Monday, January 18, 2010

Community 1.13: "Investigative Journalism"

“Nobody will care about my time in rehab if they think I’m a writer!”


The first episode of “Community” in the new year was a bit of a mixed bag. I found some scenes extremely funny, and I found some scenes annoying and juvenile. It’s a new semester at Greendale, and while the study group are trying to turn over a new leaf, it’s pretty clear that not much is really going to change. The journey these characters are on is towards accepting who they truly are. The characters manage to continue on that journey in “Investigative Journalism” despite a more irritating than funny guest appearance by Jack Black as Buddy, an interloper from Spanish class who wants to join the study group.

The only really entertaining thing to come from Jack Black’s performance was at the beginning of the episode, when he was introducing himself to the study group as somebody who sat in the corner in Spanish class. Buddy is inserted, Lost-style into a few scenes from the first half of the season, like Jeff and Pierce’s crazy performance from “Spanish 101.” I thought that was pretty clever, and it’s not something usually seen in a sitcom.

The Dean is back to his usual tricks, once again trying to raise Greendale’s prestige and enlist Jeff’s help in doing so. This time, the Dean wants to restart Greendale’s school newspaper, naturally given an absurdly long name, the “Greendale Gazette Journal Mirror.” It’s a text message about “free Sephora samples” that first draws Jeff to the newspaper office, which I thought was kind of random. I mean, sure there have been jokes about how much gel it must take to get Jeff’s hair to look like it does, but being excited about Sephora? Really? The ultimate hook that gets Jeff to agree to be editor-in-chief of the newspaper makes much more sense to me, since I thoroughly enjoyed having the same perk when I worked for an academic publication- his own office.

Also true to the formula Community has been establishing, Annie is fully ensconced in the newspaper staff. She thinks that success on the newspaper will help her efforts to transfer to a four year school. Honestly, all we’re missing now is Pierce volunteering to do something newspaper-related- coming up with a new name for the paper, maybe? And of course he would doubt himself only to have his friends give him the confidence to finally pull through with a lame final product. Thankfully, though, the episode didn’t follow the formula that closely, and this episode was mercifully light on Pierce. I couldn’t take both Chevy Chase and Jack Black’s antics in one episode- that would be much too much.

Thankfully, this episode was also light on Señor Chang, as well, although not as light as it seemed like it might be. The first Spanish class of the new semester starts with a woman informing the class of Señor Chang’s death due to a tragic accident involving his moped and an Arby’s. Unfortunately for those of us who are not at all Señor Chang fans, this was just an elaborate, obnoxious hoax. We couldn’t be so lucky as to have Señor Chang’s presence replaced by extra appearances by Professor Duncan or the “Dead Poets Society” wannabe.

I think the most interesting character arc in this episode is Jeff’s. He’s determined to not be bitter about his situation anymore- he just wants to be laid back and have fun, and he takes this approach to his management of the newspaper. Abed says this makes Jeff like Hawkeye from “M*A*S*H,” which is funny at first, although they take the parody a little too far and make it too much of a focus to the episode. I’d rather see much more about character interaction than a random, kind-of-dated pop culture parody of the week.

Jeff’s character growth is shown through two plots in this episode. The first is Annie’s big scoop for the newspaper. She discovered that when the time of a Toni Braxton concert on campus last fall was changed, an anonymous text message announcing the change was only sent to African American students. Annie wants to spin this as racial profiling and take down whomever is responsible. The culprit turns out to be the Dean, which we discover through some of Annie’s really amateur (yet amusing) sleuthing antics. The Dean actually manages to throw her off the trail for a little while by simply hanging up every time she calls.

The second plot to showcase Jeff’s growth is how the group tries to deal with Buddy. Buddy, given that he’s just a vehicle for a mildly toned-down version of Jack Black’s usual schtick, is extremely annoying, and he keeps interrupting during the group study sessions. He has a quip or a few lines of an impromptu song for every word anybody else says. Everybody in the group except Buddy has a meeting to decide on entrance requirements for the group. Jeff sees that the situation could get chaotic, since everyone has such differing opinions, so he manipulates the situation to get a “no” vote for Buddy. I thought his scheme was clever, if a bit diabolical. He’s reading a newspaper, and he just happens to mention a story about someone who randomly killed his coworkers. This makes the rest of the group nervous about accepting anyone new.

When Annie confronts the Dean, he mounts a week defense of his actions (racial profiling is economical), then tells Annie that she shouldn’t go with that story. The Dean also tells Jeff that he shouldn’t run the story. Jeff is really trying not to care one way or the other, and Abed continues to praise him for his Hawkeye-ness.

Jeff can’t maintain the calm exterior forever, though. When Jeff nicely informs Buddy that the group voted to oust him, Buddy pitches a fit. He won’t leave the classroom, and he accuses Jeff of being a puppetmaster to the rest of the group. That’s when Jeff loses it. He physically drags Buddy from the room kicking and screaming, and he yells at Annie not to run the story about the Dean and racial profiling. He thinks he’s failed at his attempt to become Hawkeye. Back at the newspaper office, Abed tells Jeff that isn’t the case- Hawkeye was first and foremost a leader- and that’s what Jeff did in the study room. Annie also stops by the office to tell Jeff that she understands why he didn’t want her to write the article, and it took him getting upset to make her realize it. Jeff, once again confident that maybe he is becoming a better person, calls Abed “Radar.”

The next day, the study group finds Buddy in the study room yet again. They’re ready to pitch a fit until Jeff says that he invited Buddy. Buddy’s got a better offer, though. The “cool kids,” let by Owen Wilson in a rather odd cameo, have invited Buddy to join their group, and Buddy happily accepts. Good riddance, I say.

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