Sunday, April 17, 2011

Freaks & Geeks

Freaks & Geeks, by episode:

Episode 1:  Dad is a doofus.  A well-meaning doofus perhaps, but a doofus nonetheless.  If the series made clear that this was only the way his children perceived him (a sleight the series pulls off remarkably well with the guidance counselor), that would be one thing, but the Mom gets a full three dimensions, while Dad only gets one.

Episode 3:  The series doesn’t seem to have much in the way of character development.  No, that’s not it.  It’s got character development, but the characters seem to “reboot” after each episode.  You think that they arrive at some sort of self-awareness from the trauma (by  high-school standards) they experience, but then the next episode starts, and they don’t seem to have learned anything.

Episode 4:  Busy Phillips’ Kim Kelly is the most consistently authentic rendition of a teen slut I can recall seeing on television.  Kinda dumb, kinda dumpy.  A bit of a bitch.  I swear I’ve known (or rather, known about) at least one girl exactly like her.

Episode 11:  I’m so disappointed in Lindsay.  It’s not just that she was bullied into borrowing the family car without permission.  It’s not just that she wrecked it.  It’s that after her parents unground her for a slumber party, she then abuses their  trust so unabashedly by bailing on the slumber party to go hang out with the very people who keep getting her into trouble.

Okay, be honest:  how many of you actually worked the problems from the mathlete competition.  I did . . . eventually . . . with a calculator.  Do mathletes really work trig problems in their heads?

Episode 12:  Lindsay lies again, says she’s headed to the library, heads to hang out with the freaks.

The gang takes the garage door opener that Neal found in his Dad’s car and biked around the neighborhood to see what house it matched.  The funny thing is the opener to my garage also activated the door to the house across the street from where the future Mrs. Phi was living.  I had all kinds of fun freaking out the owners making them wonder why their garage door kept opening and closing.

Episode 13:  Public school lunches where they actually ask you what you want to eat?  In 1980?  Gimme a break!

Episode 14:  Cindy breaks up with Todd, decides that she wants to start dating “nice guys”, i.e., Sam.  Sam actually shows  some trepidation here.

Episode 15:  Good gawd, what is it with this, “I’m going to trust you with my (or somebody else’s) most intimate secrets and you have to promise not to tell anyone ever.”  They always tell.  Maybe not in real life, but on teevee they always betray you.  You’d think teevee characters would have figured out that in their fictional universe, if you don’t want everyone to know something, keep your mouth shut.

Nick’s dad gives away Nick’s drums on the grounds that they distract him from school.  It has occurred to throughout the series how painful school must be for people on the bottom half of the bell curve.  Parents tell them to do well in school, but they’re never going to be anything but below average.

And Lindsay’s back to her army jacket.  And gets bullied into trying marijuana for the first time after holding out the entire series.

Episode 18:  Question:  what do you say to your child when he/she tells you that your spouse is cheating on you?

In this case, Mrs. Schweiber says almost exactly what I would have said:  that’s grownup, husband-and-wife stuff.  What matters is that we both love you.  That’s not to say that hell’s not breaking loose two minutes from now, but to the extent possible, it won’t involve you.

Conclusion:  Outstanding series.  I think, though, that the show wisely quit while it was ahead.  It would have been difficult to come up with another season’s worth of interesting things to say about high school, given the limitations of the format.

6 comments:

samsonsjawbone said...

As we know, it's a common criticism that homeschooling doesn't adequately prepare adolescents for social interaction outside a sheltered sphere. I'm inclined to believe the reverse: that kids who consistently spend time around folks of all ages - and not in artificially age-stratified environments - likely develop a *better* concept of what the adult world is like. I'd like to view, with a sociological eye, a society in which high school was not something that most people ordinarily went through.

Φ said...

That's true. But to be fair, the darwinian social environment of high school in general is probably more a reflection of life in the world than being surrounded by family members who love and care about you without conditions. (Unless your mother is named "Amy Chua", in which case HS is a model of love and charity.) Supposedly, this is especially true for girls.

My objection to the HS social scene is less the fact of the status hierarchy than its criteria, which bear little relationship to those used in the rest of life.

samsonsjawbone said...

But to be fair, the darwinian social environment of high school in general is probably more a reflection of life in the world than being surrounded by family members who love and care about you without conditions.

Hrm... I wonder. Would the "surrounded by love and care" person become bitterly disillusioned upon meeting the real world? Or would she always carry with her - indelibly imprinted by those years of family love - a childlike optimism about human nature?

My objection to the HS social scene is less the fact of the status hierarchy than its criteria, which bear little relationship to those used in the rest of life.

Yes, I think that is a good deal of what I meant. Show me a society without high school, in which kids are familiar from day one with the *real* status hierarchy.

trumwill said...

I dunno. It's one thing to teach you that the world is tough. It's another thing to needlessly do serious and lasting damage to the social confidence of people that will do okay under the adult status criteria. I can't tell you how long it took to unlearn what I "learned" in the public school system, which was less "the world has social rules and hierarchies" and more "the world is out to get you and mainstream society will never accept you no matter what you do."

Φ said...

I'm with Trumwill on this one. But it may depend on the child. Some of them do quite well socially in their PS experience.

Mrs. Φ were speaking hypothetically recently about which of our daughters we would send to our local school if trying to homeschool both became too taxing. We agreed that it would be the younger one. She seems to be of average intelligence and average social skills. She would probably fit in quite well. But the older one has too much going on: off-the-charts intelligence coupled with ADHD and probably OCD as well. We have to get her past this phase before expecting her to survive a standard classroom.

trumwill said...

I agree that it depends on the kid. I am thinking the same is true of homeschooling. I have a friend who was homeschooled along with his six siblings. He said that the results depended wildly on the kids. Maybe there's less variance with less kids. My wife and I go back and forth on the socialization pros and cons. Oddly, she is more in favor of collective schooling than I am, despite having had a much tougher time of it.