A group of high school students in 1980 faces various social struggles. Wealthy “brain” Lindsay wants to rebel. Her geeky freshman brother Sam and his two friends are targeted by a bully.
When Mr & Mrs. Weir go out of town for the weekend, Lindsey hosts a keg party. Sam, Bill, and Neal, worried that the party-goers will get too rowdy, substitute a keg of non-alcoholic beer for the one the freaks have on ice.
Halloween doesn't go as expected for Sam, Lindsey, or their parents.
Kim befriends Lindsay for ulterior motives, while Sam is bullied unmercifully by Karen Scarfolli, whose locker is next to his.
Daniel cons Lindsay into helping him pass an algebra test, while Sam and his pals try to figure out the basics of human sexuality.
Lindsay encourages Nick to pursue a career in music. Nick continues to practice with his current band, but quickly decides he's better than them. Lindsay encourages Nick to audition for a bigger local band. When things don't go well in the audition, Lindsay is there to comfort Nick. Sam, Bill, and Neal struggle with having to shower in gym class.
Sam, Neal, and Bill befriend a pretty new transfer student, but soon fear of losing her to the popular crowd and try to win her over with a series of fun things they plan for her. Lindsay, Nick, Daniel, and Ken decide to get fake IDs so they can see a hot local band perform at a bar. However, after they go through the trouble of getting their IDs and going into the bar, the group is stunned to find out who the hot local bands lead singer is.
Lindsay and Nick get more serious, and her parents give unwanted advice. Sam joins the yearbook staff to get closer to Cindy, who thinks of him only as a friend.
Sam tries out to be the school mascot hoping to impress Cindy. Meanwhile, Daniel, Ken, and Kim suddenly become the basketball team's most rabid fans following a series of run-ins with jocks from the rival school, Lincoln High. Lindsay tries to figure out the best way to break up with Nick.
Lindsay's parents are convinced Kim is leading their daughter down a path toward drugs and sex, so they consider taking a peek in her diary. Meanwhile, Bill is tired of the same jocks picking the teams during P.E., often leaving him picked last, so he makes crank calls to Coach Fredricks then confronts him directly. The adults may be the ones learning lessons from the students.
A car accident results in Lindsay deciding to stop hanging out with her “freak” friends. She decides to rejoin the mathletes and start hanging out with Millie again. Sam adopts a new modern hair style in the hopes of impressing Cindy. When this fails, he seeks out a new wardrobe
Neal learns his father is cheating on his mother. Ken develops a crush on the tuba player in the school's marching band and Lindsay helps set them up.
When Bill talks about being allergic to peanuts in class, Alan tries to prove he's lying but Bill ends up in the hospital after an allergic reaction. Lindsay smokes weed for the first time.
Lindsay tries to convince Harold to let her join her friends at a Who concert. Kim and Lindsay accidentally run over Millie's dog. Kim starts hanging out with Millie. Lindsay wants to tell Millie the truth about her dog, but Kim does not. Meanwhile, Nick teaches himself to play guitar and writes a love ballad for Lindsay. Ms. Haverchuck stuns Bill with the news that she has been dating Coach Fredricks.
Neal wrestles with the dilemma of whether to tell his mother about his father's affair. Lindsay is given detention after coming to the aid of a girl being attacked by a boy. Daniel deals with pressures at home and with Kim. He escapes from his problems through punk music.
Nick stays with the Weirs while he's on the outs with his dad, and the geeks go to a make-out party.
As McKinley High prepares for a visit from Vice President Bush, Ken and Sam must sort out conflicted feelings in their love lives.
Nick explores disco, Lindsay listens to the Grateful Dead, and Daniel tries something new. What's cool? Friendship.