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Revived and Derived: “Freaks and Geeks” Ep. 7, “Carded and Discarded”

Revived and Derived: “Freaks and Geeks” Ep. 7, “Carded and Discarded” (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 7: Carded and Discarded
Directed by Judd Apatow
Written by Judd Apatow and Paul Feig

Originally aired January 10, 2000

“I just want to be older so I can go to bars. Everything fun in this world happens at bars.” –Ken

Alison: After six almost uniformly excellent episodes, we’ve at last arrived at one that I think is a little less successful — a pretty amazing ratio for a show, one well worth a salute. And this is not to say there aren’t definite highlights to “Carded and Discarded,” like the first set of IDs the freaks buy from guest star Jason Schwartzman (“Mine looks kinda Chinese”), the exchanges each of them has with the bouncer at the club, and the moment they realize the band they went through so much effort to see is an act they’re already familiar with — that of their guidance councilor Mr. Rosso.

But overall, this episode does run broad, something particularly glaring given that it arrives on the tail of “I’m With the Band,” which, as you pointed out, Matt, really showcases the show’s uncompromising darker side. (During the original run, this episode came after a two month break during the holidays, so was probably intended to provide a low barrier to entry for hoped-for and sorely needed new viewers.)

It’s the geek storyline that I find wan, though it’s based around a great premise — what if you could intercept someone obviously destined for popularity before they gravitate to their natural place on the A-list? Would you be able to interact with them, “Breakfast Club”-style, free of the constraints of cafeteria politics? Unfortunately, Maureen Sampson (played by Kayla Ewell, who was part of the cast of the first season of “The Vampire Diaries”) seems like a creature of pure fantasy, a geek in a cheerleader’s body (not totally inconceivable) who seems utterly unaware of and untouched by typical high school social structure (say what?).

“Mean Girls” had Lindsay Lohan’s character literally raised in the wild in order to explain away her innocence about school room hierarchies, but Maureen’s left a mystery, just a function of the story — the geeks’ dream girl, one who likes rockets and fart jokes and all-you-can-eat ribs but looks like a Barbie doll. And while it’s nice to see the geeks get some female company, and to observe the indirect status bump they receive from just having someone like Maureen around, the storyline feels a little like cheating after the series’ earlier established devotion to realism and to never taking the easy or expected way out.

Matt, do you think I’m being too hard on this episode? What do you think of it’s overall explicit theme of social class, in high school, being unshakable? Just as Sam, Neal and Bill bid adieu with amusing finality to Maureen as she inevitably makes her way to the popular kids’ table at lunch, Mr. Rosso tells Lindsay, holding her apart from the freaks, “You’re not one of them — you’re a different breed!” And what do you make of the especially heavy use of music montages?

08132010_revived3.jpgMatt: You might be being a bit too hard, but your observations about the lighter tone of this episode are right on the money, as is your speculation that “Carded and Discarded” was designed that way to draw in new viewers. On the episode’s DVD commentary, Paul Feig refers to “Carded and Discarded” as their “second pilot” and acknowledges that it is “a little breezier than our usual. Soul-crushing was at a minimum; hilarity was at a high.”

Though I’m completely in agreement with your assessment of the geek’s storyline and of the lack of complexity in the Maureen character, I think there’s a redeeming element that you didn’t mention: that despite the episode’s relative lightness, the ending doesn’t at all betray the spirit of the show. Maureen finds her rightful place amongst the popular kids and the freaks are denied their alcohol after working so hard to get their fake IDs. If the story beats are a little bit broader than normal, the outcome is still the same: failure and rejection. Even at its most mainstream, “Freaks and Geeks” is still a pretty bleak show.

You mention the music montages. There are two in “Carded and Discarded,” both involving the geeks’ communal dates with Maureen: one where they shoot off rockets in a parking lot to the sounds of Billy Joel’s “Rosalinda’s Eyes” and another where they eat barbecue ribs while Joel sings “Don’t Ask Me Why.” I can certainly see why a “Freaks and Geeks” fan might dismiss these sequences, since they represent an unusually sentimental device in an otherwise deeply cynical series.

I like them for purely selfish reasons: I’m a huge Billy Joel fan, and I love hearing his work on the show, particularly deep cuts like “Rosalinda’s Eyes” that never get the recognition they deserve. The subject matter of the song doesn’t necessarily match the geeks’ rocketeering — it’s basically about Joel as this down-on-his-luck musician scraping by on occasional gigs in a Latin band — but it does mesh nicely with the dreamlike slow-motion cinematography of the scene.

08132010_revived4.jpgPlus, two lines of Joel’s lyrics match Maureen’s appeal to the geeks perfectly: “Hardly anyone has seen how good I am / But Rosalinda says she knows.” The geeks like Maureen because she’s pretty and friendly, but what they really respond to about her is the fact that she’s pretty and friendly and makes fart jokes and thinks its funny when people lose appendages in shop class accidents. She appreciates them for who they are. Anyone who’s been a high school outsider can relate to that sentiment.

Maybe the scene is too schmaltzy. But after six episodes of unrelenting despair, it’s nice to luxuriate, however fleetingly, in a bit of happiness. After what the geeks have endured, and will continue to endure, they’ve earned it. Over on the freaks side of thing, Alison, what do you think of the cameos by Jason Schwartzman and Kevin Corrigan as two fake ID distributors?

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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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GIFs via Giphy

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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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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