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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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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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