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What if MTV had picked up ‘Freaks and Geeks’?

Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Jason Segel in "Freaks and Geeks." MTV offered to pick up the second season of the series, according to a Collider interview with series creator Paul Feig and executive producer Judd Apatow.Byron Cohen/NBC

The subject of “Freaks and Geeks” still comes up a lot in the media, and among friends, even though it has been more than two decades since it aired on NBC. And it was only on the air briefly — for 13 episodes — before it was canceled and the remaining five episodes were burned off later.

The staying power is based on the excellence of the show, which captured the high school experience in the moment before MTV took over and corporatized youth culture, as well as the fact that so many of its cast members went on to greater glory. But some of the continued attention to “Freaks and Geeks” has to do with its identity as a one-season wonder, one that didn’t live long enough to run even a little bit amok like so many longer-lived shows. It’s a perfect batch.


In interviews with creator Paul Feig and executive producer Judd Apatow, Collider’s Adam Chitwood discovered an interesting tidbit about the show’s history. It turns out that after NBC canceled the show, after mishandling it shamefully by moving it around the schedule, MTV offered to pick up “Freaks and Geeks” for season 2. According to Apatow, MTV had a “much lower budget” in mind, “and we all decided we didn’t want to do a weaker version of the show.”

With a smaller budget, the cast and the all-important music use might have been diminished. And with MTV at the helm, who knows what kind of substantive changes the execs might have insisted on? One of the best things about the writing was the way it captured the innocence of the kids — the freaks, the geeks, and those in between. Would MTV, being MTV, have preferred a racier version?

“There’s moments so many times I go like, ‘Wow, we just got away with these 18 episodes,’ and I’m sure we would’ve done other great episodes, another great season,” Feig tells Chitwood. “But at the same time, it’s set in amber now and there’s something lovely about that.”


By the way, you can stream “Freaks and Geeks” on Hulu or on Paramount+, and now you can purchase episodes via Amazon, iTunes, or Google.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him @MatthewGilbert.