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by Barry Walters

April 30, 2014

Music from 'Freaks and Geeks'

by Barry Walters  |  April 30, 2014

Like My So-Called Life, Freaks and Geeks was simply too good for network TV of its day. As with that earlier show, this 1999-2000 teen comedy-drama popularized seriously talented actors who'd later become major stars, including James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel. It wasn't executive producer Judd Apatow's first major work, but it was the one where he nailed his trademark blend of goofy slapstick and searing pathos. If you couldn't fit into the major popularity cliques at your high school, or, like protagonist Lindsay Weir, consciously refused to, chances are you'll see yourself in this show.

Unfortunately, the series was cancelled even before its first season was completed. One of the reasons for this might've been that its soundtrack wasn't cheap. In order to reflect the 1980-'81 school year in which the show was set -- as well as the separate worlds of former "mathlete" Lindsay, who repudiates her brainiac past to hang with her new slacker buds, and her little brother Sam, whose friends are more cerebral -- Freaks and Geeks filled itself with significantly more music than other dramedies of its era. Most scenes featuring the freaks blasted classic rock, typically of the stoner variety, while the geeks got New Wave: Sam and pals getting picked last in gym class accompanied by XTC is quintessential F&G.

Although the show only had 18 episodes (even fewer were originally broadcast), it included more music than we could reprise here -- five tracks from Van Halen's debut alone, and nine from The Who -- and so we've cut back on acts repeatedly represented. As the series progresses, more punk and disco is introduced to suggest their broader experiences, as well as the march of time itself. Even these outcasts get to grow up a little.

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