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Every Episode Of Freaks And Geeks Ranked

The award-winning 1999 cult classic "Freaks and Geeks," created by Paul Feig and produced by Judd Apatow, only lasted a season, but more than 20 years later, we still view this magnificent, short-lived endeavor as one of the most authentic takes on the coming-of-age genre. Part of that authenticity comes from a talented cast of actors who actually look age-appropriate and part of it comes from the impeccable music choices. What's really stunning about this character-driven teen dramedy, though, is that it's much more concerned with representing "the sad, hilarious unfairness of teen life" and exploring "emotional truth" than anything else (via Vanity Fair). The show's not hyper-fixated on teaching its audience lessons—though lessons do come—and it's not interested in unrealistic plots.

The heart of the show's enduring legacy is its focus on character development as the students of McKinley High navigate the complexities of adolescence. Its acute attention to the hilariously awkward parts of growing up and to its early '80s setting make us laugh, while its dedication to slow-building character growth makes us think and feel.  

Judd Apatow has claimed that "everything [he's] done...is revenge for the people who canceled "Freaks and Geeks" (via Variety), and we completely understand why. To celebrate this brief but glorious gem, we've used IMDb ratings to compile a list of every episode, ranked from good to best.

18. Tricks and Treats (Episode 3)

In "Tricks and Treats," Halloween brings tension to the Weir household, with each family member harboring a different vision for the night. In a bid to hold onto his childhood for a little longer, freshman Sam (John Francis Daley) convinces the other Geeks to go trick-or-treating, but the evening quickly turns into a nightmare. Meanwhile, his older sister, junior Lindsay (Linda Cardellini), tries to avoid dressing up and passing out homemade cookies with her mom, Jean (Becky Ann Baker), for a bit by seizing an opportunity to drive around with the Freaks. Lindsay soon learns, amid a destructive evening full of smashed pumpkins, baseball-mangled mailboxes, and throwing raw eggs, that actions can have far-reaching emotional consequences.

"Tricks and Treats" boasts a solid rating of over an 8 on IMDb, but the episode still ranks dead last on the site. Though IndieWire's Cain Rodriguez views the narrative as "a funny and moving hour of television concerned more with quiet character moments than the next punchline," The A.V. Club's Emily St. James considers it "a bit of a riff on the pilot." In our view, there are heartfelt and poignant moments here, especially between Lindsay and Jean at the end of the hour, but the story doesn't do much more than showcase the bond (and occasional rift) between the Weir siblings as they continue to come into their own.

17. Girlfriends and Boyfriends (Episode 8)

"Girlfriends and Boyfriends" is another entry that has a commendable rating of over an 8 on IMDb but is still considered the series' second-worst episode on the site's ranked list. Here, everyone reacts to the newly established relationship between Lindsay and fellow Freak Nick (Jason Segel of "How I Met Your Mother"). Her parents are a little stunned and concerned after discovering she's dating the teen who ate all of Jean's fruit roll-ups, Daniel (James Franco) spends his study hall trying to convince Lindsay that his friend's a stud, and former best friend Millie (portrayed by an earnest Sarah Hagan, who goes on to play potential slayer Amanda in the final season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") worries about Lindsay potentially going "all the way" because that's what Freaks do. Even McKinley's hippie guidance counselor, Jeff Rosso (Dave Allen), reaches out, making an awkward confession about mistakes from his sexual past while attempting to offer dating advice. The real issue, though, is that Lindsay's just not that into Nick. In fact, she finds his clinginess and desire to cuddle overwhelming. As a reluctant Lindsay frets over her new relationship, Sam struggles to deal with Bill (Martin Starr) and Cindy Sanders (Natasha Melnick), his own crush, becoming lab partners.

Critically Touched's Jeremy Grayson identifies the episode's theme as "unrequited love." The two central storylines feature Lindsay and Sam on opposite ends of this common teen trope, with Sam pining over a potentially out-of-reach cheerleader and Lindsay contending with unwanted attention from the lovesick Nick. It's certainly not the show's strongest endeavor, but it's still a painfully authentic one.

