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Once again, we're tackling another show in TV Blend's weekly series "___'s Best Episode." Each week a different writer will pick out a different episode of a TV show and argue why it is definitively, absolutely the best thing the show ever did. Arguments will be started, tears may be shed, but we're here to start some conversations and make some arguments for really, really good TV. Sean took on Buffy’s best episode last week and this week Mack continues things by looking back at the charming, funny, excellently retro and unfortunately short-lived Freaks and Geeks. Read below, argue with us in the comments, and enjoy the new series!
The pilot for Freaks And Geeks opens with Lindsay Weir watching three radically different events unfolding at once. Atop the bleachers, a cheerleader begs her jock boyfriend to explain his emotional distance. He’s so in love it scares him. Beneath the bleachers, a shady looking boy with an infectious and possibly high smile tells his friends about getting denied entry to a church. His buddy understands. He’s seen God before, and he was playing drums for Led Zeppelin. Across the courtyard, three friends are offering bad Caddyshack impressions. They’re having a great time until a bully emerges looking for a fight. Both emotionally and physically, Lindsey is caught in the center of the three worlds. Ultimately, she decides to intervene and come to the aide of her little brother. She tells off his tormenter, only to be greeted coldly by her sibling who says he could have defended himself. She pauses, mumbles, “Man, I hate high school”, and the greatest opening credits in television history play for the first time.
For all its hilarious asides, vibrant supporting characters and touching analyses of pivotal teenage moments, Freaks And Geeks is a show about choices. It’s about choosing when to grow up, who to hang out with, when to drink, when to smoke, when to fuck and when to fight. It’s about choosing with your head, choosing with your heart, choosing with your balls, choosing against your past and choosing for your future. It’s about all the awkward, hilarious, awful and fucked-up choices teenagers make in desperate attempts to find out who they are and where they belong. Lindsey’s decision and failure to help her brother perfectly encapsulates those muddled and foggy forks, and in doing so, lays out not only the groundwork for the pilot but for the entire series. Perhaps more importantly, it also gives viewers a window into her personality and perspective.
A thousand words delivered via voiceover couldn’t describe Lindsay better than her disappointed eyes do after her brother’s pissed off response, and the power of Freaks And Geeks’ pilot lies in its willingness to give every one of its main characters at least one of those moments. A lesser show would have given facts and quirks, but those details aren’t important. To truly understand someone like Bill Haverchuck, you don’t need to know his life goals, you need to watch him stand up to a bully, sit down and mumble, “I kinda wish I didn’t come to school today.”
The first episode of Freaks And Geeks essentially drops the audience into the middle of a story. It doesn’t begin with a grandiose or life-changing moment, and it doesn’t pause to fill in the details. It just lets viewers watch, and through careful screenwriting, makes them understand. It’s not about what choices the characters make, it’s about why they make them and what they hope to get out of them.
Is Freaks and Geeks' best episode the pilot?