Monday, 12 January 2015

Community: Pilot


What's it about: Jeff Winger enrols in community college in order to get his job back. Little did he know the people that he met there would change his life forever...

Ensemble: One of the greatest strengths of any series is it's core cast and the chemistry they share but it is absolutely vital in comedy. Community struck gold with its ensemble of characters, who manage to tick just about every demographic and all bring something different to the table. Dean Pelton gives a rousing speech at the beginning of the episode (which goes horribly wrong, naturally) that introduces the traits of the regulars (a remedial teen - Troy, a twenty something drop out - Britta, a middle aged divorcee and an old person trying to keep his mind active - Pierce). Abed Nadir is the most fascinating, a young man with a penchant for films (constantly breaking down the fourth wall and saying things that are meta) and mild aspergers.  He is definitely one to watch. Annie Edison is the old class geek who has matured into something of a hottie but she still wants to be the best at everything. Holding the ensemble together is Jeff Winger (played by Joe McHale), a cynical, witty, smart and lazy ex-lawyer who doesn't want to be here but gets drawn into the lives of his study group regardless. Sometimes, somehow magic happens when a group of actors (and characters) come together and Dan Harmon waved his wand at exactly the right time. One character who is brought in from time to time and provides much amusement is Ian Duncan, a psychology professor and old friend of Jeff's. Every American show seems to need a token British person to tick al the boxes but this is one occasion where the actor has clearly had some say in the writing. You'll find no better example of a British loser abroad. Duncan is hilarious (BOOYAH). Before the end of the episode the study group is already poking at each others insecurities and staging a full scale argument which proves this isn't going to be as fluffy as it might first appear. There is lots of fun interplay; Shirley patronises Annie, Pierce lusts after Shirley, Troy doesn't quite understand anything, Abed is just happy having some friends, Annie has tried to get Troy to notice her for years...and Jeff whips everybody into a state of euphoria with one of his trademark speeches (not really about anything but with enough sentiment to have the desired effect). Jeff gets everybody to realise that they all have something to add to this group, that they all have a place there.

Great Gags: 'Say you have to pee I need to talk to you' - Abed doesn't quite understand the subtleties of a text to lure him from the room and reads it out to everybody.
'They will be untutorable...' - it's like Jeff has taken a peep at the series ahead...
'Why would I harass somebody who turns me on?' - oh Pierce...

Funniest Moment: This whole episode is built around the study group coming together through a series of deceptions, despite Jeff simply wanting to impress Britta and get into her pants. His increasing frustration as more and more people join is a joy to behold. And Professor Duncan's terrible attempt to disguise his voice on the phone...and his lesson to Jeff about working his way through community college honourably.

Tonal Shift: Comedy is one of the most malleable of genres, capable of making you laugh and feel something more profound (and the best ones will achieve that at the same time). This is the section that explores the moment a show stops making you giggle and sneaks up on you with shift in tone. 'What you have my friend is a second chance at an honest life' Duncan tells Jeff, who has cheated his way through life (and tried to do so at Greendale too). Being here will make him a better (if more deranged) person.

Result: Intelligent, sunny and very witty, Community gets off to a cracking start filling the screen with enjoyable characters meeting in a setting with a lot of potential. You've got to love the fact that the reason these misfits come together is because Jeff wants to hit on Britta. Remember that in season two when it becomes the core relationship in the series (for good or for ill). Shot stylishly on single camera with an upbeat score, Community is a bang up to date comedy that unites a bunch of misfits all with their own problems and reasons for being there (more of which we will learn in due course). The casting is bang on, although the pilot only truly showcases McHale, Jacobs and Pudi. The rest of the cast will have plenty of opportunity to shine in the season ahead. There is no sign at this point that Community will be quite as eclectic as it will ultimately turn out to be but the pilot does showcase its ability to make you feel really good even when it isn't making you laugh. It pulls off gentle sentiment better than practically any other show. A strong beginning for this show: 8/10


2 comments:

Matt Smith said...

I really love that you're doing reviews of Community. It is such a great show.

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