By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
THE TRUE PACE OF ADOLESCENCE -- MOSTLY HALTing, sometimes headlong -- is better re-created in NBC's wonderful Freaks and Geeks, from (nonfeatured) ex-comic Paul Feig and Larry Sanders writer-producer Judd Apatow, and the best reason since the $8 movie ticket to stay home on a Saturday night. A high school period piece set in suburban Michigan around 1980 -- right between That '70s Show and Square Pegs in the fictional high school universe, and not long before the dawn of John Hughes, smack in the fertile crescent of Midwestern teenage comedy -- it features Linda Cardellini as a college-track "mathlete" who, in a fit of Hughesian self-searching milieu-rejection triggered by the death of her grandmother, throws in with a small crowd of class-cutting, authority-ignoring, beer-drinking, soft-drug-abusing, Sabbath-Zeppelin-Floyd-loving "freaks." (We have come to that point in history where we can chuckle over stoned teenagers on network television -- in the family hour, even -- I can only guess because the TV business, like the TV audience, is now full of former stoned teenagers.) All of which, like much else in his own destabilized world, terrifies late-blooming, touchingly protective younger brother John Daley, a titular "geek" and functional straight man to his Hardy-and-Laurel best friends Samm Levine and Martin Starr (in a performance of great mouth-breathing dignity). Cardellini, approachably lovely with her lightly feathered dark hair and father's oversized old Army jacket, is a less operatic version of Claire Danes' Angela Chase, the good girl with the fuck-up friends (James Franco more or less holds down the Jordan Catalono chair here), but no less impressive for the modesty of the performance. This is a comedy, after all, and a gentle one -- set in an era Arcadian next to our own, though not without its heart-wrenching, ego-crushing miseries, lovingly recalled in excruciating detail. Never pedantic, rarely obvious, funny whenever it wants to be, unusually adept with negative space (conversational, perceptual) and as attentive to the edges of the frame as the center, if it's not the best new show of the year, there's at any rate none better. DeGrassi Believability Rating: 9.75.
WHERE THE CENTRAL METAPHOR OF BUFFY THEVampire Slayer is high school as Hell, Roswell, set in the desert burg wherein 1947 modern UFOlogy began, literalizes teenage alienation: Three good-looking space kids with powers far beyond those of mortal men keep their otherworldly roots under wraps and suck down pints of Tabasco while they cope with high school, interspecies romance and a local sheriff who suspects something is Martian in the state of New Mexico. Extraspecial extraterrestrial Jason Behr (formerly of Dawson's Creek) is the sensitive one, with starry eyes for human heavenly body Shiri Appleby, another of this season's broody, brainy brunets, whose life he saves in episode one, setting off a chain of events that will play out as long as people are watching. While it is exactly the show you would have predicted from the collaboration of an X-Files alum (David Nutter) with a vet of My So-Called Life(Jason Katims), it is, in fact, based on a series of young-adult novels by Melinda Metz, and has the merits of that highly romantic genre, with a little bit of TV magic sprinkled on for good measure. Wholly agreeable if, on the DeGrassi Scale, naturally unbelievable.
The WB, 8 p.m.
FREAKS AND GEEKS
Saturdays, NBC, 8 p.m.
The WB, 9 p.m.
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