16. We've Got Spirit (Episode 9)

Set against the backdrop of an upcoming basketball game against rival high school Lincoln, "We've Got Spirit" continues to explore the relationship between an infatuated Nick and an increasingly uncomfortable Lindsay. She just can't bring herself to be honest about wanting to end things for fear of hurting his feelings, especially after learning a few disturbing facts about how his relationship with his previous girlfriend, Heidi Henderson (Samantha Shelton), crumbled. As Lindsay debates how to break things off, a friend-zoned Sam deals with Cindy's all-encompassing crush on Jock Todd (Riley Smith). When the team's mascot (notably played by a baby-faced Shia LaBeouf) breaks his arm before the big game, Sam jumps at the opportunity to audition for the vacant spot and hopefully impress Cindy in the process. Complications ensue after he witnesses an intimate moment between Cindy and Todd. Meanwhile, the Freaks embrace some newfound school pride, but their actions lead to violence.

While the episode is rated over an 8 on IMDb, critic Alan Sepinwall argues that, while this one "isn't the funniest or deepest episode of the run, it still deserves credit for moving well, for putting so many balls up in the air and bringing them down simultaneously around the big game." It's an enjoyable entry with a lot of relationship-heavy content, but perhaps because we're once again mostly focused on the dynamics of unrequited love (between Lindsay and Nick and Sam and Cindy) ,"We've Got Spirit" pales in comparison to the show's other storylines.

15. I'm With the Band (Episode 6)

The A.V. Club's Emily St. James is "struck by...the way...["I'm With the Band"] brings all of the male characters to these moments of vulnerability, then shows how they navigate terrain they're not as readily equipped to deal with as their female counterparts might be." Currently hovering around an 8.5 on IMDb, this "Freaks and Geeks" episode even features creator Paul Feig himself, who plays the guitarist in the band Nick auditions for.

Here, we glimpse Nick's home life, witnessing his father's annoyance over his son's passion for drumming, and learning that, if Nick doesn't maintain a C+ average in school, he must join the Army like his brothers before him. Supportive of his musical dreams, Lindsay encourages Nick to take on more of a leadership role within the Freaks' band, telling him he needs to get the others to practice more. Unfortunately, the result of Nick taking this advice is disastrous. Attempting to make it up to him, Lindsay finds her friend an audition to join another band that's conveniently looking for a drummer, but the result of that endeavor could well be disastrous too. While the Freaks quarrel, and while Daniel offers Lindsay some harsh words of his own regarding Nick's life, the Geeks struggle with a new gym class policy: Everyone has to shower after class. Upon learning this new rule, a horrified and determined Sam attempts to avoid the locker room showers at all costs.

14. Kim Kelly Is My Friend (Episode 4)

Kim Kelly (Busy Philipps), one of the most complicated characters in "Freaks and Geeks," is the headliner in the show's fourth episode. Another installment that hovers around an 8.5 on IMDb, "Kim Kelly Is My Friend" delves into the tentative bond — one that horrifies Sam — between her and Mathlete-turned-Freak Lindsay.

Lindsay's confused but excited when Kim asks her over for dinner to meet her mom, but the joy quickly fades once Lindsay learns the real reason for the invitation. Not prepared to defend Kim's fabricated stories about weekends in Benton Harbor at Lindsay's parents' nonexistent vacation home, the girls get caught in a lie that leads to a violent altercation. Meanwhile, Sam endures the wrath of angry bully Karen Scarfolli (played by "Parks and Rec"-alum Rashida Jones), who begins her reign of terror by writing "geek" on his locker.

To some, like Critically Touched's Jeremy Grayson, the acute character study of Kim lends this episode its strength. As he notes, "There's never a moment in [her] storyline that isn't achingly painful, and there's never a moment that isn't laugh-out-loud hilarious." Though not everyone's on board with this enthusiastic assessment, we wholeheartedly agree that this well-balanced, Kim-focused narrative, which is simultaneously poignant and full of humor, is "one of the finest examples of why [the show] encapsulates the title of dramedy."

