Revived and Derived: “Freaks and Geeks” Ep. 16, “Smooching and Mooching”

Revived and Derived: “Freaks and Geeks” Ep. 16, “Smooching and Mooching” (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 16
Smooching and Mooching
Written by Steve Bannos
Directed by Jake Kasdan

“That’s one cult I wouldn’t mind joining.” — Neal

Of all the storylines that would have benefited from more space to breathe as we near the end of “Freaks and Geeks,” I think that Sam’s, in this episode, could have most used a few episodes over which to build. But “Smooching and Mooching” is the third to last episode of the series, and at this point the creators were obviously just trying to fit in as many of their best ideas as possible. And so we see Neal’s thwarted spin the bottle expertise, Bill ending up in the closet with Vicki Appleby (Joanna García), Nick staying at and hanging out with the Weirs, and Sam finally getting together with his dream girl Cindy.

Does the last have a touch of nerd wish fulfillment? A little, though in typical “Freaks and Geeks” fashion, it comes with a brutal twist that will be unveiled in the next episode. (Bill making out with the head cheerleader is much more blatant wish fulfillment, but it’s handled so sweetly that I adore it anyway.) And there’s been foreshadowing of the ways in which Cindy is more complicated and less perfect than Sam’s idealized conception of her, in lab partner Bill’s glimpse into her home life in “Girlfriends and Boyfriend,” and in this episode’s troubling declaration that Cindy wants to get together with Sam because “I never date nice guys. I should try it, I think I deserve to.” After experiencing heartbreak and apparent handsiness from Todd Schellinger, Cindy’s looking for someone to adore her completely and treat her well — a relationship that’s safe, at least for her, and one that she’ll be able to control. The future doesn’t look bright for Sam in that scenario.

10152010_fandg16_3.jpgBut for now, for a little while, things looks great for the geeks, with Sam overcoming his insecurities and, with no small amount of guidance from Cindy, asking his longterm crush out and getting to kiss her (and I love John Francis Daley’s alarmed face and flopping legs as she pushes him down on the bed), and Bill overcoming his aversion to French kissing thanks to Vicki’s expertise. Poor Neal, after all that practice with the bottle and that test peck on Morty the ventriloquist’s figure from “Noshing and Moshing,” can’t replicate his accuracy at home (my guess — different carpet texture) and ends up alone. He most deserves the great tune playing during the spin the bottle scene, Warren Zevon’s “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me.”

As unlikely as the pairing of Vicki and Bill is, I like how it’s handled here, with Bill’s fears of being treated as repellent by the girls forced into contact with him by the inescapable power of a party game (“I just don’t want to see the expression of their face when they see that the bottle lands on me”) all being realized. Vicki grimaces and rolls her eyes and can only bring herself to offer him her hand and then her cheek, and Bill puts her in her place when chance compels them to spend seven minutes in heaven, calling her out on her behavior and telling her how little interest he has in touching her. The conversation they have after — with Bill asking “What’s it like being pretty?” — is funny and heartbreaking and another quintessential moment for the character, another of those startling, moving instances of honesty that this show does so well.

Speaking of honesty, Matt, Nick’s stint as houseguest of the Weirs brings out some wonderful openness from Harold, who obviously sees in Nick a bit of himself as a boy, and who explains to Lindsay why he will always see her as his daughter foremost and someone to be protected. What did you make of his unexpected compassion for Nick and what it implies about his relationship with his own father?

Matt: It’s a wonderful series of scenes, and perfectly in keeping with the primarily theme of “Smooching and Mooching” (and one of the main themes of “Freaks and Geeks” as a whole): people aren’t always who we think they are. Vicki isn’t quite the snob she appears to be, Cindi isn’t quite the uncomplicated pretty girl she appears to be, and, yes, Mr. Weir isn’t quite the tyrannical patriarch he often appears to be. I love that his kindness to Nick — letting him stay on the Weir family couch for a few days, complimenting his smarts — is tempered by his trademark brutal honesty. Mr. Weir feels bad for Nick because his father treated him in a similar way. But that doesn’t mean he won’t call him on his laziness. When Nick’s rock music interrupts the Weirs’ “quiet hour,” Harold gives Nick some straight talk. Listening to rock music isn’t homework for a drummer, as Nick claims, it’s procrastination; practicing the drums would be homework. And if your father took your drums, as Nick’s dad did? Take your sticks and practice on something else. It’s great advice, particularly when you consider that by giving it Mr. Weir is actively and knowingly encouraging Nick to make more noise in his house, not less.

10152010_fandg16_5.jpgThough I feel like we could say this every week in this column (and practically do), this is one of my very favorite episodes of “Freaks and Geeks.” It’s got that perfect blend of sweetness and sadness (sort of the televisual equivalent of a Sour Patch Kid), with amazing characters and compelling storylines. And even though there’s no doubt the Sam and Cindy relationship gets compressed, the show still found time to dawdle. I love the scene, for example, where the geeks debate which movie is superior: “Caddyshack” or “The Jerk” (My vote: “Caddyshack,” though it’s close). It serves no narrative purpose, and it doesn’t contribute to our knowledge of the characters (unless I’m missing how Neal being able to recite the terrible third act of “Stripes” enriches our understanding of his struggle with his parents’ divorce). But it’s a faithful recreation of a conversation that thousands of geeks have had in thousands of high school cafeteria about thousands of movies. It reminds us that high school is high drama, but it’s also about trivial conversations with your buddies like that one.

Details like that that make the series special. You can tell “Freaks and Geeks” was made by people who cared, simply by paying attention to the work on those details, the things that don’t need to be there, but are. Watching the background on “Freaks and Geeks” always pays off. For example, check out the TV stand behind Bill while Neal teaches him how to play (and cheat at) spin the bottle. Notice the stack of board games. Observe their titles: Risk and Probe. Now consider the content of Neal and Bill’s conversation (as well as Bill’s pathological fear of French kisses). Alison, that can’t be a coincidence, no?

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar


IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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