• Freaks And Geeks: The Complete Series (Blu-ray Collector’s Edition)

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: March 22nd, 2016.
    Director: Judd Apatow, Paul Feig
    Cast: Linda Cardellini, Seth Rogan, James Franco, Jason Segel, John Francis Daley
    Year: 1999-2000
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Series:

    Although it ran for only one season, Freaks And Geeks left an undeniable mark on the television landscape. Set in 1980, as the name infers the show centers around two groups, high schoolers. The freaks are the kids that don’t really fit in with the jocks or the mainstream crowd. They’re the ones that hang out behind the school and smoke, the kind that get into trouble sometimes. They’re made up of Daniel Desario (James Franco), Ken Miller (Seth Rogen), Nick Andopolis (Jason Segel) and Kim Kelly (Busy Philipps). The geeks? As you’d guess, they’re they nerdy kids – the ones that are smart, but socially awkward and in the show they’re made up of Neal Schweiber (Samm Levine) and Bill Haverchuck (Martin Starr), and to a certain extent Millie Kentner (Sarah Hagan).

    The real focal point of the series, however, is the brother and sister duo of Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) and younger brother Sam Weir (John Francis Daley), both of whom attend William McKinley High School where Lindsay falls in with the freaks and Sam with the geeks. They live at home with their parents, Harold (Joe Flaherty) and Jean (Becky Ann Baker), and for the most part they head an average suburban life. Lindsay, however, is in need of a change. She’s a solid student, one of the best, but she wants something more out of the high school experience and she finds it with Daniel, Nick, Ken and the rest leaving her one time best friend Millie in the dust as she becomes accepted into that group. Sam, meanwhile, is just trying to figure things out and avoid getting picked on. The show follows these two groups, often times intermingling the two in interesting and clever ways, but at its core this is a show about growing up and trying to find yourself amidst the chaos and cliquey insanity that is the high school experience.

    When the series begins, Lindsay basically gets invited to join the group by Daniel. There’s hesitation on both sides at first but as they get to know one another, it subsides. Her story arch follows her getting into typical teenage trouble – throwing a party when her parents go away, ditching her mom to hang out with her friends, vandalism, helping Daniel, cheat on a test, toying around with helping out Nick’s band. She winds up sort of romantically involved with Nick but of course, it doesn’t go the way either of them hoped it would. She tries pot, accidently runs over Millie’s dog, sees Daniel ‘go punk,’ falls for Neil’s older brother Barry (David Krumholtz), becomes unsure of what to do when given the opportunity to ask Vice President George Bush a question at a school assembly and then, eventually, has to figure out what she wants to do once summer rolls around.

    Sam’s story arc sees he and his friends dealing with various bullies, specifically Alan White (Chauncey Leopardi), fall for cheerleader Cindy Sanders (Natasha Melnick), mess with the beer that Lindsay and her friends drink at the house party, debate the merits of trick or treating with his friends, get bulled by a girl named Karen (Rashida Jones), do some extra credit research for sex ed class with a smut film given to him by Daniel and then do everything he can to avoid showering with his fellow students after phys ed class. He and the other ‘geeks’ make friends with a new student named Maureen (Kayla Ewell), Sam lands as spot as the school’s basketball mascot, experiment with fashionable disco attire, investigate the potential extra-marital exploits of Neal’s father (Sam McMurray) and then, eventually, getting the shot with Cindy that he’s wanted since the series began, before getting Daniel into… Dungeons & Dragons!

    Somehow hitting the perfect mix of drama and humor, Freaks And Geeks is damn fine television. It pulls you in from the start by creating interesting characters, most of whom are quite likeable and all of whom feel very real. Depending on your age range, you could very well have grown up with people like this or at least known some during your younger days, and that makes the series very relatable in a lot of ways. The storylines always feel real and for that reason, when the humor hits, it works really well. Who out there didn’t experiment with different looks and even personas in their high school years? Maybe you never went punk like Daniel or went disco like Nick but you don’t have to have gone to such extremes personally to see the down to earth comedy in situations like this, because you probably at least knew someone who did make drastic changes like this.

    This grounded sensibility runs throughout the entire series. It’s present not only in the show’s depictions of the reality of high school stress, but in the depictions of the various characters’ home lives as well. The Weirs are a pretty balanced family, the parents provide a stable environment for their kids and while they’re hardly wealthy, they are at least comfortable. The same cannot be said for some of the other characters in the show, and without going too far into spoiler territory, again this is something that, growing up, most people come to terms with – your friends may have a better or a far worse home situation than you do, and that can cause rifts or at the very least, tension/stress. The show never exploits this, but neither does it shy away from some of the more ‘controversial’ aspects of high school life (pot use and sex being two obvious examples). Again, the realism in the writing, the situations and the characters counts for so much here.

