I have been enjoying Freaks and Geeks this last month, an off-beat high-school American comedy-drama which is now ten years old. It only ran for 1 season, although quickly gained a cult following. It also acted as a springboard for the likes of Judd Apatow, Mike White, James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel. Set in 1980 (when I was 8), it focuses on two groups at a Detroit high school, the freaks or burnouts, who listen to Led Zeppelin, fail their classes and take drugs, and the geeks, who quote Star Trek endlessly, play Dungeons and Dragons and tend to get beaten up by the bullies. The show's focal point are a brother and sister, who were both geeks, although the sister, book-smart Lindsay crosses over to the freak group in the first episode, ditching her successful career as a "mathlete" to hang out with charming yet manipulative Daniel (James Franco) and his gang.
You can't blame her.
It is not an easy transition. Lindsay's old mathlete friends are horrified - especially super-goody Millie who is "high on life".
Lindsay also has to contend with Kim Kelly - played amazingly by Busy Philipps (now in Cougar Town). Kim is Daniel's girlfriend (too bad for Lindsay). Worse still, she is a BITCH. Make that a jealous, unstable, violent, mean yet hugely likable bitch. In the first episode she rejects Lindsay by emptying the contents of her bag all over the ground and telling her sarcastically "See you at the mall!"
She constantly refers to Lindsay as "brain" until she suddenly decides they are best friends - although this is a ploy so that she can introduce Lindsay to her "mental" mother and step-father in the hope that they will be impressed with Lindsay's good credentials and not want to sell Kim's car. "My aunt Kathy GAVE me this car and it's MINE!" Except it all goes wrong, as it usually does for Kim.
This scene signifies the start of the rather odd friendship between Kim and Lindsay. Kim is an archetypal bad girl. She shop-lifts, she has sex with boys. She gets Ds. She's permanently angry, except when she's been sarcastic. It's an odd friendshp, but not an improbable one though. Kim comes across as tough but she's not really. She's a "raw nerve" and her anger is misplaced disappointment - a bucket of fried chicken for dinner and a shower curtain for a bathroom door don't tend to give you the best outlook on life.
This particular episode especially resounds with me because when I was at school I was rather like Lindsay, getting top marks in everything and coming from a "good family" (in a region of widespread unemployment we were the sort of family that politicians refer to as "hardworking"). And I was friends with a male version of Kim - he smoked, failed everything and was always getting into trouble. He was sometimes quite mean to me, but as with Kim Kelly, he made life a lot more interesting.