Sunday, November 1, 2009

Community 1.07: "Introduction to Statistics"

“I saw your father’s ghost again. He’s still angry.”

-Pierce’s Mom

I was excited to hear Thursday’s episode of Community was going to be a Halloween episode, because, as you can probably guess, I love Halloween episodes of television shows. I was left a little disappointed with this one, though. It felt a bit thin, like there wasn’t much substance to it. At first I tried to rationalize it by the fact that Community is a half-hour sitcom, but that isn’t really an excuse. HIMYM did an absolutely wonderful Halloween episode in its first season, “Slutty Pumpkin.” It had hilarious costumes that developed the characters, and most importantly, it had heart. The story of Ted waiting for the Slutty Pumpkin was just so adorably pathetic and Ted-like (plus, hey, Peanuts reference!). The story of Jeff trying to get with his statistics professor and making a last minute decision to instead help his helpless friends left me cold.

There’s a Greendale policy that students who organize academic activities during free time get extra credit, and Annie has decided to be the first student to take advantage of this. She’s holding a Day of the Dead party. All of the study group is ready and raring to go except for Jeff. Instead, Jeff is more interested in hitting on his Statistics professor (after giving Britta first right of refusal of course). Jeff is succeeding in seducing the Statistics professor except for one small problem. She doesn’t date students.

Pretty much the only thing I found both original and mildly amusing about this episode was the reason Jeff didn’t get to go home with the Statistics professor at the end of the night. Every time it seems like he has a shot with her, the rest of the study group comes clamoring for his help with a problem at Annie’s party. While he’s at the faculty party impressing the professor with his rhetoric, the rest of the study group (minus Annie) crashes the party as well to tell Jeff everything from “Annie’s upset that you left” to “Pierce is on a bad trip.” After Jeff uses Chang’s advice to actually get the Statistics professor to agree to sleep with him, their walk to the car is interrupted by the rest of the study group begging Jeff to rescue Pierce. It was nice to see Jeff truly put his friends first.

Although now that I think about it, there is one part of that sequence that isn’t exactly original- Chang’s advice. Jeff just asking the professor for sex because he’s lonely (and getting a positive response) reminds me of the HIMYM episode “The Naked Man,” where the idea is if a guy on a bad first date waits naked in the woman’s apartment, she’ll feel bad and have sex with him out of pity. It’s not exactly the same, but the pity sex element is definitely present in both situations.

There are some character arcs in this episode that seem to be there just for the sake of broad physical comedy, and I really didn’t find either compelling. First, Shirley is taking Jeff moving on from Britta and hitting on the Statistics professor personally. She spends most of the first two-thirds of the episode doing things like ripping the antenna off the professor’s car. It turns out, after Britta confronts her, that Shirley is really just projecting her own issues on to Britta. Shirley’s ex-husband had stopped by earlier that day to ask for his engagement ring back so he could give it to his new girlfriend. The whole situation didn’t really tell us much of anything new about Shirley (she wished she could have “won” the break-up for lack of a better way of phrasing it), and Shirley’s antics were ridiculous and not funny coming from a grown woman with children. Shirley’s Halloween costume was Harry Potter, by the way. Random, much?

The other character arc that focused more on physical comedy opportunities than actual character development was Pierce’s fear of getting old. Earlier in the episode, Troy noticed him taking pills for things like blood pressure, and Pierce was kind of embarrassed by it. At Annie’s party, Pierce trades two of his pills for one of Starburns’ pills. The result is Pierce on a really bad trip. He sees gravestone cookies and Annie in her skeleton costume mocking him for being old, and he builds a massive fort of desks and chairs in the library room where the party is being held. The idea is that the whole mess will fall on top of him. Jeff, of course, is able to get Pierce to calm down with one of his trademark inspirational speeches. The only really funny thing about that whole sequence was Abed, dressed as Batman, saving Jeff and Pierce from the falling fort o’ furniture.

Speaking of Abed, although this week’s episode was once again light on the Abed brand of wackiness, I found Abed in a Batman costume kind of amusing. Mostly because Abed used the whispery “Batman voice” just like Sheldon did in that episode of Big Bang Theory where he said “I’m Batman!” a few times. Abed’s closing Batman-like monologue went on a little too long, though. I think the closing Batman parody monologue in the “The Naked Man” was a better length. It was long enough to clue viewers into the joke and let them have a laugh, but not so long that it became tiresome.

There was another scene that reminded me of Big Bang Theory as well, more specifically the second season episode “The Euclid Alternative.” When Jeff is at Annie’s party and finds out from Señor Chang that the Statistics professor is not actually grading papers, but at the faculty Halloween party, Chang gives Jeff a ride to the faculty party on the back of his moped. This of course results in Jeff hanging on for dear life and screaming like a little girl. Much as Sheldon did as he rode on the back of Howard’s moped screaming “Not Euclid Avenue!” Sheldon was funnier, though, because we specifically knew why he was screaming. He informed Penny earlier in the episode that Euclid Avenue wasn’t the usual route to work because it has speed bumps- painful!

I think the fact that I’ve spent most of this post comparing elements of the latest Community to episodes of HIMYM and The Big Bang Theory pretty much underscores a problem I had with this episode. It was very derivative, and there wasn't much in the way of new jokes. I was left mostly thinking how other shows did the same jokes and situations better.

No comments:

Post a Comment