    The early eighties setting is also really well handled. What The Wonder Years did for the late sixties and early seventies, Freaks And Geeks does for the eighties but the attention to detail here is admirable. The wardrobe, the set decorating, the hair styles and the trends that are all on display pretty much every character in every situation? The show nails it. The use of music is also fantastic (which again makes us think of The Wonder Years), pulling not just from classic rock but from pop, disco, and harder, grittier material now and then as well. And of course, the performances are every bit as strong as the production values. Cardellini and Daley may not have climbed the Hollywood ladder the way Franco, Rogen and Segal have but they do amazing work here as do all of the supporting players with special mention due Flaherty and Baker who have a tendency to steal every scene that they’re involved with.


    There was clearly a lot of work put into this set, starting with the transfer. As is explained in the booklet that accompanies the discs, the series was shot on 35mm film but then transferred to video to be edited. For its Blu-ray debut, the people behind this collection had new 4k masters made of the original 35mm negatives and then went back to match up every shot, every title screen, every edit and, well, every ‘thing’ so that what we’ve wound up with are some gorgeous looking transfers that perfectly recreate the episodes just as fans know and love them. And on top of that, as this was shot on 35mm film and therefore shot widescreen, Shout! Factory has allowed viewers the choice of watching all eighteen episodes in your choice of the original fullframe aspect ratio or in 1.78.1 widescreen.

    Image quality is approximately the same regardless of which option you go for but the widescreen versions do show quite a bit more information on the left and right side of the frame (with some tightening to the top and bottom). Some comparisons below:

    As to the quality, things look excellent here. The AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation shows very strong detail, beautiful texture and great color reproduction. There are no obvious problems with compression artifacts, edge enhancement or overzealous noise reduction while skin tones look nice and natural. There are a few shots here and there where contrast looks a bit less than perfect and maybe a few shots here and there where colors look just a bit subdued, but that’s nitpicking – by and large the image quality in this set is outstanding and the people at Shout! have done right by fans by including both the original fullframe choice alongside the newly offered widescreen versions.

    As to the audio, DTS-HD tracks are provided in 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Surround Sound in the series’ native English with optional subtitles provided in English only. The main difference between the two tracks is, aside from some occasional effects placement, how the frequent musical selections are presented. The 5.1 mix really opens things up nicely there, using the rear channels to fill things in pretty effectively, while the 2.0 mix obviously keeps things up in the front of the soundscape. Regardless of which option you go for, the levels are nicely balanced, the dialogue is clean, clear and easy to understand and the tracks are free of any hiss or distortion. Once again, we get the original version (the stereo option) and the ‘new’ version (the surround mix), which is great – you can choose whichever one appeals to you more!

    Moving right along, there is a massive array of supplements here (everything has been carried over from the Yearbook Edition DVD set), starting with commentary tracks for every single episode in the set that break down as follows:

    -The Pilot: Judd Apatow, Paul Feig and Jake Kasdan / Fans Michael Beardsley, Arnold Freeman and Kibbles The Rocker with Samm Levine
    -Beers And Weirs: Apatow, Linda Cardellini, Feig, Kasdan, Jason Segel and J. Elvis Weinstein / parents Bob Daley, Debbie Hagan and Jean St. James
    -Tricks And Treats: John Francis Daley, Paul Feig, Levine, Stephen Lea Sheppard and Martin Starr
    -Kim Kelly Is My Friend: Apatow, Lesli Linka Glatter and Mike White / Series’ executives Justin Falvey, Shelley McCrory, Dan McDermott and Apatow
    -Tests And Breasts: In character commentary with Mr. Fredericks, Mr. Kowchevski and Mr. Rosso / Feig and Ken Kwapis
    -I'm With the Band: Apatow, Feig, Jeff Judan, Gabe Sachs and Segel / Russ Alsobrook, Apatow, Curtiss Bradford, Feig, Victor Hsu, Debra McGuire and Jeff Sage
    -Carded And Discarded: Apatow, Cardellini, Feig, Joanna Garcia, Levine, Seth Rogen, Mr. Rosso and Segel
    -Girlfriends And Boyfriends: Apatow, Cardellini Daley, Feig, Levine, Patty Lin and Segel
    -We've Got Spirit: fans Geoff Black, Tami Lefko and Eric Williams
    -The Diary: Apatow, Feig and Rebecca Kirshner / Apatow, Feig and Joe Flaherty
    -Looks And Books: Apatow, Feig, Levine, Natasha Melnick, Jerry Messing, Lea Sheppard and Starr / Feig and Ken Kwapis
    -The Garage Door: Apatow, Daley, Feig, Jeff Judan, Sam McMurray, Rogen and Sachs / Feig, Bryan Gordon and Levine
    -Chokin' And Tokin': Apatow, Miguel Arteta, Sarah Hagan, Rogen and Starr
    -Dead Dogs And Gym Teachers: Apatow, Claudia Christian, Hagan, Bob Nickman, Susy Philipps, Rogen, Starr and Tom Wilson
    -Noshing And Moshing: Apatow and James Franco / Michael Andrews and Jake Kasdan
    -Smooching And Mooching: Daley, Feig, Levine, Melnick, Messing, Lea Sheppard and Starr / Cardellini, Joanna Garcia, Melnick and Hagan
    -The Little Things: Apatow, Jon Kasdan, Rogen and Mike White
    -Discos And Dragons: Apatow, Cardellini, Daley, Feig, Levine, Lea Sheppard and Segel

    There’s a ridiculous amount of information here what with all of the different participants. Apatow and Feig tend to lead the conversations that they are involved with (which makes sense) but given how heavily they worked on the show that’s not a bad thing. Input from the different cast and crew members is fairly invaluable in preserving and documenting their experiences working on the series, while getting input from the parents of the younger cast members and some diehard fans of the show rounds things out nicely. The ‘in character’ track is also pretty amusing and worth checking out if you haven’t heard it before.

