“Freaks and Geeks” didn’t even last a full season on NBC back in 1999 and 2000, but its enduring legacy can be seen throughout the new film “Knocked Up.”
“Knocked Up,” in theaters Friday, was written and directed by Judd Apatow, who was the executive producer of “Freaks and Geeks.” In casting his film, he essentially stockpiled actors from the beloved show about two bands of early ‘80s high school misfits.
Seth Rogen (Ken Miller in “Freaks and Geeks”) stars in the movie, which also includes Jason Segel (who played Nick Andopolis in “Freaks and Geeks”), Martin Starr (Bill Haverchuck) and a cameo from James Franco (Daniel Desario).
To provide just a taste of the deep appreciation fans have for “Freaks and Geeks,” it has a 9.5 rating on Imdb.com. That puts it a full 0.4 ahead of the highest-rated film, “The Godfather.”
“Freaks and Geeks” fans don’t just think it was a good TV show, they believe it’s one of the greatest achievements in pop culture. (They’re right. The breach of journalistic objectivity is, in this case, worth it.)
Those who made the show feel similarly.
“I’m almost a stalker with it,” says Apatow, who also directed “The 40 Year-Old Virgin.” “I truly believe those people exist somewhere right now and I don’t see them as actors.
“The funny thing is for me, I don’t even feel like I was part of it anymore when I watch it. I feel a real separation from the work and I can watch it as if it’s its own living thing — and I really like it.”
Canceled before its timeThe hourlong show — sometimes called a “dramedy” — was critically acclaimed and won an Emmy in 2000 for outstanding casting for a comedy series. It was nominated for outstanding writing for a comedy series in 2000 and again in 2001.
Nevertheless, NBC canceled it before its first season was over. In 2004, Shout! Factory released a six-disc DVD set of all 18 episodes and with extensive commentaries and special features.
“When we realized it was going to end, it was like killing the characters,” says Apatow, who also suffered early cancellations of “The Ben Stiller Show” and “Undeclared.” “It was our lives.”
The show’s creator, Paul Feig, plays a tiny role in “Knocked Up” too, (look for him among the fantasy baseball players). Since “Freaks and Geeks,” he’s directed episodes of “The Office,” “Arrested Development” and “30 Rock.”
Perhaps the two biggest stars produced by “Freaks and Geeks” are Franco, who has starred in the “Spider-Man” films, and Linda Cardellini, who is a regular on “ER” as nurse Samantha Taggart. (Busy Philipps, who played Kim Kelly on “Freaks and Geeks,” also co-stars on “ER.”)
Now a director and producer of lucrative summer movies, Apatow says he made “Knocked Up” with the tone of “Freaks and Geeks” in mind: realistic, touching and hysterical. While the critical response for “Knocked Up” has been very positive — just as it was for “Virgin” — Apatow says: “I don’t think I’ll ever make anything as good as ‘Freaks and Geeks.”’