Last issue’s column and its musings about the cancellation of hyped shows sent me back to a couple of old faves over the course of the month just passed. Joss Whedon may be the current face of premature cancellation after Dollhouse joined Firefly on the scrap heap, but someone that has been there and done that already is Judd Apatow. Best known now for his Midas touch when it comes to putting feature length comedies together, and no slouch at helming a couple himself (The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, though I can’t speak for Funny People yet), Apatow suffered similar indignities between 1999 and 2002 when two much-loved shows of his were each cancelled before the end of one season.
Prior to this double whammy, Apatow had written for Garry Shandling’s ahead-of-its-time comedy series The Larry Sanders Show and contributed rewrites to The Cable Guy and The Wedding Singer among other things, but it was with the ill-fated Freaks and Geeks and to a lesser extent Undeclared that he was to really hit his stride. Both of these shows unveiled skills that would prove invaluable in Apatow’s feature film career – an excellent eye for casting, loyalty towards his family of actors, a magnificent sense of balance between comedy and drama, and most notably an ability to imbue his characters and storylines with exceptional believability.
Nowhere are these traits more evident than Freaks and Geeks. Simply put, it is one of the best television shows ever made, and almost certainly the most endearingly and achingly accurate portrayal of teenage life to hit the small screen. While ostensibly looking at high school life from the unpopular margins, the main characters may fall into the show’s titular categories but they encountered universal situations over the course of its cruelly too short existence. Freaks and Geeks revelled in replicating every teenager’s struggles with hormones and self-identity, their need for independence and issues with authority, not to mention the hideously complex