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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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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.