By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Economically the show may have been doomed by the high expectations of network TV, but what sank it creatively was the old “bait and switch,” which seems so prevalent these days. Series/season premieres and crucial episodes for sweeps periods are written and directed by the most capable. Once well-reviewed, the show is handed off to the second string, a pool of hacks ever more diluted by their best being courted by cable and other venues. Look at Roswell, with a pilot brilliantly directed by David Nutter. The show quickly lost its way after that.
Freaks and Geeks was probably at its best when Feig, Apatow and Kasdan were in control, and at its worst when the writing staff was in charge, and the young players encouraged to improvise and share their input. What actor wouldn’t have subconsciously wanted his character to be a little more at ease, a bit more self-aware?
When characters such as the peanut-plying bully and Seth Rogen’s Ken became well-rounded, human and self-aware, the show lost its focus. Let’s face it, the reality of high school is kids walking around putting on “fronts” and being totally clueless about themselves and everyone around them. That was the promise of the brilliant premiere episode. Once the hacks were in charge, the show became just as weak as every other show featuring teenagers and written by thirty somethings. These kids may not have talked like those on Dawson’s Creek, but they are just as self-aware and phony. And unwatchable.
To sustain quality takes a superhuman effort from the truly gifted, as witnessed by the magic David E. Kelly creates in whichever one of his shows has his attention (and heaven help the ones that don’t). It’s too bad the creators of Freaks and Geeks were saving their attention for those last five episodes, which might only be seen by those lucky enough to get into the Museum of Television and Radio showings. I would have liked to be there, if only to see whether I had correctly placed the blame. Is it possible Apatow, Feig and Kasdan dropped the ball? I’d like to know. Ask someone who was there.
Just writing to say how much I appreciated Robert Lloyd’s article on NBC’s ill-fated Freaks and Geeks. As a writer and the wife of an actor, I’m saddened by a harsh and, I think, self-defeating trend in network TV. I was encouraged to read that the show’s creators intend to persevere, and although the numbers crunchers aren’t about to go away, more articles like this might give them pause.
—Anne Kelly-Saxenmeyer Los Angeles
Re: Manohla Dargis’ review of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator [“Saving General Maximus,” May 5–11]. Although I can understand a filmgoer’s distaste for violence in general, Dargis’ wistful longing for easy gunplay versus realistic, consequence-bearing brutality is both cynical and childish — rather like reviewing a love story while openly longing for the porn version to hit the Pussycat Theater.
—Peter DiBiasio Los Angeles
Shakespeare, Racine, Corneille, the major figures of the French and American revolutions, not to mention those of the Renaissance (to name just a few), were able to derive slightly more benefit from ancient Roman civilization than reflected in Manohla Dargis’ expectations of violence, sex and debauchery. The reason there have been so many “crummy” movies about the Romans — from Hollywood, at least — is that its knowledge and vision of that people have been as adolescent as your reviewer’s.
MAKE THAT “TASTELESS JOKES AND/OR BLATANT SEXISM”
I am very disappointed in the Weekly and Luis Reyes. In his review of the play Foursome [New Theater Releases, Calendar section, May 5–11], Reyes refers to the play as reflecting “the kind of tasteless jokes and blatant sexism for which the company has become infamous.” Whatever his opinion of this particular play, I challenge Reyes to find sexism in the majority of the plays done by the Gang in the last two years. Show me the “blatant sexism” in A Fairy Tale, Four Roses, Ugly’s First Word, Cheese, Swan Ride, Hush, Mummified Monkey and Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella. This sort of flagrant generalization has no place in intelligent criticism, and such misinformation is really harmful to a hard-working company’s reputation.
—Mark Seldis Managing Director, The Actors’ Gang
THAT WAS THEORETICAL, NOT NUCLEAR, RIGHT?
Thank you very much for Michael Simmons’ article on the Dead and Phish [“American Beauty,” April 28–May 4]. I am from Wyoming, where the same blue-haired, leather-toting sperm jockeys called “punks” seem to control the music scene. I hope to see the new millennium explode with a new psychedelic movement, led by Phish, the Disco Biscuits and music that is as spiritually significant as the Dead’s. By the way, I am not one of the media-presented “hippie” druggies; rather, I am a theoretical physicist in training at the University of Wyoming and am proud to say I use psychedelics . . .
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