Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Save the Freaks!

By Belinda Acosta

APRIL 3, 2000:  "Canceled, for now. Help Freaks and Geeks find a home," reads the Freaks and Geeks home page. Canceled? Canceled! What are they, nuts? Sure, the talk has been out there for a while, and NBC's brilliant idea to jettison F&G during February sweeps -- not to mention moving it around the schedule so much that even die-hard fans had trouble finding it -- surely didn't help its chances of survival. But now that the cancellation has finally come true, I can't help but have a certain amount of disbelief. Let me get this straight: The smart and funny F&G is dropped, but the incredibly unfunny Battery Park (with the even more unamusing Elizabeth Perkins in a lead role) is not only being added to NBC's Thursday night lineup, but it's also bumping one of the peacock's better-than-average half-hour comedies, Stark Raving Mad? Well big duh. That makes sense.

The thing that's so aggravating about it all is the NBC execs' clueless attitude. Pointing to F&G's low ratings and its sometimes dark humor (gasp!), the execs claim the show didn't have enough viewer appeal. It's hard to build viewer appeal when viewers don't know when to view it. As for the dark humor, well hey, it's not like Welcome to the Dollhouse. That Todd Solondz film starred Heather Matarazzo (currently in CBS's Now and Again) as a way-dorky teen tormented beyond the breaking point at home and at school. No F&G is not that dark (thank goodness), but it's not a frothy concoction either.

So why am I so worked up about this, you're probably wondering? Okay, okay! I was a geek! I wasn't Queen of the Geeks, like Matarazzo in Dollhouse. I was a contemplative, somewhat angry geek. A hybrid of F&G's thoughtful Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) and the mildly self-righteous Millie (Sarah Hagan), with the mouthiness of Kim (Busy Philipps). And it's not that I'm eager to dwell in the past. Adolescence was a horrendous time better left behind. The thing is, like the show's creator Paul Feig said in a TV Guide interview last September, "It's the kind of comedy that's not funny when you're going through it, but it's funny with time and distance." Real funny. And painful, and sweet, and honest. Never condescending, precious, or superficial.

Aside from offering a refreshingly true-to-life portrait of high school life, F&G offers some of the most sophisticated portrayals of friendship, particularly female friendship, on television. Several F&G episodes dealt with the liminal friendship of Lindsay and Millie. As little girls, they were best buds, but as adolescents, their relationship is both heartbreakingly distant and warmly familiar. Theirs is not full of the gee-whiz gal-pal patter of Mary Richards or Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore show or the "you've got a friend" sweetness of Willow to Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Their relationship is as deep and complicated as any friendship can be.

In a recent episode, Lindsay experiments with pot and must seek Millie's help with a baby-sitting job after she becomes stoned out of her gourd. It's not a happy high. It's one of those paranoid highs when you wonder why the dog is sneering at you. Though disproving of Lindsay's state, the straight-laced Millie accepts the call for help. Once the child is put to sleep, and Lindsay's high is less gloomy, the girls settle on the couch. Lindsay polishes off a container of ice cream, all the while chirping about whatever comes into her head -- God, school, smoking pot, her relationship with Millie. In what could have played like a sappy moment in an after-school special, Lindsay tells Millie that she loves her, to which Millie responds with a knowing look that Lindsay won't remember what she's saying the next day.

"You know, I feel sorry for you," Millie says. "Because tomorrow, you won't believe in God."

But as adamant as Millie's worldview is, she never judges or condemns Lindsay. And for as skeptical and world-weary as Lindsay is, she never rebels against Millie's rigidity. Makes me wish I could see these girls all grown up.

There's still hope. Though NBC has dropped Freaks and Geeks, it is allowing DreamWorks (its production company) to shop the show around to other networks. The networks with the most potential to pick up the show include ABC, Fox, the WB, and HBO. The F&G Web site suggests urgent but friendly letters to the following network execs:

  • ABC: Stu Bloomberg, Co-Chairman ABC Entertainment Television Group, 2040 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles, CA 90067

  • Fox: Sandy Grushow, Fox Broadcasting Company, 10201 W. Pico #100, Los Angeles, CA 90035

  • WB: Jordan Levin, 3701 Oak Street, Bldg., 34R, Burbank, CA 91522

  • HBO: Chris Albrecht, President of Original Programming, 2049 Century Park East, Ste. 4100, Los Angeles, CA 90068

Failing a groundswell of viewer support, the show will most likely live out its last five episodes on a youth-friendly cable network like MTV.

DC on the WB

Friends meets West Wing in the new WB series DC, premiering Sunday (4/2, 7pm, WB). Well, almost. DC is not as funny as Friends, but it's not a comedy, so that's to be forgiven. And it's not as smart as West Wing, which is a real darn shame.

The ensemble drama follows the lives of five exceptionally good-looking college grads starting their careers on the Beltway. Though Bruce Fretts of Entertainment Weekly gave the show a big, fat D+, I actually think the show is more likable than he suggests and not without potential. At the very least, it has the makings of a guilty pleasure, since from what I've seen of the pilot and the first episode, it has the knack to leave you hanging so that you just have to find out what happens on the next episode.

Particularly likable is Jacinda Barrett (London cast member from MTV's The Real World) as Phoebe, I mean Finley, a free spirit who dropped out of graduate school to chill out with her brother Mason (Gabriel Olds) who's working as a legislative aid. Mason tells sis she can't stay, what with the small quarters they have to share with his current roommate, Pete (Saved by the Bell's Mark-Paul Gosselaar), not to mention the nonfunctioning shower. But not to fret. Finley goes out and scores them a tony three-story townhouse, rent-free! All the more room for two more gorgeous roommates, Sarah (Kristanna Loken), a junior producer at a cable news network, and Lewis (Daniel Sunjata), a Supreme Court law clerk.

DC is no thinking person's show, but the characters are likable and the nation's capital provides a scenic backdrop.

Returning to the WB for a second season is the half-hour comedy Movie Stars (4/2, 8pm, WB). Why is anyone's guess.

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