Alienated kids will find encouragement and support in this MTV special, a celebration of non-conformity, rebellion and the avant garde.
The most invigorating segments come at the start, with interviews of such prominent and successful ex-teen freaks, nerds and weirdos as Tim Burton, David Spade and Sandra Bernhard.
Of course, the fact that these rare successes are encouraging MTV viewers to maintain their counterculture ways may be no more helpful and realistic than telling poor urban kids to bank on athletics to build their futures, but there’s still an undeniable inspirational jolt to the interviews.
Also edging admirably toward substance is a segment on teen suicide, featuring a young woman named Heather who’s been through the teen-depression mill and is now working to stem the number of kids being claimed by it.
Pieces showcasing current teens vary in effectiveness. A bit on a young man who rejected his father’s passion — athletics — to excel at the cello, hits some high notes, partly because this is about the only un-hip kid featured in the entire half-hour.
Much of the rest of “Freaks, Nerds & Weirdos” misfires because these supposedly different, free-thinking, non-conformist kids start looking and sounding not much more diverse than an average collection of guests on “The 700 Club.” And several of these “rebels” openly sneer at those who deviate from the MTV mold.
The special aims to promote tolerance and diversity, but in its weaker moments promotes not much more than tolerance of a certain set of teen idiosyncrasies, already popular with the MTV audience, while encouraging disdain toward those who aren’t conforming to the non-conformist program.
Production values are strong, with a welcome absence of jiggly cameras, black-and-white footage and other tired style-over-substance techniques that mar less up-to-date, youth-oriented product.