    There are also deleted scenes included for each episode, sometimes as little as two minutes’ worth other times more than ten minutes’ worth, and Apatow, Starr and Daley provide optional commentary over all of this excised material as well. Not all of the deleted material is gold but it’s great to see it and some of it is quite interesting. The commentary typically sets up the material, gives it some context and sometimes explains why it was taken out of the formal episode.

    The commentaries and deleted scenes are found in the individual discs of both the widescreen and fullframe versions of the episodes, while the rest of the supplements are on the bonus disc. On that bonus disc and new to this set is a forty-six minute long interview with Paul Feig and Judd Apatow moderated by Robert Lloyd of The Los Angeles Times. The only HD supplement on this disc, it’s a pretty thorough and interesting look back at the series, its legacy, the importance of the role it played in helping to launch various big time Hollywood careers and quite a bit more.

    The rest of the extras on the disc are carried over from the old DVD set and therefore standard definition. The seventy-two minute long Paley Center Q&A session gets a bunch of the cast members in front of an audience at the titular location for a pretty solid question and answer session that covers characters, humor in the series, various stories from on set and more.

    There are also three Table Reading sessions included here – the fifty minute long Kim Kelly Is My Friend, the forty-seven minute I'm With the Band and the fifty-two minute Girlfriends And Boyfriends. These are pretty interesting as you get to see the different actors working through the scripts, preparing for their roles and really bringing the characters that we know them as from the series to live, albeit in a far less formal, put together setting than what we see on the broadcast episodes.

    The bonus disc also includes nine minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary from Sam Weir and Bill Haverchuck and a whole bunch of cast auditions: twelve minutes with the main cast, eight minutes with The Freaks, seven minutes with The Geeks, nine minutes with various students from the school, twelve minutes from the Freaks And Geeks Alternate Universe and then another twelve minutes with various authority figures from the show. Amusing to see, this footage lends plenty of insight into the casting process that clearly would wind up playing a massive part in the success of the series and it’s enduring popularity.

    From there, dig into a few miscellaneous bits and pieces starting with the eight minute Long Live Rock which is basically a collection of some of the musical bits and pieces from throughout the series. The five minute Sober Students Improv Players shows off a quick live theater presentation while the seven minute Tales Of The Secret Service segment is an amusing piece with none other than Ben Stiller. Also worth checking out is an eighteen minute collection of Behind The Scenes footage that captures the cast and crew hard at work on set – and occasionally goofing around as well. This segment is great in that it documents what it was like on set and it gives us a look at the production from the perspective of the people that made it, without the gloss of a promotional featurette.

    But wait, that’s not all – there’s more than an hour’s worth of additional material in the Smorgasbord section, starting with twenty seven minutes of Raw Footage that is, as it sounds, some unedited raw footage from various shoots. The twenty-six minute Odds And Sods is another half an hour of random, oddball pieces that don’t really fit anywhere else while the twenty-eight minutes of NBC Promos are just that – vintage TV promos that ran when the series was on the air to promote it to would be viewers. Also in this section are five minutes of bloopers, a two minute Seven Minutes In Heaven bit, two and a half minutes on the graduation, fifteen minutes of extra goodies and last but not least, a three minute farewell piece called Thanks, Goodbye. There’s a lot of great material in here and even if you’ve seen it all before from the past releases, it’s fun to revisit it. Menus and chapter stops are also included on each and every disc in the set, and the bonus disc also includes a ‘digital yearbook’ that basically, when selected, instructs you to go check out a website. Digital Yearbook instructs viewers to visit a website where you can download a PDF version of the yearbook that came with the ‘Yearbook Edition’ DVD release of the series.

    The fullframe discs are housed in one Blu-ray sized flipper case, the widescreen ones in second with the bonus disc in its own slim case. All of this material fits inside a nice, sturdy cardboard slipcover that also holds a full color booklet comprised of essays and notes on the show, various information on the episodes themselves and quite a bit more.

    The Final Word:

    Freaks And Geeks is top notch television, a show where you really feel like you can relate to the characters but not at the expense of some fantastic humor. When the show delves into drama, it still fires on all cylinders, somehow finding the perfect balance between the humor and the heart of every day teenage life. It’s a great series with a whole lot of talent on display and Shout! Factory has really knocked it out of the park with this Blu-ray collection. This one gets R!S!P!’s highest possible recommendation!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Holy shit. Transferred from the 35mm? Dammit, I might have to shell out for this.
    1. Newt Cox's Avatar
      Newt Cox -
      Yeah I am getting this. And it will go on the shelf next to my VHS recordings of the NBC airings and the old DVD yearbook set.