13. Beers and Weirs (Episode 2)

"Beers and Weirs," rated a little over an 8.5 on IMDb, features a plot device we've seen in plenty of other high school narratives. In this one, the Weir parents go out of town for the weekend. Lindsay, prompted by the Freaks, decides to throw a party, complete with a keg. Before the party, though, the students must sit through a "scared straight" assembly, and Sam is, indeed, scared straight. When his attempts to talk to his sister about all the potentially fatal, alcohol-related dangers fail, the Geeks decide to use some of Neal's (Samm Levine) bar mitzvah money to switch the keg with one full of non-alcoholic beer. As we'd expect of a house party filled with unsupervised (but not actually drunk!) teenagers, chaos still ensues. Neal pines over Lindsay, Ken (Seth Rogen) dominates at Quarters, and Millie crashes the party, determined to have some good, sober fun. Meanwhile, a sour Bill—who just wants to watch "Dallas"—hides in Sam's room with the real keg.

The A.V. Club's Emily St. James claims that "while 'Beers and Weirs' isn't the series' best episode, it's notable for...sticking to what the series does best: slow-building character arcs that stretch across the season." This entry offers a fairly basic premise, but as with other "Freaks and Geeks" installments, the plot isn't the point. It's the characters, with all the nuances of their identity struggles, who matter here.

12. Pilot (Episode 1)

The first episode of "Freaks and Geeks" sets everything up. After witnessing the death of her grandmother, Lindsay feels lost. As a result, she abandons her former good-girl persona, dons her dad's old Army jacket, and tests out a new identity as a burned-out Freak. Meanwhile, her younger brother, Sam, endures some terrible bullying due to his status as a Geek, and he's disheartened when his fellow Geeks fail to stick up for him.

Rated a little over an 8.5 on IMDb, this installment establishes how integral music is to the show while introducing us to Lindsay's new group of friends. According to The A.V. Club's Emily St. James, "What's...stunning about the...pilot is that not very much actually happens in it. It's loose and lumpy and filled with scenes that do nothing other than build up the characters." She goes on to commend the "simple moral dilemmas," because it's that narrative simplicity that lets us focus on the complexities of the various characters. This introductory storyline teaches us not just what the show will be about, but also how to watch it. 

The ultimate beauty of "Freaks and Geeks," as we learn here, is that everything feels so relatable because it really is relatable. But that's not the only reason this show is considered such a cult hit. While Reddit user u/Texas_Crazy_Curls praises all the "young talent," another user, u/fuzzyllama1, admits they developed "an unhealthily enormous crush on Linda Cardellini" after just this first episode. There's a lot to love.

11. The Diary (Episode 10)

In "The Diary," also currently rated over an 8.5 on IMDb, Kim and Lindsay have some fun hitchhiking. Horrified at their daughter's actions, the Weir parents insist on having Kim's mother over for dinner so they can let her know what a bad influence her child is. When the woman reveals that she figures out what's going on in her rebellious daughter's life by reading Kim's diary, Harold and Jean take heed, expecting to find their daughter's diary full of confessions about drugs, alcohol, and sex. Instead, they find out what Lindsay thinks of their own monotonous lifestyle. As they contend with their newfound knowledge, Lindsay, having upset Kim by not standing up for her, has to find a way to repair that unstable bond. Meanwhile, Bill, sick of getting picked last in gym class during the baseball unit, begins prank calling Mr. Fredricks ("Back to the Future" alum Thomas F. Wilson). Problem is, as his frustration over the jock favoritism grows, his calls get increasingly vicious.

Critically Touched's Jeremy Grayson claims "there is an indelible charm to this episode," and The A.V. Club's Emily St. James believes that "this is one of the few times we really get to see Jean and Harold as something other than 'Lindsay and Sam's parents,' and Jean, in particular, is heartrending." We'd just add that what's unique about this particular storyline is that it's largely the adults who are learning lessons and questioning their own established identities here.

10. Carded and Discarded (Episode 7)

"Carded and Discarded" follows the Freaks as they try to purchase fake IDs to see a band called Feedback at a bar. Unfortunately, the path toward that music-filled evening is more difficult and more expensive than expected. As the Freaks stumble in their quest to have a little adult fun, the Geeks ride the highs of their joint crush on new transfer student Maureen (Kayla Ewell), who actually likes hanging out with them. With her in tow, and to the soundtrack of a few nostalgia-inducing Billy Joel songs, the Geeks shoot rockets, go out to an "all you can eat" night at a restaurant, and attempt to keep Maureen away from the popular kids.

