Freaks and Geeks appears in aspect ratios of both 1.33:1 and 1.78:1 on these Blu-ray Discs. 1.33:1 represented the shows as broadcast, whereas 1.78:1 depicted the footage as shot.
That differed from what I expected, as I figured the source was 1.33:1 and 1.78:1 would require cropping. Instead, the 1.78:1 opened up the sides of the image.
While that meant more information, I’d still opt for 1.33:1, as it represented the episodes as they aired – and logically, they were composed for that framing. Still, since the 1.78:1 didn’t lose anything, I can’t gripe about it.
Both versions offered similar visuals, and sharpness largely appeared solid. The wide shots occasionally looked a little soft, but the shows remained nicely distinctive and concise most of the time.
No signs of jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Grain remained light and only a few small specks ever marred the episodes.
As we learn during the audio commentaries, Freaks used a deliberately subdued and restricted palette, as the producers wanted to replicate the typical look of NBC TV shows from the late Seventies/early Eighties. Despite this choice, the hues displayed with appropriate fidelity and proved more pretty solid.
Blacks also seemed nice and dense, and shadows usually were reasonably clean and smooth, though a few low-light shots displayed a little more denseness than I expected. Nonetheless, the image quality for Freaks seemed solid as a whole and merited a “B”.
While Freaks and Geeks received a DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix, the results seemed pretty average. The series presented a typical “comedy” mix, with a soundtrack that heavily emphasized the forward speakers.
Some moderate environmental audio emanated from the front channels and also from the rear, but don’t expect a lot. Music showed decent stereo imaging, but otherwise the mix featured little activity.
However, given the fairly chatty nature of the series, this seemed fine. The shows didn’t exactly boast a zillion opportunities for active audio.
Sound quality held up fine, as speech occasionally seemed concise and fairly natural. Music varied somewhat due to the source material - Freaks used a lot of rock songs – but usually sounded reasonably dynamic and vivid.
Effects played a small role in the proceedings but worked well enough, with decent accuracy and delineation. Bass response seemed pretty solid.
The music was nicely robust, and a few effects even kicked the subwoofer into gear. For example, the dodgeballs in the pilot thumped neatly. The shows boasted more than acceptable audio given the series’ TV roots.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original 2004 DVDs? Audio demonstrated a bit better range, while visuals seemed tighter and more concise. These episodes boasted obvious improvements over the DVDs.
We find a whopping 28 audio commentaries spread across its 18 episodes. Here’s the listing of each show and its commentaries:
“Pilot”: Commentary 1: executive producer Judd Apatow, series creator Paul Feig, and director Jake Kasdan.
Commentary 2: “The Fans Meet Samm” - Michael “Humphries” Beardsley, Arnold “The Vegan” Freeman, Kibbles the Rocker (on phone) and actor Samm Levine.
”Beers and Weirs”: Commentary 1: actors Linda Cardellini and Jason Segel, Judd Apatow, Paul Feig, Jake Kasdan and producer J. Elvis Weinstein.
Commentary 2: “The Parents” - Bob Daley (John Daley’s father), Debbie Hagan (Sarah Hagan’s mother) and Jean St. James (Martin Starr’s mother).
”Tricks or Treats”: Paul Feig and actors John Daley, Martin Starr, Samm Levine and Stephen Lea Sheppard.
”Kim Kelly Is My Friend”: Commentary 1: Judd Apatow, director Leslie Linka Glatter, and writer Mike White.
Commentary 2: “The Executives” - Justin Falvey (DreamWorks), Shelley McCrory (NBC), Dan McDermott (DreamWorks) and Judd Apatow.
”Tests and Breasts”: Commentary 1: Mr. Fredricks, Mr. Rosso, and Mr. Kowchevski (in character); Commentary 2: Paul Feig and director Ken Kwapis.
”I’m With the Band”: Commentary 1: Judd Apatow, Paul Feig, writers Jeff Judah and Gabe Sachs, and actor Jason Segel.
