photo credit: neilstuff.com

Freaks and Geeks will easily go down as one of the greatest television shows of the decade. The seminal series, which lasted a tragically-short 18 episodes, centered on the titular groups of burnouts and nerds at a Michigan high school in the ’80s. The show was unflinching in its honesty, and though it was often laugh-out-loud funny — Sam’s misguided leisure suit, Nick’s obsession with Rush, anything involving Bill — it also tackled a lot of serious issues, including those incorporating the main characters’ parents.

In Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers, Bill’s single mom begins dating his gym teacher, Coach Fredricks (Thomas F. Wilson, who you may remember as Biff from Back to the Future), who Bill thinks is a meathead. Bill, played by the genius Martin Starr, wrestles with this throughout the episode, until he and Coach have a tense confrontation then tear-inducing heart-to-heart at a go-kart track. The scene where they hash out their differences in the car is gut-wrenching, and Starr plays it pitch-perfectly, capturing the swell of emotions that any child of divorce must face when their parent(s) begin dating again.

Infidelity surfaces in The Garage Door, when Sam sees Neal’s dad hugging another woman, and Neal discovers someone else’s garage door opener in his dad’s car. Once again, this episode yielded top-notch acting. Neal’s frustration, anger, and disappointment come to a head when he rides his bike around town, frantically searching for the garage that matches the opener. When he finally finds it, our hearts break along with his. In the follow-up, Noshing and Moshing, Neal confronts his mom about his dad’s infidelity (and also picks up a rather irritating ventriloquist habit), and she reveals that she already knew.

Producer Judd Apatow (perhaps you’ve heard of his small films Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin?) revealed that he had planned for the Schweibers to go through a messy divorce, had the show continued. Unfortunately for the viewing public, we never got to see the actors portraying the freaks and geeks of McKinley High shine their brightest through these future hard times.

–katie nowak

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