Lately, my thing has been to wake up at 3 a.m., almost exactly on the dot, and then not be able to get back to sleep. So, I try to slip out of bed without disturbing Andy and sneak down to our basement where we have a horribly uncomfortable futon couch, our TV, and my favorite possession — the entire season of Freaks and Geeks on DVD. Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I read, which is wonderful. I get a lot of reading done between 3 and 5:30 or so. But, other times, I watch Freaks and Greeks.
I’m working my way through the series again and now have only four episodes left. The one I watched most recently — Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers — has an amazing scene in it that just kills me dead. I think I’ve mentioned it here once before, in response to Lori saying that she and Joe were watching Freaks and Geeks, but I have to say it again — it’s the best scene on television EVER. This time, when I watched it, I began crying the second it started. The scene is a perfect combination of visuals and music and it breaks my heart.
Here’s a summary of the scene from “What’s Alan Watching?”
After a humiliating gym class basketball game — which has more to do with Bill’s lack of grace and skill than anything Fredricks does — Bill comes home to his latchkey kid routine: grilled cheese on the pan, a hunk of chocolate cake, a tall glass of milk and his best friend, the TV set. On the basketball court, Bill’s miserable; watching Garry Shandling tell jokes on “The Dinah Shore Show,” he’s in bliss. Martin Starr’s laughter is so genuine that it’s a wonder to see, but he had help, as Judd Apatow and co-writer Bob Nickman were telling him dirty jokes off-camera until they got the right response. The sequence — scored, as the entire episode is, to a Who song, in this case, “I’m One” — is taken directly from Judd Apatow’s own childhood, and you can tell; even by this show’s amazing standards, it feels personal and intimate.
The details are fantastic — the individually wrapped slices of American cheese (if you ever did surgery on my brother’s stomach, I’m sure that’s what you’d find there, hundreds and hundreds of slices of American cheese, consumed when he was a teenager), the Entemann’s chocolate cake, the Star Wars drinking glass, and the lyrics of that amazing Who song, sung in Pete’s beautiful, pure voice: “Every year is the same, and I feel it again, I’m a loser, no chance to win.”
But, as the scene progresses, Bill begins to laugh and laugh and laugh. His mouth is full of food. He laughs with his whole body. And Pete’s song brings it home: “But I’m one. I am one. And I can see, that this is me, and I will be. You’ll all see I’m the one.” Amen.
I don’t know if the scene works out of context, like if you haven’t watched the whole series up to that point, or even just that episode up to that point. But, take a look and decide for yourself. For me, it’s perfection.