Freaks and Geeks
Season 1, Episode 6: “I’m With the Band”
Original airdate: Nov. 13, 1999
Muskan: This episode depicted two parallel storylines: one focusing on the challenges the geeks faced when navigating the showers after gym class, and the other centered around Nick’s pursuit of his dreams of becoming a drummer.
Both of these narratives resonated with me personally, but Nick’s journey struck a chord, particularly. He finds himself at a pivotal moment in his life.
He must maintain a C-average in school, or his father will compel him to enlist in the Army (How can someone coerce an 18-year-old into Army service? Couldn’t he just move out?).
However, Nick is indifferent to school and the Army; all he yearns for is to spend his days drumming. He believes that if he doesn’t succeed as a drummer now, he’ll never have another opportunity.
At the age of 18, he feels that his life is already over.
Society places a great deal of significance on the culmination of high school and reaching the age of 18, as if failing to have everything figured out by then spells doom.
Our culture places an immense emphasis on youth. We witness high school basketball players making the leap to the pros, individuals barely in their twenties winning Oscars, and, indeed, it’s easy to feel washed up by the age of 19.
During my high school days, I pursued singing (and I still do, I suppose). I had a deep passion for singing, and much like Nick, I spent most of my time singing in the basement, with my Indigo Girls and Tori Amos CDs as my companions. When I was in the basement, I felt like a star.
The TV remote became my makeshift microphone, and with the imagined support of Ani DiFranco’s band, I believed I was a legend.
However, I eventually had to step out of my comfort zone and start auditioning for choirs, musicals, and, later on, colleges. The rejections started piling up, and I found them hard to handle.
Consequently, I began to distance myself from singing because I felt inadequate, although in reality, I simply hadn’t put in the necessary effort.
I expected to walk into a room, and everyone assessing me would welcome me with open arms, saying, “Thank goodness you’re here. You are the one we’ve been waiting for.”
In the context of “Freaks and Geeks” episode 6, which deals with post-audition disappointment, I can relate.
Now, as a writer and someone who has gained more life experience (or should I say, has grown older), I’ve come to accept rejection as an integral part of the creative process.
It’s never enjoyable, but I no longer view it as a personal attack on my abilities or my identity.
But let’s shift the focus away from me for a moment. Who was I discussing again? Oh, right, Nick.
He takes a leap by auditioning for Detroit’s top band, and although he doesn’t completely flop, he falls short of meeting their standards.
He’s young and in need of more experience, but Nick interprets the rejection as a sign that his dream will never materialize.
Consequently, he decides to give up, and Lindsay, in an attempt to comfort him, decides to share a kiss.
Have you ever abandoned any aspirations following a disheartening rejection in high school?
Kriti: I’ve never been particularly bold when it comes to performing in front of an audience.
My singing skills are far from impressive, and although I had a deep passion for drama, I found greater contentment in being part of the chorus with a limited number of lines.
Academically, I excelled in writing about plays, art, and music, but I shied away from putting myself out there in terms of live performances.
The experience of facing rejection, like Nick did (and your own encounters), isn’t something I went through because I lacked the self-assurance to do so.
It might sound somewhat disheartening now that I’ve put it into words, but I was perfectly content being the supportive friend, offering cheers or a comforting hug afterward – no kissing from me, though.
Once more, Lindsay attempts to do what she believes is best, but unfortunately, it doesn’t unfold as planned.
Instead, she ends up being called “Yoko” and inadvertently leads to a temporary breakup of the band. Lindsay’s efforts to lift Nick’s spirits by kissing him may have had unintended consequences, as he’s now quite enamored with her.
At this juncture, it’s unclear whether she reciprocates these feelings or if she simply kissed him to help him move past the rejection.
The gesture was spontaneous and sweet, but it’s challenging to discern her true sentiments about Nick in this context – whether it’s genuine interest or an attempt to provide comfort.
Confidence takes center stage in both of the main storylines, shedding light on one of the Freaks. We’ve previously delved into Kim’s story, followed by Daniel’s, and now Nick’s.
All of these narratives have highlighted how Lindsay is navigating her relationships with these new friends and have emphasized the stark differences between her and the Freaks.
