What Freaks and Geeks and Broad City Have in Common and Why it’s Great

6 Feb


Freaks and Geeks is an all-time great show for many reasons. It’s an incredibly honest and nuanced portrayal of suburban high schoolers struggling through puberty and fitting in. There’s plenty of awkwardness and frustrating but an underlying current of incredibly strong bonds of friendship and family. Within all of this, there’s one small but notable plot point I’d like to praise and focus on, and compare it to a similar brilliant tack current great show Broad City just took.

Sam Weir, one of the titular geeks, is high school freshman with a seemingly unattainable crush on popular cheerleader Cindy. Cindy is generally cordial to Sam, but the affections run one way. He’s laughed at by his friends and fellow students for believing he has any shot at her.

There’s two obvious ways this situation could go that fit with relatively common patterns that occur throughout TV and movies. In the most classic pattern, he’d end up with Cindy anyway, in spite of all odd against, and though they have nothing obvious in common, they’d be a great opposites-attract match and end up together. Secondly, in the slightly more modern and depressing trope, Sam’s hopeless crush would never be realized. He’d either be consumed by it or he would eventually grow out of it, but there would never be any chance of it realistically happening.

While there’s no inherent problem with either of these approaches, and the choice should depend on the exactly nature of the characters and situation, what Freaks and Geeks ingeniously does is proceed with a third option. Sam does, against all odds, actually ends up going out with Cindy. Unfortunately it turns out that she’s terrible.

The result was immediately saddening, when Sam has his dream crushed, but in the longer term strikingly heartening; Sam is better than this. What you think you want isn’t always what you want; it’s easy to unfairly and unjustly idealize from afar.

Broad City, which isn’t particularly like Freaks and Geeks in any other way aside from also being a great show, took a similar tack in last week’s episode. Jeremy, Abbi’s neighbor, has been Abbi’s crush object throughout Broad City’s run. They’ve chatted here and there, and occasionally hung out, but Abbi’s generally been too flustered to mount a normal conversation, or, more than that, to ask him out on a date. Finally, they have a moment; she’s bold enough to ask, when drugged out of her mind after getting her wisdom teeth removed, and he says yes, despite her incoherent babbling and they’re off and running.

After the first date goes well (ending with Abbi pegging Jeremy, which is great, but not incredibly germane to this point), things go down from there. While he does spend his time and effort helping children, which is great and all, he also reveals himself to be an oversensitive, pretentious, snobby, jerk. And all that tension between Abbi and Jeremy for the season and a half leading up to this is over just like that. The spell Jeremy cast over Abbi is broken. Jeremy was so beguiling to Abbi because he was in her mind just what she’d imagined she’d be, while now Abbi knows she can do a whole lot better.




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