By Bryan Hood | Oral histories have become quite the rage, with seemingly every major magazine and website putting together one over the last year. While not every project deserves the in-depth “this is how this came to be” treatment, some of these histories are really fascinating, especially when they’re for something as beloved as Paul Feig’s sadly, short-lived highschool dramedy “Freaks and Geeks.” The show, which only lasted for 18 episodes (three of which never aired initially), has gone on to attain legendary status, in no small part because it was impossible for anyone who attended American highschool not to relate to the Weirs and their friends. The show actually got high school. It also doesn’t hurt that it helped launch some very successful careers: Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and * cough cough* James Franco, just to name three. With the show’s executive producer Judd Apatow guest-editing the latest issue of Vanity Fair, it was the perfect time for the magazine, who already published one of the year’s best oral histories, to gather up the whole cast and crew to talk about the experience. Just like the series, the resulting anecdotes are often at once funny and sad, and it’s really inspiring to read about everyone’s dedication to the project’s spirit. Fortunately, a lengthy set of quotes is not all that the magazine has put together, as Apatow also got some notes from Feig on where he saw other characters going if the show had continued, and an amazing “class” photograph of nearly everyone from the show in a high school gym.
Here are some of the best bits, but really, do yourself a favor and read the whole thing immediately.
Paul Feig on how quickly the initial success dissapeared:
“The reviews were great, and the premiere had a really high rating. The first Monday back I stood on a table and read the ratings and everybody cheered. And the next week we just dropped huge. And Joe Flaherty was quoted as saying, “Yeah, Paul never came back in and read the ratings to us again after that first week.”
John Francis Dailey (“Sam Weir”) on James Franco doing James Franco stuff:
“Franco went to Michigan for two weeks to get into character, and we were joking that he lived under an overpass for a few nights. He was always the one that had a Camus novel, heavily dog-eared, and his car was so full of junk that it looked like he lived out of it.”
Feig on how hard it was to say goodbye to the characters:
“There was a moment when we got canceled where I was like, Thank God—I can’t do this anymore, then immediately filled with regret: Oh, fuck! I love these characters! And I had so many things I wanted to do in the next season. It really is like losing your family. It’s very bizarre.”
Judd Apatow on why everyone keeps working with one another:
“The show was the kids’ entire life. It was their high school: They’re literally going to school on the set. They’re falling in love on the set. It’s actually happening. And those relationships are still happening; they’re still close.”
Stephen Lea Shepard (geek mage “Harris”) on how he didn’t think the show was as downbeat as some people say:
“I think my actual high-school experience was a bit harsher. But there’s only so much you can show on television.”
Image: “Freaks and Geeks”/Wikipedia