Lindsay has made efforts to address their respective issues, from Kim’s family and love life to Daniel’s academic struggles and Nick’s ambitious dreams, but she has fallen short on every occasion.
While she hasn’t unearthed miraculous solutions to her friends’ problems, this has allowed us to gain deeper insights into the lives of the Freaks and demonstrated that Lindsay doesn’t need to be flawless for this group to appreciate her.
In fact, it might be more endearing if she displays some imperfections.
I can’t recall which episode is up next, but I hope it will involve Ken (it was delightful to see him getting some screen time as the disgruntled lead singer).
Daniel and the other Freaks are pure cynics, whereas Lindsay maintains a wide-eyed and optimistic perspective. I believe that the Freaks can learn from Lindsay that achieving one’s desires is possible.
While Lindsay’s viewpoint may come across as naive, she does experience moments, like her fits of hysterical laughter, where she realizes that things don’t always go perfectly.
It’s all part of the process of growing up, as you previously mentioned, and Lindsay is learning this through her newfound friendships. It’s not just about dealing with rejection but also about having fun with your friends.
That’s precisely the purpose of this band for Daniel and Ken – they simply want to have a good time, pretending to be rock stars. I don’t see anything wrong with this approach.
You mentioned that feeling washed up by the age of 19 is quite common, and indeed, it is. So, it should be about having fun, especially at this age (as long as you wrap up the playtime by 5).
Three quick observations regarding this story: 1) The inclusion of Rush brought to mind Jason Segel’s “I Love You, Man“; 2) The fact that Nick’s dad is portrayed by the same actor who played John Locke’s conman dad in “Lost” instantly earned my disapproval; 3) It’s worth noting that Paul Feig, the creator of “Freaks and Geeks,” makes an appearance as the Dimension guitarist during Nick’s audition.
As for whether Lindsay regrets kissing Nick, that’s a valid question.
Confidence, or the lack thereof, is a universal issue that can affect individuals at any age. I believe this episode adeptly addresses instances of diminished confidence.
I have numerous thoughts regarding the Geeks’ storyline, but I’ll save them for our next discussion.
Muskan: I find it intriguing how Lindsay appears to be a smart and savvy young woman, but she consistently struggles with social situations. She seems unable to fit in with the Freaks, and she doesn’t fully comprehend their lack of ambition.
When she recognizes that Nick actually possesses some ambition, she’s eager to help him nurture it, but his friends show no support.
Like girls who just want to have fun, they are more focused on having a good time.
This resonates with me as well because I was often the one with a serious disposition, longing to sing and genuinely perform the plays I wrote, but none of my friends shared the same interest.
I completely agree that there’s nothing wrong with the Freaks simply fooling around and forming a band.
After all, they’re just kids, and that’s what they’re meant to do. However, the situation is different for Nick. He’s on the brink of being compelled to join the Army (again, how?), and his life is about to take on significant responsibilities.
Whether he wants to or not, he’s going to have to grow up quickly. For Daniel, Kim, and Ken, it’s all still just fun and games.
We’ll see if any of them go through a similar eye-opening experience as Nick does in this episode.
It’s a bit unfortunate for the actor who played John Locke’s dad; he does seem to consistently portray less likable characters. It reminds me of the actor Zeljko Ivanek, who was often typecast as a creep.
Some actors indeed find themselves in such recurring roles.
I share your view that Lindsay likely regrets kissing Nick. She acted without giving it much thought, and now she’s dealing with the consequences of him having stronger feelings for her than she does for him.
It’s a challenging position to be in and can jeopardize friendships.
As for the Geeks and gym class, it’s an area where many of us have had our own experiences that hit close to home.
The struggles and insecurities faced during gym class, and the challenges of finding our place within the dynamics of high school, are relatable to many.
It’s a topic that can evoke a lot of memories and emotions.
Kriti: Let me share my own tales of gym class horror, which weren’t tied to a specific incident but revolved around the persistent anxiety that gym class and the changing room experience evoked in me.
Sam’s story particularly struck a chord with me, as I’ve never been the athletic type (my coordination skills are lacking).
Consequently, gym class ranked as my least favorite part of school, with the exception of summer sports like tennis and rounders, which I found more bearable.
