Sunday, October 4, 2009

Community 1.03: "Introduction to Film"

“My dad will only pay for classes that will help me run the family restaurant. It’s been struggling since 2001. 9/11 was pretty much the 9/11 of the falafel business.”


While I was, at first, not at all impressed by this week’s episode of Community, I was sold on this episode by the end. It, essentially, went from stupid, unfunny, uncomfortable attempts at humor to something resembling genuine emotion. This week explored in more detail a theme that has been lightly alluded to in previous episodes- the value of going after true dreams. The episode was structured nicely with an A and B story that came together right at the end and a (mercifully) small C story that provided a few extra cheap laughs for those who like that sort of humor.

Jeff has discovered a class that he believes is the key to re-implementing his “coast as much as possible through community college” grand scheme, and he shares this discovery with the rest of the study group. The professor of this class thinks he’s the next Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society.” It turns out that it’s actually just an accounting class, but the professor is teaching them nothing about accounting. He just wants the students to “seize the day.” I didn’t really find the class “seizing the day” to be all that funny. Mostly it was just uncomfortable. Shirley had to tell the real reason she came to community college, “to get what’s hers,” and Annie had to stand up on a desk. Then the rest of the class stood up on their desks too. And, of course, somebody’s desk collapsed. I’ve heard of the term “embarrassment squick” before, and I don’t usually fall victim to it. I found Ted’s first day teaching at Columbia in the HIMYM season premiere to be hilarious, for instance. I did feel what I believe is embarrassment squick here, though, and it kind of ruined my enjoyment of the classroom scenes.

The class turns out not to be as much of a boon for Jeff as he anticipated. The professor can see right through his act, and he accuses Jeff of just being in the class for the “A” and not truly seizing the day. Jeff resorts to crazier and more outrageous schemes in order to try and convince the professor that he really is trying to seize the day. He wears rainbow suspenders and a light-up Christmas tie to school one day. Then he makes the mistake of ordering a plain black coffee when the professor is watching. Later, Jeff orchestrates a whole over-the-top scene where he runs through the quad flying a rainbow kite then joins in a game of Double Dutch with some young girls. The professor again isn’t buying it and is (rightfully) a little creeped out.

The other major story at play is that Britta discovers Abed’s true wish is to take film classes, and she wants to make his dream come true. Abed reveals that his dad will only let him take classes that will teach him what he needs to know to run the family falafel restaurant, and Britta responds by giving Abed the money he needs to pay for an intro-level film class. Abed goes all out once he’s in the film class. He starts filming a documentary that he claims is about his father. His father disapproves and cuts off all contact with Abed, however, so Abed continues filming Jeff and Britta as his “parents.” Jeff and Britta think this is weird and kind of creepy. I agree. Britta also is upset that Abed seems to be blatantly wasting the money she gave him on things like pizza and lattes for the study group.

At Britta’s request, Jeff tries to come up with a solution to the problem. He organizes a conference of sorts with himself, Britta, Abed, and Abed’s dad. Abed has finished his documentary, and he wants to show it to everyone. Frankly, the documentary is just strange and kind of disturbing. It has Britta and Jeff saying kind of mean and discouraging things about Abed with the faces of Abed’s parents superimposed over Jeff and Britta’s faces. Jeff and Britta aren’t especially impressed, but Abed’s dad is. He’s more impressed about the fact that Abed found a way to express his emotions, really. Abed’s dad now approves of Abed studying film, and it turns out Abed got what he wanted all along. He had been manipulating Jeff and Britta to get to this point. Jeff and Britta are just glad to be rid of the problem, though, I think.

The last scene is really where the two plots come together. Jeff and Britta are walking out of the classroom building, and Britta thanks Jeff for his help in dealing with Abed. Jeff notes that Britta must not like the fact that she now owes him one. Britta notices the crazy professor is watching them and tells Jeff to kiss her. The professor is delighted at Jeff’s spontaneous action and is truly convinced that Jeff has tried to seize the day. “Now we’re even,” Britta says as she walks away from a slightly confused Jeff.

Before this episode, I hadn’t really been at all invested in Jeff and Britta’s relationship, but I’m definitely rooting for them now. In the first two episodes, I couldn’t figure out why Jeff was pursuing her, except for the fact that she’s a cute blonde. It was nice to see them actually working together in this episode- there was definitely chemistry. The episode added more depth to Britta herself, as well. At the beginning, I thought this was going to be yet another “Britta goes on an empty idealistic crusade” plot, but it ended up having a bit more depth than that- probably because of the inclusion of Abed’s family. As for that “C” plot I mentioned? Troy has a girly sneeze. Yeah. That’s about enough said about that.

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