Jason Segel Reflects on the Moment He Knew ‘Freaks and Geeks’ Wasn’t ‘Gonna Make It’

Freaks and Geeks - Seth Rogen as Ken Miller, Jason Segel as Nick Andopolis, Linda Cardellini as Lindsay Weir, and James Franco as Daniel Desario
Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

On the list of shows that deserved more seasons, Freaks and Geeks is near the top. The teen dramedy starred Linda Cardellini, Jason Segel, Busy Philipps, Seth Rogen, Martin Starr, John Francis Daley, and more in some of their earliest roles (with creator Paul Feig and executive producer Judd Apatow, no less), exploring the lives of high schoolers (namely the stoner “freaks” and studious “geeks”) in the 1980s.

The overwhelming consensus about the NBC show since its short-lived run in the Fall of 1999 is that it was way ahead of its time. (The fact that it was canceled before its debut season ended and still made it into the Top 10 of our Best Shows of the ’90s list should tell you all you need to know.)

The show’s one lonesome season has mercifully been on streaming services for a long while, introducing the story to Gen-Z and Millennial audiences who rightfully don’t understand why it was canceled. After all, talking about smoking weed in a show about high schoolers seems more inevitable than it does taboo to today’s young audiences.

Progressive messaging and teen drug use displayed in Freaks and Geeks made the show taboo to networks and older audiences at the time. Now, it’s funny to look back on the things that got the show canceled. But watching teens smoke weed (oh, the horror!) did make waves for network TV in the late 1990s.

As a result, Freaks and Geeks wasn’t even allowed to complete its 18-episode season at first — it was canceled and stopped airing after Episode 12. Fan outcry forced NBC to air the remaining six episodes, and MTV even offered to save the show shortly after it got the ax.

Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out. But Freaks and Geeks lives on through streaming. Segel recently spoke with TV Insider, sharing the moment he and the cast knew in their guts that the show was getting canceled.

“That was an interesting experience when you were a young kid, where you feel like you’re making something great,” he gushes 23 years after the series began. Great as it seemed (and was!), their impending fate became awkwardly clear while still filming Season 1.

“We kind of had the sense that we weren’t going to make it a full season because the craft services table, which you’re in awe of when you’re a kid, started out really lush with meats and cheeses and all this delicious stuff, and then slowly we noticed that there was just a box of mini corn pops and some creamer. We were like, ‘Oh, this isn’t good. We’re not gonna make it.’ [Laughs].”

Had Freaks and Geeks been made today, it likely would’ve stuck around. But even in our world of reboots that sees beloved old shows returning for more, this one’s better left as is.

Part of its charm was the cast — which also included Samm Levine, James Franco, Ben Foster, Lizzy Caplan, Mike White, and much more — but it was also the fact that it was unlike anything else on TV at the time, which it wouldn’t necessarily be now. It was a rare gem that TV didn’t appreciate while it could.

Freaks and Geeks, All Episodes Streaming Now, Paramount+