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I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Freaks and Geeks

Somehow we all managed to survive high school, and today even the bad experiences
seem a little less painful in the light of nostalgia. Strange as it might seem, it's probably not unnatural to want to relive those days, but at a distance, through the eyes of other educational combatants.

You could certainly be forgiven if you don't have a clue as to what Freaks and Geeks is. The truth is if you blinked in the fall of 1999, you probably missed this highly regarded but short lived tv series that ran for only a mere twelve episodes that fall and winter. Beset by preemptions, schedule changes, and competition from ABC's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? (who cares about that show anymore?), Freaks and Geeks didn't even get to air the other six episodes of the series that had been shot. Improbably, the show lives on due to dedicated fans and an impossibly devoted pair of creators.

Freaks and Geeks is a dramedy (part drama, part comedy) about life at a Michigan high school, circa 1980. This past April, a DVD box set of the series was released. The six disc set retails for a bit more ($69.98) than some box sets, but few DVD releases have been this generous with extras. There are twenty nine audio commentaries from virtually everybody involved in the series (surely that must be a record). And, if you're still not satisfied, there is a deluxe limited edition box set (available online only, $120) with an additional two discs (eight in all) plus more text material packaged inside a high school yearbook! The additional two discs include virtually everything that the creators could put in, and, knowing the show probably had a limited chance at surviving, they had been saving material right from the start. I'm not sure I've ever heard of a DVD release including "table reads" (the script is read by the cast around a table not a set) but there are actually three of them in the limited edition supplementary material. A true labor of love!

As if that weren't enough, now comes the publication of all eighteen scripts in two volumes by Newmarket Press, Freaks and Geeks The Complete Scripts Volumes 1 and 2 ($19.95 per volume). Each script is preceded by a short commentary from the writer. What is most amazing is that apart from the show's creators (Paul Feig and Judd Apatow), there are nine other writers who are credited, also quite possibly a record for such a short-lived series. Rather than dilute the power of the vision, the wealth of writers has just the opposite effect -- rich original visions touch on just about every conceivable topic -- liquor, bullies, starting a band, sex ed, fake IDs, pranks, drugs, and even disco (!). Check it out -- you won't be disappointed.


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