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Revived and Derived: “Freaks and Geeks” Ep. 8, “Girlfriends and Boyfriends”

Revived and Derived: “Freaks and Geeks” Ep. 8, “Girlfriends and Boyfriends” (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 8: Girlfriends and Boyfriends
Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter
Written by Patty Lin and Paul Feig

Originally aired January 17, 2000

“It was the worst five dollars I’ve ever spent. And I wish I could get that five dollars back.” — Harold Weir

Matt: This week’s episode is all about biology: while the geeks learn about plant cell structure with their lab partners (and Sam tries to forge a relationship with his crush, Cindy Sanders (Natasha Melnick)), Lindsay considers going all the way with Nick. And after last week’s brief flirtation with lightness and broader humor, “Freaks and Geeks”‘ takes a sharp turn back toward the dark side.

By the end of “Girlfriends and Boyfriends” both Lindsay and Sam are disillusioned about love: Lindsay’s saddled with a creepy boyfriend she doesn’t really like and Sam winds up on the friendship dip with Cindy. Really, the only positive aspect of dating in this episode is the fact that that it gives the Weir siblings something to commiserate about, which they do in a scene that helps cut the acidity of another bleak storyline with a little tenderness and warmth.

Though burnout Nick and cheerleader Cindy don’t have a lot in common, they do share a certain crucial characteristic: both seem a lot weirder the more you get to know them. From a distance, Nick seemed like an endearingly sweet and sensitive guy. Walking arm and arm (or, as in one particularly uncomfortable moment, hand in jeans back pocket), Nick’s sweetness and sensitivity threaten to suffocate Lindsay. After spending an entire episode wondering and worrying about whether to give her virginity to Nick, Lindsay practically has to beg him to even make out with her. “All guys want to make out,” Nick replies. “I just want to hold you.” Ick.

08202010_fandg8_5.jpgAs for Cindy, she looks like the stereotype of the perky, vapid cheerleader, but “Girlfriends and Boyfriends” give us a glimpse at a more complicated reality beneath that shiny surface. Despite her parents insistence on healthy snacks at home, she sneaks out for bacon cheeseburgers with Sam; despite her insistence that a vinyl chair is to blame, she even cuts the cheese in front of lab partner Bill. That leads to one of my favorite scenes in “Freaks and Geeks” history: Martin Starr as Bill testing Cindy’s claim by trying to recreate the fart noise with his own butt. No dice: girls really can pass gas. Illusion = shattered.

And speaking of illusions shattered and misleading surfaces, this episode gives us our first real glimpse into the mind of another wonderfully surprising supporting character: Jerry Messing’s Gordon Crisp. Overweight and painfully smelly, Gordon’s so lame even the geeks look down on him. But after they’re put together as lab partners, Sam realizes Gordon has a lot to offer: he’s extremely perceptive of Sam’s feelings toward Cindy, and has tons of good advice to help him pursue her. He’s also keenly aware — but not neurotically obsessed with — his body odor problems, which are caused by a medical condition he can’t control.

Alison, if there’s one flaw in this episode for me, it’s the fact that Lindsay’s dilemma, while superbly performed by Linda Cardellini, tries to wring suspense out of a question — is Nick going to pressure Lindsay into having sex? — that isn’t very suspenseful. Even before we watch Jason Segel deliver yet another cringe-inducing performance — this time confessing his feelings to Lindsay by performing Styx’s “Lady” for her, spoken word style — Nick just seems too nice and too genuinely interested in a long term relationship to try for a simple hook up. Do you agree?

Alison: Well, let’s not forget that Nick’s first overt advance on Lindsay was to try to undo her bra while comforting her in “Beers and Weirs” — so we’ve seen that, as nice a guy as he is, he’s not neutered. But no, I never believed he would pressure her, because it’s impossible to imagine sweet-natured, pot-addled Nick pressuring anyone into anything — even that fumbled, ill-advised first pass, episodes ago, was due to awkward mixed signals, not confident aggression.

(Speaking of awkward — how brilliantly out of sync are Lindsay and Nick together? From their bumping heads when he goes in for a kiss to the back pocket bit in the cold open you mentioned to their embrace in the basement, in which he cuddles up to her as she stares at the ceiling, their lack of physical chemistry is amusingly choreographed by Cardellini and Segel, who, naturally, ended up dating post-show.)

I thought of the set-up as less one that tries to build will-they-or-won’t-they suspense and more the latest instance of “Freaks and Geeks” playing off typical after school special expectations. The developments you’d expect in any other show would include Nick pressing Lindsay to go all the way, and Lindsay realizing she’s not ready yet and saying no. Instead, Lindsay seems to be nervously leaning toward taking this next step into freakdom, and it’s Nick who wants to wait, who plays the heart-on-his-sleeve romantic with the candles and the interpretive spoken word rendition of “Lady,” one of the show’s signature moments and a segment during which I have to struggle not to cover my eyes.

08202010_fandg8_6.jpgEveryone around Lindsay is more invested in her relationship with Nick than she is. Her mom’s excited about her daughter’s first boyfriend (until she finds out who he is), her dad’s worried he’ll become a grandfather too soon, Mr. Rosso (Dave Allen) doesn’t want her to get an STD, Kim wants to hear the gossip and Daniel’s pleased that his friend, who’s “a really great guy,” has a girlfriend. It’s that final exchange that’s particularly interesting, taken with the revelation that Nick used to play basketball before he was caught with a dime bag and kicked off the team. Nick’s obviously been drifting along in a self-medicated haze for a while, and is in dire need of something to latch on to, a fact that his friends have realized. Unfortunately for Lindsay, that thing is her.

What’s so nice about that moment between the Weir siblings at the kitchen table at the end of the episode is how the two are unhesitatingly honest with each other in a way they’ve not been able to be with anyone else in this episode. When Sam asks if Nick is now Lindsay’s boyfriend, she shrugs “I guess so” — when Cindy phones to talk about how her crush finally called, Sam mimes strangling himself in frustration. After all of the huge gaps in communication that happen throughout “Girlfriends and Boyfriends,” the misunderstandings about romantic interest, the unwanted cautionary anecdotes about cold sores and Patty Filker and Korean brothels, it’s a relief to see that, despite their differences, the younger Weirs can at least open up to each other.

Matt, am I wrong in thinking that, despite her ambivalence toward him romantically, Lindsay seemed to be seriously contemplating, er, rounding home base with Nick? And speaking of revelations of weirdness, what did you make of Cindy’s “Diary of a McKinley Student” reading during yearbook? “Education, or isolation? Class dismissed.”

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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…


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.



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 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….


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.


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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