Paul Feig is indebted to ‘Leave It to Beaver’

Writer and director Paul Feig (“Freaks and Geeks,” “The Office,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Bridesmaids”) on a TV series that influenced him.

Weirdly, one of my favorite shows ever is “Leave It to Beaver.” Even though people make fun of how perfect that family was, I think that’s the most honest portrayal of kids I’ve ever seen on television.

For me, “Leave It to Beaver” was a big influence on “Freaks and Geeks” because those kids talk and act like real kids. I know, they’re all “Gee whiz!” and stuff, but they were never clever, and my problem with shows about kids is that they’re always so clever, it’s clear they were written by adults. Hollywood writers really like that, because it’s like they have little adults to read their lines, and that has some comedic value occasionally. But to me, it’s cloying and fake. You don’t meet kids like that in real life. If you do, you want to kill them.

Those “Leave It to Beaver” kids, especially when they’re really little, in the early episodes of that show, they’re so inarticulate and awkward in the way they misinterpret things. There’s this one scene I thought was so funny where the Cleavers invite [Beaver’s] teacher over for dinner. He kind of has a crush on her, but he’s sitting there in a little suit, and his parents make him sit out in the living room with his teacher. She’s wearing a dress, and he looks down at her feet and she’s wearing open-toed high-heeled shoes with painted toenails. He does a total double-take, and there’s this look on his face where you can tell that he’s totally freaked out by it. That’s such a funny choice because as a kid you think your teacher’s this automaton. You don’t think of teachers as having a life outside of school. And you definitely don’t think they have feet.

—Melissa Maerz