For many TV viewers, there will never be a better coming-of-age teen drama than Freaks and Geeks, which encapsulated the 1980s salad days so well, it should have been a felony when NBC cancelled it. Fans have been clamoring for a reunion, though it likely won't ever happen. When Apatow spoke with CinemaBlend to promote his excellent new Netflix stand-up special, Judd Apatow: The Return, I asked if he'd ever be interested in returning to that world and tone by spinning Freaks and Geeks into an anthology series that focused on different characters. Sadly, he's not, but for a good reason.
I'm always interested in those types of people. But I also think that a lot of people are writing about outcast kids. It's been explored on all sorts of different shows since we did Freaks and Geeks. So I don't feel the same need to write about it at this point. When Paul created it back in 1999, there weren't any shows about geeks and potheads, and now that's the entire culture. There's so much stuff.
As seemingly antithetical as it is to say such a thing, Judd Apatow is right in implying Freaks and Geeks would very likely lose some of its inherent appeal if it returned to modern audiences in any form, whether as a reunion or with a new set of characters. Though shows like My So-Called Life previously gave voice to outcast teens, Freaks and Geeks was the epitome of showcasing what was then still a counter-culture community. But in its aftermath came the gargantuan rise of both geek culture and weed culture -- which surprisingly did not find its master-culmination in Seth Rogen's The Green Hornet -- and it's now harder to find TV shows that don't incorporate pop culture and stoners into the story. Would Silicon Valley exist without Freaks and Geeks?
In a similar vein, I asked Judd Apatow if he'd given any thought to revisiting the characters from Undeclared, and he expanded upon the point of why he isn't so invested in returning to his former TV projects.
I never think about updating things. I like the idea of possibly doing This is 40 sequels down the line. It feels built for that. But with television shows, I like watching it when other people do it. But I always feel like I've burnt out my creative vein on something by the time it ends, and I don't usually have anything else to say.
Another completely understandable reason, as depressing as it may be. Freaks and Geeks went into development around 20 years ago, when Apatow was around 30 years old and in a mindframe that was much closer to the renegade youths of Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. Now at 50, the filmmaker probably doesn't have quite as much to offer by way of keen insights into the mystery of puberty and adolescence, at least outside of stand-up sets. Even though we're not sure anyone could run out of ways to write about Neal and Morty.
All hope shouldn't be lost, however! Even though we will probably never see Judd Apatow reteaming with Paul Feig for more Freaks and Geeks, we still might get to see him take on another narrative that explores other notions of childhood that he hadn't previously tackled. It doesn't sound like it'll be a TV show, though.
I probably at some point will make a movie about the childhood years. I always have a lot of compassions for the struggles of kids, and the world is changing so quickly, and it's so much more difficult in many bizarre ways that I assume I'll return to it at some point.
Shall we start petitioning for Judd Apatow to make a live-action adaptation of the classic Nicktoon Rugrats? Or is Doug more up his alley? Or will it not be a Nicktoon at all? That last one is probably the winner.
Even though it only lasted a single season, Freaks and Geeks was the foundation for a variety of future projects, since both Judd Apatow and Paul Feig continued to work with the show's cast and crew. It spawned the acting careers of James Franco, Seth Rogen, Linda Cardellini, Martin Starr, Jason Segel and Busy Philipps, while also setting John Francis Daley up for a comedy screenwriting career. The show also gave new life to icons like SCTV's Joe Flaherty and Back to the Future's Thomas Wilson. Anyone who wants to relive the fun can watch the entire series on Netflix.