Freaks and Geeks

Common Sense Media says

Stellar teen dramedy explores angst, experimentation.

Age(i)

2
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9
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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A mixed bag. The series explores self-awareness and expression, and in some cases, teens’ experiments with “finding themselves” result in positive growth. However, peer pressure often swings the other way, leading kids into negative situations like underage drinking and breaking family rules. On the plus side, the series does show realistic implications of much of this behavior. Other serious issues like family problems, marital infidelity, and cheating are handled in a thoughtful but humorous way.

Positive role models

Many of the teens are models of how not to act -- ditching class, cheating, stealing, and defacing other people’s property, for instance. Those who do toe the line usually are cast as geeks or nerds. The Weir parents are a constant presence in their kids’ lives and encourage responsibility and hard work.

Violence

Brief fistfights and scuffles among teens rarely result in injury.

Sex

Sexuality is a common topic among teens, who talk about having sex and wanting to have sex. Couples kiss, make out, and touch each other suggestively (patting each other’s butts and fondling breasts, for instance), but there’s no nudity. Some storylines follow teens’ decisions to not have sex, which is presented in a positive light.

Language

“Damn,” “hell,” “ass,” and “bitch,” as well as “slut” and “loser.”

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Teens drink, smoke, and use marijuana, often without serious immediate consequences.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this witty, well-cast dramedy from Judd Apatow deserves its place among fans’ favorites, but its content is too mature for tweens. Much of the show centers on fringe high school students who smoke, drink, and have sex (though that’s talked about rather than shown) rather than striving for success in school. Language is another concern (“damn,” “hell,” “ass,” and “bitch” are common), and there’s plenty of stereotyping (“jocks,” “burnouts,” “in crowd,” etc.). That said, the show does strive for some reality in its content, and its honest take on adolescent angst will appeal to teens and adults who tune in.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

FREAKS AND GEEKS is a dramedy series set in the early ‘80s that centers on two groups of students at a fictional Michigan high school. Former model student Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini) has found a new niche among the school’s burnouts -- Kim (Busy Phillips), Daniel (James Franco), Ken (Seth Rogen), and Nick (Jason Segel) -- a move that confounds her parents and teachers, who fear she’s risking her future hanging out with the slacker crowd. Lindsay’s younger brother, Sam (John Francis Daley), and his friends, Bill (Martin Starr) and Neil (Samm Levine), constitute the show’s “geeks,” and their opposing social status results in a vastly different high school experience from that of the “freaks.” Other recurring characters include the Weirs’ conservative parents, Harold (Joe Flaherty) and Jean (Becky Ann Baker); Sam’s love interest and popular cheerleader, Cindy (Natasha Melnick); and Lindsay’s former best friend and all-around good girl, Millie (Sarah Hagan).

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Despite consisting of just 18 episodes, Freaks and Geeks has earned accolades among fans for its sharp writing and comical, but honest portrayal of the uncertainties of teen life. All of the characters struggle to identify themselves within the context of their social environment, and anyone who’s lived through those formative years will relate to their feelings of uncertainty and angst. The show boasts an extremely talented cast, evident by the fact that most of the members have gone on to notable careers in television and film.

Not surprisingly, though, this teen-centered show has a lot of content that’s not meant for kids. There’s underage drinking and smoking, some drug use (marijuana in small doses), a fair amount of language, references to sexual relationships among teens, and plenty of negative role models among Lindsay’s friends. Those taking in this content from beyond the teen years can afford to chuckle over it, and the show does make a conscious effort to present some realistic consequences for unsavory behavior. In the end, though, tweens will absorb the wrong messages from what they see, so it’s best to keep this one for yourself and your mature teens.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about stereotyping. What instances of stereotyping exist in this show? Do the characters reflect the groups you see among your peers? To what degree is stereotyping necessary for the comedy to be effective?

  • Can you relate to the characters’ troubles in this show? If so, how? Would the show be any more effective if it were set more recently? What, if any, messages is the show attempting to send to viewers?

  • Families can discuss the issues raised in each episode. How do your observations of drinking, smoking, and other adult behavior differ between your peer set and the characters in this show? How are the issues you face and those on the show similar? Can you relate to their struggles with self-awareness and direction?

TV details

Cast:Busy Philipps, James Franco, Linda Cardellini
Network:Syndicated
Genre:Drama
TV rating:NR
Available on:DVD

This review of Freaks and Geeks was written by

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About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Educator Written bymissbrown0109 June 7, 2011
AGE
14
QUALITY
 

Freaks & Geeks - A Great Resource for Relevant Material

I discovered Freaks & Geeks as a college student, while exploring cult television classics. Suggested by a friend, I was instantly captivated by the sincere realism of the show. At times almost painful to watch (as a classified "geek" in high school, I identified with those characters), the show seemed to embrace all those memories of school we want desperately to forget, but in reality we should remember and learn from such life-lessons. I quickly saw an opportunity, in the content of the show, to inspire students to discuss relevant issues in their lives, as well as connect those themes and messages to the world around them. This is a wonderful show that captures the awkwardness and strife of being a high schooler. I really think that many students, regardless of their social identification, are able to relate to the plots and characters. In addition, the cult-status of the show is a great "hook" that can be used to help introduce students to the show. The cast is sure to elicit recognition from students familiar with the films of Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, Funny People, The 40-Year-Old Virgin). Although the characters are not best defined by their decision-making skills and righteous moral behavior, I feel that the gritty realism of their lives (the good, the bad, and the ugly) can be used as a starting point for incredibly insightful discussions about topics like peer pressure, choices, identity, social groups (cliques), success, family, and more. As an educator, I have used this series in my 8th and 9th grade Language Arts classes to help engage students in lessons that deal with a variety of topics. My students have always thoroughly enjoyed Freaks & Geeks (eventually begging to watch more), and some have even found a voice through the show, connecting to characters/story lines and using these as a reference when talking about more personal details. All in all, I highly recommend this show for students of an appropriate age. This is not a squeaky-clean Disney production, but it certainly captures the atmosphere and environment of high school life in a very raw, unpolished manner. There is course language, but nowadays it is nothing that is not already aired on television regularly (contained in shows students of this age frequently watch; even if parents disapprove or forbid, as a teacher I know students will always find a way). If shown to students, I feel it is important to temper the viewing of this series with teacher-guided discussions. Encourage students to analyze and critique characters, and instill active-viewing skills. Have students ask questions about characters' decisions and actions; would they behave the same way? Differently? Why? The nature of many episodes is also conducive to discussions about student-adult relationships (such as those with parents, teachers, and other adults). Have students discuss how they expect to be treated by adults, and how they must act to elicit such treatment (as well as vice versa; how do adults want to be treated by their young acquaintances, and how must one act to be deserving of such treatment?). In a final note, I have always found it important to inform parents about the viewing of this program in class, and I always provide the option to opt-out if parents sincerely do not desire to have their child watch. However, I also educate parents about the program, and I provide a discussion guide for home-use to encourage family discussions about the same themes and messages discussed in class. Hope this helps someone out there!
Kid, 10 years old June 4, 2011
AGE
10
QUALITY
 

cool

good for my kids
Adult Written byihavegoodideas December 27, 2011
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

Must Read!!

To the writer of this hysterical comedy, you should totally make another episode. Except this episode should be their highschool reunion. And you could make it with the same cast. I just thought it was a creative idea. And maybe it doesn't have to be an episode, instead it could be a movie.

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