In all my years of exchanging rainbow discs through the mail, the one White Whale I thought I'd never encounter was a recording of Freaks and Geeks from NBC. Regarded as one of the best television programs of both the 20th and 21st centuries (spanning 1999 to 2000), practically everyone involved went on to have a robust and fruitful career. Judd Apatow dominated 2000s comedies, James Franco got to attack Toby Maguire's Spider-Man with a glider, Busy Philipps has her own talk show (correction: had), Linda Cardellini is now Hawkeye's vaporized wife, Seth Rogen lives in a giant mansion filled with weed smoke, and Samm Levine....wait a minute, where the hell is Samm Levine??

With all that being said, tapes of the show aren't easy to find. I've always wanted to see what the original airings looked like, as I wasn't watching when they were new. But the problem is....NO ONE was watching when they were new. Therefore, no one was devoted enough to set the timer for it. The general populace only got hooked once the series started airing on ABC Family and Shout put out the DVD set. I figured I would never actually see Freaks and Geeks in its natural state...until today, when I somehow got my hands on a VHS recording of "Tests and Breasts," the fifth episode, aired November 6, 1999.

It was worth the wait. Just having the episode would've been satisfying on its own, but the ads....oh, the ads! Almost EVERY advertisement in this recording is pure gold. If you were looking to bottle the essence of the late 90s in video form, you couldn't do better than this tape if you tried. This is one of the best Full Experiences I've ever found, and lucky YOU gets to experience it with me.

This is just a taste of what you're in for: The VERY FIRST AD is about a man who's preparing for the societal collapse brought on by the oncoming Millennium Computer Bug by stocking his bomb shelter with McDonalds French Fries. It ends with the tagline "FRY-2K." Ohh yes.
Next up: this "family" movie about a kid who's father dies and is reincarnated as a snowman, whence wackiness ensues. The film had actually come out the winter before, and this was a promo for the video release.

The next few years were going to be interesting for Blockbuster. At the same time, another film -- also called Jack Frost and also about a snowman -- was out, but the latter one was a horror slasher movie. Since there aren't many ways to design a snowman, the two characters looked very similar, and the movies would often swap places on the rental racks.

Don't strain your brain trying to figure out how this is all working. A cardboard man knocked out a guard and stole a car. His next stop is the gun store, then a few bank robberies on his way to Vegas.
I had to watch this Sprint ad about five times to figure out what kind of message they were trying to send. There's this guy, and his wife is like really really speedy, and it has something to do with cell phones? Did the radiation of these 90s models mutate her?

I think the intended punchline is that she's hyperactive because she has to cut her phone conversations short, because her bill is too high, but that only affects one minor aspect of her life, so it wouldn't result in having to do everything quicker. I dunno. This is a weird ad.

Colonel Harlan Sanders has gone through a lot of permutations over the decades of KFC's advertising. These days they dress a different comedian up in a beard each month. Around this time he was a cartoon character. And he's selling a sandwich for two bucks, which would be a nice deal today.
Yes, it's The poster sock for the dot-com bubble made a perfectly-timed appearance during this Freaks and Geeks episode.

What would history have been like if most of these businesses were smart enough to plan ahead for the crash? Would Amazon be the e-shopping monolith it is today? Let's remember that, around this time, they were strictly a site for buying paper books. Diversifying was the smartest decision they ever made, and it saved their bacon from's fate.

Ads for collect call numbers started appearing around this time, and they would only get worse than this as we entered the 2000s. The general assumption was that if you were the type to call collect, you were already an obnoxious idiot, so the ads targeting you should follow suit. "Mr. ATT Man" would soon be replaced by Carrot Top, and the competing companies would respond by hiring Mr. T and ALF.
As I type this, "Detective Pikachu" is about to hit theaters nationwide. It's not just a nostalgia piece for those who saw Pokemon: The First Movie twenty years ago -- it's also meant for the new generation playing the games today. Pokemon has joined Lego and Barbie as a timeless rite of childhood passage, but unlike Barbie it has plenty of grown-up players too. And to think scoffers back in the day said it wouldn't last.

I guess you couldn't blame them though -- it bore all the earmarks of a fad. In the USA, Pokemon went from nothing to box office blockbuster in just twelve months. Usually when something bursts into flame that fast, it extinguishes just as quickly.

As "trailers" go this doesn't tell you much. There isn't a non-blurry clip of the movie in here, yet kids everywhere were PUMPED by the repetitive "Poke-MON, MON, MON" medley of M2M (who probably had no idea what they were singing about). They had to see this; it was going to be the moment of the DECADE. Then the film came out. It might've been better if 4Kids hadn't taken their bluntest, unsharpened hatchets to it.

And no bundle of late 90s commercials would be complete without a visit from the Guy In The Crash Bandicoot Suit. This time he's not here to promote a specific game, he's mocking some guy for not eating his Stuffed Crust Pizza the way everyone else does it in commercials. Non-conformity isn't cool, bro!

There is no explanation here for why Crash is in a Pizza Hut ad. I know a pizza chain gave out free PS1 demos at some point, but I'm not sure if it was Pizza Hut or if that time was now.

You may nod your head at the relatable experience depicted in this Volkswagen ad, but only if you've lived in a place like NYC. The cramped streets of big cities offer zero room to pull errands like moving a mattress, so these guys have to snarl up traffic while they tie it to their car's roof. It's a race to get it done as quickly as possible before the legendary road rage of New Yorkers reaches its boiling point.
Pretty much every one of these ads depicts a trend going on at the time. 'Round 99 there was a "big bloated TV miniseries epics" competition going on between the networks. For a couple years every Sweeps period was dominated by expensive early-CG stories about dragons or wizards. This time, it's leprechauns, and it quickly becomes apparent just how much that doesn't work. A small man yells "RAUUUURGGGHHHHH!!" and charges with a million other leprechauns into battle. I never knew this horrible movie existed until now, but if I say I want to see it, you'll hold me to reviewing it, so....I choose to stay silent.
The opening ad in the fourth break describes KB Toys as "the toy store favored by families for generations"....but sadly, not much longer. Every mall still had a KB, but the Internet was starting to eat into their market share. KB's response is what's in this ad....their attempt to transition into an e-business. At the time, there was no such thing as an e-business that could fail, so you can't blame these guys for attempting to walk on water.
Oh look, it's those two. If anything, you have to respect Mary-Kate And Ashley Inc. for managing to keep the gravy train rolling way, way past the point where most child actors get thrown away. "We're teenagers," they defiantly say in this ad, as if to point out "Shirley Temple was waiting tables at our age, HA HA HA HA HA." They would gradually lose interest in Hollywood and quietly fade off into their own business ventures. Presumably they are still rich.
This car ad is only worth mentioning because they have to bleep out a swear. It sounds like the word being censored is "balls," which isn't really that naughty anymore, now that every redneck has a pair of disembodied testicles hanging from their 4x4's bumper.
It's William Shatner, the Priceline Negotiator! was one of the few specialty dot-coms to survive the crash, but unlike Amazon, they did it by LIMITING the services they provided. In this ad Shat says you can use Priceline to haggle the price of virtually any product, but today it's mainly used to save a few bucks on airline tickets.

And...that's it? It shouldn't be, but it is. There were five breaks in all during this airing, but the recording stops when the episode fades out, and the last ad break ran before the credits. In this case, though, four is plenty. This is a perfect time capsule. You could bury it and 500 years from now everyone would have everything they need to know about life in the extremely late 20th century (assuming you buried it properly and the box wasn't compromised, which happens to 99% of time capsules).