A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Freaks and Geeks is a witty, well-cast dramedy from Judd Apatow that ran for one season. It 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.
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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?
Despite consisting of just 18 episodes, this series 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. Freaks and Geeks 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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stereotyping. What instances of stereotyping exist in Freaks and Geeks? 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?
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