|This is the bible I wrote for "Freaks and Geeks" before "Freaks and Geeks" was "Freaks and Geeks." Confusing? You bet! A series bible is what every respectable TV show creator writes up for his series, so that the writers you hire can get inside your head without you having to tell them everything. There are no rules for series bibles. In fact, when I decided to write one I tried to get bibles from other shows and nobody could find any to give me. So, I just put in anything and everything I thought of that could help all of us on the writing staff, as well as the production staff, make the series everything I wanted it to be at the time. As you look through the bible, you'll notice that lots of stuff changed, which means that we had such great people working on the show that many times they had better ideas about stuff than I did. And that's the way it's supposed to work. A TV show or a movie is a collaboration between many talented people who have their own areas of expertise. So, wade into the "Freaks and Geeks" bible if you dare and see our series' humble beginnings.|
"FREAKS AND GEEKS"
The Series Bible
"Party of Five."
"Beverly Hills 90210."
Did any of us really know people like that in high school?
Did any of us ever look like that in high school?
Did any of us ever have those problems in high school?
For most of us, high school was about trying to get through each day without getting beaten up or humiliated. It was about constantly being faced with evidence that contradicted the way our parents and churches told us the world was supposed to work. Life wasn't fair. People weren't that nice. Things didn't always work out for the best. And, unlike the kids on TV, we rarely if ever confided in our parents or came to them for help. We never even really bothered to confront them if we were mad at something they'd done. We just tried to get through life as best we could, usually in the face of overwhelming adult, parent and peer pressure.
This isn't a show so much about what teenagers do but about the way they think, perceive and deal with the world around them. It's about confronting the first real obstacles that life throws at you outside the safety of your home and parents. It's about the gradual loss of innocence. For some teenagers, this entails a fight to keep that innocence at all costs and for others, it's about the desperation to get rid of that innocence as quickly and as harshly as possible.
A lot of high school shows deal mainly with dating and the drama that surrounds that. But my experience was that even though dating was something you thought about back then, it was something you rarely had the nerve to do because it entailed actually having to interact with and expose part of your psyche to the opposite sex. And who had the time or nerve to do that? High school was really much simpler than that when you got right down to it.
High school was about survival. And it still is.
It's about avoiding getting beaten up or humiliated or in trouble or even drawing attention to yourself if you can help it. Because for most of us, attention only brought persecution.
In its simplest form, high school broke down to:
a) who you liked,
b) who you didn't like,
c) who you were attracted to (strictly on a physical level) and
d) who you were afraid of.
It was about what group you became part of -- because no high school student doesn't belong to one group or another (because even if you weren't in a group, you were in a group that was comprised of other people who decided to not be part of a group -- ergo, you were in a group). And the interaction within the groups and the interaction between groups was and continues to be the politics of high school and adolescence.
For most kids, high school represents one thing -- something they're simply trying to get through. Unfortunately, there's no TV show that tells kids that what they're going through day to day, all the little obstacles and aggression that seem so terrible and epic at the moment they're happening, are just the way it's always been and always will be when you stick a group of young to mid-teens together in a large cinderblock building and hope that they'll socialize.
That is, there wasn't a show like that until now ...
"Freaks and Geeks" is a weekly one hour comedy/drama about high school that follows the parallel stories of a brother and sister -- Sam and Lindsay Weir. Each belongs to a different group in the high school caste system -- the two groups that seem to dwell farthest outside of the rest of the school:
The "freaks" and the "geeks."
SAM & LINDSAY WEIR
Sam Weir is 13 and what we currently refer to as a "geek." He's not a nerd in the classical Hollywood sense -- he doesn't wear glasses with tape in the middle or snort when he laughs. He's not even into computer programming. He's just part of the group in school that didn't really fall into any category.
He and his friends are all a little backwards and immature. They're obsessed with things like Monty Python, Warner Brothers cartoons and Star Wars. They work on the school plays and in the Audio/Visual room.
They think about girls from time to time, but only as mysterious and sometimes scary creatures. The thought of sex overwhelms them -- the concept of being exposed both physically and emotionally in front of a female other than their mothers is far too terrifying to even consider. Imagining themselves on a date that ends with a kiss on the lips is about the most that they can handle without having their minds blown.
They're also the group that's the most susceptible to the school bullies, mainly because they're a group of guys who quite simply won't fight back. So, every bully and wannabe tough guy cuts his teeth on these gentle beings with no fear of reprisal.
