Right Show, Wrong Time: FREAKS & GEEKS Edition


Everybody knows what makes a hit TV show is ratings, right? But in this continuing series, we examine how today’s most popular shows would have been axed just a few short years ago… and how yesterday’s flops would be topping the charts today!

In 1999, Judd Apatow produced an hour-long dramedy for NBC called FREAKS & GEEKS. Chronicling the lives of a not-so-popular group of high school students (played by a gang of then relative unknowns including Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Seth Rogen and Busy Phillips), their teachers and parents, the series was immediately hailed as brilliant by fans and critics alike, (See: Entertainment Weekly who called the show “…one of the most heartfelt and humorous TV shows of the past decade…”) Unfortunately, when your network is the home of ratings juggernauts such as FRIENDS, ER and FRASIER, which at the time still attracted 20+ million viewers an episode, six millions passionate and dedicated fans does not a hit show make. Which is why it was cancelled.

Whereas in 2009, a ‘hit’ show on NBC is considered anything that attracts five to seven million viewers on a regular basis. As evidence by renewal notices for fledgling albeit quality series such as 30 ROCK, PARKS AND RECREATION and CHUCK.

For all the latest TV news and reviews

  • Nick

    Some things never change. Viewers had no taste or TV discernment then, and they have far less today.

  • Dina

    If this show had been a long-running hit, would some of these actors, like Franco and Rogen gone on to become movie stars? Or would they be still be bit players in a drama about young adults still hanging around high school long after they graduated (or failed to)?

  • Renée

    For Sure wrong time right show! Except the movies Judd is now making are really great, and I don’t know they would be as good without the show!

    Ratings now are so different then they were ten years ago there are so many more channels now, and viewers are split between more shows. AND every body is watching reality still, that’s where all the viewers are.

  • I wish I had noticed this show back then, I would have helped spread the word. They should make a made for TV movie “Freaks and Geeks” FnG TNG.

  • I also regret not tuning in to the this one. From what little I know about it, I think I would have liked it, I think I could have related to it, and it had Claudia Christian (from Babylon 5) guest starring in two episodes.

    I’m not sure why exactly I missed out on it. That was before the days of TiVo, so maybe I had a schedule conflict, or if it was on Friday nights, that’s back when I actually had a little bit of a life. 😉