overthinking the idiot box

November 14, 2005

History can make for great TV. And if we don't dramatize the past, then we're just...

Doomed to rerun it
"Most Likely to Rip Your Head Off and Throw It Over the Fence"
The Freaks and Geeks... Then and Now
by Jenni Powell

The class of 1980
1980 was a year of transition: disco to new wave just for example. It was also a time before AIDS (that we knew of), when sexuality didn't yet have all the fears that are tied around it in our society today. What better time to set a one-hour high school dramedy series?

This is just what Paul Feig (creator/co-executive producer) and Judd Apatow (executive producer) did. They brought to life Freaks and Geeks, a series which follows the parallel stories of a brother and sister — Sam and Lindsay Weir — who each belong to very different groups of the high school caste system... the two groups that seem to be the farthest outside of the rest of the school.

They are the Freaks and the Geeks.

Though the series only lasted one season, it was so beloved by fans that it lead to the creation of not one but two special edition DVD box sets. Each set was lovingly put together by Feig and Apatow with the assistance of the entire cast and even included commentaries from the most die-hard of F and G fans. The first set (which I own and watch over and over and over) contains all the episodes including several which never aired. Each episode has up to THREE commentary tracks. The second set contains everything in the first set including two additional DVDs packed with special bonus materials and packaged in a high-quality high school yearbook.

Fans are constantly lamenting the ending of the series: "There was so much that could have happened! What would have become of them through their journey through high school?"

I take that lament one step further. I want to guess at what has become of my geek and freak friends. Where are they in the year 2005? Where are they NOW?

The Geeks
The geeks were eighth graders as we opened the series, which would make them the tender ages of 13 or 14. This is a time wrought with confusion and raging hormones for any "normal" teenager, so when you factor in the geekiness, these poor boys had it rougher then most. But they still had their minor glories such as that brief, shining moment when Sam was dating Cindy Sanders, the prettiest cheerleader in school, or the time Daniel Desario joined their Dungeons and Dragons game.

Sam Weir
"Least Likely to Play Dodgeball Professionally"
Then: The unofficial "leader" of the geeks, it's not fully understood why this is so. Perhaps it's the way he periodically is able to move over to the "cool" side, such as when he was dating Cindy Sanders, and the others hope some of this will rub off on them. It could also be because Sam's older sister, Lindsay, is in with the freaks, which could provide them with some much-needed protection around school. Regardless of the reasons, Sam is perpetually found in the position of "his heart was in the right place, but..." His goal is to get through high school as painlessly as possible, but this proves difficult as he is the object of many a bully's anger. Who can forget the time Karen Scarfoli scrawled "Pygmy Geek" across his locker or when Alan White ripped off his towel in gym class and locked him naked in the hall just as the bell rang? Through all these trials and tribulations, though, Sam remains true to himself and his friends in the end.

Now: After a growth spurt his Junior year, Sam becomes star of the basketball team, a position once held by his rival for Cindy Sanders' heart, Todd Schellinger. Don't worry, he never ends up getting back with Cindy, that girl was shallower then a kiddie pool in July. In fact, he doesn't really get into the swing of dating until college, where he majors in Education and is dorm mates with his old buddy Neal Schweiber. He eventually ends up back at McKinley where he follows in the footsteps of his favorite teacher, Coach Ben Fredricks. Yes, Sam Weir becomes a gym teacher.

Neal Schweiber
"Most Likely to Have a Ventriloquist Dummy as a Roommate"
Neal is a 50 year-old vaudeville comedian trapped in a 14-year old's body. He's oddly self-confident for a geek and considers himself to be much more worldly then his other geek friends, as he knows his position will only be temporary. He's very intelligent and particularly loves science and current events. He and Sam are in a constant battle over which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek. Neal argues for Star Trek as he is obsessed with the show and is extremely proud of his abilities to imitate Captain Kirk. He is also hopelessly in love with Lindsay Weir. Halfway through the season, he is thrown into emotional turmoil when he discovers his father is having an affair.

Now: Not being blessed with the growth spurt that Sam enjoyed, Neal continues to develop his wit and sense of humor all through high school, eventually attending the same college as Sam and double-majoring in Science and Theater Arts. After college, he packs up and moves to Los Angeles to try his hand at stand-up comedy with limited success. He eventually goes with his back-up plan...he becomes a very successful researcher at New York University. His area of study: the effects of comedy on the hormone levels of adolescents. He marries a woman much taller and much dumber then himself. And hey, he's okay with that. He also attends as many Star Trek conventions as his schedule allows.

Bill Haverchuck

"Most Likely to Die By Peanut"
Then: Bill is probably the most stereotypical geek of the geeks. He's got the thick glasses, he's tall and lanky and allergic to EVERYTHING. He's obsessed with television, especially comedy. He's rather slow mentally and though it was suggested once or twice that he be put in Special Ed, he refused to go along with it and is content with getting bad grades, though he tries as best he can. Bill is an only child and was raised by his mom, Gloria, who is the neighborhood's resident "hot mom". Near the end of the series, Gloria begins dating the school's gym teacher and some of the best moments of the whole series come from watching Bill struggle with coping with this new relationship.

Now: In his early 20s, Bill was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and treated with Ritalin. Upon gaining a focus he'd never previously had, he graduates college Summa Cum Laude with a degree in theoretical physics. One other big change: he got contact lenses. He is Head of Operations at a Top Secret Government Agency (very hush hush). On the side, he owns a series of television- and Hollywood-themed restaurants. That restaurant in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta dances with Uma Thurman? Yeah, that's Bill's. There're even rumors that there was a little something-something going on between Bill and Uma at the time...

