There are a handful of TV shows that were pretty critically hailed during their time on air, but didn’t get the love they maybe deserved and were thus cancelled after a season or so. These are the kinds of shows that get a massive cult following and become the ones people get mad at you for having not seen. Firefly is one of these shows, but a sci-fi series is easy to bring new life to by way of comics and spinoff material. Undoubtedly, one of the best shows ever that would today, if it were on cable, run strong for a decade or more, is Freaks and Geeks: the bittersweet coming-of-age comedy from creator Paul Feig and executive producer Judd Apatow. This show only produced 18 episodes, but it’s been lauded and beloved for 16 years since its unceremonious axing.
The love for Freaks and Geeks has continued through the years, largely due to its being reissued on DVD every few years (first in 2004 and then again in 2008). Now, Shout! Factory is issuing it once again, this time in an all new HD transfer, which is like seeing it completely fresh and new. (More on that in a bit.) If you haven’t seen the show—what’s the matter with you?—or just haven’t seen it in awhile, this Blu-ray set is like seeing something that feels way more like a series of 18 indie films than anything that was on network television in the late-’90s.
For a quick refresher, Freaks and Geeks is set in 1980 at a high school in a Detroit suburb. The two siblings of the Weir family (Linda Cardellini‘s Lindsay and John Francis Daley‘s Sam) are trying to survive the foibles of teenagerdom as part of the titular groups. Freaks being cool burn-outs and Geeks being, well, geeks, who get beat up and ridiculed a lot. The series, in keeping with a lot of Feig and Apatow’s later work, was set up to hit specific beats you’d see in shows and movies of this type, but with a darker edge that usually resulted in crushing losses and painfully embarrassing situations that the audience can completely relate to. She show is also, of course, famous for launching the careers of not only its creators, but actors James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and Martin Starr.
This Blu-ray set collects all of the extras from the previous two DVD releases, including 28 commentaries, hours of behind-the-scenes and deleted footage, the 2000 Paley Center panel, and all sorts of montages. The new feature is a 45-minute conversation between Apatow and Feig conducted by Los Angeles Times critic Robert Lloyd. It’s a really wonderful conversation, especially considering the success the two men have had since Freaks and Geeks was taken off the air.
The big, big, BIG reason to pick this set up has nothing to do with the extras, but the presentation itself. Because of how television was usually made, it’s hard to get true HD versions. In the case of Freaks and Geeks, the show was shot on 35mm film but then transferred to tape for editing and broadcast. You can up-res video, but it never looks as good. So what the Shout! Factory team and a company called Illuminate Hollywood did was to go back into the original film masters and transfer THOSE to HD using a brand new 4K scan. And then, and this is really insane, they basically painstakingly recreated every edit using a program called iConform, which matches existing footage to new footage, creating a true 35mm 4K version of these 18 episodes.
And if that weren’t enough (and it totally is), it was discovered by Feig and Illuminate that the film, which was cropped to the traditional TV aspect ratio of 4×3, was shot at a 1.78:1 widescreen ratio. And so, presented here for the very first time, is both the TV version and the widescreen version of the same show. This isn’t turning a 4×3 frame into a widescreen; this is what the camera shot and is now just not cut to fit older TVs. You’re welcome.
If you love this show like we here at Nerdist do, it’s a revelation to see it looking as good as any feature film. So now you can watch it how you remember it, still looking better than you’ve ever seen it, or as thought it were a brand new show. It’s pretty amazing.
Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series Blu-ray is available from Shout! Factory beginning Tuesday, March 22.
Images: DreamWorks/Shout! Factory
Kyle Anderson is the Weekend Editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. Follow him on Twitter!