Saturday, October 6, 2012

TV Classics: Freaks and Geeks - "The Garage Door"

TV CLASSICS is a section of 'Coco Hits NYC' dedicated to episodes of television to which I have a special connection. In many ways, Television has been the medium that has informed my life most than any other and here is my way of paying back for its influence. 

I love 'Freaks and Geeks'. I think it is one of the best television shows ever produced, which has become even greater due to its tragically short run. It is the most successful portrayal of school and adolescent life that I've seen on television. It's not so much the plot details of the stories that make the show great, but the emotions they spark up on the characters. That is the true earnestness and realism of the show. If you are in high school when you first watch it (like I was),  then you will see what you feel mirrored in the screen. If you are out of high school (like I am now), those feelings will come rushing back and it will feel as if you never left. That was the show's blessing and probably its biggest curse. The feelings someone has in high school are not always the happiest ones and are far less glamorous than anything you watch on 'Beverly Hills 90210' or 'The O.C.'. 

I've been rewatching the show and I was surprised that out of all the brilliant 'Freaks and Geeks' episodes, the one that resonated the most with me was 'The Garage Door'. Even though I would have probably fitted more into the "geek" label during my time in high school, I tend to identify most with Lindsay and the freaks' storylines when I watch the show. This one is all about the geeks, though. As Alan Sepinwall mentions in his review of the episode, this was a significant episode in the series evolution because the geeks' story has more dramatic weight than the freaks'.

The story starts out with Sam seeing Neil's dad, hugging another woman at the mall. Dr. Schweiber notices he has been busted by Sam, so he tells him the woman is just a high school friend and the he shouldn't say anything about meeting him because he is buying Neil an Atari and wants it to be a surprise. But Sam knows what is really going on. The next day at school, he tells Bill about it in this very funny scene:


They end up telling the truth to Neil, who initially dismisses the whole thing, but later finds two garage door openers in his dad's car. The three friends set out to go around town with their bikes, trying to find the house the garage opener belongs to.

As I said before, the poignant thing about the episode, at least for me, is not in the plot, but in the emotions involved. As far as the plot is concerned, I don't have much to relate to. I know people whose parents have divorced or been involved in affairs, but it just isn't the case with me. To explain what really sticks to me about the episode, we have to go back to the first scene of the episode. Sadly, I couldn't find a clip of the scene in Youtube, but it has the geeks hanging out at Neil's house watching Saturday Night Live and having snacks with Dr. Schweiber. The realization that Dr. Schweiber is having an affair is certainly devastating to Neil, but it also affects Sam and Bill. That someone who seems like such a cool guy to them could be doing something so wrong is tragic.

The realization that someone you admire isn't perfect is a very tough one to swallow when you first encounter it. I won't go into much detail, but I'm 20 years old, so it wasn't long ago that I first had a similar realization involving a person I looked up to. It was pretty rough. It created a huge sense of conflict inside of me. You just don't see it coming and suddenly you've been disappointed by the least expected person. It's something that we all go through sooner or later. Something that makes us grow up and see the world in a different light. But something that doesn't stop. At least not for me. To this day, I get disappointed by people I admire. And it still hurts.

The way 'Freaks and Geeks' tells this story made me go back to that time, reflect upon what happened and what I felt and understand life and myself better. That is what makes it such a great show. And it's all in the storytelling. Neil has the most emotional ark of the episode, but the scene that strikes me the most doesn't involve him. It happens when Sam goes back to his house after a long day of riding his bike in search of the garage opener's door. He is greeted with a surprise: his parents have bought him an Atari. Sam just hugs his dad and starts crying. 

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