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Friday, October 08, 2010

Of Freaks And Geeks

Flipping through channels a couple of weeks ago I happened upon a mini-marathon on IFC of all channels for the long defunct, short-lived yet extremely well done show "Freaks And Geeks".

I added the series DVDs to my Netflix queue, and have slowly worked my way through 17 of the 18 episodes in this series. While there are some things that bug me about the show (episode 17 had VP George H. W. Bush visit the high school, and of course had to inject leftist political statements), overall the show is good (they try to have a moral), clean (other than some language and innuendo) fun.

What really struck me though is how similar some of the characters in Freaks And Geeks are to some of the characters in the movie Napoleon Dynamite. Now I am not accusing Dynamite creator Jared Hess of stealing ideas from Freaks and Geeks, but the influence that show had on Napoleon Dynamite is obvious. Freaks and Geeks aired in 1999-2000. Napoleon Dynamite was released in 2004. Here the similarities enumerated:
  • Napoleon Dynamite's 80s feel. If you didn't know better you would think Napoleon Dynamite was set in the 80s. Hess has insisted it wasn't, yet some of the references prove it. But all of the vehicles in the film are prior to, or from the 80s. Look at Napoleon's and his brother Kip's school pictures on the wall in the living room and tell me those are vintage 80s school portraits. Uncle Rico, the telephones (corded), vehicles (as mentioned), and even a lot of the hairstyles could all be from the 80s. Freaks and Geeks was set in 1980-81. Coincedence?
  • Napoleon Dynamite is essentially Bill Haverchuck. The glasses. The open-mouth breathing. The purposeful, thoughtful, yet blank and empty stare. Napoleon is very similar to Bill in many ways. They both get surly and aggravated easily. Heck, there is even a scene in an episode of Freaks and Geeks where Bill dances to a cheesy dance song. As much as I thought Napoleon was a great character, after watching all of the episodes of Freaks and Geeks Napoleon doesn't hold a candle to Bill Haverchuck. But the similarities are profound.
  • Kip Dynamite is patterned after Harris Trinsky. They both have the expressionless reactions. They both have an atypical girlfriend. They both speak without moving their lips much. They both have an understated intelligence. They both have braces and glasses. They both have wispy, nearly non-existent facial hair.They are both slight, smallish boys. This is so obvious that I retract my earlier statement and accuse Hess of stealing ideas directly from Freaks and Geeks.
  • Randy the bully from NP is a carbon-copy of Alan White the bully from F&Gs. No doubt about it. From the cross-eyedness, To the manic oppression of his prey. Again Hess seemed to lift the character idea for his bully directly from Freaks and Geeks.
These are the main similarities. Don't believe me? Watch a few episodes of Freaks and Geeks, then watch Napoleon Dynamite. And then try to deny these similarities.

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1 comment:

LoneWolfArcher said...

After writing this I came across this link: http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/2009/11/interview-jared-hess-of-gentle-1.html

Notice Hess' answer to the Mike White question. INTERESTING.....