Sunday, 18 January 2015

Community: Introduction to Film

What's it about: Jeff learns how to seize the day....

Ensemble: Another great episode for Jeff who we come to realise cannot behave in a spontaneous fashion (and therefore fails to impress Mr Whitman) because everything about him is image-driven and pre-planned. It's even more apparent when he tries to seize the day by enacting a number of life changing events. The guy who appears to be the loosest member of the ensemble and appears to run through life like liquid is in fact the most uptight and regimented. Go figure. Jeff is putting some serious work into trying to impress Whitman and prove that he can live life to the full...but the simple answer is to truly achieve that you don't have to put any effort in at all. I love how this show explores Shirley as a loving Christian (with all the warmth and forgiveness that comes with that) but also staunchly intolerant at times of any other perspective. It's her imperfections that make her so interesting. Britta learns an important lesson about involving herself in other peoples lives in this episode, how thinking you know what is best for other people can sometimes be damaging (I have heard a very persuasive argument elsewhere that passive left wing enforcement is actually more frightening than a forceful right wing dictatorship - telling everybody what is best for them with a smile is far more insidious). Britta involves herself in the Nadir family machinations, paying for Abed to take a film course that his father expressly forbade. Gobi has always had to break into Abed's fantasy world and now he has a camera between them recording everything. Britta thinks she has been kind to Abed but she has made Gobi's job as a parent ten times harder. One of the joys of any ensemble show is the mix and match approach. How you take a group of diverse characters and stick any two of them together and get very different results each time. One of the least used double acts on this show - Troy and Pierce - gets it's inaugural outing in this episode as the older statesman of the group teach the youngest how to assert himself with a sneeze. It's hardly the most thrilling of subplots but bringing together these two still produces something rather unique and enjoyable.

Introducing: Eustice Whitman - an eccentric (which seems to be the employment requirement at Greendale) teacher who runs what appears to be the ultimate blow off class (which naturally attracts Jeff). He'll get you to throw away your textbook, stand on your table and burst into moments of exclamatory love. He doesn't care who you seize the day and live your life in the now as long as you do. That pretty much makes him Jeff's nemesis because he is somebody that he cannot impress. The sad truth of the matter is, no matter how appealing it might be to seize the day as many times as possible, Whitman's lifestyle simply isn't sustainable. Unless you wanted to be certified ('I want a birthday cake!').

Great Gags: 'All media is western propaganda that negatively stereotypes Arabs' 'Then he should see Aladdin. Jaffa was a badass!'
Pierce thinking that Shirley and Troy are mother and son is both hilarious and horrifically racist.

Funniest Moment: This was the point that I realised that this show could literally make anything funny, even a girly sneeze. Poor Troy.

End Tag: Abed, Troy and Jeff indulge in a bit of crumping. Which is basically dancing like you are standing on an electrified carpet. So exactly how I dance normally.

Tonal Shift: The Abed storyline walks a fine line between being very funny and achingly poignant to anybody who has had difficulties with their parents (yes) and disconnecting fantasy and reality (yes too). We learn that Britta and Jeff are both estranged from their fathers and that neither of them are particularly suited to playing that role, especially with Abed (who joyously is pretty much unmanageable). The piece de resistance of Introduction to Film comes at the climax where Abed shows his assembled group of parents the film that he has been making. With a heavy heart we realise how Abed sees the world (everybody running out on him and blaming him), Gobi realises how he has treated his son and Jeff and Britta learn something profound about how being a parent isn't the walk in the park they imagined it to be. Considering the film is pretty sloppily put together it generates an astonishing response from the audience. Suddenly Community goes from being a show that entertains to one that really makes you feel.

Result: The most confident episode yet, despite the nonsensical subplot about Troy and his girly sneeze. You've got two superb plotlines running side by side; Jeff attempting to learn how to be spontaneous and discovering the heartache that lies in Abed's family history. It's quite daring to open up your characters this early in the run and show what makes them hurt but it pushes Community to another level of comedy, one that has the ability to say very profound things about its characters. I'm making this all sound very serious but the Whitman plotline ('I have to plan in advance how to live in the moment!') is laugh out loud funny in parts. Jeff is really rather rubbish at letting fate take care of things and taking risks despite his image screaming that is his lifestyle choice. He's outwardly so relaxed but he's the one person in the room who has plotted his entire day. McHale plays both sides of his character with ease and it is clear that he is far more complex than he first appeared in the Pilot. Plus he gets his first snog from Britta. Engaging, heartbreaking and chucklesome, Introduction to Film highlights Community at it's best: 9/10

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