Rated over an 8.5 on IMDb, this one is a favorite for The A.V. Club's Emily St. James, "with its long, lyrical moments that flirt with being boring and...its pointless detours that do little to advance the plot but much to advance the...comedy." But it's not just about the comedy here. We're also glimpsing different stages of coming-of-age. The Geeks recognize the fleeting nature of their coveted, innocent time with Maureen, while the Freaks, failing in their attempts to even appear grown-up, have to face their teenage reality. Nothing represents their in-between state quite like Lindsay continuing to carry her $300 in the birthday card it came in during these questionable transactions.

Bonus: This installment also features Jason Schwartzman, a common face in various Wes Anderson movies, as a purveyor of fake IDs.

9. Noshing and Moshing (Episode 15)

The A.V. Club's Emily St. James identifies "The heart of ["Noshing and Moshing"] as "the twin stories of Neal and Daniel," two boys "trying out new things in an attempt to deal with uncertainties in their personal lives." Boasting a strong rating of over an 8.5 on IMDb, this story sees Neal struggling with the discovery the Geeks made in "The Garage Door" that his dad is cheating on his mom. In an attempt to cope, he starts carrying his ventriloquist dummy, Monty, everywhere, and his grades plummet. For his parents, and for Mr. Rosso, Neal's academic and behavioral nosedive is startling and concerning, but to him, Monty is his only outlet. 

Meanwhile, Daniel grapples with his own difficult home life. After his tardiness—caused by him picking up painkillers for his father—results in a blowout fight between him and Kim, Daniel tries to reinvent himself as a punk, even greasing his hair with raw egg. After a harsh night, though, he realizes he may not be cut out for that lifestyle—but Ken might be. 

In the more lighthearted storylines, which help balance out the heavier, intently character-focused narratives of Daniel and Neal, the Weirs fret over having to make an appearance at the Schweibers' annual party, and Lindsay, who hadn't planned on going, changes her mind when Neal's older brother, Barry (played by "Numb3rs" star David Krumholtz), comes home from college for the event.

8. Tests and Breasts (Episode 5)

In "Tests and Breasts," another entry currently rated over an 8.5 on IMDb, the Geeks endure Sex Ed with Mr. Fredricks who, due to Sam's ignorance regarding the female reproductive system, ends up humiliating the kid. While everyone at school begins calling Sam Dr. Love as a cruel joke, Lindsay tries to help Daniel with an upcoming math class. To her awed frustration, though, he's not interested in studying. He'd much rather have her give him the answers to the test he stole. At first, Lindsay refuses, but when Mr. Kowchevski (Steve Bannos) dismissively insults Daniel as she's trying to put in a good word for her friend, she changes her tune. In the aftermath, both teens are accused of cheating. During all of this, Daniel also finds time to help Sam with his Dr. Love issue, but for Daniel, that just means lending the kid a dirty movie.

Critically Touched's Jeremy Grayson claims this "Freaks and Geeks" entry "is a perfect vehicle for Daniel...Heck, in some ways, it's an episodic clone of Daniel... — both are witty, self-assured, and unpredictable. Both are also a lot of fun to watch, which makes this a very likable episode." Ultimately, this story digs into how manipulative Daniel can be, but it also shows why he chooses to be that way. His monologue at the end of the hour, which he recites twice, is moving the first time, but we recognize the learned insincerity the second time around.

7. Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers (Episode 14)

In "Dead Dogs," we witness Kim and Lindsay running over Millie's dog, Goliath, with Kim's car. The girls then spend the bulk of the narrative trying to make it up to the other girl without confessing the terrible truth. As a guilty Kim tries to bond with Millie over dead dogs, even sharing her own story about when her parents put hers to sleep, Lindsay tries to convince her dad to let her attend an upcoming The Who concert, and Millie spirals. Bill also gets time to shine here when his mom — to her son's absolute horror — starts dating his gym teacher, Mr. Fredricks. After Mr. Fredricks' genuine attempts at bonding fail and he expresses his frustrations, Bill finally starts to consider giving the guy an inch. In addition, Nick writes Lindsay a song about his feelings for her, but Ken goes to drastic lengths to prevent his friend from embarrassing himself.

