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Revenge of the Freaks and Geeks

Have you ever noticed that the advertising for Judd Apatow productions almost always refer to the producer as a "Guy"? Superbad is "from the guys who brought you The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up." Walk Hard is "from the guy who brought you Knocked Up and Superbad." The Pineapple Express is "from the guys who brought you Superbad." Only Knocked Up dignifies Apatow with the formality of being "the director of The 40-Year-Old Virgin." Well hello Mr. Fancypants. Didn't you know that audiences don't relate to directors? They only relate to guys. You could be the guy who directed it, the dude who directed it, some joker who directed it, but "the director of" is just too removed from our way of life. Get off your high horse, Apatow. Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which recently opened in theaters, is "from the guys who brought you The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up." This one stars Jason Segel who follows the Seth Rogen path from supporting player to leading man and screenwriter. Segel had a memorable supporting role in Knocked Up and is known for his role on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother. But like Rogen his original Apatow-connection comes from the short-lived, strongly-remembered 1999 series Freaks and Geeks. These are the guys who starred in Freaks and Geeks. Beloved by critics, neglected by NBC and ignored by mass audiences, Freaks and Geeks is one of those shows that just never caught on until it came out on DVD. Its humor of awkwardness and sincere sweetness plays as well now as it did then. It captures an authentic teenage experience through little observations and insights that can only come from someone's life and not from watching other TV shows. Best of all its collection of hilarious characters were played by fresh young faces that Apatow and his crew (including director Jake Kasdan, now the guy who brought you Walk Hard) taught to give honest, non-Hollywood performances and find their own comic voice. Let's go down the list of Freaks and Geeks alumni and see how many of them have gone on to success: Linda Cardellini (Lindsay) After cashing in by playing Velma in the Scooby Doo movies she got a role on ER, which she's been on for 6 seasons now. She also had a part in Brokeback Mountain. John Francis Daley (Sam) After appearances on everything from Boston Public to Bones to The Geena Davis Show Daley is going the writer route. He sold his screenplay The $40,000 Man and Terry Zwigoff (Bad Santa) signed on to direct. James Franco (Daniel) If you just know Franco from his James-Dean-brooding in the Spider-man trilogy you can't imagine how funny and charismatic he was on Freaks and Geeks. Thankfully Apatow and director/guy David Gordon Green gave him a lead-stoner role in this August's highly anticipated action comedy The Pineapple Express. Samm Levine (Neil) Poor Neil is one of the few who hasn't been able to cash in yet. He's kept working though, with appearances on Veronica Mars, Entourage and playing "Spanky" in the movie Sydney White. Martin Starr (Bill) The biggest geek on Freaks and Geeks has gone on to become a supporting member of the Apatow troupe, showing up on Undeclared and in Knocked Up, Superbad and Walk Hard. He gets a lot of work but as the funniest character on Freaks and Geeks it's disappointing that he hasn't yet been given the spotlight the way Rogen and Segel have. Sarah Hagan (Millie) Lindsay's nerdy childhood friend played a slayer in the last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Busy Phillips (Kim) Starred in the last few seasons of Dawson's Creek and now on ER. Seth Rogen (Ken) After polishing his chops writing for Undeclared and Da Ali G Show Rogen saw his screenplays for Superbad, Drillbit Taylor and The Pineapple Express hit the big screen. He's also developing The Green Hornet as a potential vehicle for himself. And in case creative fulfillment simply isn't enough to keep him happy he also got paid to do voicework in pretty much every crappy computer animated movie that will be released in the next thirty-five years and stars in Kevin Smith's next comedy. Ben Foster (Eli) You might not even remember him on the show, but the most meteoric Freak or Geek rise may be Foster. He went from playing the retarded kid in 2 episodes to featured roles in The Punisher, Hostage, Alpha Dog, X-Men 3, 3:10 To Yuma and 30 Days of Night. Clearly the Freaks have made out better than the Geeks, with Franco taking on the high profile roles and both Rogen and Segel able to express themselves as actors and writers. Still, the collection of talent and success all the way across that cast is remarkable. They recognized the raw talent of all these young actors who were outside of the Hollywood child actor mold and mostly had little or no experience on camera. And in some cases they taught them to be not only actors but storytellers. Freaks and Geeks is a fountain of talent, an invaluable time capsule of the beginning of numerous careers, and an all-around great show. But it's not a coincidence. They knew what they were doing. That's just the kind of Guys they are.