News and Notes
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Plot summaries, character sketches, comparisons to pop operas past and present -- none of these do justice to Hedwig and the Angry Inch. In fact, the most apt introduction I can offer is this: it rocks. Stephen Trask's score is well worthy of release as its own artifact. (Actually, more than worthy -- there's a tribute record, too.) Add John Cameron Mitchell's surreal, hilarious, melancholy, mythically rich script, and you get dramatic synergies to beat the band. Top the whole thing off with a tour-de-force performance (a cliche, yes, but never more apt) by Mitchell as the titular diva and the audience is left with nothing less than awe.
Freaks and Geeks
Here are eighteen wonderful episodes of television that appeared on NBC in 1999. Series creator Paul Feig mined his own adolescence in suburban Michigan, attempting to create a truthful portrayal of teen life, something that was (and continues to be) sorely lacking on TV. Well, Freaks and Geeks nailed it. And its accuracy is only one of the many pleasures the show offers. There was great young ensemble cast, including Linda Cardellini (ER); James Franco (Spiderman); the scene-stealing "geeks" -- John Daley, Martin Starr, and Samm Levine; Joe Flaherty (SCTV); and Dave "Gruber" Allen (The Naked Trucker) as the "cool" guidance counselor, Mr. Rosso. The writing was top-shelf (Feig, Apatow, Mike White). The roster of directors was superlative, with Jake Kasdan (Zero Effect) and Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl), among others. The set and costume design. The original and licensed music. It was all very, very good. So, of course, it was cancelled. Truth be told, I think this kind of show is too good for broadcast television. You want to live with these characters every day, not just once a week, or even more sporadically, if the show is preempted for sporting events. In the end, DVD is the appropriate medium for high-quality television like Freaks and Geeks, and this set, with its abundant extras (29 commentaries for 18 episodes!) will almost certainly find a wider (and similarly enthusiastic) audience than the show's original run.