The Series (5/5)
I'm going to admit something right up front, before watching this Blu-ray of Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series from Shout! Factory I had never seen the show in it’s entirety. I had heard about it many times throughout the last 2 decades, but have conveniently missed out on watching it since it debuted in the Fall of 1999. The interesting thing about it's original air date is that it coincided with my Junior year of high school. Watching it now I realized that seeing it then it would have hit me right where it was supposed to. Though Freaks and Geeks adheres to a sitcom/drama format the character's absolutely depict high school as it was for many of us.
The series is an ensemble piece, but mainly follows the Weir family, specifically the high school age Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) and Sam (John Francis Daley). Lindsay as the series begins is a do-gooder nerd who is tired of her squeaky clean image and is looking for a change. She finds that change with the high school freak population including Daniel (James Franco), Kim (Busy Phillips), Nick (Jason Segal), and Ken (Seth Rogen). Sam is a Freshman (compared to his Sophomore sister), and hangs out with Neal (Samm Levine) and Bill (Martin Starr). The trio are trying to navigate the high school experience from the geek side of the equation.
The show ran for a short, yet powerful, and constantly entertaining 18 episodes before being prematurely canceled in the winter of 2000 before the whole slate of episodes had even aired. The Family Channel of all places would then acquire the series run, and broadcast it in it's entirety. In 2004 Shout! Factory in conjunction with Paul Feig and Judd Apatow would release the series in 2 forms on DVD a standard release edition, and a fully packed Yearbook Edition, which would only be sold through the Shout! website. That SE would be reissued in 2008 into wider stores. It is now 2016, and Shout! Factory have lovingly restored the show for Blu-ray release (more on that later).
This show is such a near perfect experience with episodes that are well written, compelling to watch, and hysterically funny. The performances from the cast, who would go onto huge careers are absolutely spot on, and feel like people you might run into in any small town high school. The show is endlessly entertaining on so many levels, and I've already gone back to rewatch some new favorite episodes.
When watching I couldn’t help but consider that Freaks and Geeks is to Feig/Apatow to what Spaced is for Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. Both shows are excellent comedies that show the diverse influences and abilities of their creators within a TV sitcom format, and point the direction that both sets of filmmakers would end up taking in their respective careers.
OK, so Freaks and Geeks is the sort of complicated release that I love digging into. Shout! Factory in conjunction with Feig/Apatow have gone back to the original source material of the show (the 35mm negatives as opposed to the SD masters), and remastered the show top to bottom for the Blu-ray format. Now here is where things get interesting. Freaks and Geeks was shot on 35mm film, and apparently shot for 1:78:1 widescreen, but being that TV's were commonly full frame at the time, the show was broadcast in a 1:33:1 aspect ratio. When Shout! Factory and the creative team behind Freaks and Geeks went back to the original footage they saw that the original 1:78:1 footage looked quite good, and decided to release the show in 2 versions. So what we have here is the show remastered in it's original broadcast ratio of 1:33:1 full frame, and a new widescreen version framed at 1:78:1.
Now, normally I would tell you to skip the widescreen version, because the show was shot for 1:33:1 in mind, however, during my viewing of Freaks and Geeks I watched a handful of widescreen episodes, and found that they look actually quite nice, offering up some solid additional visual information while not drastically changing the feel of the show. With that out of the way both version of the show look fantastic with their 1080p AVC encoded transfer. Colors are well reproduced, bright, and stable. The black levels throughout are solid, and detail is excellent throughout the presentation.
The audio is presented 2 ways with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track and a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track both in English, optional subtitles are available. Both tracks sound quite nice with the primary benefit of the 5.1 really being in the shows soundtrack related moments, otherwise everything is primarily dialogue driven, and sounds quite solid either way.
Everything from the Yearbook Edition DVD is here. That includes commentary tracks on all episodes some of which feature multiple commentaries. The set also includes interviews with the cast and crew, deleted scenes, documentaries, outtakes, table readings, audition footage, and so much more. There is also a booklet of liner notes included by Shout! with the set.
Freaks and Geeks depicts the high school experience from the perspective of characters not often depicted positively in media, and when they are usually nothing more than a caricature. The show is absolutely entertaining, funny and compelling, but since I might be the last nerd on Earth to catch up with this show you probably knew that. The Shout! Factory Blu-ray is gorgeously restored, and comes loaded up with enough extras sure to please any fan of the series. This one is definitely year end list material, and it's only March. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.