The Freaks
The Freaks exist solely to rebel. Even when they have no idea what it is that they are rebelling against. From destroying mailboxes to yelling "DISCO SUCKS" at the local discotheque, these kids feel every one and every thing has failed them. So what exactly are they supposed to do when "the greatest Mathlete McKinley High has ever seen" suddenly starts hanging around them? Especially when they find out she's pretty cool?

Linsday Weir
"Most Likely To Suceed if She'd Just Quit Hanging Out With Those Hooligans"
Then: Paul Feig describes Lindsay as "a modern day, female Holden Caulfield", a description I find succinct and very accurate. She's 16 at the opening of the series and has just gone through a major life change when her grandmother, a vibrant woman who loved life more then anything, dies. It sends her into personal crisis. Once deemed, "the greatest Mathlete McKinley High has ever seen", she suddenly quits the Mathletes, begins wearing her father's army jacket to school every day, and begins associating with "the Freaks". She is now on a quest to question everything she encounters even though deep-down she often longs to be the simple and naive person she once was.

Now: At the end of the series, we see Lindsay riding off in a Volkswagen bus, off to follow the Grateful Dead for the summer. This is a tradition she will continue all through high school and college. And she never tries LSD once. She tries pot a few more times but finds it just makes her as paranoid as it did the first time she tried it and had to have Millie Kentner cover for her. She continues to hang with her "freak" friends while still managing to keep her grades up. Because of this, she is offered a full scholarship to Dartmouth. She majors in Literature, studies abroad for several semesters, and just generally throws herself head-first into an experience she feels is finally bringing her the knowledge she has been searching for. She is now working on an autobiography documenting her coming-of-age. To do research, she has moved back to her home town where she spends a lot of time with her brother and her old friend, Nick Andopolis.

Nick Andopolis
"Least Likely to be a Drummer For Black Sabbath"
Then: An army brat who has spent much of his life moving from base to base, Nick's secret dream (well, actually, it's not so secret considering he once owned a 28 piece drum kit) is to be the next John Bonham (may he rest in peace). Despite this, he is almost resigned to the fact that he'll probably have to enlist after graduation because "that's what Andopolis men do". He loves smoking pot and pretending not to be in love with Lindsay Weir.

Now: After graduation, Lindsay's father, who runs the local sporting goods store, offers Nick a full-time manager position as an alternate option to joining the Army. Nick accepts despite being completely estranged from his father because of the decision. Thus begins a life-long feud between the Andopolis's and the Weir's. Despite this, Nick is very happy with his job at A-1 Sporting Goods, if only for the fact that Lindsay often comes to visit. Nick is still single.

Daniel Desario
"Most Likely To Bang Every Woman in the Midwest By the Age of 28"
Then: Daniel Desario once asked one of his fellow students if he was a loser. The response: "You're not a loser 'cause you have sex, but if you weren't having sex, we could definitely debate the Episode ." Daniel is extremely manipulative and self-confident and really believes he could charm the pants off anyone. And you know what, he probably could — a fact that makes his girlfriend, Kim Kelly, furious on a daily basis. He and Kim are seen as the school's "mature" couple, mainly because everyone knows that they are bonin' like jack rabbits. Beyond that, though, Kim and Daniel honestly do care about one another and though it's no secret that Daniel WANTS to bone every woman in sight, it's not so clear whether he ever really has or not. Except for maybe during those half a dozen times he and Kim were "broken up". At 18, he's the oldest of the freaks because he's been held back...twice.

Now: Daniel Desario died in a freak accident at the age of 27. He was hit by a car in New York, got up uninjured, but lay back down in front of the car when a bystander told him to pretend he was hurt so he could collect insurance money. The car rolled forward and crushed him to death. He never was very bright.

Kim Kelly
"Most Likely to Rip Your Head Off and Throw It Over the Fence"
At the opening of the series, Kim is the leader of a small group of tough freak girls but as she gets closer to Lindsay as the season progresses, her image as a homicidal maniac lightens up...a tad. The product of an abusive home, Kim channels her negative energy into verbally abusing and confronting anyone and everyone who she considers "in her way." Under her tough as nails exterior, though, hides a very nurturing spirit and she'd do just about anything for her friends or her boyfriend, Daniel Desario. You know, like sacrifice a puppy in a blood ritual.

Now: After high school, Kim moves out of her house. She moves to another state and she and Daniel break-up shortly before the move. Upon finally removing herself from her abusive family, she finds she no longer has use for her anger. She becomes a nurse. She's now married and living in Durango, Colorado with her husband, two kids, and three dogs (none of which she plans on sacrificing in a blood ritual anytime soon).

Ken Miller
"Least Likely to Date a Band Geek...Oh Wait..."
Then: You can sum Ken Miller up in the following exchange:

Nick: Can't you ever stop being sarcastic?
Ken: I'm sarcastic?"

He's sarcastic. But then again, him falling in love with Tuba Girl is one of the most adorable things I have ever had the privilege of watching. If there are two episodes you MUST watch in this series, they are episodes 12 and 17.

Now: He married Tuba Girl just after high school and she had like a million of his babies. And they lived happily ever after! Love is NOT dead!

And there we have it, the present state of the freaks and geeks of old. Some found their potential, others exceeded it, and some, well, they just flat out DIED. What does the future hold for these past pariahs? For one thing, in a few years time most of them will be having their 25th High School Reunions.

Can you imagine how much fun THAT'S going to be? Anyone else smell a made-for-TV movie? Bring it Paul Feig, bring it!

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Return to Season 2, Episode 5.