Blu-ray Review: Freaks and Geeks (The Complete Series – Blu-ray Collector’s Edition)

Freaks and Geeks is a show that found itself straddling the best of movies and television shows about high school. The episodes could measure up against Square Pegs and My So-Called Life, while challenging Dazed and Confused and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Freaks and Geeks captured high school in 1980 in a middle class part of Michigan near Detroit. This isn’t a white washed fantasy of those confusing and frustrating times that had happy moments. Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series – Blu-ray Collector’s Edition captures this time of change which sadly only lasted 18 episodes.

Sam (John Francis Daley) Weir is entering a fearful place: ninth grade. He’s a tiny guy and an easy mark for bullies. The only thing that saves him from being devoured is his older sister Lindsay (Linda Cardellini). Of course no boy wants to be defended by his sister. Sam must learn to survive. At the same time his sister wants to quit being the good girl. Sam finds a bit of refuge with his two friends that are geeky in their own way. Neal Schweiber (Samm Levine) is a major nerd who loves impersonating William Shatner while relating everything to Star Trek. Bill Haverchuck (Martin Starr) is socially inept on all levels. He does dream of hooking up with Cindy Sanders (Natasha Melnick). She’s a cheerleader who isn’t completely out of his league. But he needs to up his game. The trio form a tight bond. Leslie is tired of being the smart, good girl. She’s ready to ditch her mathlete fame to hang out with a dangerous crowd. She wants to be a freak instead of sweet like Millie Kentner (Sarah Hagan). This means ditching classes and not quite smoking weed on camera with Daniel Desario (James Franco), Ken Miller (Seth Rogen), Nick Andopolis (Jason Segel) and Kim Kelly (Busy Philipps). They’re troubled kids who aren’t serious about their education or the future. Early on Leslie finds herself dating Nick, but can she be happy with a guy whose life revolves around getting high and not quite being the next John Bonham on his drum kit? Even though there’s only 18 episodes, the Weir siblings go through a lot.

A lot of talent contributed to the show. The creator was Paul Feig who directed this summer’s Ghostbusters. The Executive Producer Judd Apatow directed Funny People. Like Dazed and Fast Times, the kid cast of Freaks and Geeks have gone on to become major stars. Franco and Rogen made Pineapple Express. Segel rejuvenated the Muppets after being on How I Met Your Mother. Cardellini spiced up Mad Men. Daley has been on Bones for nearly a decade. Even uber geek Starr has grown up to be the Satanic programmer on Silicon Valley. Along with J. Elvis Weinstein (Larry on Mystery Science Theater 3000) being a producer, several stars of Comedy Central found guest parts on the role including Dave “Gruber” Allen, Trace Beaulieu, Steve Higgins and Joel Hodgson. Strange to see so much future stardom on the screen and yet the show was canceled after 12 episodes by NBC. They did run three episodes as a burn marathon before the final three cropped up in syndication.

Freaks and Geeks made the most out of its short life span. While it is a shame that we don’t get to follow Sam through graduation, the 18 episodes serve as a series of films more than just normal TV episodes. What’s amazing about Freaks and Geeks is that it had a raw nature while maintaining NBC’s broadcasting standards. They don’t get to dip into the R-rated territory. The kids can’t cuss or let their libidos get full aroused, but the tone doesn’t feel restrained. Fans don’t have to argue what moment was the shark jump. This was a great show and deserves to be given the Blu-ray upgrade with tons of bonus features to explore all the magic of capturing 1980 in 1080p. A masterpiece of a show given a masterpiece presentation.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame and 1.78:1 anamorphic. Turns out the show was shot like The Sopranos so the complete frame was 1.78:1 and you were seeing a cropped version to make the 1.33:1 of your old tv set. Both versions of the show are provided in matching Blu-ray sets. Even though the show takes place in the ’80s, the scenes are more dark than Miami Vice pastels. The audio is DTS-HD 5.1. The original soundtrack songs mix well with the kids talking away. The episodes are subtitled.

Conversation with Creator Paul Feig and Executive Producer Judd Apatow (45:59) is a strange chat about the start of the show. Mainly because for the longest time Feig was directing tv shows and not quite doing as well as Apatow. The biggest frustration was Apatow was getting the attention of Freaks while Feig seemed an after thought by dumb entertainment writers. Thanks to the success of Bridemaids, Feig is now a Hollywood power player. There’s no unspoken resentment between the two guys as they chat away. Can I point out that Paul looks like Scott Thompson’s alternate universe twin brother?

Museum Of Television & Radio Panel Discussion (72:11) was made in 2000 before it was canceled since they discuss future plans for the show.

Table Reading has three different scripts read by the cast before they shot the episodes.

Audio Commentaries are on every episode featuring chat from the Show Producers, Studio Executives, Cast Members, Crew And Fans. There’s 29 on the 18 episodes.

Deleted Scenes are included on one big bonus feature as well as every episode. Seems like every frame shot for the show is tucked away here.

Cast Auditions give a sense of what it took to land the gig for each of the major roles.

Long Live Rock (7:41) are musical moments in the raw. Gruber does his Alice Cooper.

Sober Students Improv Players (5:04) gives us more extra Gruber.

Tales Of The Secret Service (7:19) is a visit from Ben Stiller.

Behind the Scenes (18:32) is the cast taking us around the set.

Smorasbord includes Raw Footage, Odds and Sods, NBC Promos, Bloopers, Seven minutes in Heaven, Graduation, extra goodies and Thanks, Goodbye. This is pretty much everything you wanted to enjoy about the show.

Shout! Factory presents Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series – Blu-ray Collector’s Edition. Starring: Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daley, James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel. Boxset Contents: 18 episodes on 7 Blu-ray discs. Released: March 22, 2016.

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