Commentary 2 – “The Production Team” – cinematographer Russ Alsobrook, Judd Apatow, chief lighting technician Curtiss Bradford, Paul Feig (arriving late!), producer Victor Hsu, costume designer Debra McGuire, and production designer Jeff Sage.
“Carded and Discarded”: Judd Apatow, Paul Feig, and actors Linda Cardellini, Samm Levine, Joanna Garcia, Seth Rogen, Dave (Gruber) Allen and Jason Segel.
”Girlfriends and Boyfriends”: Judd Apatow, Paul Feig, writer Patty Lin, Linda Cardellini, John Daley, Samm Levine and Jason Segel.
”We’ve Got Spirit”: “The Fans” - Geoff Black, Tami Lefko, and Eric Williams.
”The Diary”: Commentary 1: Judd Apatow, Paul Feig and writer Rebecca Kirshner.
Commentary 2: Judd Apatow and actors Becky Ann Baker and Joe Flaherty.
“Looks and Books”: Commentary 1: Judd Apatow, John Daley, Paul Feig, Samm Levine, Martin Starr, Stephen Lea Sheppard, and actors Natasha Melnick and Jerry Messing.
Commentary 2: Paul Feig and Ken Kwapis.
”The Garage Door”: Commentary 1: Judd Apatow, John Daley, Paul Feig, writers Jeff Judah and Gabe Sachs, Seth Rogen and actor Sam McMurray.
Commentary 2: Paul Feig, Samm Levine and director Bryan Gordon.
“Chokin’ and Tokin’”: Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, Martin Starr, actor Sarah Hagan and director Miguel Arteta.
”Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers”: Judd Apatow, Sarah Hagan, Seth Rogen, Martin Starr, writer Bob Nickman, and actors Claudia Christian, Busy Philipps and Tom Wilson.
”Noshing and Moshing”: Commentary 1: Judd Apatow and actor James Franco.
Commentary 2: director Jake Kasdan and composer Michael Andrews.
”Smooching and Mooching”: Commentary 1: John Daley, Paul Feig, Samm Levine, Natasha Melnick, Jerry Messing, Stephen Lea Sheppard, and Martin Starr.
Commentary 2: “The Girls” - Linda Cardellini, Sarah Hagan, Joanna Garcia and Natasha Melnick.
”The Little Things”: Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, and writers Mike White and Jon Kasdan.
”Discos and Dragons”: Judd Apatow, Linda Cardellini, John Daley, Paul Feig, Samm Levine, Stephen Lea Sheppard, and Jason Segel.
Hoo boy – where to start? I sat through all 28 of the commentaries, but I won’t attempt to cover all of them – that’d take forever and drive both of us insane. These fill about 21 hours, and that’s a lot of listening!
First I’ll comment on the negative parts of the tracks. Two themes often appear: reams of praise for the series and all involved, and mucho discussion of its premature conclusion and cancellation.
Everyone tells us the series was great and they gripe about its untimely end. Yes, the series was great, and no, it shouldn’t have been cancelled, but these issues get a little old around hour 10 or so.
Despite those factors, I mostly really enjoyed the commentaries. For one, it’s great that every main actor – and more than a few supporting ones – pop up for at last one track, and many show up more than that.
The commentaries clearly feature an excellent array of participants. Unsurprisingly, series head honchos Feig and Apatow dominate; only five of the 28 fail to include one or the other. This makes sense and brings a good sense of continuity to the commentaries.
The tracks also present a surfeit of information. We find notes about the series’ origins, the real-life roots of many storylines and bits, scads of anecdotes from the set, and a lot of fun goofiness. You’ll learn a ton about the series across these discussions.
I also really like the commentaries that take an unusual angle. The two fans’ pieces tend to seem even more praise-filled than the others, but they still present a useful viewpoint.
Of the other quirky tracks, “The Girls” is probably the best. It feels like a slumber party as they dish dirt and relate lots of funny tidbits.
Surprisingly few examples of dead air occur across the various tracks, and they rarely become dull or tedious. 21 hours of commentary occasionally became a chore, but mostly I really liked these chats and I think they add a lot of value to the package.
Each episode comes with deleted scenes. When added together, these fill one hour, 46 minutes, 41 seconds.
