Freaks and Geeks appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Picture quality displayed some issues, but the shows mostly looked quite good.
Sharpness largely appeared solid. The wide shots occasionally looked a little soft, mainly due to the presence of some light edge enhancement. Otherwise, the shows remained nicely distinctive and concise. Some shimmering and jags showed up, but nothing severe. As for source concerns, specks and marks popped up occasionally. These never seemed heavy, but they were a bit more frequent than I’d expect from a recent series.
As we learn during the audio commentaries, Freaks used a deliberately subdued and restricted palette. (They wanted to replicate the typical look of NBC TV shows from the late Seventies/early Eighties.) Despite the faded and pale look to the colors, they seemed fine. The hues were displayed with appropriate fidelity and proved more than acceptable. 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 new Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, the results seemed quite average. The series presented a very 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; it didn’t exactly boast a zillion opportunities for active audio.
Unfortunately, sound quality was a bit more erratic than I’d like. Speech occasionally seemed somewhat stiff; the lines were concise but displayed too much emphasis on the treble end of the spectrum. I also noticed more than a few examples of edginess in the dialogue. 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 fairly well, 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. On the negative side, I noticed a surprising amount of hiss and background noise at times. Ultimately, the audio of Freaks was acceptable but generally mediocre.
Packed with special features, Freaks and Geeks includes 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 won’t even remotely 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. We find a minimum of two segments per show and up to a maximum of six for a total of 70 excised segments. When added together, these fill 95 minutes, 54 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.
(Note that the DVD’s packaging indicates the presence of 29 audio commentaries. Unless I’ve lost my addition skills, I only counted 28 for the 18 episodes. Unless there’s a hidden track I couldn’t uncover, I assume the deleted scenes commentary counts as the 29th.)
Spread across the first four DVDs, we get various auditions. These present tests for Linda Cardellini (two minutes, 17 seconds) and Jason Segel (2:20) on DVD One, John Daley (1:55), Samm Levine (0:42), Martin Starr (1:31) on DVD Two, Seth Rogen (1:22) on DVD Three, and Busy Philipps (1:16) on DVD Four. These are very entertaining to see, especially when we compare their work here with their more developed characters on the show. Actually, most of the personalities seem pretty fully-formed. Starr’s audition and the final evolution of Bill seem the most different.
Also on DVD One, we get four promos. Behind the Scenes snippets appear on the first four discs. DVD One’s shows Cardellini and Daley messing around on the set and acting an awful lot like they’re really brother and sister. On DVD Two, the two-minute and 54-second piece compiles many shots of Daley acting really hyper. It culminates in the sight of the young actor eating a bowl of food really quickly. DVD Three’s piece shows 55 seconds of Busy Philipps making faces and noises for the video camera. Heading to DVD Four, the “Behind the Scenes” snippet goes for 66 seconds and offers Samm Levine clowning and getting stuck in a locker. These clips don’t seem spectacular, but they present a fun look at the set.
Two collections of bloopers make it to DVDs Five and Six. The first runs two minutes and 57 second, while the second fills two minutes, 24 seconds. These compilations include some of the usual goofs, but they toss in a few improvs and pranks, so they seem more fun than usual. Disc Five also presents an SCTV Promo. Disingenuously, it includes a few small clips that don’t appear on the upcoming DVD set. Thanks finishes off the set on DVD Six.
Finally, this package includes a nice 28-page booklet. It presents 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. At least we get this terrific DVD set. It presents good picture, average audio, and a superb package of extras highlighted by hours and hours of commentary. The list price of $69.98 may seem a little steep, but Freaks is worth every penny. I highly recommend this excellent show and DVD package.
Note that two DVD versions of Freaks and Geeks exist. In addition to this “basic” six-disc version, Shout Factory offers a special eight-DVD edition. The limited edition set includes two extra discs of supplements and comes in a special hardbound case that resembles a yearbook. It sounds great, but it’ll cost you: it retails for a whopping $120 and can only be purchased online at http://www.freaksandgeeksdvd.com. That’s a steep price, but it might be worth it for the big Freaks obsessives.
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