Reddit user u/mooseguyman considers this series "the best portrayal of the American teenage experience since 'The Breakfast Club,' citing this exact episode, which is currently rated well over an 8.5 on IMDb, as one of the narratives that solidified the fact that the show "doesn't demonize any of its characters." Rather, "they all become human," including, as we see here, the high school gym teacher the Geeks so often consider an antagonist despite some evidence to the contrary sprinkled throughout the show.

6. The Garage Door (Episode 12)

In "The Garage Door," rated over an 8.5 on IMDb, Ken starts falling in love with "Tuba Girl" after she insults him for insulting her, and they quickly discover their wit is well-matched. In addition, Kim insists that Lindsay be mean to Nick for his own good and Sam frets about seeing Neal's dad intimately embracing another woman. Though Mr. Schweiber's response to Sam witnessing this exchange is to schedule an impromptu dentist appointment to "explain" the situation, Sam still confides in Bill, and the two decide to come clean to Neal. Neal doesn't want to even consider the possibility of his father's infidelity. As Ken enjoys a Laser Dome show with "Tuba Girl" (whose real name is Amy Andrews and who's portrayed by the late Jessica Campbell), the Geeks discover the garage door opener in Neal's father's possession doesn't work on his family's garage door, so they embark on a search for the house it actually belongs to.

Reddit user u/westerbergJR, prompted by the events of "The Garage Door," believes that "this show, better than any other, can show true human emotion," and Redditor u/Umaguyrm considers this episode "one of [their] favorites," calling "the main storyline...spectacular" and "heartbreaking." Neal, so often used for jokes, finds himself, as The A.V. Club's Emily St. James notes, in the tragic position of realizing his parents are imperfect people struggling to deal with their choices. 

5. Looks and Books (Episode 11)

"Looks and Books" follows the Freaks as they "borrow" the Weir Station Wagon to pick up amps for a concert, a disastrous decision resulting in a fender bender that finds Lindsay grounded indefinitely and forbidden from hanging out with the Freaks. After a conversation with former bestie Millie, our protagonist decides to rejoin the Mathletes, improve her image in her parents' eyes, and work on securing her academic future. But the choice comes with a steep price for Millie and another Mathlete, forcing Lindsay to question whether this can really be her life again. Meanwhile, Neal convinces Sam he must dress to impress if he wants girls like Cindy to notice him. Trouble is, Sam's personal choices—like wearing a Parisian night suit—just lead to some cringeworthy moments and more bullying. In addition, the Freaks, inspired by Lindsay's rage, contemplate their own futures.

"Looks and Books," currently hovering just under an impressive rating of 9 on IMDb, explores the different layers of these characters' identities, featuring not just the tension between who these characters are pretending to be and who they truly want to be, but also the raw revelation that "people are more complicated than most high school shows allow them to be" (via The A.V. Club).

4. Chokin' and Tokin' (Episode 13)

In "Chokin' and Tokin'," which hovers around a magnificent 9 rating on IMDb, the Freaks start to worry about Nick's excessive pot use. Concerned about what it's doing to his friend and what it might start doing to him, Daniel gets caught trying to throw out his supply by Mr. Rosso. Lindsay, not understanding the appeal at all, agrees to partake with Nick. After a fight in which the drummer accuses her of not even inhaling and throws her the rest of his stash, she goes home, puts on a record, teaches herself how to roll a joint, and gets high, completely forgetting that she's meant to babysit a neighbor's kid. In a cannabis-induced panic, she recruits Millie's help. Bill, commiserating with his teacher about allergies, talks in class about being allergic to everything, including peanuts. Disbelieving bully Alan White (played by Chauncey Leopardi of "The Sandlot") tests Bill's claims about the severity of this particular allergy to devastating effect.

