TV Homecomings we wish we could have attended

·5 min read
Clockwise from top left: Freaks And Geeks (Screenshot: Hulu), One Tree Hill (Screenshot: Hulu), The Middle (Screenshot: Hulu), Friday Night Lights (Screenshot: Hulu), and The Vampire Diaries (Screenshot: Netflix)
Clockwise from top left: Freaks And Geeks (Screenshot: Hulu), One Tree Hill (Screenshot: Hulu), The Middle (Screenshot: Hulu), Friday Night Lights (Screenshot: Hulu), and The Vampire Diaries (Screenshot: Netflix)

Now that high school is back in session and the big dance—that is, Homecoming—is just around the corner, we decided to round up the small-screen depictions of this American fall ritual that we would have actually liked to drop in on. So which Homecoming reigns supreme? The Friday Night Lights middle-of-nowhere rager? Or maybe that mansion bash in The Vampire Diaries? Or that very familiar Freaks And Geeks dance? Or are there any biggies we missed? As always, let us know in the comments.

Freaks And Geeks: Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”


Freaks and Geeks - Homecoming

Freaks And Geeks is set in 1980, but as a teen myself some two decades later during its run, the show—and in particular, Lindsay’s (Linda Cardellini) outlook—really captured what high school felt like. (There was a point when, like Lindsay, I too would have only attended the Homecoming dance under duress and probably would’ve worn a green army jacket.) But there’s a sweetness going on in the Homecoming-set final moments of Freaks And Geeks’ pilot that I’d love to witness, as Sam (John Francis Daley) adorably and nervously asks Cindy (Natasha Melnick) to dance, thinking Styx’s “Come Sail Away” is a slow song the whole way through. (Styx happened to play my father’s prom in the ’70s, so I’m probably unpacking some extra emotional baggage watching the scene unfold.) It isn’t, but the rocking out bit of that very long number proves the perfect euphoric note to end on, with Lindsay, not at all nervously but just as adorably, asking Eli (Ben Foster—yes, the Ben Foster), who’s still nursing the arm she inadvertently broke, to dance as well. [Tim Lowery]

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One Tree Hill: Season 2, Episode 9, “The Trick Is To Keep Breathing”

One Tree Hill
One Tree Hill

Who wouldn’t want to watch iconic teen couple Nathan Scott (James Lafferty) and Haley James (Bethany Joy) win the titles of Homecoming King and Queen, only to fight right after being crowned? All while Haley and secret singing partner Chris Keller’s (Tyler Hilton) “When The Stars Go Blue” is playing? One Tree Hill never shied away from melodrama, and season two’s ninth episode, “The Trick Is To Keep Breathing,” is a spectacle alright. Being part of Tree Hill High’s big dance means seeing Lucas juggle current and former girlfriends (Brooke Davis, Peyton Sawyer, and Anna Tagaro). Dan Scott, one of the worst TV fathers of all time, also shows up as a chaperone. So yes, this installment has all the love triangle, music, and glamor that One Tree Hill has to offer. Imagine being a fly on that room’s wall—er, we mean fake, glittery Eiffel Tower that was meant to display the theme of “dreams.” [Saloni Gajjar]

The Vampire Diaries: Season 3, Episode 9, “Homecoming”

The Vampire Diaries
The Vampire Diaries

Admittedly, volunteering to be any part of The Vampire Diaries universe is asking for death itself (unless you’re Elena Gilbert, of course). But in our defense, the Homecoming episode of season three—the show’s best season ever—has all the goods. The episode title takes itself seriously because Niklaus Mikaelson (Joseph Morgan) is back in Mystic Falls, making the case for being a charming villain and carrying his dead vampire family’s coffins around. He throws a grand party at his mansion, knowing everyone will probably try to kill him. And boy, do they. Damon (Ian Somerhalder) almost stakes the original vampire but is stopped by his own brother, Stefan (Paul Wesley). The loving tug-of-war between the two brothers is enough to want to be part of this Homecoming. The music, dancing, and free booze are just additional perks before everyone is thrown out so vampires, werewolves, and hybrids can fight. Hey, it’s TVD, after all. [Saloni Gajjar]

Friday Night Lights: Season 1, Episode 7, “Homecoming”

Friday Night Lights
Friday Night Lights

In Dillon, Texas, Homecoming is a several-day affair, with everything from a kickoff party that brings the whole town—and in this ep, a depressing blast from the past in the form of a once-adored, now struggling state champion—to a big game, a dance, and a not-quite-legal afterparty. That last one, cooked up by Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) and Billy (Derek Phillips), the brother of her ex Tim (Taylor Kitsch), seems the most fun, so we’d opt for it if forced to choose. Like the moontower beer bust in Dazed And ConfusedFNL, like that iconic film, was also shot in and around Austin—this one takes place basically in the middle of nowhere, with a bunch of high schoolers hoisting plastic cups. The soundtrack for the party might be more than a little lamer than Dazed’s, but it does boast Matt (Zach Gilford) asking out the coach’s daughter, Julie (Aimee Teegarden), like so: “Will you go on a date with me? Maybe…or not. I mean. I just thought I’d throw that out there. But it’s probably…it’s probably a bad idea.” And then there’s Landry (Jesse Plemons), being clever and dry as ever with Tyra’s sister, Landing Strip employee Mindy (Stacey Oristano). [Tim Lowery]

The Middle: Season 2, episode 2, “Homecoming”

The Middle
The Middle

No sitcom does Homecoming-themed episodes better than The Middle, which means there are lots of options to choose from. But the immediate standout still remains their first go at it: season two’s “Homecoming.” There’s no traditional dance that we could’ve joined, but there is eldest Heck son Axl’s (Charlie Heaton) big game. Frankie (Patricia Heaton) desperately wants to attend mainly so she can walk her son across the field, as is tradition. Unfortunately, she’s pulled away by her daughter Sue’s (Eden Sher) cross-country meet. What follows are Frankie’s ludicrous attempts to balance both events. Nothing would be funnier than being a spectator at that stadium when, in the end, Frankie finally makes it to Axl’s game only to embarrass him by running onto the field when he falls down. The Middle quickly perfected how to balance sitcom-y silliness with heart, and “Homecoming” was full of it. [Saloni Gajjar]