Sunday, September 27, 2009

Community 1.02: "Spanish 101"

“Forget Britta! All you have to know is her name! What is she? A water filter?”


As much as I want to like it, because it is one of the more critically acclaimed new shows of the season and it stars Joel McHale, Community isn’t quite working for me. It could be that I’m just generally not a sitcom person. I love HIMYM because the situations presented speak to the stage of life that I’m in right now. I love The Big Bang Theory because of the nerd humor. But maybe I just don’t love sitcoms unless they have that one certain aspect that specifically speaks to me.

One thing that did amuse me about Thursday's episode (and, I guess, really the series overall) was the new full title sequence. I love that the actors’ names are written on one of those origami fortune tellers. I used to love those things when I was a kid. I think I actually believed the fortunes would come true. I’m not quite sure how origami fortune tellers are related to community college, but it brought back some good memories nonetheless.

Since I’m spending blog space talking about the main title sequence, it’s pretty obvious that this episode was, once again, kind of light on plot. There were two (sort of) main plot threads. The first is that there’s a Spanish assignment to be completed. The class has been broken into partners, and they have to use basic phrases to present a conversation to the rest of the class. Jeff gets stuck working with Pierce, even though he (of course) really wanted to work with Britta, and he even gave Abed his shirt to try and make that happen. Pierce is a serious Jeff fanboy, to a kind of disturbing degree, and he keeps Jeff in a study room for hours working out this elaborate, multi-act production that doesn’t even include any of the required phrases. Jeff finally puts the kibosh on the whole thing to join Britta at a protest. Pierce gets injured (somehow ends up with his arm on fire) while confronting Jeff at the protest. The next day, Pierce dejectedly arrives at Spanish class, expecting to have to do the “presentation” on his own. Their professor, Señor Chang (who is pretty hilarious, by the way), has offered to let Pierce do the production by himself and just give Jeff a C for putting up with him. Partly because he felt bad for Pierce, and partly because he thought it might redeem himself a bit in Britta’s eyes, Jeff turns down the offer. He and Pierce do the crazy presentation, complete with Israeli flags, robot suits, and sparklers. Señor Chang gives them a failing grade, and Britta once again turns Jeff down, observing that nobody could consider Jeff “sexually viable” after that crazy presentation.

Although the presentation was probably intended to be the big, shining comedic moment of the episode, all it really did was remind me of a similar situation in HIMYM that made me laugh much more. The HIMYM episode I’m thinking of is the second season episode “Stuff” where Barney puts on the one man show called “Suck it, Lily” to get back at Lily for making him go see her in a horrible play. In one of his show’s routines designed specifically to annoy Lily, he dresses up as a robot, very similar to what Jeff and Pierce do for one of the scenes in their Spanish presentation. That scenario in HIMYM included one of my favorite all-time Barney quotes, “Spoiler alert! The robot falls in love.”

Meanwhile, Britta chastises Annie and Shirley for not caring about more important things, like the political situation in Guatemala. Annie and Shirley respond by becoming truly interested in the topic, and they research a journalist who was allegedly killed by the Guatemalan government. They also decide to hold a protest. They protest their own way, though, with brownies, piñatas, and music during the day, and a night time “silent protest.” Britta tells Annie and Shirley that she thinks their protest idea is lame, but then she is forced to reveal that she name checks and complains about fringe political issues much more than she actually does anything about them.

Britta’s revelation at the end of the B story felt very real to me. I think a lot of us do exactly what Britta did. We find out about some atrocity happening in the developing world, get slightly outraged over it for a few days or a week, and then move on with our lives. For instance, I saw the movie Hotel Rwanda for the first time a few weeks ago. It was an excellent movie, and I was incredibly glad that I watched it. What I couldn’t get over was the fact that this movie was released at the height of the genocide in Darfur, yet we once again (just like during the crisis in Rwanda) allowed our government to pussy-foot around calling what happened in Darfur a genocide so that the Geneva Convention wouldn’t require us to get involved. I expressed my outrage to a few people, and I’m writing about it right now on this blog, but did I jump on a plane and head to some forgotten nation where genocide is still happening, or did I even bother to join in a protest closer to home? Of course not.

Overall, I wasn’t really that impressed with this episode of Community, except for Britta’s revelation about the true extent of her political involvement. Jeff and Pierce’s Spanish presentation was mildly funny, but it didn’t have me laughing so hard that I have to remember to breathe like HIMYM and The Big Bang Theory often do. I’m going to give the show some more time to find its way, however, because it’s fun to see Joel McHale act in addition doing his stand-up comedy routine (which is pretty funny in its own right) on The Soup.

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