The geeks are the group that will probably end up doing the best in the real world but for now, every day is filled with the danger of persecution and humiliation.
Sam is a little different from his friends in that he's a hopeless romantic, albeit a 13 year old version of the term "hopeless romantic." His life is filled with crushes on basically unattainable girls. Usually falling for the most beautiful, popular girls in the school, he also develops crushes on the smart, active girls (like the ones who are always head of student council or student government).
But his idea of romance has been shaped by old movies and his religious upbringing. He doesn't long to have sex. Like his fellow geeks, the thought of it fills him with fear. Just having to change clothes in the locker room in front of other guys is the ultimate traumatic experience for Sam, so the thought of stripping down and being intimate with a girl is more than Sam's young mind can even process.
But the thought of holding hands, of kissing (close mouthed, of course -- he's a quite germ conscious too), of walking her down the hall to her class or getting to kiss her, of dancing with her and having her look into his eyes and profess her love for him -- that to Sam is the ultimate goal. However, it's one that's probably better left unfulfilled. Sam has too much fun with his male friends and enjoys his life as a kid. An actual relationship is just too scary and filled with responsibility.
Still, he'd be happy to straddle the two worlds from time to time ...
Sam's ultimate goal in his high school life is basically to get through it as painlessly as possible. If he could have fun and get to participate in the things he loves -- drama club, A/V, watching and listening to comedy, having his crushes and maybe getting a girlfriend -- he'd be more than happy. Unfortunately, high school isn't about smooth sailing.
He's tormented by bullies constantly, he's judged by other students outside of his group to be "weird" and "immature," he's told by his teachers that he has to "grow up and be a man," and he has a hard time coping with any and all aspects of adult life.
Responsibility is his worst nightmare. He wants to do everything but doesn't want to be in charge of anything. He wants the glory but doesn't want to put in the time. He's afraid of being in charge because being in charge means the possibility of people getting mad at you or yelling at you or you having to yell at them. This is what Sam doesn't want to do.
He simply wants everybody to like him, and in high school this just isn't possible. But he's constantly trying.
Lindsay Weir is a modern day, female Holden Caulfield.
She's 16 and has just gone through a major change in her life. She had always been a devoted student. She was easily on her way to being class valedictorian. She was a model girl, believing in God, believing in her future and believing that the world was a fair place.
Then her grandmother died -- a vibrant woman who loved life more than anything. It challenged Lindsay's belief in God and it made her think that maybe there is no point to everything. It sent her into a personal crisis, far deeper than the normal teenage, Sylvia Plath-reading malaise. It really rocked everything she ever believed in and set her on a course of questioning everything she encounters.
The problem is, deep down she longs to be the person she once was. But she knows that to go back to would be to step backwards, to deny the answers to the questions she's already uncovered. It would mean she was going back to blind faith, something she is no longer able to do. She feels a profound loss of innocence and this makes her questioning of the world all the more bitter.
During the summer, no longer able to relate to her goal-oriented, "smart" friends, she fell in with a group of burn-outs -- the "freaks." These were all kids who were also having a hard time accepting the world on the terms that school and society were telling them to. They weren't as profound as Lindsay, but since they were questioning things regardless, she found them to be her soulmates for the moment.
She knows (or maybe she doesn't know, but we do) that they'll all eventually grow apart, that their quests for answers will end much easier than hers, because they are ultimately not as driven as she is. When they find an answer or situation that approximates what they've been looking for, they'll settle in and get on with their lives. Or else they'll self-destruct.
But Lindsay is in it for the long haul, and it's the knowledge that she's been forced by the world and herself to start her quest for the truth earlier and more intensely than most of the population ever will (if they do at all -- most of them won't and will probably be much happier with their lives -- but ultimately not as enlightened) that makes her search all the more consuming.
Is it good or bad to be like Lindsay? We don't know, but the person who knows least of all is Lindsay herself.
Lindsay is always looking for something meaningful to get involved in. Any kind of humanistic endeavor is her favorite thing, although she is still a 16 year old girl and is susceptible to teenage judgments and fears. This keeps her in a state of fluctuation and anger at herself when
ingrained, teenage girl responses rise up in her decision making processes.
She likes her freak friends but feels let down by them whenever they do something that reveals they're not as serious as she is about most things. They love to rebel against what she rebels against, but many times they enjoy it just because for them it's rebelling for the sake of rebellion, a means of upsetting the teachers and authority figures for whom they have a deep seated mistrust and disrespect.
