Sunday, May 30, 2010

Community 1.22: "The Art of Discourse"

“Get ready to meet Jeff Winger, Esq., attorney at aww, snap! …It’ll be better than that.”


“The Art of Discourse” was kind of light on plot, but it definitely had its moments that made me laugh. Some of it was “stupid humor” that I don’t at all gravitate towards, but some of it was genuinely funny. The main story in this episode was Jeff and Britta getting harassed by some overachiever high school students taking some classes at Greendale to get a jump on college credits. Like I said, light on plot. The plot involving Pierce and Shirley did have more substance to it at least, as they learn to come to a sort of mutual respect. And then there was Troy helping Abed complete his “quintessential college experience list.” While light on substance, that particular plot was definitely funny.

Jeff and Britta are eating lunch in the cafeteria discussing Britta’s knitting and cats when they’re interrupted by three high school students sitting at the next table. These kids do nothing to endear themselves to Jeff and Britta. Right from the start, they want to know how Jeff and Britta got where they are so that they don’t make the same mistakes. They then start calling them “Schmittys.” And yeah, because I’m so freaking old at age 26, I’m totally not sure I spelled that right. The three kids are so ridiculously obnoxious, buzzing around Jeff and Britta and taunting them in the most juvenile ways possible. My least favorite taunt is when the kids start repeating everything Jeff and Britta say in an extremely exaggerated way, followed by “duh.” These are supposed to be overachieving high school students, not first graders!

Anyway, the only part of that whole plot that was remotely amusing was when Britta and Jeff come up with a plan to defeat the high schoolers. Jeff is going to bang the leader of the high schoolers’ mom. I think the only reason I really found this at all amusing was because it reminded me of Season 3 of “The Guild” and one of the tactics the Axis of Anarchy used to break Bladezz. And we get to see Joel McHale look hot in exercise gear as he tries to seduce the mother. Jeff and the mother continue to flirt in the cafeteria, a fact which Britta gleefully points out to the annoying high schoolers. When the mother figures out what’s going on, she actually condones her son’s behavior, because she wants her son to “win” in this stupid feud with Jeff and Britta. Jeff decides that the only way he can get the kids to leave him alone is to stoop to their level, and Britta joins in. The result is slow motion immature antics by Jeff, Britta, and the high schoolers. One of the kids forgets to say “duh,” and Jeff and Britta are triumphant. Yay. I guess.

The saving grace of this episode, the thing that makes it at all watchable, is a plot involving Pierce and Shirley that starts out silly but actually ends up having some substance. Everyone in the group but Shirley is in the study room, and Abed has just introduced the concept of the “quintessential college experience list.” Troy offers to help Abed with the list, and Abed takes advantage of the offer right away by pantsing Troy. Troy does the same right back to Abed. The group is all laughing hysterically as Shirley walks into the room. Naturally, Shirley wants to know what was so funny, and instead of explaining it, Pierce decides to show by example. He pantses Shirley, who is absolutely mortified and furious.

Considering how Pierce has objectified Shirley throughout the series, I don’t really blame Shirley for pitching a fit, although other group members do point out that she isn’t the only one Pierce objectifies. It does seem that Shirley takes the brunt of it, though. Shirley basically makes a “him or me” declaration, and at first, the group goes with Shirley and kicks Pierce out. Without Pierce to be the focus of all the group ridicule, though, the group dynamics start falling apart. Everybody starts mocking everybody else. It’s Abed, naturally, who uses his pop culture knowledge to articulate the problem. I do enjoy Abed’s pop culture jokes, although I wonder if maybe they’ve started to become a bit of a crutch.

Anyway, the group decides that the best way to get exactly what they want (everything back to the status quo) is to have Pierce apologize to Shirley. To say that this doesn’t go as planned would be an understatement. Pierce is supposed to sit down next to Shirley on a bench to make his apology, but he sits down next to another African American woman instead. Shirley is understandably insulted by this, and she vows never to return to the group. Pierce isn’t so keen on being part of the group right now either, since he didn’t want to apologize in the first place. He didn’t think he did anything wrong. As annoying as it is, it’s definitely very true to the character. Pierce is nothing if not consistently offensive.

The situation ends up working itself out when Shirley and Pierce, no longer part of the study group, find themselves studying in neighboring carrels at the library. Pierce actually has something genuinely decent to say to Shirley for once. He points out that as the two oldest members of the group, they have a lot in common. Nobody else respects Shirley’s struggle to be a single mom and get an education to make a better life for her kids. When Shirley realizes that despite his rude comments, Pierce does genuinely respect her, she has a change of heart. The group is all back together.

Throughout the episode, Abed and Troy continued to work on the “quintessential college experience list,” and it all culminates in one final massive movie stereotype about college- a food fight in the cafeteria. The episode ends with “Animal House” like blurbs about each character’s future as the food fight rages on. I found this amusing, but once again, I worry that Community will start to reference pop culture too much for its own good. Pop culture humor only stays relevant for so long.

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