Freaks and Geeks

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Freaks and geeks tv dvd 7057.jpg

Dramedy created by Paul Feig and Judd Apatow for NBC, based on the former's experiences, about two groups of teenagers in the Detroit suburbs in 1980. The "Freaks" are into rock (not disco!), pot and just hanging out. The "Geeks" are into comedy, the AV club, role-playing games and are just getting into computers. Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini) is at the fringe of the Freak group, while her younger brother, Sam (John Francis Daley), is at the core of the Geeks.

Eighteen episodes were made in 1999-2000. Compare its fellow Too Good to Last high school drama My So-Called Life, and Apatow's follow-up Too Good to Last college comedy Undeclared.

Has a character sheet.

Freaks and Geeks is the Trope Namer for:

Tropes used in Freaks and Geeks include:
  • Aborted Arc: Sam's beginning frustration with Neal and Bill (as well as Gordon and Harris) in "Discos and Dragons" was to translate into the next season with Sam wanting to break away from the Geeks as he started with puberty, as well as the relationship between Coach Fredericks and Gloria Haverchuck (Bill's mother), and the divorce between the Schweibers. No further explanation is needed.
  • Adults Are Useless: Played with. The Weir parents generally give well-meaning and sometimes helpful advice to their children. However, generational differences in particular (they are, after all, pre-Boomers while the Weir kids are early Gen-X'ers) often diminish the value of their advice.
  • The Alleged Car: Kim Kelly's Gremlin, Nick's Maverick... It's 1980, it's Detroit, if the series had lasted pretty much every marginal American car from the '70s would've shown up...
  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Vicki Appleby; Sam's crush on Cindy Sanders.
  • Alliterative Name: Kim Kelly, Daniel Desario, Cindy Sanders.
  • Alpha Bitch: Vicki Appleby, although this is subverted in "Smooching and Mooching". Kim Kelly seems to be one at first, but she gains some Character Development and reveals herself as a Broken Bird instead.
  • Audience Surrogate: Arguably, any of the main characters.
  • Author Avatar: Sam Weir = Paul Feig.
    • Gabe Sachs claims to have based Nick on himself, complete with giant drum kit.
  • Belated Backstory: Alan gets one in "Chokin' and Tokin'", where we find out that the reason he gives the geeks a hard time is because they used to ignore him when he actually wanted to be friends with them.
  • Betty and Veronica: Initially, Lindsay's two main love interests, Nick and Daniel, seem to fit this trope, with Nick being the sweet, slightly shy one and Daniel being the stereotypical "bad boy." This gets subverted to hell and back when we find that Nick is a stoner with an Edward Cullen complex and Daniel is actually a pretty good guy. Also played mostly straight with Lindsay's gal pals Millie and Kim.
    • Arguable reverted when Nick starts getting his act together, but that's also left hanging.
  • Big Fun: Gordon Crisp.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: Everyone in Neal's family seems to be fully aware of his dad having an affair, but none of them know that anyone else knows, so they all keep it a secret so as not to traumatize everyone else.
  • Brainy Brunette: Lindsay and Millie. The former was a star mathlete..
  • Broken Pedestal: Neal's idolization of his father is destroyed upon learning of his affairs. The show however refuses to cast him in an overly negative light and rather portrays him as a good husband and father who is likely in the midst of a mid-life crisis.
  • Brother Chuck: There are a few unnamed extras in the freaks and the geeks that don't appear in later episodes after the pilot.
  • Butt Monkey: The geeks. All of them.
  • California Doubling: Gets pretty obvious by the Halloween episode.
  • The Cast Showoff: John Francis Daley's accomplished dance moves were shown off during the mirror scene in "Looks & Books".
    • It's even remarkable on its own that Daley was fourteen while working with Freaks & Geeks.
