[Ed.:* OK, so it wasn't MY evening with Paul Feig so much is at was Bob Young's evening. Bob is a local journalist, garage band rock star and all around good guy. He sent this along last week and for a variety of reasons (mostly having to do with my Xbox 360) I just got around to posting it today. Also, be forewarned. I no longer have the election to obsess over so I might actually start writing about, you know, SEATTLE. In any event, without further distractions, here's Bob's (excellent) post.]
I figured the place would be jammed, here in Redmond, WA, the geek capital of the Pacific Northwest, to see the guru of geekness, Mr. Feig, creator of the cult TV show Freaks and Geeks.
If you haven't seen the 1999-2000 dramedy, cancelled after 18 glorious episodes on NBC, go rent it. Unless you're really cool. If you were a jock, a cheerleader, or rich; if you had dates and sex and confidence and the clothes and car to match, then it's probably lost on you. Because this is a show about three freshman geeks and three upperclassmen freaks. Caught between the two is an Army-fatigue wearing Mathlete, Lindsey Weir.
The shows are brutally real.
Sam doesn't want to take a shower in PE.
Nick fails his big drumming audition with the band Dimension.
Lindsey gets caught helping Daniel cheat.
Neil discovers his dad is cheating on his mom.
So there's the brains behind this, Feig, lanky in a pin-striped stuit, with a boyish forelock that spills onto his forehead when he laughs nervously and looks downward.
And there's me. And no one else, despite pleas over the PA from the Borders employees for customers to come discover their inner geeks with Mr. Feig, writer and director of The Office and other hit shows.
It's so informal, with Feig milling near a table stacked with his books, and I feel bad for him. I ask him what happened to Lindsey after the last episode, when she skipped the prestigious Academic Summit at the University of Michigan to go follow the Dead -- a band she just discovered?
Feig says that he wanted the last show to be like the end of a school year, where everybody goes separate ways and grows and changes with what they learned in the last year. He says he was more like Lindsey's younger brother Sam in real life. Lindsey's character was his alter ego, though, when he wrote the series. Her existential dilemma reflected his mid-life crisis.
Feig was also a bit of Nick, the aspiring drummer (Feig played until recently, he says) who later turns to disco after Lindsey rebuffs him time and again.
Sam's family is like his, he says. Sam's dad owns a sporting goods store, Feig's owned an Army-Navy surplus store. Sam's parents stay together; so did Feig's. The character Bill's broken home is Judd Apatow's, Feig explains. The scene of Bill home alone for a grilled-cheese dinner with Gary Shandling on TV and The Who's "I'm One" on the soundtrack is right out of Apatow's after-school ritual, Feig says.
Why was the show so popular?
Because critics were all geeks, he says. And because it was honest. Kids didn't wear cartoon get-ups like on That 70s Show. There weren't outlandish plots and sex.
It was hard to get the show on NBC. The top producer didn't get it, because he went to boarding school, Feig says. The network wanted more sex and more "victories" because TV is such an aspirational medium. Feig was happy with small victories, like when handsome bad boy Daniel plays D-and-D with the geeks, or when Bill bonds with his mom's new boyfriend, the dreaded PE teacher, over the show Dallas.
On and on we went, like two guys in the school cafeteria. Linda Cardellini was 24 when she was cast as Lindsey, a junior, but she exactly fit Feig's image of what his cooler older sister would've looked like...
The show wasn't about high school, it was about a town, Feig says. And if it had gone on, it would be about the characters in junior college or in trouble...
American Beauty (the Dead album) was as influential to his life and writing as it was to Lindsey in the last episode...the show was modeled after a Todd Solondz film, Welcome to the Dollhouse...the crew hated it when Neil kissed his ventriloquist dummy, er, figure, Morty.
And the things we didn't get to before the bell rang and it was time for Feig to continue on in his book tour...
The model-rockets, the laser-dome, the giant mascot head, The Who lyrics -- did his parents really read them aloud?
A show about his father's store starring Eugene Levy as his dad. Feig wants Martin Starr, who played supreme geek Bill Haverchuk, to play an older version of himself, if he had stayed in Michigan instead of fleeing to Hollywood. Feig laughs, looking down, and says the surplus store will be funny. "The people who shopped and worked there were kind of surplus."
Then he signed a copy of his new book, Ignatius Macfarland: Frequenaut!, for me: "Bob, Thanks for being my only audience member! You're a great guy. All the best, Paul Feig. Freaks and Geeks Rules! 11/12/08"