Lindsay wants to change the world. Her friends want to upset it. And so, she ultimately has no one she can truly turn to ... especially with her grandmother gone.
THE WEIR FAMILY
The people Lindsay and Sam are most likely not to turn to for help are their parents, Harold and Jean Weir. Harold is in his early-50's. He and Jean, mid-40's, both married later in life and started their little family.
Harold is just that much older than his kids so that he'll never really get them. He's not really into music (he was into it as a kid but that was more about big band music and then early 50's rock until it got too "wild" -- he's one of those dads who only has an AM radio in the car which has never been tuned to a music station -- he's a news and talk radio guy). All he knows about rock and roll is what he reads in the Wall Street Journal. He's up on how rock stars are all into drugs and that rock music is ruining the youth of America and he from time to time he finds articles in various church publications and other conservative newspapers that try to analyze rock and pass them on to Sam and Lindsay (usually those articles that begin with sentences like "As the drummer pounds out a sex-simulating beat, the drug-crazed audience is overcome with a loss of self-control ...").
The world of fashion and peer pressure alludes him. He sees the world as a businessman and so has no real sympathy for the gray areas of life. In his store, if something's selling, you order more of it. If it's not, you get rid of it. If an employee's not doing good work, you fire them. If somebody's having trouble at home, they should leave their problems at the doorstep of the store. If it's cold out, you wear the warmest jacket you can find, regardless of how weird it looks. If it's raining, you pull on black buckle-up rubbers and go. If people make fun of them, that's their problem.
In other words, he's the last guy you go to if you're a teenager who has a problem with the people at school. The trouble is, Harold really wants to help and thinks he has good advice (and in actuality, his advice is all good ... if you're a guy in your 50's -- as far as being good advice for a teenager, well, generally it couldn't be worse).
Harold is basically married to his sporting goods store. He loves his family and tries to be a good husband and father but he works long hours and is never really home. He usually tries to be home for dinner every night but usually goes back to the store to catch up on paperwork or else works in his den at home. But he loves his family and is very concerned and feels a little bit guilty about how Lindsay is turning out, thinking it's his fault for not being around enough. He will always make time for Sam and Lindsay if he can and likes to feel that makes an effort to be there for them.
The best solution he's come up with to keep Sam and Lindsay on the straight and narrow is to make them work at his store after school. The problem is, Lindsay seldom shows up and Sam is usually too busy with his friends or the drama club to come in. But at least Harold feels like he's trying. He also tries to keep his kids in line with "scared straight" horror stories about ex-friends of his that died doing whatever it is he's afraid his kids are getting into. Harold thinks this to be a very effective method for controlling his kids, fairly unaware that they simply laugh about his stories behind his back (it's this goofy way of handling problems that almost makes Sam and Lindsay want to do whatever it is he's trying to scare them away from).
Harold has a very cynical view of the world sometimes, nurtured by the fact that he has to deal with a lot of the dregs of society in his sporting goods store -- bikers, hunters, rednecks, crazy army vets, survivalists. His business motto is "The Customer is King" but deep in his heart he doesn't really believe that. He has to deal with everything from white trash guys trying to return worn out work boots they've obviously worn for years, claiming that the boots are defective, to whacked out Vietnam vets who come in looking for old army C-rations because it's the only thing they can eat. Harold also takes a lot of heat from his customers because he doesn't sell guns. He sells everything else a hunter would need -- camouflage clothes, bows and arrows, ammo, knives -- but he refuses to sell guns. Part of the reason is because the paperwork for selling guns is overwhelming but more than that, Harold simply hates guns. He's not comfortable around them, he didn't like using them in the army and he just doesn't want to be responsible for his customers who would buy guns. Lindsay admires this about her dad, even though she sometimes thinks it's a little hypocritical that he sells everything else for hunting. The one kind of guns that Harold does sell are BB guns, which Sam is forever trying to convince his dad to let him buy. However, Harold refuses to let Sam have one.
Jean spends most of her time these days either going to the mall or working at Harold's store in the back office, balancing the books and doing whatever accounting she can. She loves being part of Harold's business and feels that she's finally got the professional life in retail that she always secretly dreamed of.