Navigating the changing rooms was a daunting task for me as a teenager, given the common body confidence issues that plagued my peers and me.
As a result, I became quite skilled at changing discreetly, revealing as little skin as possible. The most dreaded aspect, similar to Sam’s experience, was the communal showers, which our gym teacher, much like Biff in the episode, insisted we use.
I, too, resorted to the “wetting your hair” strategy, which seemed to offer a level of privacy.
It’s intriguing how a TV show can rekindle feelings you thought were long buried, and this episode managed to do just that.
Our gym teacher even went so far as to critique a girl in my class, referencing her as having “puppy fat” (I know), so it’s no surprise that this environment fostered a sense of fear and anxiety.
What I found particularly captivating, drawing from my own somewhat painful recollections, is that the issue of confidence wasn’t sudden for Sam. It’s something that had been building up over time, starting with the incident in “Kim Kelly is My Friend” that ignited
Sam’s aspiration to bulk up, and extending to his concerns about his body and sexuality.
Sam is well aware that he’s smaller than his peers for his age, and gym class stands out as the school subject that fully exposes your body type, both in the changing room and during the various sports activities (and truth be told, the purpose of rope climbing still escapes me, except for the potential for causing rope burns, as I vividly remember someone suffering from it, and it wasn’t a pretty sight).
It’s a common observation that teen shows often focus on body issues with female characters, so it’s refreshing to see “Freaks and Geeks” doing what it does best—challenging the norms.
In reality, both boys and girls face their own set of challenges during their teen years when it comes to the pace of their physical development, and the tendency to compare oneself to others is a universal experience.
However, the idea of making teenagers shower together is, as you rightly point out, not a great one (just consider the movie “Carrie” for further evidence).
Sam’s story takes a different trajectory from Lindsay’s; she sets out with good intentions but ends up making a mess of things, whereas Sam believes he’ll become the subject of ridicule at school after his streaking incident (a performance that indeed required bravery from John Francis Daly, even with the use of a blue dot to preserve his modesty – although I suspect he was partially covered).
Surprisingly, Sam ends up being hailed as a hero, much to Alan’s dismay.
One standout moment is when Lindsay is compelled to compliment her brother on his appearance, which is already mortifying.
Lindsay takes it a step further by humorously referring to Sam’s body as a “slab of beef” and playfully adding, “if I wasn’t your sister.”
It’s quite comical, and despite their mother’s best intentions, Lindsay isn’t the one Sam wants to hear such comments from.
It seems like I’ve written a mini-essay myself; I certainly have a lot to say about this. As for painful gym memories, I think most people can relate to those awkward and anxiety-filled experiences during gym class.
Regarding the bleep/beep test, it’s not something I had in my school’s gym class, but I’m aware that it’s a common fitness test used in various educational settings. Did you have it as part of your gym class?
Muskan: Your gym class experiences indeed sound like a typical high school ordeal, and it’s unfortunate that many people don’t look back on those times with fondness.
The teacher’s behavior, as you mentioned, poking a student and making a remark about “puppy fat,” was certainly unkind.
It’s baffling that an educator would engage in such behavior.
You’re fortunate not to have experienced the horrors of high school gym class. The fact that your music classes counted as physical education is quite interesting, and I can understand why you wouldn’t want to complain about it.
It’s also intriguing to hear about your experiences in an all-girls’ school during freshman year gym class. It seems like it was a different dynamic, with less emphasis on certain expectations, like showering or shaving legs.
It’s refreshing to hear that you had fun and participated in activities like archery, roller skating, and square dancing. It does contrast sharply with the traumatic experiences Sam faced.
As you’ve pointed out, “Freaks and Geeks” excels in highlighting the insecurities of both genders, and it’s a testament to the show’s depth in portraying the multifaceted aspects of adolescence.
Sam is insecure about his body, Lindsay about fitting in with her friends, and it’s a reminder that everyone has their own struggles, except for characters like Neal and Bill, who, in their own unique ways, seem to navigate their adolescent years with a certain level of confidence and obliviousness to their insecurities.
And yes, the mystery of the rope climbing exercise remains, especially when it comes to its real-world applications, or rather, the lack thereof.
It seems like an activity from a bygone era, and your perspective on its utility is quite valid.