If any of you find yourself with idle hours over the holidays, may I make a Netflix suggestion?

God, I’m in love with Freaks & Geeks. I started watching this show in high school, but only caught a few episodes — back then, the show’s air times were all over the place. I rediscovered it years later with the advent of early 2000’s Netflix, and dutifully sent away for four-episode DVD installments, but only got so far with that method, too.

But now! Now, I’m watching them sequentially on Netflix (“On DEMAND” — such a bossy branding phrase, no?), and am reminded why this show, like that other short-lived high school series of my youth, My So-Called Life, is so beloved and cult-like.

Were any of you Freaks & Geeks fans? Then you know what I’m talking about. Each actor was so effectively cast. Linda Cardellini, whose career I wish had exploded like the other members of the “freak” cast (James Franco, Seth Rogen, James Segel), captures Lindsay’s pain so well.

The show really revolves around her, and this in-between identity she straddles between being a goody-goody smart kid, and the detached, rebellious band of misfits she finds herself attracted to.

Misfits that might not accept her, if it weren’t for Jason Segel’s (Nick Andapolis’) crush on her.

My God, Jason Segel was so DREAMY on this show. Ladies, do you want to swoon? Straight men, do you want to turn gay for a second? Watch Jason Segel’s audition tape for this role. It’s pretty much the most endearing thing in the world. This was his first big role, and his first time to work with Judd Apatow. He is so shy, sweet, and vulnerable on Freaks & Geeks, and while all those qualities are at the heart of pretty much every role he’s ever done since, I think that’s why we all love Jason Segel, right? Because he’s such a lovable dork?

This was also a breakout role for James Franco, who — no matter what you may think of him and all his arty striving right now — really does kill it at a James Dean-esque heartthrob on Freaks & Geeks. He is the apathetic, greasy babe we all knew in high school, the type that would be kryptonite for me in college.

Just look at those CHEEKBONES!

Finally, there is the band of “geeks” on this show, i.e. Lindsay’s brother Sam, and his nerdy friends Bill and Neal. I think it’s this little gang that really makes the show for some people.

They are the Star Trek watchers, the ones who have never kissed a girl, the absolute lowest on the school social status totem pole, and the ones who always get beat up. I appreciate the casting of Sam Weir especially, because look how TEENSY this guy is! You just know high school is not going to be pleasant for him.

The actor (John Daley) was 13 when he got this role. There’s this beautifully awkward scene in the sixth episode, “I’m With the Band,” when Sam is explaining to his parents that he doesn’t want to shower after gym class with all the other boys. (He’s embarrassed). And his mom immediately replies,

She then forces Sam’s dad and Lindsay to all tell him he has a beautiful body.

It’s so excruciating! In that earnest way his mom keeps saying it, you know? You can just totally relate to all those times your mom used to make you feel better about yourself and the way you looked. Teen Me, for example used to hate photos of myself, and my sweet mom would always say: “You’re beautiful, sweetheart! This picture just doesn’t do you justice.” Haha.

This is Busy Phillips as Kim Kelly, who plays such a perfect bitch on this show — everything she says is so sarcastic and cutting and reminiscent of the girl in high school that you NEVER WANTED TO CROSS.

Maybe I’m being hyperbolic, but I think there’s a little something for everybody on this show. I personally relate to it on a junior high level, which felt much more socially stratified to me. I remember one time, in the 7th grade, walking up to a group of popular kids who were all crowded around something outside in the lunch courtyard. I just wanted to see what they were looking at and laughing about. But this one popular kid, Eddie (who is probably a lovely person now, but was sort of an asshole in 7th grade), turned around and said, “eww, dork!!! Get it away!!!” and pretended to spray an imaginary “dork spray” at me.

That was my Sam moment. But that was also the year I had several Lindsay moments, too, wearing my dad’s flannels and trying DESPERATELY to look “weird” (unsuccessfully). That time was so uncomfortable, but it was also the time I met a kindred spirit, Katie Cummings, who was also trying to wear her dad’s flannels and be weird, too. Katie introduced me to Nirvana and Dazed & Confused and the concept of vegetarianism, and I just loved her. Katie continued to be weird, and later transferred right on out of Alamo Heights to attend a magnet arts school instead, while I went onto become more and more square and socially acceptable. I think about Katie so often, admiring her 13 year-old courage to break out of that whole system and blaze her own trail.


So, if you have thick, idle hours over the holidays to spend at your leisure, which I hope you do, Freaks & Geeks is a quality way to fill them.

After you do, you can curl up with Vanity Fair‘s oral history of Freaks & Geeks in their January 2013 issue, which just came out. Here are some magical pictures from that.

(They dated in real life too, which I love.)