I never watched Freaks and Geeks when it was on TV. My mom tried to get me to, trying (unsuccessfully) to relay a funny scene involving Bill Haverchuck, but I resisted. So I never watched it and as it was martyred on the pyre of “TV Too Good To Live,” I continued to refuse to jump on the bandwagon.

Years later, I was reading an interview on The Onion’s AV Club with Linda Cardellini, and she talked about a specific scene from the finale, where she gets on a bus, and what she wanted that moment to be. I was intrigued by what she said, and decided to give in and get the DVD box set.

I’m so happy that I did.

What’s strange about the cult popularity of Freaks and Geeks to me is that it’s not really as cult-y as you’d think–you don’t need to catch up on complicated relationships or plot events. Each episode, while sometimes specifically connected to the others (but more often not) is pretty self-contained.

Some thoughts: 

I was surprised by how unlikable Lindsay, the main character is–and this is not a bad thing. Standard TV and movie writing seems to be hinged on having a likable main character, but, like most of us during our teenage years, Lindsay is by turns cruel, confused and deceptive. She has moments of great compassion and heart but also makes decisions that will sabotage her future without listening to advice to the contrary. Incredibly smart, she hides her potential and turns towards her friends instead of her family and her future. Basically, she’s an extremely realistic depiction of what most of us were (and are) like, and I still think about her today and wonder where she’d be.

Busy Phillips as Kim Kelly. Wow. I’d say she’s the best thing about the whole series: her hair, her facial expressions, her voice and especially her blue puffy coat (how many dissertations could be written about that coat, how it singlehandedly evokes the 1980s; I hope she still has it). More than any other character, she seems the most like a real person. We see glimpses of her humanity through her tough facade, but never enough to feel fake.

It was cool, too, how a significant plot thread throughout the first (and only) season is the developing relationship between Lindsay and Kim, from their initial hatred (Kim pegs Lindsay as a poser, saying that while she likes to play dress-up with the freaks, Kim “shoplifts from [Lindsay’s] dad’s store”) to the final episode, where Lindsay makes a sacrifice to help Kim escape her dead-end life.

The last image in the series is Lindsay getting off a bus that’s she’s supposed to take to an academic summit for gifted students (that she’s told her family and “straight” friends she’s going to), and getting off where some of her Grateful Dead-loving classmates are waiting. They’re going to follow the Dead around the country for the summer, and as Lindsay walks up to them, we see Kim joyfully welcome her–they climb into the van together.

At the beginning of the series, it looked as if it were going to be about Lindsay’s unrequited crush on James Franco (Kim’s boyfriend), but that element was quickly dropped and at the end, how refreshing and cool is it that the biggest love story is about the friendship of a middle class, ultrasmart girl and her poorer, tougher female friend?

More to come…