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Revived and Derived: “Freaks and Geeks” Ep. 4, “Kim Kelly Is My Friend”

Revived and Derived: “Freaks and Geeks” Ep. 4, “Kim Kelly Is My Friend” (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 Friday, Matt Singer and Alison Willmore will be offering their thoughts on that night’s episode.

Episode 4: Kim Kelly Is My Friend
Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter
Written by Mike White
Originally aired September 5, 2000

“Kim Kelly’s a psycho. She and Karen Scarfolli — they’re violent. They run around the school being evil.” –Sam

Alison: A confession: Kim Kelly is my favorite “Freaks and Geeks” character, and this episode — written by Mike White, who appears as Kim’s “brain damaged” older brother Chip — is one of the series highlights for me. Throughout the first few episodes, Busy Philipps has been unrelentingly terrifying as Kim, territorial, intimidating and blessed with an uncanny ability to zoom in on people’s weak spots — like her “joke” about Lindsay’s being a narc in “Tricks and Treats,” because what would mortify aspiring bad girl Lindsay more than being accursed of acting as some kind of spy for the authorities?

In “Kim Kelly Is My Friend,” we get to see the more vulnerable side of Kim, which is — well, terrifying in its own right. But it puts her character in perspective. Kim acts nuts because her family is, or at least acts, nuts, escalating instantly into screaming matches over dinner in their half-renovated house, chasing Lindsay and Kim out to the latter’s precious Gremlin in an attempt to confiscate it.

And Kim acts aggressive because she’s used to having to fight tooth and nail to hold on to what she has, whether it’s the car or her straying boyfriend Daniel, who, in her view, can’t really be blamed for being “a normal guy, you know? He’ll screw anything that moves.” Kim’s is a world under constant siege, and sometimes the rage that she often seems to be barely suppressing needs a release — hence her doing an incensed donut right over the basketball court while shrieking like a banshee when she sees Daniel flirting with her alleged friend Karen (Rashida Jones, in a memorable guest spot).

Dinner at the Kelly household — with the bucket of Chicken Deluxe fried chicken (versus Jean Weir’s veal piccata), Kim’s class-climbing harpy mother, her sleazy stepfather, the sheets of plastic and Chip permanently napping in the wall-less next room — is like a low-key David Lynch movie, and it was likely that, combined with the girls’ shrieking escape when Kim’s parents try to claim her precious automobile, that led to this episode’s being deemed too dark and getting yanked from its original air date. Yes, if you were watching the first airing of this series back in 1999, you’d have no idea what broke the ice between Lindsay and Kim, and no sense of the elder Weirs first brush with Lindsay’s new friends.

Speaking of, one of the things that makes this episode so enjoyable is the way it unites the worlds of the freaks, the geeks and the parents. Matt, what’d you think of the geek storyline, with Karen’s accusations of geekdom temporarily causing a schism between Sam and Neal?

07222010_fandg4_5.jpgMatt: That storyline is clearly an offshoot of last episode’s subplot about how the geeks need to grow up. In “Tricks and Treats,” they got scolded for their lowbrow book report selections. Now Sam and Neal each insist the other is the bigger geek, and the evidence they use to prove their case is the fact that they’re both still obsessed with childhood hobbies: Neal plays with his chemistry set while Sam can’t bear to part with his collection of Tonka trucks. Their dust-up culminates in a heartbreaking image of innocence lost: Sam reluctantly dumping his trucks in the garbage so no one can make fun of him for having them ever again.

Though the idea of high school as a transformative experience is key to both of these episodes; there’s one importance difference in the way that transformation is represented. In “Tricks and Treats,” adulthood is something to be avoided, and the geeks only embrace it reluctantly after the pleasures of childhood are transformed by their crueler peers into the nightmares of adolescence (i.e. Sam tosses aside his copy of Dostoyevsky to go out in his infantilizing homemade costume, then begrudgingly starts reading it after getting beaten up and egged).

In “Kim Kelly is My Friend,” adulthood can’t come soon enough — Sam spends most of the episode eating as much as he can in the hopes of jumpstarting his pituitary gland. Therein lies one of the ultimate contradictions of high school: teenagers desperately pray for physical maturity while simultaneously avoiding the accompanying emotional maturity for as long as they possibly can.

07222010_fandg4_3.jpgSam’s humiliation in this episode definitely hits home with me: even though I was never tortured by older and more developed women, I, too, looked like a pygmy geek all through my freshman year. “Kim Kelly is My Friend” writer Mike White has the details of pubescent neuroses down perfectly; the shame, for example, of not having any hair in your pits, an embarrassment “late bloomers” like Sam and myself were forced to confront every day of our lives in the gym locker room, which I recall as a particularly harrowing gauntlet of fear and degradation.

All that said, the geeks are definitely the B story this week. We barely see them after Sam and Neal’s brawl; time constraints force their reconciliation to happen far too quickly and far too easily. The focus is squarely on the freaks, and particularly on Kim, whose fragile emotional state you so carefully laid out earlier. What I’d like to hear more of, though, are the reasons Kim Kelly is your favorite character, Alison. Were you a Kim Kelly in high school?

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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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