My next “Freaks and Geeks” subject moves to the “Freaks” group: Daniel Desario as portrayed by James Franco.
Daniel was another character that was more than he first appeared to be. While he’s definitely a part of the “stoner” crowd, he never goes completely to the point of being a good-for-nothing punk (although he did flirt with becoming a punk rocker in one episode). I always felt as if Daniel could have been a successful and welcomed member of the school if he had just had a few more people encouraging and helping him along the way.
One of the immediate things that becomes apparent about Daniel is that he’s a pretty nice guy. When some of the others are mean, he’s quick to lighten the mood and try to make the person feel accepted. This is most obviously true in his friendship with Lindsay.
Well, I don’t want to delve too deeply into character development or interpersonal history – especially for anyone who is reading this and hasn’t watched the show. I think the best way to summarize Daniel’s character is this scene from the final episode of the series. As a punishment, Daniel has been put into the AV class with the geeks. This intimidating, “cool” kid is now spending time with the outcasts on the other side of the spectrum (and they’re not too keen about it). Just when it seems that the geeks safe haven couldn’t be compromised any further, Daniel is invited to play Dungeons and Dragons… and he accepts!
This is such an awesome episode in that it breaks down the artificial walls that so often separate groups of people. Just as the film “The Breakfast Club” demonstrated that stereotypes don’t have to keep people from becoming friends, this ep provides hope for both the geeks and Daniel – no one has to remain segregated forever. Bonus points for showing that D&D wasn’t the satanic game it’s too often made out to be (although I’m sure a flashback view of my friends and I playing in high school might have looked similarly geeky).
So here’s my caricature of Daniel Desario
Another classic episode of “Freaks and Geeks” is “Weirs and Beers” in which Sam and Lindsay’s parents leave them alone for the weekend… and Lindsay gets talked into hosting a kegger. Sam, Neal and Bill want to keep things from getting out of control and they come up with the plan to switch the keg with a keg of non-alcoholic beer, but they need to sneak it past Lindsay to make the switch. That’s where Neil comes in to distract Lindsay in the following scene http://youtu.be/hYM8IL_0tXk
Samm Levine, who plays Neal, is so much like some of the kids I grew up with
: short, funny, Jewish… He’s the perfect representation of the kid who just isn’t popular no matter how much he tries to fit it. Of course, when you think that a ventriloquist act is going to make you popular, you’re probably doomed to the category of “geek”.
So here’s my caricature of Neal
One of the funniest scenes from “Freaks and Geeks” involves a re-enactment of a prank phone call that Bill makes to his hated gym teacher, Coach Fredericks. Bill is fed up with the geeks always being picked last and never getting the chance to play anything but way out in right field during gym class softball. As Bill laments, “Maybe we’re actually good at softball – but we’ll never know if we never get the chance to try.”
Not being able to contain his frustration, he steals a staff phone directory and prank calls Coach Fredericks. “You love to pat boys butts. Butt patter.”
The coach decides that he’ll have his own version of an audio line-up as one by one the students are asked to read the transcript of the prank call so that he can identify the culprit. Check out this hilarious clip: http://youtu.be/7_HJ67QYrjQ
Bill is busted, but it provides the opportunity for an honest conversation and actual change in the gym class – and a fantastic celebration for all of the gym class rejects!
Bill Haverchuck is the prototype geek and is played to perfection by Martin Starr. Watching the show, it’s amazing to discover that Martin is actually nothing like Bill! I sure do love the character he’s created, though. And I hope you like my caricature of that character:
One of my favorite TV series of all time is the tragicly short-lived series from 1999-2000, “Freaks and Geeks”. In fact, it was cancelled after 12 episodes and it was only a fan-driven campaign that pursuaded NBC to air 3 additional ones. That left 3 more episodes that never aired on NBC. While network executives never got behind the show or gave it a consistent time slot, I’m not alone in recognizing it’s brilliance. TIME magazine listed it as 3rd best TV show of the 2000’s, TV Guide ranked it as the 27th greatest cult hit of all time, and Entertainment Weekly listed it as the 13th-best series of the last 25 years.
The series was created by Paul Feig and executive produced by Judd Apatow. It was set in a suburban high school in Michigan in 1980 and, unlike most TV shows and movies, it focused on the outcasts/unpopular kids – specifically the “freeks” (burn-outs, stoners) and the “geeks” (nerds). The anchors of the show are brother and sister Sam (John Francis Daley) and Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) Weir.
It was a drama/comedy (dramady) and realistically portrayed the real-life experiences and interactions of normal kids. The writing is real, funny, and full of heart. But mostly it makes you love the characters. They are so real and fleshed out that I have no problem imagining that I went to high school with them – of course it helps that the clothing and music is lifted from the exact time when I was a high school Sr.
The cast included future film stars including James Franco, Seth Rogan, Jason Segel, and Busy Phllipps. And Apatow has gone on to great success with his involvement in feature films such as :The 40-Year-Old Virgin”, “Knocked Up” and a number of other comedies – most of them aren’t my taste, and none of them compare to “Freeks and Geeks” as far as I’m concerned.
So my next celebrity caricatures focus on the beloved characters from this beloved show, starting with Sam.