  • Coach Nasty: Played with: Coach Fredericks can definitely be rather blunt, sarcastic and mean, particularly to the less-than-athletically talented geeks, but he's got a heart of gold underneath it all and is actually rather compassionate and kind, particularly when he's not on the sports field.
  • Convenient Slow Dance: Subverted in the first episode. Sam gets Cindy out onto the dance floor just as the tempo (to Styx' "Come Sail Away") picks up.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: Alan gives a heartfelt apology to the unconscious Bill, after he puts peanuts in his sandwich and Bill is rushed to the hospital, giving us some Belated Backstory.
  • Conversational Troping: Both groups, constantly, although the geeks mostly talk comedy and science fiction, while the freaks are more into music.
  • Cool Loser: Harris.
  • Cosplay: For the science fiction convention.
  • Cringe Comedy to spare. Two notable examples are Neal's ventriloquism act at his parents' party and definitely Nick's disastrous audition for a professional rock band.
    • Nick serenading Lindsay with Styx's "Lady"... and, in a different episode, auditioning his own composition, "Lady L", to Ken.
      • "Smooching and Mooching" has a deleted scene in which Sam and Cindy dance while Sam sings, which everyone on the DVD commentary claims is the creepiest thing ever filmed... which is accurate.
        • Surely Sam walking into school wearing a baby-blue Parisian nightsuit. The look on his face as he realizes that everyone is laughing at him is priceless.
  • Cut Short: And it makes the final episode "Discos and Dragons" into an inadvertent...
    • Mind-Screw Ending: Let's see, Sam has become disillusioned with his best friends but Daniel has joined their gang. Nick and Lindsay are no longer a couple, he has also broken up from his circle of friends and Lindsay is off on a cross-country road trip while her parents think she's attending an academic summit. And Kim and Daniel's latest break-up may be the last. Lord knows where they would have taken this.
      • It was completely advertent. The final four episodes were written knowing the show would be cancelled.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ken and Amy. Harris, Ken, and Neal also fit this trope.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Students and teachers smoking on campus.
  • Down to the Last Play: The basketball game in "We've Got Spirit".
  • Dreadful Musician: Nick, although he is said to be getting better towards the end after taking lessons.
  • DVD Commentary: Most episodes have at least two, some have three, including fan commentaries and Rosso, Fredericks, & Kowchevski reviewing an episode in character.
  • The Eighties and The Seventies
  • Fan Boy: The geeks are fan boys of Saturday Night Live, science fiction, The Jerk, and Dungeons and Dragons. Bill is also very adamant about watching Dallas.
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: At the end of the series, the Freaks have all joined different groups. Lindsay and Kim are off to follow The Grateful Dead, Daniel has become one of the geeks and Nick had gotten into disco. Ken's a bit of a loose plot thread, though.
    • Ken was ultimately the least developed of the show's main characters, and the one character who was never really able to progress much beyond being a simple joke machine (although it was clearly intended that he would once his relationship with Amy went further).
  • Finding a Bra In Your Car: The garage door opener.
  • Foreshadowing: In the Halloween episode, the geeks go trick or treating and one woman gives them circus peanuts. Bill asks "Are there any peanuts in those peanuts? Because if there are, I could die." Later in the season, a bully slips peanuts into Bill's sandwich. He nearly dies from an allergic reaction.
    • "Looks and Books" offers some foreshadowing during the conversation between Harris and Daniel: Harris is reading a Dungeons and Dragons book, and comments that Daniel would make a great Dungeonmaster. "Smooching and Mooching" also foreshadowed with a brief cameo of some Deadheads.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: This series was full of it. The cast and crew called it the "clean dirty" on the DVD commentaries
    • Just one humorous example:

