Freaks and Geeks: The Documentary Review (Tribeca Film Festival 2018)

By Melissa Farinelli 

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Freaks and Geeks: The Documentary revisits the “one-season wonder” from creators Paul Feig and Judd Apatow that launched the careers of many of today’s biggest stars, including Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, James Franco, Martin Starr, and Linda Cardellini. With behind-the scenes tales of the development, casting, and production of this endearing and much loved series, this new documentary treats fans to a nostalgic look back on the beloved cult classic and its lasting influence on TV today.

Freaks and Geeks. One of those fleeting, yet wildly influential, cultural phenomenons that devoted fans continue to bemoan for never getting it's due. As a Firefly fan, I know and understand that pain.

Nearly 20 years after it was taken off the air, director Brent Hodge presents a delightfully nostalgic, only sometimes melancholy, romp through the trials and tribulations of putting this unique show on network television when there was no precedent for this kind of storytelling. When this show was created by Peter Feig and Judd Apatow in 1998 there were no single camera comedies. The term “dramedy” didn't exist. Game shows like Who Want's to be a Millionaire were starting their reign of domination. Freaks and Geeks became a show a head of it's time, lost to an entertainment landscape that didn't know what it had or where it fit in.

Though launched to glowing critical success, it floundered under the traditionally rigid broadcasting system rife with unsympathetic executives and old fashioned mindsets. Featuring nearly all the cast and creators from the series, the documentary makes sure to balance the triumphs and pit falls of making a show that actively sought to break the mold. Fighting against Hollywood ideals to cast young actors who looked like real people you would have went to high school with, dealing with dead air time slots, negotiating with networks heads to keep story lines intact. Even being so bold to give the opposition the opportunity to explain themselves and reflect on things maybe they should have done differently. TV is a still a business after all.

Ultimately, the jokes on them. The bonds formed during that single season have clearly seated deep, strong roots. The branches of that family tree of projects and films that can be traced back to this little show are sprawling and bountiful. While it doesn't erase the scar, it's an honest and thoughtful tribute to a show that has left a lasting impression on it's fans, it's creators, and ultimately the television industry as a whole.