Following the so-bad-it's-good TV movie Someone I Touched and the so-fascinating-you'll-ignore-the-crappier-parts documentary The Imposter, the third installment of the Slog Netflix Streaming Club draws from the service's vast collection of television programs—specifically, the legendarily brilliant and still somehow underrated series Freaks & Geeks, of which we will be discussing episode four: "Kim Kelly Is My Friend."
Full disclosure: I love "Kim Kelly Is My Friend" so much I could die. Others have different favorite Freaks and Geeks episodes, but for me, "Kim Kelly Is My Friend" is the series' apex, capturing so much that's true (and rarely presented on TV) about high-school life. (The minute-by-minute navigation of horror! The never-ending status play! The pain-relieving properties of treating someone else like shit!)
The basic plot of the episode: After being repeatedly treated like shit by Kim "queen of the cool kids" Kelly, Lindsay finds herself drawn into a day-long, high-drama friendship with Kim. Meanwhile, Lindsay's little brother Sam is navigating his own trouble with Kim Kelly, who's been bullying him at school, along with her bad-girl friend Karen Scarfoli. The stories overlap as Kim storms the Weir household, bringing a tornado of drama with her.
But Freaks & Geeks is all about the tiny brilliant moments that add up to brilliant episodes, and here's a list of the tiny moments that mean the most to me: * Kim's instinctive shit-stirring: "Hey Karen, was this guy trying to break into your locker?" * Bill's genuine alarm and concern about the "PYGMY GEEK" graffiti on Sam's locker. (Bill is a great friend.) * Karen Scarfoli's "What happened to my artwork? I spent a lot of time on that!" (And her Journey tour jersey.) * The intensity of the escape scene from Kim Kelly's house, with Linda Cardellini's Lindsay giving a horror-movie-worthy performance (for a minute or so). *The nightmare (lived by Sam) of having your school bully storm into your bedroom and refuse to leave.
But the episode belongs to actor Busy Phillips and scriptwriter Mike White, who make Kim Kelly the best realized cool girl/bad girl in TV history—lashing out in all directions (but hitting all the little points of her emotional tornados precisely), recoiling at the slightest hint of resistance, sniffing like a wounded animal at the Weirs' dinner table. And the glimpse we get of her home life makes it all make horrifying sense. It's masterful, right down to Kim's final sashay away, her glossy blonde hair cascading perfectly down the back on her baby-blue ski jacket.