Maureen: Wow Bill, your rocket's huge!

Bill (who is holding a large toy rocket): Oh, it is? I hadn't noticed.


Neal: I can kinda see why Coach Fredericks is dating her. She is kinda hot.
Sam: Oh, God, she's your friend's mother! Weirdo.

  • Hypocrisy Nod: The big basketball game is against Lincoln High, and the students put up posters everywhere that say "Assassinate Lincoln!". But their own school is named after President McKinley.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: "_____ and _____". And it usually rhymes.
  • In with the In Crowd: Sam, in "The Little Things".
  • It's Always Spring: The entire show seems to have been shot in the fall.
  • Jerkass Facade: Alan, as it turns out, in "Chokin' and Tokin'" thanks to some Belated Backstory.
  • Jerk Jock: Subverted with Mr. Fredricks. He initially appears to be a cliched asshole gym teacher, but is later revealed to be very compassionate and understanding, even when dealing with students who don't do well in gym (Sam and Bill.)
    • Mr. Fredricks is definitely a Jerk with a Heart of Gold as well. He risks losing his job to have a more frank discussion about sex with Sam after realizing that he's seen a pornographic movie and makes a good effort to bond with Bill after he starts dating Bill's mom.
    • Also subverted with Cindy's boyfriend Todd. He starts out as the Romantic False Lead keeping Sam from dating Cindy, but turns out to be an unusually decent guy.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Most characters, when not subverting the Jerk Jock and Libby stereotypes, are some form of this.
    • Harold Wier starts out as a typical unreasonable Overprotective Dad to Lindsay, but actually treats Nick quite well, stands up for him to his own dad and does genuinely care about his daughter.
    • Coach Fredericks, when he's not doing his Coach Nasty act, is actually rather kind and sweet.
  • Left Hanging: Deliberately invoked by the series finale when each of the "freaks", with the exception of Ken, finds him- or herself among a new group.
    • Arguably Ken is left in flux as well, given his relationship with Amy in the previous episode. Amy can snark with the best of the freaks, but she's still the tubbiest in the school's marching band.
  • Like Brother and Sister: At one point Cindy tells Sam, "You're so easy to talk to. You're like my sister."
  • Limited Wardrobe: Lindsey's ever-present green Army surplus coat, and Bill's blue-and-white horizontal-striped shirt.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Neal's brother and mother knew about his father's affairs long before he did, poor kid.
  • Luke Nounverber: Meta-subverted by a first-time D&D player, Carlos the Dwarf.
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Although never directly stated, definitely so when it comes to the Geeks, but this when Daniel talks with Harris:

Daniel: Am I a loser?
Harris: Well, you're having sex, so no.

  • Monochrome Casting: There really are very few people of color with speaking roles, and a grand total of one recurring Hispanic character.
    • Justified since the setting is Suburban Detroit where you could realistically have an all-white case even in the present.
  • Most Writers Are Adults: A rare aversion for for a show about high-school students. The kids actually act like kids their age, and deal with relatively realistic issues.
  • Music Video Syndrome: Averted. Feig and Apatow wanted the emotional scenes that would, on most teen dramas, be underscored by music from hip new bands, to simply speak for themselves. The results speak for themselves.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Sam gets caught naked in the school hallway in "I'm with the Band".
  • Nerd: The "geeks" in the show, who are everything you ever think of when you heard the word "nerd". Neal's older brother is rather noticeable in that he is awkward, not too handsome, and completely uncool, but knows and accepts this unashamedly.
    • However, it's never implied that the geeks are particularly smart. Bill, in particular, comes off as being surprisingly dumb at times. So this might actually be an aversion in some sense.
  • No Ending: About the only downside to discovering the show on DVD.
  • Not Named in Opening Credits: Busy Phillips.
  • Odd Friendship: At first with Lindsay and Kim, Millie and Kim in "Gym Teachers and Dead Dogs", Daniel and the Geeks in the last episode (although it technically began when Daniel lent Sam a porno).
  • Picked Last: Bill had a history of being picked last. This actually drove him to Prank Call his gym teacher! After his teacher finds out he was the one who made the call, Bill is awarded the opportunity to captain a team for a day.
  • Picture Day: Opening credits.
  • Primal Scene: Interestingly used. The Geeks enter the Weir house, and Sam calls out for Jean; he hears Harold and Jean in their bedroom and makes a disgusted face. Both Bill and Sam walk away, but Neal listens in...
  • Real Song Theme Tune: "Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett.
  • Refrain From Assuming:

Lindsay: God, how could I be so awful to actually suggest that you play an entire song correctly all the way through! God knows Zeppelin only play half of "Stairway To Heaven" and The Who never even practices "Teenage Wasteland."

Ken: "Baba O'Riley."

Lindsay: What?

Ken: The name of the song is "Baba O'Riley"... It's on Who's Next?


Neal: The previous mascot was as funny as a car wreck.
Previous mascot: Hey!

  • Sad Clown: Neal in particular, though a good portion of the male characters have their turn too.
  • Sadist Teacher: Mr. Kowchevski.
  • Scenery Censor: "I'm with the Band".
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: The freaks engage in these frequently, especially Nick.
  • Shallow Love Interest: Justified with Cindy. We know next to nothing about Cindy when Sam gets together with her, and this comes to bite him in the ass later, as they have nothing in common and never really have any fun.
  • Shout-Out: To nearly all the musical cult favorites of the late '70s, which is probably one of the reasons why it took so very long to clear the rights for the DVD release.
    • Bill watching Garry Shandling qualifies, as Judd Apatow was a writer on The Larry Sanders Show before Freaks and Geeks.
  • Shown Their Work: Set in the Detroit suburbs, regional brands are often seen and Japanese cars are conspicuously absent.
  • Single Mom Stripper: In one episode, Bill worriedly asks his mom if she's going to start "dancing" again.
  • So Unfunny It's Funny:

Neal: Friday night; always a good night for some Sabbath!