One thing the Weirs are not is an emotional family. Harold and Jean aren't demonstrative of their love for each other in front of the kids (in fact, Sam and Lindsay can't recall ever seeing their parents kiss in front of them). Jean would like to be more affectionate with her kids but Sam and Lindsay put the kibosh on any hugging and kissing from their parents as soon as they became teenagers. This saddens Jean and yet she's probably just as comfortable without all the excess emotion around the house.
Jean was brought up quite religiously and was a cold fish for a long time in her dating days with Harold. Even after they were married, Jean was not quite the girl Harold had hoped for. Bottom line, she's a bit of a prude. But Harold loves her just the same.
Jean is an eternal optimist and longs for a world where everything runs smoothly and no one is ever angry or doubtful. She deals with Lindsay's defection to the freak side in the only way she knows how -- by not handling it. She convinces herself that Lindsay's just going through a phase, and if Lindsay says that she's not smoking cigarettes and pot, then Lindsay can only be telling the truth because both Jean herself and Sunday school taught Lindsay it's a sin to lie. Deep in her heart, Jean knows that Lindsay probably is having problems but Jean would rather just pretend they don't exist and know that God will sort everything out. She also knows that if she can just get Lindsay to start going to the mall with her again, everything will be fine.
Neal Schweiber - One of Sam's entourage, Neal is strangely self-confident for being a little guy. He's a 50 year old Borscht Belt comedian wrapped in a 14 year old's body. He's obsessed with his hair and will only lash out at another person if somebody messes with his hair. The irony is that his hair's so thick that you really couldn't mess it up with a wind machine and an egg beater. Sam and Bill affectionately refer to Neal as having "gorilla hair." Neal's also obsessed with his clothes and always tries to dress nice. Unfortunately, his definition of nice and the school's definition of being nicely dressed are polar opposites. But his shirt's always tucked in and he's always ready to burst into his William Shatner impersonation at a moment's notice.
Neal is very smart and is usually the top student in his classes, especially science. However, intelligence seems to be in his genes. His father, Franklin, is a dentist and his mom, Julie, is a medical researcher. Franklin has his own very successful dental practice and Julie works for a local drug company doing testing on animals (this will pit her against Lindsay in an episode, in which Lindsay will try to champion the cause of animal rights and basically turn Neal's mother into a pariah to many in the school).
Neal's brother, Kurt, is older than him and is attending the University of Michigan, studying nuclear engineering. Kurt is a very serious guy who Neal has never really had any kind of conversation with that wasn't about science. Kurt's one of those guys from high school who you always saw but never talked to, and who most the people you knew had never talked to. You know, the kind of guy that either becomes Bill Gates or a psycho-killer.
Franklin and Julie are at an odd point in their lives. Basically put, Franklin's bored. Having married his high school sweetheart, Franklin was a virgin and had only been with Julie when they wed. So, it goes without saying that Franklin is about to experience a severe mid-life crisis.
Julie thinks that their lives are about to begin again because in a few years Neal will be heading off to college and then she and Franklin can do everything they said they were going to do for years -- travel and be romantic again. Unfortunately, Franklin has lost his spark for Julie and, now that he considers his life half over and his youth gone, he's in a panic to live the life he gave up before he's too old to do it.
As the series begins, we meet Neal's parents just as the discontent is starting to well up in Franklin. By the end of the first season, after a slow dissolving of their relationship, Franklin and Julie will end up officially separating, throwing Neal into crisis (as well as Julie, who is not at all prepared mentally for the life of a single woman). This will also make Neal one of the few students in his school with divorced parents. Even though other students' parents are having problems, the community is too religious and Midwestern for most people to actually leave their spouses. And so Neal becomes a bit of an anomaly, which only helps to heighten his depression. This in turn makes him become more dependent on Sam and Sam's family to be a surrogate happy home environment. He'll start spending more time at Sam's house and will almost become another son for Harold and Jean.
Neal is connected to Sam through a love of science fiction. He likes comedy also, but only the more intellectual shows like Monty Python. Neal is obsessed with Star Trek and there's constant battles between Sam and Neal over which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek.
Neal considers himself to be much more worldly than his fellow geeks, mainly because his parents have exposed him to every book and movie that deals with more adult themes. He also watches the news all the time and is very up on current events and he never passes up a chance to show the other geeks how smart he is.
Bill and Neal have an interesting love/hate relationship. Since Bill is rather slow, Neal has
adopted him almost as a ward but spends most of his time getting aggravated at how dumb Bill can be. However, Neal likes having Bill around because it just makes him feel all the smarter. Neal also likes having what basically amounts to a groupie. Bill thinks that Neal's the greatest and would follow him anywhere and do anything for him.
