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Revived and Derived: “Freaks and Geeks” Ep. 15, “Noshing and Moshing”

Revived and Derived: “Freaks and Geeks” Ep. 15, “Noshing and Moshing” (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 15
Noshing and Moshing
Written by J. Elvis Weinstein
Directed by Jake Kasdan

“I’m leaning towards undeclared.” — Barry Schweiber

Matt: Sadly, we’re all leaning toward “Undeclared” at this point; we’ve got just three more episodes left before we all graduate to Judd Apatow’s “Freaks and Geeks” follow up set in the world of college. In the meantime, we do get a small taste of university life from guest star David Krumholtz, who plays Neal’s older brother Barry, back on a break from college. Everyone seems to like Barry, but no one more than Lindsay, who decides to attend the Schweiber’s annual party just to spend some time with him. After several scenes of flirtation and sexual tension, the two share a kiss that’s interrupted by Neal, who finally hits his breaking point and reveals the secret of his father’s infidelity that he’d discovered back in “The Diary.” By the way, the People Magazine that one of the teachers reads has a cover story about John Hinckley’s assassination attempt of President Reagan, which means Neal’s been holding this information for two whole months.

But before Neal interrupts, Barry has some inspirational words for Lindsay. College, he tells her, is awesome. In high school, Barry was the geek who got beat up constantly (in other words, he was Neal). But in college, he was able to reinvent himself as “the handsome, dashing Jew.” Best of all: people bought it. Lindsay certainly has, anyway. Or maybe Lindsay’s attracted to Barry because she’s tried to reinvent herself too, with less than spectacular results.

10082010_fandg15_3.jpgBeing a freak always gets her in trouble and her new freak friends don’t “inspire or challenge” her, as she tells Barry in a moment of shockingly brutal honesty. Barry’s living proof that you really can redefine yourself as someone totally new in college. For a girl who feels trapped by Midwest suburbia — this week she rails against the idiocy of not allowing kids to do their homework in detention — such upward mobility and freedom has to be extremely alluring.

Reinventing yourself in high school is much trickier, as evidenced by both main freaks and geeks storylines this week. On the freak side, Daniel breaks up with Kim for the umpteenth time and takes a liking to a punk dropout convenience store clerk named Jenna (Shawnee Free Jones). To impress her he tries to spike up his hair, safety pin his jacket and “rise above” — but finds punk shows just as disillusioning as everything else in his crummy life. Meanwhile, Neal, struggling with his dad’s cheating ways, claims to have discovered something that will change the geeks’ lives. “It will bring us power, respect, and money.”

Yes, Neal truly believes the key to unlocking all of life’s pleasures is a ventriloquist dummy — excuse me, figure — named Morty. Not surprisingly, Morty does not deliver a bump in social status (at least not a positive one). Though Lindsay seems to draw some hope for the future from her conversation with Barry, the net result of the Daniel and Neal storylines makes this episode another (awesomely entertaining) downer, even if both characters seem to find a modicum of comfort by returning their old ways during a powerful final montage set to Dean Martin’s “You’re Nobody till Somebody Loves You.”

Can you really create a whole new identity for yourself in college? We’ll have to wait a month until we get to “Undeclared” to answer that question. In the meantime, Alison, my first question for you is this: whose home life is more screwed up, Daniel or Neal’s? Sure Daniel’s got the mother who actually wants him to drop out, but Neal’s dealing with a dad who cheats, a mom who seemingly permits it, and a brother who’s macking on his favorite girl. Who wins (or, in this case, loses)?

Alison: Matt, I can’t believe you didn’t manage at least one mention of the cold open, in which Bill displays his incredibly fierce dance face in another showcase of Martin Starr’s fearlessness. But to answer your question — I’d say Daniel’s home life is worse. Neal is confronted with the terrible truth that everyone in his family has been living a lie, aware that of his father’s peccadilloes but keeping them a secret to protect him and their own nuclear structure, at least until he goes to college (and there’s the added sting of Neal learning his father has almost certainly had more than one affair, since the woman his brother spotting him out with was a redhead). But all least those lies all come out of their caring for one another. Even Dr. Schweiber expresses regret in “The Garage Door,” telling Sam (who’s trapped in his dentist’s chair) about his infidelity coming from some desire for self-exploration he sees as passing — “All I need is time.”

The brief look we get at Daniel’s home life just reeks of despair and desperation, from that first glimpse of the junk-filled front yard. We learn his (unseen) father is seriously sick, his brother Joey apparently can’t be trusted to pick up his father’s pain meds and his mother would rather Daniel be around to work a minimum wage job and help her out than bother with finishing high school. The Desario household may even best previous dysfunction record holders the Kellys — no wonder Daniel and Kim have such a connection, one that’s showcased in this episode, despite their ups and downs. This episode sheds new light on Daniel’s character, on his aloofness and his moodiness. He deservedly has a lot on his mind, and his flirtation with being a “punker” is so goddamn sad, at least to us, because of what we’ve been shown.

10082010_fandg15_4.jpgTo Ken and Nick, as far as I can tell, the excursion to The Armpit is just another novelty, their default leader Daniel testing the waters (and the hairstyle — and as any former punk kid can tell you, his mistake came in using the whole egg and not the white alone to make those liberty spikes) of another cool subculture. But we’ve watched him come home with that Black Flag album and listen to it on headphones, alone in his room. Punk seems, for a second, like armor to Daniel, a way to channel the anger and frustration, to wear it like a bade, to embrace the cuts and bruises as “just another battle scar,” as he tells Jenna, trying to play tough. He wants to be a whole new person who doesn’t give a fuck about anything — but in actuality he’s lonely and wants the girl, and when things don’t work out the way he’d imagined, he goes running back to Kim, who embraces him without a word.

It’s a nice touch that the visit to the punk club wasn’t entirely in vain. Daniel may have gotten his head and nose split open and revealed himself to be a poser several times over (“Puss rules!” “It’s Pus.”), but Ken, out in the mosh pit at the end, is obviously having a grand time. But Matt, in many ways, Neal’s social suicide-embrace of ventriloquism — at school, even! — comes across as edgier, or at least more risk-taking, than Daniel’s safety pins and near nose piercing. What did you make of his implosion of a performance at the end of the Schweiber family’s traditional dental party?

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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