Wednesday, August 29, 2007

While we're talking about Apatow...

So for a few years I've been hearing how great Freaks & Geeks is/was. I think I've actually had the DVD set in my shopping cart on Amazon on and off for at least 2 years. I finally bit the bullet and bought it. So far, I'm not disappointed.

I vaguely remember when this series came on TV (1999) and didn't watch an episode. I don't think watching it even occurred to me. I think it may have suffered from bad promos. I mean, I just assumed it was a silly juvenile comedy show aimed at teens. I certainly didn't realize it was more drama than comedy, nor did I know that it was set in 1980 -- a time when I actually was in high school, so it's full of nostalgia for me -- the clothes, the movies, the shag carpet glued onto the stairs going down to Nick's parents' basement. This series was the better, way more real version of That 70's Show in terms of representing what it was like to be in high school then.

I've only watched the first 6 espisodes (sadly, thats a full 1/3 of all the episodes ever filmed) but I'm really digging it. The episode I'm With the Band opens with one of the most perfect yet simple scenes I've ever seen on TV.

The character Nick (who we know from the pilot is passionate about playing drums) is in his basement. He puts on a Rush tape (8 Track of course), drops a piece of dry ice into a bucket, dons his headphones, turns on his strobe light and starts to play and sing along to "The Spirit of Radio". We're in Nick's POV so we hear what he's hearing, Geddy Lee singing and Neil Peart playing drums. (Hope I got that right. I may be from Toronto and I may have come of age in the seventies, but I was never a big fan of Rush. The older brother of an ex-boyfriend of mine used to be the pilot of their private jet though. Cool, huh?)

Anyway... Nick, the character, is totally into it. From Nick's POV, he's amazing, the music is amazing. He's a rockstar.

Then we switch POV's to his father walking down the stairs to the basement shaking his head and rolling his eyes. Suddenly we're not hearing the tape of Rush playing, we're hearing what the father is hearing. Nick singing hopelessly off key and banging on his drums like a four year old might, demonstrating little or no talent.

I laughed out loud.

But while this was a brilliant little funny scene -- the teaser before the opening credits -- it perfectly foreshadowed the heartbreaking character arc that Nick goes through during this episode--facing the fact that he's never going to reach his dream of being a drummer in a big rock band. And it's such a relatable character arc. I mean so many of us first realized in our late teens that maybe all our dreams weren't necessarily going to come true just because we wanted them to. It's when many of us realized we weren't as special as we may have thought we were, even if we were the best at something in our high school, our high school was just a tiny insignificant drop in the world. This tiny, maybe 45 second scene, also showed Nick's (also heartbreaking) relationship with his father really well. Brilliant writing. (A weaker writer would have had Nick tell another character how he's such a big disappointment to his father, but in these few seconds, we get it.)

That episode was written by Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah. I'm off to check them out on and/or listen to the commentary for the episode. (Okay, maybe I'm off to bed. The DVD will still be there tomorrow.

Oh, and fun fact for those of you who've seen Superbad. I'm about 99% sure that the old guy who gets arrested in the bar in Superbad is the same actor who starts a fight at Lindsay's party in Episode 2 of Freaks and Geeks (Called "Beers and Weirs".) Yup, just checked. He was. He was on an episode of Firefly, too... Must rewatch that.

Anyone else have a perfect scene they've seen/read?


Molly O'Keefe said...

he just really really gets the awkwardness and the sweetness of that time -- favorite scenes in movies -- Saving Private Ryan when they are in the church and Giovanni Ribisi is talking about how when his mom used to come in at night to say goodnight to him he'd pretend to be asleep and he didn't understand why he did that and you could just see how badly he wishes he could have that time back -- Ribisi is so amazing and I never see him in enough.

I also think the opening scene of Californication with Duchevny is pretty fantastic.

Amy Ruttan said...

I love great comedic scenes, when you can see the actors working so well together.

One of my favorite scenes is from The Office. The injury episode where Michael is in the exam room with Dwight and he's like

"So Dr. in your opinion what's worse and head injury or a foot injury."

"A head injury,"

"Well, no I don't think you have all the facts, see the foot has been seriously burned. Is there some kind of scan ...."

"Well, I would take a look at the outside of the foot. Is the skin red and swollen."

And then Dwight says Michaels punch line "That's what she said," and the look that Dwight gives the camera while Michael is cursing "Dammit Dwight,"

That's just so perfect. Perfect comedic timing.

As for Apatow, that director is awesome. The Forty Year Old Virgin and Freaks and Geeks ... just brilliant.

Emerging Writer said...

I keep thinking about the last episode of the Sopranos and how you could use the techniques in fiction. I don't want to say more in case some people haven't seen it yet!

Molly O'Keefe said...

Oh man -- that finale was so amazing and so visual I'm not sure it could be written as effectively. But it's a good thing to ponder...

Anonymous said...

FNL does an amazing job with quick, cutaway scenes that show us everything we need to know.
There are lots, but the one that comes to mind, is when the Taylor Hitch character has a massive fight with his older brother, fists, broken windows, ugly things said and the next morning, he comes into the house and his older brother has just made a grilled cheese.
With almost no dialogue, the brother cuts the grilled cheese in half, slides it to Taylor and the scene ends.
And we know all we need to know about their relationship.


Maureen McGowan said...

Sinead, that FNL scene reminds me of the final scene of Big Night. A fabulous movie, by the way, if you haven't seen it. Two brothers run a restaurant in NJ in the 1950's. One's the business guy (Stanley Tucci) and the other's the chef (Tony Shaloub).
During the climax of the film these two brothers have it out --huge fight. Then it's the next morning and they're in the kitchen and the chef brother cooks them eggs. Not a word is spoken in what must be a five minute scene. But it's beautiful and shows everything (including being a cooking class on how to cook really good eggs :-)

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