All those who have spent the past few years complaining about Judd Apatow movies — about the length or the plotlines or that they’re all about shlubby guys getting attractive girls or that they’re nothing but pot jokes — all those people can take it up with the circa 2000 NBC executives who pulled the plug on “Freaks and Geeks,” the beloved, yet low-rated, teen angst dramedy he executive produced with creator Paul Feig that helped launch the careers of Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and many others.
“Even to this day, I think I didn’t want to admit that ‘Freaks and Geeks’ was cancelled,” Apatow said March 10 at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills. “Everything I’ve done, in a way, is revenge for the people who cancelled ‘Freaks and Geeks.’ It’s really demented, but it’s just like ‘you were wrong about that person, and that person and that person. And that writer and that director.’ And I really should get over that.”
Apatow, who still frequently works with that same core people from that show, was speaking in a Q&A with Entertainment Weekly’s Dan Snierson in front of an intimate crowd of friends and colleagues like Garry Shandling (who hired him as a writer on “The Larry Sanders Show”), Jenni Konner (who works with him on “Girls” and whom Apatow hired for another short-lived cult show, “Undeclared”) and Apatow’s wife, Leslie Mann, and daughter Iris. Before the show, he could be seen taking selfies with Ed Begley Jr., who appeared on “Larry Sanders” and also in the film “Pineapple Express,” which Apatow helped pen.
Apatow received the 2014 PaleyFest Icon Award, which recognizes individual creative achievements in television. The event also kicked off PaleyFest, the Center’s annual tribute to the medium with weeks of panels focused on past and current programs.
“I am, like, so proud that I’m the person who’s getting the credit for discovering Judd,” said Roseanne Barr, one of Apatow’s former bosses.
“I like what you do because you can weave a story so well and with such sensitivity, it’s so touching,” Barr said before the Q&A. “It’s just very humanistic and plus, pee-your-pants funny.”
Although Apatow is an executive producer on “Girls,” most of his writing and directing time is now spent in film. Will he ever return to TV?
“TV is so much work, it’s crazy,” Apatow said. “It’s so much harder than movies — a thousand times harder than movies. We’re about to do our fourth season [of “Girls”] and I’ve never been a part of something that’s gone that far. And it’s wonderful to imagine how they grow up.”
Apatow did say that he loves “The Americans” and (perhaps?) joked about remaking Joss Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Until then, he’ll just have to settle for “The Simpsons,” which is producing a version of a spec script he wrote of the Fox sitcom when he was still a struggling writer. He said they rewrote most of it.