TV Features

Before Its Time: "Freaks and Geeks"

20 years ago, Freaks and Geeks aired for an audience that expected a modern Wonder Years but instead got something closer to Dazed and Confused.

The main cast of Freaks and Geeks pictured.

Photo credit Den of Geek

If Netflix announced a new, upcoming series produced by Judd Apatow with a cast including Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, James Franco, Martin Starr, Busy Philipps, Lizzy Caplan, and Shia LaBeouf, it would be one of the most anticipated projects in Hollywood.

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Music Features

On This Day: Shakira Liberated Everyone's “She Wolf”

"I was in the studio in a bad mood that day, then I got inspired and went to a corner and I wrote the lyrics and the melody in 10 minutes. The image of the she wolf just came to my head, and when I least expected it I was howling and panting," Shakira said.

By Fabio Alexx

11 years ago, on July 10th, 2009, Colombian singer Shakira released the first single off her third studio album.

"She Wolf" is a synth-pop banger built on a B minor progression. It was, in many ways, an insane song, born out of the singer's own frustration and ennui.

"I was in the studio in a bad mood that day, then I got inspired and went to a corner and I wrote the lyrics and the melody in 10 minutes. The image of the she wolf just came to my head, and when I least expected it I was howling and panting," Shakira said.

Though the music was composed by John Hill and Sam Endicott, lead singer of post-punk band The Bravery, the lyrics were all Shakira's own. "[Shakira] contacted him (Hill), asking if he had any stuff," said Endicott. "We never had her in mind. We just made the thing independently of her, and then she liked it a lot, and she sang over it. She used some of the melodies we put in there and then wrote these crazy lyrics about being a werewolf. And that's how it happened."

Shakira - She Wolf www.youtube.com


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TV

The 5 Best TV Tributes to D&D

Including those incredible "Stranger Things" scenes.

With Halloween coming up, I thought it was time to revisit the phenomenon that was the first season of Stranger Things.

Three years ago it took over our entire culture for two weeks, and reintroduced the world to the wonders of Dungeons and Dragons. The first season is perfectly framed by the four young friend's passionate investment in an epic tabletop quest—informing their battle with the Demagorgon, their understanding of the Upside Down, and foreshadowing the events of season two in the finale. It was charming and fun, and many of us were sucked into a love affair with the endless possibilities of D&D. But then, in season three, Stranger Things betrayed us.

Suddenly, D&D wasn't a priority anymore! Just because everyone has girlfriends now, we're not supposed to immerse ourselves in an imaginary world of magic and wonder? Bullshit! Will is the only one who gets it, and he's dressed like a moron.

Will Byers, Dressed Like a Moron in Stranger Things Season 3 What are you wearing, Will?!


Luckily, there are other TV shows that have professed their love for D&D without turning their backs. So let's take a look at the best D&D tribute episodes in TV history.

Community: Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

Troy Barnes, extolling the virtues of D&D

Community creator Dan Harmon loves Dungeons & Dragons so much that he has a show dedicated to animating D&D sessions. So when the study group gets together in the second season (the best one…) to help "Fat Neil" by playing the most epic D&D campaign in history, you can expect it to be legit. Everything from the LOTR voice-over opening, to Danny Pudi's earnest devotion to his DM duties, and Donald Glover's basic misunderstanding of the game—"Shouldn't there be a board, or pieces, or something to Jenga?"—is handled perfectly. And when Pierce's narcissism leads to the party splitting, and Neil losing his most prized magical items, the stakes suddenly become real, and the rest of the study group must use all their cunning and skill to save the day.

The episode is so good, Community actually did a follow up in season five—"Advanced Advanced Dungeons and Dragons"—with David Cross reconnecting with Mike from Breaking Bad. Also worth a watch, and notable for not including Ken Jeong in drow-blackface.

Justin Trudeau

Freaks and Geeks: Discos and Dragons

James Franco, Before it Was Too Late

It's fitting that the series finale of the highly underrated Freaks and Geeks ends with one of TVs best tributes to D&D. The titular geeks are strong advocates and the game is helmed by possibly the greatest dungeon master in history, whose low affect air of authority lends necessary gravitas to the scene.

Best. DM. Ever.

The thrust of their session is the transformation of Daniel, played by James Franco, changing his alignment from Freak (effortlessly cool idiot) to geek (enthusiastic nerd). And isn't it fun to imagine a world in which someone interceded in time to prevent James Franco from becoming pure evil?

iZombie: Twenty Sided, Die

Clive Babineaux, Getting Into It

Another entry in the category of underrated shows showing love for D&D, iZombie is the story of Liv Moore (... get it?) a medical examiner who mixes drugs with energy drinks and gains the ability to absorb dead people's personalities and memories by eating their brains. Standard stuff. In Twenty Sided, Die, the corpse in question is a devoted dungeon master, and must play through a campaign with her friends in order to unlock the dead man's memories. Liv's fellow ME, Ravi Chakrabarti, is a reliable nerd, and dives right into the role playing with some solid accent work, but the real fun comes from the stoic Detective Babineaux, who begins the session with an eyeroll, and finishes on the edge of his seat, more invested than anyone. You love to see it, and the resulting fan art is choice.

Earl

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Honorable Mention: Mazes and Monsters

Tom Hanks Beginning His Illustrious Career

While technically not a TV show, 1982's Mazes and Monsters deserves to be on this list both for giving Tom Hanks his first starring role, and for being the only TV movie to ever acknowledge the frightening power of tabletop role playing. Produced at the height of a panic over what D&D was doing to our children, M&M follows Robbie Wheeling, a stressed out student whose first exposure to role playing leads to a total psychotic break from reality. His friends must track his alter ego, Pardue the Holy Man through the bowels of New York City to save his life. The entire film is a masterpiece, available for free on YouTube, but you only need to see one scene, near the end, to know that Tom Hanks deserves at least four more Oscars.