Don’t expect a lot of buried treasure here, and don’t expect solely true deleted scenes. Many of them present outtakes or extensions to existing segments.
However, while few seem genuinely notable, we get a pretty decent number of good bits. Most deleted scenes deserved to be deleted, but a fair percentage of these seem quite good.
It seems clear more than a few got the axe due to time constraints, so we find some very entertaining material. Even those that might not have fit in the finished episodes still seem fun.
It helps that the clips often expose the film that appears just before and after the actual scene, so we get some brief glimpses behind the scenes. Overall, this collection offers a lot of entertainment and good stuff.
We can view the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Judd Apatow, Martin Starr and John Daley. These chats seem pretty hit or miss. Occasionally we get some useful information, but a lot of the time they struggle to fill the space.
However, even those moments provide some amusement, especially when Apatow argues that DVDs include too much space and they don’t need to fill all of it. I didn’t learn a lot from these commentaries, but they proved to be sporadically funny, which made them worth the listen.
On a bonus disc, we find old and new extras. These start with a Blu-ray exclusive Conversation with Paul Feig and Judd Apatow. Moderated by LA Times critic Robert Lloyd, this program lasts 45 minutes, 59 seconds.
Here Feig and Apatow discuss the series’ origins and development, casting and finding writers/directors, improv usage and character changes, working with the network and changes in TV since 1999, early Internet support, and the series’ “afterlife”.
Given all the other content in this set, I feared “Conversation” would feel redundant, but it doesn’t. Feig and Apatow interact together in a likable way and they look at the series in a variety of ways that add to our understanding of it.
Next we find a Paley Center Q&A that took place on March 11, 2000. It fills one hour, 12 minutes, 11 seconds as we hear from Becky Ann Baker, Joe Flaherty, Dave (Gruber) Allen, Seth Rogen, Martin Starr, Busy Philipps, Samm Levine, Jason Segel, John Daley, Linda Cardellini, Jake Kasdan, Judd Apatow, and Paul Feig.
At the start, the moderator asks about the development of the series, the concepts behind some story ideas, auditions and character development.
From there we find the audience questions. They cover topics like why “Kim Kelly Is My Friend” didn’t air and some notes about it, how Levine got his gags as a mascot, writing the female characters, the music choices and licensing, the choice to make the series an hour long instead of half an hour, why they chose to dress Starr as the Bionic Woman for the Halloween episode, and a few other issues.
Given the breadth of material found elsewhere, inevitably we hear many of the same stories here. A few new bits appear, but not a ton.
Much of the audience participation simply consists of griping about NBC’s treatment of the series as well as the fans’ reverence for it. Apatow and Feig dominate and give us some decent notes, but don’t expect revelations, as much of the information also shows up elsewhere.
The package presents three table reads. These bring us the cast’s first read-throughs of the scripts for “Kim Kelly Is My Friend” (49:38), “I’m With the Band” (47:16), and “Girlfriends and Boyfriends” (51:45).
All the main actors appear and perform their parts. These tend to be a lot of fun and are insightful, especially via the variations between the initial script and the final shows.
Five deleted scenes appear here, and we get one each from “We’ve Got Spirit”, “Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers” and “Discos and Dragons” plus two from “The Little Things”.
All together, these last nine minutes, four seconds. These aren’t the best unused snippets I’ve ever seen, but they’re still entertaining to watch.
We can watch the deleted scenes with optional commentary from “Sam Weir and Bill Haverchuck”. Yes, that’s John Daley and Martin Starr in character.
They tell us what they’ve been doing since the series ended and make some general comments about the scenes. Nothing special shows up in this chat, but it’s still enjoyable to hear the actors talk about their characters’ lives.
Next we get various auditions. As presented here, they break into “The Main Cast” (12:16), “The Freaks” (7:37), “The Geeks” (6:54), “Students of McKinley High” (8:57), “Alternate Universe” (11:37) and “Authority Figures” (11:45).
These are very entertaining to see, especially when we compare their work here with their more developed characters on the show. “Alternate Universe” also lets us view various castmembers in roles they didn’t eventually play, such as Cardellini’s audition as Kim Kelly.
