Before Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and James Franco became household names, they were all a part of a young promising cast of NBC’s ill-fated Freaks and Geeks. The show only lasted for a season, but it proved to be a great springboard for talents like Segel, Franco, Rogen, and executive producer Judd Apatow. It hasn’t happened since their 2000 cancellation, but the whole cast, including guest stars, reunited for Apatow’s guest comedy issue for Vanity Fair.
Freaks and Geeks premiered and was marketed as the anti-Dawson’s Creek, which at the time of its debut, was the far more popular series amongst teens. Instead, Freaks focused on the “unpretty” faces of teens, and the real issues teens faced. Before the Vanity Fair shoot, some key cast members reunited two years ago for the Paley Film Festival, but this is the first time everyone returned to pay tribute.
Creator Paul Feig, who based many of the episodes off of his own high school experience reminisced about the series:
“The reviews were great, and the premiere had a really high rating. The first Monday back I stood on a table and read the ratings and everybody cheered. And the next week we just dropped huge. And Joe Flaherty [who played Harold Weir] was quoted as saying, ‘Yeah, Paul never came back in and read the ratings to us again after that first week.'”
Apatow, who created a personal experience by infiltrating the actors personalities into their characters, said of the last day of shooting:
“I went for my very last day of shooting. Linda [Cardellini] was crying,” he recalled. “I was like, ‘Why are you crying?,’ and she said, ‘I’m not ready for this to be over.’ And I was like, ‘Well, you don’t know — we could come back.’ And she was just like, ‘It’s over, dude.’
Busy Philipps, who went on to star in Cougar Town and the show’s rival Dawson’s Creek, explained how Freaks and Geeks captured lightening in a bottle for the young actors, even for a short time:
“I feel that what Judd [Apatow], Paul [Feig] and Jake [Kasdan] were able to do on that show, even though we were all relatively young and mostly inexperienced, was validate our ideas and talent by always giving us room to collaborate with them even at age 17, 18, 19.”
That magic that was captured on Freaks and Geeks still holds weight today. A new life was given to the series a few weeks ago when the show showed up on Netflix. It’s now one of the most popular series on the streaming service. Perhaps we just weren’t ready in 1999?