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Revived and Derived: “Freaks and Geeks” Ep. 12, “The Garage Door”

Revived and Derived: “Freaks and Geeks” Ep. 12, “The Garage Door” (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 12
“The Garage Door”
Written by Gabe Sachs & Jeff Judah & Patty Lin
Directed by Bryan Gordon

“You’ll never be friends. Maybe in, like, two years, but you’re never really going to be friends again until Nick gets another girlfriend, and then you’re just going to want him back, and then this whole thing’s going to start over again.” — Kim

Alison: Romantic concerns rule this episode of “Freaks & Geeks,” which offers a spectrum of relationships starting, progressing and ending. There’s Ken’s crush on “tuba girl” Amy (Jessica Campbell, best known as Tammy “Who cares about this stupid election?” Metzler), there’s Daniel’s new turn-the-other-cheek strategy with Kim and there’s Nick and Lindsay’s simultaneous cold shouldering of one another, spurred on by diametrically opposed motivations. And in the midst of all these charming travails of the heart, there’s the harrowing, hurtful tale of Sam accidentally discovering that Neal’s dad, Dr. Vic Schweiber (Sam McMurray), is having an affair, a thread that ends with Neal riding his bike off into the evening by himself, determined to find the garage that matches the opener he discovered in his father’s car, and with it, proof of his father’s infidelity.

For once, it’s the geek storyline that’s filled with pathos, while the freak side shoulders the comedy (though there’s genuine angst in Nick’s quietly getting his heart broken for the second time by Lindsay at the Laser Dome). And while I know that “Freaks and Geeks” have never stinted on harsh realities, this instance feels harsher than most. Understanding that adults can be just as fallible, selfish and flawed as kids is a major signpost on the road to adulthood, and Sam and Neal are unwillingly hurtled past it in this episode (Bill, for all his naïveté, seems to have reached some form of that realization ages ago, possibly due to his home life).

Worse, it comes to them through Neal’s jocular dad, who all three of the geeks adore — he’s fun and funny, he likes the same things they do, like video games and “Saturday Night Live,” he relates and can talk to them in a way that, say, Harold Weir can’t, and he genuinely enjoys spending time with them. And the flipside of that openness can be seen in the funny-horrible scene in which Dr. Schweiber books Sam for an early check-up in order to grill him on what he thinks and what he’s said about that department store rendezvous with “an old high school friend of mine… from high school.”

After insisting to Sam that nothing happened between him and his mystery woman, Dr. Schweiber then rambles on about his midlife crisis, that “when you get older you get bored,” that he didn’t date many women before he met Neal’s mother and that he just needs time to get his life in order. Yeowch. Sam, naturally, can’t contribute much to this terribly lonely torrent of oversharing, as he’s got a cheek retractor in his mouth.

Of course, romantically untried Sam and his friends wouldn’t be able to relate anyway. When the geeks take a break from their bike tour of the neighborhood (set to the Cars’ “Good Times Roll,” though they most certainly are not) to discuss adultery, Sam points out “I don’t even know how you even get one girl — how does anyone get two?” And eventually Sam and Bill have to go home, a act that looks disloyal only to Neal, who’s still holding out for solid, soul-crushing proof of his father’s dishonesty and infidelity — he needs to see it for himself.

As forlorn a spectacle as Neal’s solo ride through the empty nighttime streets is, it’s topped by Sam’s crumpling in the face of the surprise gift of an Atari from his parents, something he would have jumped for joy about a few days ago, but that here reminds him of everything he’s just witnessed and that prompts him to give Harold a teary hug. Sometimes it’s not so bad to have uncool parents — sometimes you don’t need to be understood, just loved.

But enough tragedy! Matt, what did you make of Seth Rogen’s first big storyline in this series, and how charming was he playing unexpectedly smitten? And is there any better delivery of a line in this episode than his of “I feel odd”?

Matt:It’s definitely the first true taste of Rogen’s talent on “Freaks and Geeks.” And it’s definitely the proverbial soft and comforting Tootsie Roll center inside an otherwise hard and unforgiving Tootsie Roll Pop of an episode. It’s difficult not to talk about tragedy this week, Alison, because there’s just so much of it! I’ll be honest, as “The Garage Door” built to its epic, multi-storyline crescendo to the sounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” (the song’s structure mirrors the episode’s) I got a little choked up. This is one sad, beautiful television show.

In a lot of ways, “The Garage Door” feels like a bleak addendum to the recent episode “The Diary.” In that one, Mr. and Mrs. Weir freak out about the complacency comfortable suburban lives only to discover they like things that way. Jean feels unappreciated and uninspired, but Harold, in a heartfelt speech, restores her faith by professes his undying love for her and their pot roast lifestyle. By celebrating the Weirs and their relationship, that episode basically celebrated boredom.

But this week, when unfaithful Dr. Schweiber drops that word in his kvetching session to Sam — “When you get older, you get bored,” he warns — the show acknowledges that the Weirs’ contentment is rare. The melancholy of the Schweiber family storyline is amplified by the fact that it takes a rare “Freaks and Geeks” happy ending and retroactively darkens it.

Back to Ken’s storyline for a moment. We do learn one tidbit about him that renders most of our pontificating from last week about his origins in the freaks and his tense relationship with Lindsay unlikely. When Daniel finds Ken spying on Amy practicing with the band, he’s excited. “We’ve been waiting since third grade for you to like somebody!” he says. There goes our idea that Ken was the new guy in the group before Lindsay. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that he is more well off than the rest of the freaks, which keeps our theory that he’s worried about being replaced by Lindsay in play.

In my mind, there are two key lines in this episode, Alison, and you already touched on one of them: a bewildered Sam trying to come to grips with the concept of adultery by wondering how a guy lands one woman, let alone two. The other one is spoken by Nick in the midst of that emotionally devastating finale. Lindsay tells Nick that she doesn’t want to get back together, and a crushed Nick has no choice but to play along. Pretty soon, the other two couples — Kim and Daniel, Amy and Ken — are tongue wrestling to Skynyrd, leaving Lindsay and Nick to stare awkward at the laser light show.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say this was painful,” Nick says with a forced smile. There, in a nutshell, is the show’s entire thesis: that the inherent state of being in high school, and most of life in general, is pain, and that to pretend otherwise is to lie. Most other teen dramas are fantasies: how we wished we looked, or what we wished we did. Paul Feig and Judd Apatow felt it was better to tell the truth and feel sad, than to invent a fantasy world of escapism and feel happy.

But — again — enough tragedy! Alison, less than a week after we devoted an entire podcast to infidelity in the movies, here’s a whole episode of “Freaks and Geeks” about that very subject. How do you this show’s representation of adultery compares with the conservative ones we felt dominated most American cinema? And who’s got the better Shatner impression? Neal or Dr. Schweiber?

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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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