Freaks And Geeks: S1E06 “I’m With The Band”

SPOILER WARNING: I’m assuming in these reviews that readers have seen the show.

This may be the hardest episode of F&G for me to watch, because I identify so strongly with Nick and his dream of being a drummer in a rock band. 1 Not just any band; a famous one, where he’s the star in a spotlight with dry ice rising around him and the cheers of the crowd inspiring him on. The opening scene, showing him in his basement drumming along with a live recording of Rush’s The Spirit of Radio playing in his headphones,2 intercut with the reality of his pounding while his father listens from the stairs and shakes his head, is brilliant and gives us the entire story in three minutes.

In fact, I sympathized with Nick’s dad in this episode more than I did with Nick. He’s set what seem to be reasonable goals for his son—get a C+ average and you can keep the drums and avoid the Army—but Nick rejects them, preferring his illusions of making it big. Lindsey, alas, because of her fondness for Nick, encourages him in these. She attends a band rehearsal and makes suggestions which, though ridiculed by Daniel and Ken, are seized upon by Nick both because he likes Lindsay and because he sees the wisdom in her advice. Daniel and Ken don’t want to be serious musicians, though; they just like goofing around playing Sunshine of Your Love. But not six times in a row.

An aside: The histories I’ve read of two great bands, the Beatles and the Who, both suggest that truly dedicated musicians are the ones who don’t quit when the going gets tough. They lose band members who aren’t serious or talented, find more dedicated ones with comparable talent, and keep working their asses off until they get their break. Nick is fine with every part of this except the part where he has to work hard. A naturally easygoing guy, he goes along with Lindsay’s ideas in the beginning, but doesn’t realize that he’ll have to buckle down to both his schoolwork and his drumming if he really wants to avoid the Army.

The audition for Dimension, “the top working band in Detroit” according to Nick, is predictably—and painfully—disastrous. Nick is thrown when they suggest a song he doesn’t know, he’s audibly off-beat, and the polite dismissal of his work after just three attempts hurts us as much as him. Lindsay is so distressed by his rejection that she kisses him to console him. To her dismay, Nick immediately takes it as meaning far more than it does to her. But for the time being, she listens to him play along with Rush and puts the dry ice in the bucket, keeping her own counsel.

The geeks’ episode is not as painful, and a lot funnier. Sam doesn’t want to take the required shower in gym because his body is underdeveloped for his age. Neal and Bill side with him at first, but then give in when they know they’ll get in trouble, despite Alan and his bullies snapping towels at them in the locker room. Sam stubbornly persists, until the day has come when he can no longer put it off. The result is one of the funniest scenes in the show, its humor intensified by the use of a strategic blue oval. Madness’s One Step Beyond was an inspired musical choice.

I’m With The Band is a realistic look at the difference between dreams and reality. For a few moments, it almost seems that Nick is going to make that leap away from his dream and accept his limitations. But romance is a powerful drug.

Points Of Interest

*Millie in a sunbonnet and long dress helping advertise the school production of Oklahoma is a blast. So is the moment later on when she crosses herself.

*Band names, all rejected: Creation, Mission Control, Anarchy’s Child.

*Nick, on why he’s wearing shorts: “It’s just a lot easier for me to drum without fabric down my thighs.”

*“You’re on your own. I’m verstinkene, and I’m showering.”

*Harris’s naked turn in the shower room is hysterical. “Our bodies are merely a shell which conceal our heavenly souls.” Followed by “Auf Wiedersehen.”

*“You know, you and Yoko here turn music into school.” Another dig at Yoko from out of nowhere—but it was standard for the time.

*“Rock and roll don’t come from your brain, it comes from your crotch.” Surprised this hasn’t made it onto a T-shirt.

*Bill, when observing a bunch of jocks horsing around: “He should use his legs more, he’s going to throw out his back.”

*As a Who fan, I love it when Ken corrects Lindsay on the title of Baba O’Reilly.

*The scene where the Weirs try to encourage Sam about his body development is pure gold all the way through.

*Jason Segel outdoes himself in this episode. The moment where he comes to the brutal truth—“I’m not going to be that guy. I’m never going to be that guy.”—is heartbreaking.

*“The Ramones only play three chords, man.”—“All right, so I’ll learn another one.”

*Paul Feig, the creator of Freaks And Geeks, plays Dimension’s lead guitarist. Michael Andrews, the series composer, is the bass player.

Next: Carded And Discarded