I have to say, one of the most interesting developments of the advances in television viewing (i.e. streaming) has been the development of interesting new programming from non-traditional sources. The cable networks have long been giving the traditional television networks a run for their money for quite some time, but Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix are now throwing their hats in the ring. I was skeptical, to be honest–but I really enjoyed Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, and so when a friend recommended Hulu’s Freakish, I was also a bit skeptical about it–I mean, Hulu?
I also recognize that’s very snobbish of me.
My friend told me it was kind of a cross between The Breakfast Club and The Walking Dead…which sounded intriguing, so Paul and I decided to give it a try.
The description couldn’t have been more apt; it literally is The Walking Dead as directed and written by John Hughes, but rather than playing into the stereotypes Hughes lionized in his films, this show subverts them and turns them inside out.
It’s a Saturday, and some kids are arriving at Kent High School for all-day detention. just like The Breakfast Club; this was not a thing at my high school and I don’t know if it’s ever been a thing–but it’s always seemed weird to me. There are also a variety of others kids there at the school–playing basketball, putting up posters for the school election, etc. The basketball coach is in charge of the detention, and is checking in students. Grover, our main hero, shows up and checks in–but he doesn’t actually have detention (just like the Ally Sheedy character in The Breakfast Club), he’s just there because he’s interested in Violet, one of the girls who DOES have detention. As we are getting to know some of the characters–the basketball star, the cheerleader, the Type A girl who wants to be student body president, the violent thug bully, the nerdy smart guy–there is a series of explosions from the chemical plant nearby where most of the people in town work. As the explosions continue everyone rushes inside the school as the atmosphere outside changes–there’s a weird fog, debris falling–and no cell phone service.
And… people exposed to the outside environment have become infected with something that turns them into what the viewers know, from years of these types of films and TV shows, ‘walkers’ or ‘the living dead’ but the kids on the show call ‘freaks’; because in their universe there have been no George Romero movies or anything.
This, of course, is the beginning of their zombie apocalypse, and it’s all shown from the point of view of the teenagers; the coach, the only adult, is killed by a ‘freak’ early on.
The entire first season has them trapped in the school, as one by one the group dwindles as kids are either infected or killed by the freaks; and they slowly, as the season progresses, realize they have to kill or be killed, rather than just trying to save themselves or lock the freaks up somewhere. And those stereotypes I mentioned? As I said, as the show progresses those stereotypes are turned on their heads as the kids slowly begin to bond, a la The Breakfast Club, and as we the viewers get to know them better, as they begin to adapt to their new world and try to figure out ways to survive.
Each episode is only twenty-two minutes long, which goes to show you don’t need over an hour to create suspense or character, and lots of action. Each episode flies past. And yes, we kind of rolled our eyes at it at first, but by episode three we were completely sucked in.
And the last two episodes were a definite sucker punch.
I also liked the sly references to Hughes films, particularly this shot:
I guess it’s time for the 80’s nostalgia wave….but I’m certainly enjoying it!
Looking forward to Season 2.