Thursday, January 10, 2008

"Freaks & Geeks" Review

There’s a social construct (one easy to find and quick to be acquired) that popular culture is vapid and hollow. The feeling is if it’ being produced for the blinking tube or the stretched-out screen, it can’t be anything of great heft or import. The construct will have you that the great ideas must be snatched out of the olden, out of Shakespeare, Emerson or Thoreau. What you see being proclaimed by the culture critics is that if it’s not book-group fodder, it’s just candy.However, a counter-punch deserves to be thrown at this argument. Not to say that television is going to always fill our pallet with something of fiber and texture, but it can.

An example of this "texturous television" was the series “Freaks & Geeks” late of ABC, circa 1999-2001. Directed by Paul Feig and produced by Judd Apatow it does give the viewer something to chew on.Set in a suburban high school in 1980, it follows the travails of Sam, Neil and Bill as they try to navigate their way through the often banal, sometimes terrifying and frequently asinine experience of youth. Additionally, the series looks in on Sam’s sister Lindsey as she attempts to cross the gap between being the school's champion "Mathelete" to being the newest member of the “burner” clique, while still being… Lindsey.The characters of Sam, Neil and Bill in particular, though, show the difficulty of the youth as each attempts to acquire, and then assimilate, knowledge.

This difficulty of this assimilation as a goal is brought home to Neil at the beginning of the 3rd season.After learning from his friends Sam and Bill of potential marital shenanigans in his family, Neil follows his Dad and learns the hard to know truth; that his Mom is being cheated on. Confronted with this oaken door of knowledge, Neil must decide what to do next. Does he “let sleeping dogs continue sleeping around” or does he go through the door and tell his Mom what he knows?Neil then tells his mother she’s being cheated on and is shocked to learn that she already knows. It may not be a happy lesson, but it’s a big one for Neil as he of the complexity of relationships and how much more there can be than meets the eye.Storylines and shows like this show how the “culture critics” can be wrong.

There’s great learning in the great works, but also is the entertainment works. Basic principle that can be taken is that you never know where you might learn something. Ferris Bueller might have said it best with “life goes by pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around, you might miss it.”