What’s that? High school is/was good to you? Then stop reading, because this blog post is not for you. Everyone else—the nerds, the freaks, the normal people who tried to break into the ranks of the beautiful and popular kids… my people. Read on. If you’re still making your way through school, edging ever closer to that graduation date, please believe me when I say that it gets better. If you’re a survivor of our educational system/societally-sanctioned-hazing and have come out on the other side, please join me in some cathartic nostalgia.
Freaks and Geeks
In the world of middle/high school TV shows, you have Saved By the Bell and the slick, stylish Beverly Hills 90210. While teen soap opera Degrassi scores major points for consistently “going there” for 25 years, a short-lived 1999 show called Freaks and Geeks brings me back for repeated marathon viewing sessions.
I have nothing against any of those other shows (well, maybe 90210), but each episode of Freaks and Geeks took a good hour to explore the early 1980s, suburban Detroit world of Lindsay Weir-- a Mathlete and straight-A student who suddenly finds herself hanging out with the freak kids (who drink, smoke, make out, party, and raise hell, among other things). Her little brother Sam and his nerdy buddies get equal screen time, and anyone who’s spent a weekend reading comic books or geeking out over a chemistry set will have a blast watching these early-teen misadventures.
It’s unfair to try and summarize here the fantastic storylines, which follow so many unique characters (teens, teachers, parents) through the infinitely hilarious, weird, and poignant moments that make up life. Unfortunately, this is one of those amazing shows that got canceled after one season, so its riches of comedy, real drama, and an amazing classic rock soundtrack are limited to 18 episodes. It was the launching pad for many talented actors and writers, such as Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segel.
Paul Feig, creator of Freaks and Geeks (and director of many TV shows and movies (including Bridesmaids), wrote a couple of books on his painful early years. Reading them, you can easily see where he got so many cringe-inducing story ideas for Freaks and Geeks.
In Kick Me: Adventures in Adolescence, Feig relates embarrassing moments in gym class, on Halloween, and in taking his first date to the Christmas dance (she drinks on the sly, vomits, and then cozies up for a kiss). You may find yourself laughing at loud (in the original sense, not the ubiquitous LOL) when you read about the author putting on a wig and a dress and dancing around his empty house, only to suddenly see a neighbor staring in the window at his festive behavior (what happens next is even more memorable).
Picking up a little further into his teenage years, Superstud: Or, How I Became a 24 Year Old Virgin delivers more tales of painful insecurity and inept attempts at romance. Despite really, really wanting a steady girlfriend, the author either gets too attached or doesn’t go far enough, turning off various girls that are into him. When he gets lucky enough to take the most well-endowed girl in school to a rockin’ REO Speedwagon concert, the night ends with him sitting next to a guy passed out in his own puke, while his date goes off to a party with some much older guys. It would be almost heartbreaking if Feig hadn’t made it past those awkward years, gotten married, and been able to find enough humor in his life experience to smile and share it with us.
Like I said, it gets better. And if it was embarrassing enough to begin with, you might even get to launch a career out of it!
Photo credit: emilio.flores
Chris Gray has all kinds of crazy stories from high school. As soon as he can make them funny, he’ll share them with you. Maybe.