Some musical moments appear during Long Live Rock!. This features Millie and Nick on “Jesus Is Just Alright” (2:22), plus two versions of Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen” from Mr. Rosso.
We get both the acoustic (2:31) and electric (2:47) renditions. All of these offer more raw material, as we see full, unedited versions of the songs in question.
The package continues with the Sober Students Improv Players. This five-minute, four-second clip presents still more uncut footage via the entire take of the anti-substance abuse improv.
Tales of the Secret Service takes seven minutes, 19 seconds. Ben Stiller shows up here and gives lots of variations on his job complaints. These continue to offer interesting shots.
Four Behind the Scenes snippets take up a total of 18 minutes, 32 seconds. The first shows Cardellini and Daley messing around on the set and acting an awful lot like they’re really brother and sister.
The next compiles many shots of Daley acting really hyper, and it culminates in the sight of the young actor eating a bowl of food really quickly. The subsequent piece shows Busy Philipps making faces and noises for the video camera.
With the final snippet, Samm Levine clowns around and gets stuck in a locker. These clips don’t seem spectacular, but they present a fun look at the set.
A bunch more material appears under Smorgasbord. Raw Footage covers nine different scenes with a total running time of 27 minutes, one second.
These consist of single camera/single takes for the scenes in question. That doesn’t sound very interesting, but in reality, these prove to be a lot of fun, as they offer a “fly on the set” feeling and show some alternate material.
19 random segments pop up in Odds and Sods. This section runs 26 minutes, three seconds and essentially resembles the footage seen in the prior area.
We find short snippets with little bits of scenes. They’re not as cool as those before them, but they’re still worth a look.
Two different sections comprise the NBC promos. After three minutes, 48 seconds of TV commercials, we get the “original NBC electronic press kit”.
It runs 24 minutes, 10 seconds and includes interviews with Linda Cardellini, John Daley, Samm Levine, James Franco, Busy Philipps, Jason Segel, Martin Starr, Seth Rogen, Joe Flaherty, Becky Ann Baker, costume designer Debra McGuire, and prop master Chuck McSorley. Awkwardly edited, a few interesting tidbits appear, but don’t expect much.
A collection of bloopers runs five minutes, 28 seconds. This compilation includes some of the usual goofs, but it tosses in a few improvs and pranks, so it seems more fun than usual.
We get an odd kind of music video via Seven Minutes in Heaven. This combines clips from Bill and Vickie’s big make-out scene with Exile’s song “Kiss You All Over” and lasts one minute, 51 seconds. It’s not very interesting – and it mistitles the song as “I’m Going to Kiss You All Over”.
Graduation goes for two minutes, 33 seconds. It presents a ceremony to honor Seth Rogen, Martin Starr and Samm Levine, all of whom actually should have graduated high school at that time, I guess - the disc doesn’t offer any explanation. It’s mildly interesting.
With Extra Goodies, we find 14 minutes, 46 seconds of additional footage. The offer even more outtakes, and they continue to provide entertaining material.
Thanks, Goodbye gives us a two-minute, 50-second clip. It riffs on the Sam/Cindy dance sequence from the “Pilot” and offers a compilation of clips set to that episode’s Styx song. I guess it acts as a swansong, but it seems somewhat pointless.
Finally, this package includes a nice booklet. In addition to a circa 2016 intro to the Blu-ray set, it presents materials from 2004: an introductory “Letter from Paul” Feig, “The Answers to Questions You Haven’t Asked” by Judd Apatow, and many production and publicity stills.
We also find credits and comments for all 18 episodes. These toss in fun bits like the songs heard in each show plus Feig’s notes on the programs. It’s a terrific little booklet that adds some good information.
In the annals of late, great lost TV treasures, Freaks and Geeks might go down as the best. Impeccably acted, tightly written and directed, and terrifically entertaining, the series died before its time. The Blu-rays offer acceptable to good picture and audio as well as a strong collection of bonus materials. This turns into a nice release for a great TV show.
To rate this series, visit the original review of FREAKS AND GEEKS