All in all, Neal's a good guy. He's a guy who wouldn't necessarily help you out of a jam, but he'd at least give you good advice and then let you vent to him afterwards.
Bill Haverchuck - a mentally slow tall guy, Bill is another of Sam's core entourage and a guy no one can figure out. He's seems like he should be in special ed and there's been times that the school has tried to place him there, but he and his mom refuse to go along with it. So, Bill gets bad grades but he tries as best he can.
Bill is an only child and a TV junkie, spending most of his hours in front of the set. He's a science fiction and comedy fan like the other geeks but, then again, he's a fan of everything. There's constantly arguments going on because Bill thinks that "Silver Spoons" and "Different Strokes" are the two funniest shows on TV.
Bill's also given to excessive daydreaming and is just this side of being a pathological liar. He believes everything that everybody tells him and is constantly passing on bad information. If there's one source for every untrue rumor in the school, it's Bill. He's also one of those guys who you never know if he's serious or not. Lots of what he says can either be taken as him being dumb and not understanding what you're saying or else he's just giving you shit. He does both, so there's no way to even tell (he's constantly getting almost beaten up by both jocks and freaks because of this). Bill's problems in class and in life are due to the fact that he probably has Attention Deficit Disorder but that hasn't really been diagnosed yet and so he's just labeled as slow and unable to concentrate and must remain getting bad grades.
Bill is the product of a single mother. Gloria Haverchuck is the neighborhood's resident hot mom. She is a former biker babe who decided to leave the biker world once she became pregnant with Bill. She's always been a chain smoker and so her smoking during the pregnancy probably did Bill no good. Bill's father, Morris, is still a biker and never comes around to see Bill, except on the rare occasion when he's in the area. But Gloria has really tried to be a good mother. The problem is, well, she's just not that bright.
Right after Bill was born, the only way she could think of to make money was to become a stripper. She did this for several years and saved up enough money to buy the house that she and Bill currently live in. She quit stripping and eventually landed a job as Franklin Schweiber's dental receptionist. She's very good at the job and is constantly trying to improve herself. Alas, she still has a lot of her white trash biker genes clouding her judgment and she's usually in some form or another of bad relationship.
she lives in the same neighborhood as the Weirs, she is
constantly calling Jean to talk and get advice. Jean tries to help her but
can't help shake her head at the way Gloria runs her life. But Gloria's
a sincere woman and you somehow can't help but like her.
All the geeks, as well as many freaks and other boys in the neighborhood, are enamored with Gloria. She's the hot mom who sunbathes in the front yard wearing a very revealing bikini (nobody sunbathes in Michigan), mows the lawn in cut-off shorts and a halter top and has been rumored to do her housework in the nude when Bill's at school. Many a geek fantasy has been fueled by Mrs. Haverchuck and Bill is constantly telling people to stop talking about his mom.
Millie Kentner - the class brain. Millie is the daughter of very conservative parents. Her father, Tom, is on the city council and her mother, Sandy, owns a Christian bookstore. Known for being a staunch Republican, Tom Kentner is a very strict, yet loving father. He and Sandy are the very definition of family values and provide Millie with a happy, yet cloistered life.
Tom and Sandy met in college (a conservative Christian college), where they were both members of several campus organizations and student governments. They both demonstrated against Vietnam protesters during the war, convinced that a fight against the godless Communists was a holy battle that the US should be engaged in. They met and married as virgins and even now treat sex as a necessary evil (at least Sandy does -- Tom's always trying to convince her that husbandly needs are sanctified by the Good Book -- which they are, but still, the bottom line is Sandy's a cold fish).
One of Tom and Sandy's biggest causes is violence, sex, drug and alcohol use on TV (one of Tom's biggest city council crusades is to ban all cigarette and alcohol billboard advertising from their town) and so they heavily monitor Millie's TV viewing and prohibit her from any movies bearing more than a PG rating (and even a PG merits discussion as to what may be in it that keeps it from getting a G).
Millie loves her parents and enjoys her home life, for the most part. There are times when she wishes she had a little more freedom, but that wish is quickly abandoned when she sees how wild and unfocused most of the kids at school are. She's quite susceptible to her father's philosophies of Christian values, Republican values and any other values that hope to keep you from "vice" of any kind. The sad truth is that Millie may very well end up being wild either in college or, more realistically, once she enters the work force as a young woman.