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Revived and Derived: “Freaks and Geeks” Ep. 2, “Beers and Weirs”

Revived and Derived: “Freaks and Geeks” Ep. 2, “Beers and Weirs” (photo)

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“Freaks and Geeks” is now airing on IFC, and we thought we’d take this opportunity to revisit the show that launched a thousand bromance movies. Every week, Matt Singer and Alison Willmore will be offering their thoughts on that night’s episode.

Episode 2: Beers and Weirs
Directed by Jake Kasdan
Written by J. Elvis Weinstein & Judd Apatow
Originally aired October 2, 1999

“I prefer to get high on life.” –Millie

Matt: Geeks love to world-build. They love stories with complicated mythologies and intricate continuity like Tolkien novels or X-Men comics. And they — oh fine, we — treasure that stuff because those are the kinds of narratives that reward the sort of intelligence and advanced reading skills that help make a geek a geek. “Beers and Weirs,” the second episode of “Freaks and Geeks,” is the one where we begin to see that this isn’t just a show about geeks, it’s a show by geeks as well.

Seconds into this second episode, the continuity begins to pile up. In the very first scene of the pilot, big drum kit aficionado Nick (Jason Segel) declares his belief in a divine power: that of John Bonham, the drummer of hard rock gods Led Zeppelin. But that pilot is set in the fall of 1980; John Bonham died on September 25, 1980. So what happens as Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) walks into school as “Beers and Weirs” begins? She bumps into Nick, stumbling, forlorn. “What’s the matter?” she asks. “John Bonham died.” he replies. Then she asks the really bad question: “Why don’t [Led Zeppelin] just get a new drummer?” At this, Nick just stares.

07092010_fandg_2_2.jpgNow, you certainly don’t need to have seen the pilot to understand this scene. Taken on entirely on its own it still works as an effective exchange between the two characters, establishing the friendship between the Lindsay and Nick, her concern for him and his passion for something she doesn’t understand.

But if you’ve seen the pilot, you know how important Bonham (not to mention extravagant drumming in general) is to Nick. Plus, if you’re a real hardcore Led Zeppelin fan like Nick, you know that Bonham died in September of 1980, and you knew while you were watching the pilot what that bomb was going to do when it exploded in Nick’s face and you were just waiting for it to happen. And all of that makes the payoff here even sweeter.

Careful observers of these first two “Freaks and Geeks” episodes will also notice a few minor characters from the pilot reappearing here. Sean (Shaun Weiss), the heavyset kid who sparked the argument between Eli and Lindsay, and Mark (Mark Allan Staubach), the freak with Sideshow Bob hair who was seen under the bleachers with Daniel, Nick, and Ken, and avoiding Sam during the dodgeball game, both appear in the kegger thrown by Lindsay while her parents are out of town enjoying a Paul Anka concert.

07092010_fandg_2_8.jpg“Beers and Weirs” also introduces us to Stroker (Shawn Soong) a often seen but rarely heard background character with a distinctive brown mane, after Daniel invites him to the Weirs’ party.

These details are make for continuity geek fun. But they also speak to “Freaks and Geeks” creator Paul Feig and executive producer Judd Apatow’s commitment to verisimilitude and their attention to detail. We all had those people in high school we didn’t really know but we saw in the same hallway every day between classes, or the guy a friend used to be on a softball team with. Everyone has them; for “Freaks and Geeks,” those people are Sean and Mark. They’re important because when you’re building a world, it has to be complete.

Alison: One more thing about that Nick/Lindsay exchange — it’s the first in a row of social missteps and misreadings Lindsay makes in this episode as she struggles to absorb freakdom like it’s a foreign language. Not only does she seriously underestimate Bonham’s importance to Nick, she then tells a story about her dad catching a shoplifter when it’s the shoplifter her audience is more likely to identify with.

07092010_fandg_2_3.jpgShe also takes at (frightened) face value the “family emergency” excuse Nick uses to get her out of class (and speaking of continuity, that’s Lizzy Caplan as Sara, the girl who delivered the message, who’ll play a larger role later in the series). She painstakingly party-readies her house with trays of snacks and black light posters when everyone’s just looking for a parent-free place to get wasted. And worst of all, she fails to understand that her crush Daniel’s (James Franco) break-up with Kim (Busy Philipps) isn’t actually a break-up, just the latest chapter in the pair’s own pint-sized Sid and Nancy saga.

While this episode marks Lindsay’s low point, it gives the geeks a chance to shine as they attempt, several times, to come to the rescue, and find out, after they swap out the keg with one filled with near-beer, that people don’t actually need alcohol to act like drunken idiots. Sam (John Francis Daley) and Neal’s (Samm Levine) wanderings through the party offer some nice moments of social worlds colliding, with Sam shooing Nick off the coffee table and hiding the house’s more fragile valuables away and Neal insisting the beer tastes funny because it’s imported and giving an offhand punch to the stomach of Daniel’s cousin Jimmy, who’s trying to show off the strength of his abs.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.