  • Spin the Bottle: "Smooching and Mooching".
  • Spiritual Successor: Undeclared.
    • The two shows even shared the same actors, namely Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Busy Philipps, Samm Levine, and Martin Starr.
  • Stealth Pun: Alan keeps calling Sam Weir things that rhyme with his second name (Sam Queer, Sam Rear, etc) but Sam Weird never seems to occur to him.
  • The Talk: Sam and Coach Fredricks in "Tests and Breasts".
  • Tech Marches On: "Help buy our school a computer!" Later in the (1980-81) school year they have 4 or 5 of 'em.
  • Teens Are Short: Averted. Nick is six foot four and played by nineteen year old Jason Segel while the rest of the cast are quite tall. The only exception is Sam who is noted as being short for his age.
  • Ten Minutes in the Closet: Bill and Vicki Appleby, in "Smooching and Mooching".
  • This Is Sparta: "I. Have. Herpes."
  • This Is Your Song: "Lady L".
  • Totally Radical: Averted. The whole show was explicitly set in 1980 to avoid this.
  • Troubled but Cute: Daniel has a bad home life and does poorly in school, but Lindsay is still interested...
  • True Companions: Two separate groups with the Weir siblings as the connection.
    • Though they were not the leaders; Alan Sepinwall identifies Daniel and Neal as the heads of their respective groups.
  • TV Teen: Hugely averted. The characters deal with girls/boys, body image (Sam), sexual identity issues (Ken), fitting in and generally finding yourself (Lindsay). It's all amazingly real.
  • Unconventional Smoothie: "Tricks and Treats" begins with Bill accepting a challenge to drink one of these. Sam and Neil mix cayenne pepper, mustard, pickle juice, pickles, a generous handful of salt, sardines, vinegar, soy sauce, chili, a spoonful of grape jelly, powdered dairy creamer, and after-dinner mints. Bill actually likes it.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Cutting the cheese" refers to farting.
    • That's considered arcane now? Man, this troper feels old.
      • Possibly the first troper was from somewhere other than North America, it's not commonly used elsewhere.
  • Ventriloquism: Taken up by by Neal in "Noshing and Moshing".
  • Very Special Episode: "Chokin' and Tokin'" deals with marijuana.
    • It's considerably more subtle than most examples, however. The show's portrayal of the first time getting high is largely Truth in Television.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Did Nick win the dance competition in the final episode?
    • Was Shia LaBeouf asleep because he was concussed or just because he was really tired? Did he ever wake up?
    • Where did Alan go after making peace with the geeks?
    • Was Lindsay really smoking as her mother accused her of in the pilot? This troper's instinct is no, but it was never really elaborated on in the rest of the episode... or the rest of the series.
  • What Is This Feeling?: Played subtly with Ken, when he gets a crush on Amy:

Lindsay: Oh my really like her, don't you!
Ken: ...I feel odd.

  • Wild Teen Party: Subverted in "Beers and Weirs". The "beer" is actually non-alcoholic. And yet everyone still *acts* drunk.
    • Try it sometime. It works.
    • Also subverted in that nothing that bad really happens, most of the crises you'd expect never occur, and to all intents and purposes the kids get away with it.
  • Wrong Genetic Sex: This is a major plot point in one episode, when Ken's new girlfriend Amy tells her she's one of these. There was no DNA test or anything - the conflict came from Amy getting upset at Ken telling his friends her big secret.
  • Yoko Oh No: In-universe, Lindsay inadvertently becomes this in "I'm with the Band", where she splits up the freak's band when actually trying to get them to improve. Ken even calls her Yoko at one point, although they're all back together by the end of the episode.
    • He teases her about it again in a later episode, referring to the time she broke up their band so she could make out with Nick. She doesn't correct him that she actually made out with Nick in part because she felt bad about breaking up their band.
  • Zen Survivor: Harris, to the geeks.