbook edition" set including two additional discs was also available through the official website for the show. Fans who had signed an online petition to get the show on DVD got priority in purchasing the special set.[28]

On November 25, 2008, the deluxe "Yearbook Edition" boxed set was re-released through Vivendi Entertainment. The set features all of the episodes, commentaries, and special features of the "Complete Series" six-DVD set, plus two extra discs and deluxe packaging. It is packaged as an 80-page color yearbook with essays, pictures, and episode synopses.[29]

In July 2015, Shout! Factory announced it had begun preparing for a Blu-ray release of the series.[30] It was subsequently confirmed in December 2015, that Shout! would release the complete series on Blu-ray on March 22, 2016, and the set contains all special features from the previous releases and the episodes in both its original aspect ratio and widescreen.[31]


In October 2004, Newmarket Press released two Freaks and Geeks books: Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Scripts, Volume 1 and Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Scripts, Volume 2. Each book covers nine scripts from the series, compiled by Paul Feig and Judd Apatow. Extra content includes behind-the-scenes memos and notes; photos; additional plot lines; and excerpts from the Freaks and Geeks series bibles.[32][33]


Freaks and Geeks' creators made it a priority to feature genuine, period-specific music that would help to create the show's tone. Clearing such names as Billy Joel, Cheap Trick, the Grateful Dead, Rush, Styx, The Moody Blues, The Who, and Van Halen required much of the show's budget. Eventually, this became an obstacle in releasing the show on DVD due to the difficulty and expense of clearing all of the music rights for the series. Music cues were changed or removed for Freaks and Geeks when it aired in reruns on Fox Family. However, Freaks and Geeks' creators chose to wait to release the DVD until they could find a company willing to pay for the original music. Shout! Factory, a music and video company specializing in comprehensive reissues and compilations, eventually brought Freaks and Geeks to DVD with all of its music intact.[28]


In 2000, the cast of Freaks and Geeks was featured in an episode of the game show Family Feud hosted by Louie Anderson.[34]


Critical reception[edit]

At Metacritic, Freaks and Geeks has a score of 88 out of 100, based on 26 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[35] On Rotten Tomatoes, the show has a score of 100% with an average rating of 9.67 out of 10, based on 27 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "Freaks and Geeks lampoons real-life adolescence while affectionately embracing every growing pain along the way with refreshing honesty."[36]


The show averaged 6.77 million viewers and was #93 in the rankings during its only season.[37]

Awards and nominations[edit]

The series received three Emmy Award nominations: creator Paul Feig was nominated twice for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, for "Pilot" and "Discos and Dragons." It won for Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series (Allison Jones, Coreen Mayrs, and Jill Greenberg). It was nominated for two Television Critics Association Awards, for New Program of the Year and Outstanding Achievement in Drama. For acting, the series won for Best Family TV Series – Comedy and was nominated for Best Performance in a TV Series – Young Ensemble at the Young Artist Awards. For the YoungStar Awards, John Francis Daley, and Sarah Hagan were nominated for Best Young Actor/Performance in a Comedy TV Series and the ensemble was nominated for Best Young Ensemble Cast – Television. The series also received several other nominations in other categories.[38]

The series appeared on Time magazine's 2007 "100 Greatest Shows of All Time" list,[39] and placed third on the magazine's list of greatest television shows of the 2000s (decade).[40] In 2004 and 2007, Freaks and Geeks ranked #25 and #21 on TV Guide's Top Cult Shows Ever.[41][42] In 2008, Entertainment Weekly ranked it the 13th-best series of the past 25 years.[43] The same year, AOL TV named it the Best School Show of All Time.[44] In 2013, TV Guide included it in its list of The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time,[45] and ranked it #1 on their list of 60 shows that were "Cancelled Too Soon."[46] In 2016, it was named the 11th greatest television series of all time by Rolling Stone.[47]

Cancellation and legacy[edit]

One of the cited reasons for its early cancellation was its inability to gain an audience due to its "erratic scheduling" and poor time slots, competing with the high-rated Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The producers created a website for the series, but NBC would not share its URL because "they didn't want people to know the Internet existed. They were worried about losing viewers to it" as explained by Judd Apatow. Freaks and Geeks was only averaging under 7 million viewers, while other NBC series such as Frasier and Friends were averaging over 14 million viewers each.[48]

NBC and the creative directors of Freaks and Geeks did not have the same vision for the series. After the network picked up the Freaks and Geeks pilot, Garth Ancier replaced the old NBC network's president. Ancier "didn't understand public school life" and its relevance because he went to a boarding school and then on to Princeton. Creator Paul Feig expressed the "irony of the situation" as everyone involved wanted Freaks and Geeks to be a success, but the network didn't understand the concept of realistically showcasing life as ordinary teenagers. Jake Kasdan and Judd Apatow had multiple arguments with the network concerning "lack of victories" in the script and that the characters needed to "be cool." The writers wanted to produce something that would represent the average high school experience, but the network wanted to produce something that would make high school seem cool. Because the network did not think the series would be a success, they let the writers add things to the script that they "wouldn't have if they thought the show would resurface the next season," like the use of the phrase, "ambiguous genitalia."[49][50] Apatow said in 2014 that "Everything I've done, in a way, is revenge for the people who cancelled Freaks and Geeks."[51]


In 2001, several of the actors featured in Freaks and Geeks appeared in a new Judd Apatow college half-hour comedy Undeclared, which aired on Fox Network. Apatow fought with the network to include Freaks and Geeks actors, but the network only picked up Seth Rogen (who was already committed to the show as a writer) as a regular cast member. However, Jason Segel became a recurring character, and Samm Levine, Busy Philipps, and Natasha Melnick guest-starred in multi-episode arcs, as did prominent Freaks and Geeks guest stars Steve Bannos (who played McKinley High math teacher Mr. Frank Kowchevski) and David Krumholtz (who played Neal's older brother, Barry Schweiber). Martin Starr was prominent in another episode, and a scene with Sarah Hagan was shot, although it was cut for television broadcast. The show was also canceled during its first season.

Syndication and cast reunions[edit]

Cast of Freaks and Geeks at PaleyFest 2011

In June 2010, it was announced that IFC had acquired the rights to air both Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared.[52] Freaks and Geeks's 18-episode run on IFC finished with all episodes having aired as of October 29, 2010. Undeclared's IFC run began on November 5, 2010. Both shows have also joined TeenNick's line-up as of June 13, 2011.[53] Freaks and Geeks aired on FXX, from 2013 to 2014.

A reunion of several cast members and producers of both shows took place at the Paley Center for Media's PaleyFest on March 12, 2011.[54][55]


A documentary directed by Brent Hodge chronicling the history and behind-the-scenes of Freaks and Geeks featuring interviews with the cast and crew debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 21, 2018.[56][57] The documentary had its television debut on July 16, 2018, on A&E.[58]


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