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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Know your TV geniuses: Paul Feig

Back when I was bored enough to maintain a MySpace page, Paul Feig was one of the foremost names on my imaginary list of "People I'd Like to Meet." I still stand by that bold MySpace proclamation -- even as you gaze at the photo to the right and say to yourself, "Um ... Paul who?"

Feig is a hero of mine, but not because of his IMDB resume (though it does contain some gems.) While Judd Apatow certainly added creative touches to one of my all-time favorite shows, "Freaks and Geeks," the more you read about Feig, the more you realize that it wasn't his genius as a TV writer or producer that made the show transcendent. Instead, it took a special kind of genius to realize that his own awkward teenage experience should serve as the backbone for characters like Bill, Sam and Neal -- and that those insecurities and the level of personal humiliation brought on by not fitting into the idealized aesthetic of popularity made for compelling television.

Let's not kid ourselves. TV is a medium usually reserved for beautiful people. And while you don't need to have deep adolescent scars to appreciate "Freaks" -- I certainly didn't have a crowd-pointing episode anywhere near as traumatic as Sam's "Parisian nightsuit" fiasco -- the show was mainly about the simplest of pleasures being ripped away from young high school students -- the ability to just ... be. That Feig hasn't changed one iota of his supergeek self, even as a successful producer currently working on "The Office," well, that's worth commending.

As a recent New York Times profile reveals, Feig has a hard time considering himself a success. Maybe all those swirlies he experienced back in high school from a personal tormentor like Alan White has his brain convinced he's nothing more than a "Star Wars" loving nerd who should still be looking over his shoulder. And yes, while it's true that "Freaks" crashed and burned during its limited run on NBC, he has to take some satisfaction in knowing it not only launched the careers of James Franco, Seth Rogen, Linda Cardellini and Jason Segel, but touched countless lives with its all-too real storytelling.

"Freaks and Geeks" fans will want to read the interview because it reveals a lot about the man behind the McKinley High curtain -- you know, beyond Feig making the briefest of cameos as the Dimension guitarist during Nick's awful tryout in "I'm With the Band." "Office" fans might be interested in seeing how he molds characters and what he expects to bring out of insecure Dunder Mifflin-ites trying to fit into their jobs. You also might not want to get your hopes up for "Kath & Kim," the new NBC comedy project with Molly Shannon that Feig left because of apparent creative differences.

Above all, this quote by Feig stood out. I should have expected it based on "Freaks," but still, it's hard not to love the guy for being so honest about who he is.

"I had a Donald Duck pin I would wear all the time in high school,” Feig remembered. “I loved Donald Duck. I thought the pin was kind of cool. But walking through the mall, the teens, the meaner ones, would sit along this kind of one low wall along this main walkway and heckle you and call you names. Throughout my teens, I just wanted to go somewhere I could wear a Donald Duck pin and no one would care.”

Man, don't we all.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski, trozwado@greenbaypressgazette.com

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2 Comments:

Feig would be a hero of mine if for no other reason than he wrote "Superstud," an autobiographical retelling of his many failed attempts at losing his virginity. That anyone could be so brutally honest and side-splittingly funny about something so personal and embarrassing, you've just got to give him props. And that's even AFTER giving him his well-deserved props for "F&G."

-Adam

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At October 8, 2008 at 4:57 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At October 8, 2008 at 4:58 PM  

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