Vulture's Roxana Hadadi tells us that this narrative "explores many different kinds of vulnerability," and it's true. Even though it doesn't last, Alan, a series-long antagonist for the Geeks, shows real regret and real humanity here with a touching monologue that gives us insight into why he acts the way he does. His confession doesn't excuse his actions, but it leaves us with a better understanding of them.

3. The Little Things (Episode 17)

In "The Little Things," McKinley is set to welcome Vice President George Bush for a special Q&A with the student body, but the adults are more excited about the upcoming visit than the teens. Mr. Rosso's also thrilled to announce to Lindsay that she gets to ask the first question of the night. Initially reluctant, Lindsay has fun brainstorming potential questions with Kim, but the effort seems all for naught when the VP's staff rejects the question she submits and tasks her with presenting one they've prepared. When Mr. Rosso is barred from the event due to his past activism, Lindsay must choose how to proceed — and what question to ask. Meanwhile, as the relationship between Cindy and Sam blossoms, he discovers he doesn't really like her. In fact, they have drastically different interests, with Cindy hating the Steve Martin classic "The Jerk" and Sam physically uncomfortable with receiving a hickey.

The person doing the most soul-searching in this narrative, though, and ultimately exhibiting the most character growth, is Ken Miller. After girlfriend Amy entrusts him with a secret—that she was born intersex—a confused Ken ponders his sexuality and what this means for their developing relationship.

With its theme of honesty, a PopOptiq review claims this entry, currently hovering around a rating of 9 on IMDb, is "one of the best episodes of the series, navigating a difficult plot and nailing the landing in one of the show's rare happy moments." 

2. Discos and Dragons (Episode 18)

In the "Freaks and Geeks" finale, which boasts a rating of over 9 on IMDb, the Freaks are stunned to find Nick dancing to disco with his new girlfriend Sara (played by Lizzy Caplan of "Mean Girls" fame). As a disturbed Ken begs Lindsay to take Nick back, Nick prepares for a dancing competition, and Lindsay, who's been invited to an elite academic summit at the University of Michigan, shocks everyone by confessing she might not want to go. To help her decide, Mr. Rosso lends her a Grateful Dead album, but the music leads her down a path he probably didn't expect. While Lindsay strikes up a friendship with a couple of Deadheads, Daniel gets caught trying to pull the fire alarm and is condemned to join A.V. Club for the rest of the year. The Geeks eventually invite him to play Dungeons and Dragons with them, and Daniel (aka "Carlos the Dwarf") discovers he genuinely enjoys the game and the company.

Drunken Monkeys' Alexandra Martinez believes the show itself "captures the uncertainty of identities in flux perfectly," but no episode does so as perfectly as the finale. Essentially, it doesn't matter that we'll never see the consequences of Lindsay's ultimate choice or know whether Daniel continues playing Dungeons and Dragons with the Geeks because it's never been about the plot. It's always been about the characters learning who they truly are. 

1. Smooching and Mooching (Episode 16)

According to IMDb's sorted list, "Smooching and Mooching" is top-tier "Freaks and Geeks." Here, we see a devastated Nick leaving home after his father sells his hard-earned, 32-piece drum set due to a less-than-stellar report card in which Nick did not, per a previous agreement, maintain a C+ average. Problem is, Nick doesn't really have anywhere to go. To Lindsay's shell-shocked surprise, her parents invite Nick to stay with them. After some words of encouragement from Harold, Nick starts to get his act together, accepting a part-time job and using the money to pay for drumming lessons.

As Nick enjoys his time with Harold and Jean, a nervous Sam takes crush-turned-new-girlfriend Cindy to a make-out party. There, Neal finds disappointment, Sam finds discomfort, and Bill and Vicki (played by "Sweet Magnolias" star JoAnna Garcia Swisher), who are paired up for a session of Seven Minutes in Heaven, find themselves bonding—and making out.

Critically Touched's Jeremy Grayson calls this episode "surprisingly heartfelt—and even more surprisingly simplistic," which, in our opinion, helps the entry stay focused on the characters. Ultimately, what makes this episode the best the series has to offer is the narrative, which perfectly encapsulates everything this teen dramedy is meant to be: a relatable, acutely character-oriented coming-of-age tale full of raw, poignant, and humorous moments.