Really great and long oral history of Freaks and Geeks in the January issue of Vanity Fair, a show that aired for one season on NBC in 1999, but has since developed a cult following. A following helped, no doubt, by the emergence of stars like James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segal, along with the show’s co-creaters Paul Feig, and, well, Judd Apatow.
PAUL FEIG: We did our infamous two weeks with the writers locking ourselves in a room and telling personal stories. I wrote a list of questions for everybody to answer: “What was the best thing that happened to you in high school? What was the worst thing that happened to you in high school? Who were you in love with and why?”
JUDD APATOW: “What was your worst drug experience? Who was your first girlfriend? What’s the first sexual thing you ever did? What’s the most humiliating thing that ever happened to you during high school?”
PAUL FEIG: That’s where most of our stories came from. Weirder stuff happens to people in real life than it does on TV. It was a personal show for me and I wanted it to be personal for everybody else.
While we’re on Freaks and Geeks, why not read the above article while listening to Freaks and Geeks Complete, a Rdio playlist by Joel Robinson with all the songs featured on the series.
While we’re on oral histories, Tim Carmody posits “we are living in a golden age of oral histories.” Agreed.
While we’re on Judd Apatow, take a look at Gallery1988’s ‘A Tribute to Judd Apatow,’ an art show inspired by the Apatow’s TV shows and movies.
Freaks and Geeks creator and Bridesmaids director Paul Feig talks about his collaborator Judd Apatow’s audience-driven approach to editing movies:
Judd actually has this whole thing they do with side-by-side screenings at two theaters right next door to each other and do a “P” version, which is a polished version, which is the one we think is close to what we want to have be our final cut. And then another one called the “E” version, the extended version, which is the dumping ground for everything we think might work, or we wanted to try, or we’re just curious if it’s gonna work. And out of all of those screenings, you’ll always get about five or 10 new things that you didn’t think were ever gonna work that go through the roof and you plug ‘em into the polished one…
We’ll always keep in a couple of jokes, just for ourselves. Then you go, “Okay, if it doesn’t work, whatever. This is kinda for us.” But none of us are brave enough to wait that long to see if it works because you want to have something that you know is clicking with an audience.
A lot of filmmakers will hate hearing that. To them, that feels very hacky, But the audience are the ones that are going to come and pay the money and they’re the ones who are going tell their friends if it’s good or not. I didn’t get in the business, and Judd didn’t get in the business, to make stuff that nobody sees. I’ve made a career making stuff that nobody sees, so anything that I can do to help make something that people are going to enjoy and want to see over and over again, then I’m there.
Feig also has an interesting take on the continued love for Freaks and Geeks: in 2000, when the show was cancelled, cancellation for a single show was pretty much total death. If there weren’t enough episodes for syndication, it would only linger on through word of mouth and the occasional samizdat VHS tape.
[Feig:] The British model, which I’ve always thought was great, is that you do a TV show and then they sell it. Then you can buy it at the video stores forever, so it never went away. But American TV used to be if you had a show and it got cancelled, then it never existed.
DVDs changed the culture. It’s not really a “cult hit” in the same way if you can just Netflix the entire run. Now, single-season shows like Freaks and Geeks can be sold and rewatched and lent out, and play out for their fans over and over again like long, favorite movies. And they don’t need their A/V teacher to have a copy of the film reel to do it.