Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Community 1.03: Introduction to Film

Jeff is running! Class is beginning! Professor Whitman ambles in, and he's not in the show much--his last appearance is in the end of season one--but suddenly that "last" is a lot less finite, because apparently Yahoo went and uncancelled Community today. You probably heard of it, this being The Internet and all. It's refreshing, and confusing, and has hopefully given me the inspiration I need to finish interpreting my notes to "Introduction to Film." There's not a lot to say, because it's not a lot of episode; it's just a series of jokes and weird sight gags with a solid emotive payoff at the end. The C-plot is a single joke spread over three scenes. It's as close to an "origin story" as we ever get for Abed--with the possible exception of the actual origin story episode during the gas leak--but mostly this is a procedural episode for a series about the will-they-won't-they with Jeff and Britta. I love Jeff and Britta, but there's nothing interesting about their pairing beyond their sheer demographic gravity. The show will realize this by the latter half of the season, but for this episode...they can't make a show about Sam and Diane, because they're too busy making shows about making shows about Sam and Diane.

We now rejoin the recap "Introduction to Film," already in progress: written by Tim Hobert and John Pollack, directed by Anthony Russo.

Eustice Whitman, played by the always delightful John Michael Higgins, whom you might recognize as that guy from the thing, walks in, gaily reciting poetry. "Open your textbooks to page 37," he exhorts the class. "Now. Close them, and throw them away." The students happily do so, and he continues: "Those of you who are new, the motto of this class: Carpe diem! Seize. The. Day. No tests! No papers! You want an A? Live...in...the moment."

I'm in a DBT group right now. Dialectical behavioral therapy. I've been meaning to write something about it, but it's got a hint of Whitman about it, and this is about the least now-thing I could be doing right now, isn't it? The episode wrapped years ago, I've logged many viewings in the past, and the main reason to continue with this project is to lay a groundwork for more writing in the future. Sadness to the left, anxiety to the right. But here, now, it's dark, outside and in, a bedroom lit by cathode rays and liquid crystals. What there is of me, the linguistic construct, is mostly asleep, out on the veldt with Gau. There'll be moments to live in tomorrow. Right now, we die in our dreams. Right now, we prepare.

Pierce, always hopeless with tech, fights with his phone. Troy sneezes like a girl. This will make up the aforementioned B plot. Back in the main plot, Jeff invites the gang to join him in coasting to an easy A with Whitman. Annie rejects the idea on ethical and pedagogical grounds, then quickly changes her mind when Troy says he's in. Shirley joins in out of a love of Robin Williams; Abed rejects the idea on that basis. When pressed on the issue--and subtly reminded, again, that life and media representations of life aren't the same thing--he clarifies that his dad will only pay for classes that will help him run the family restaurant. (Spanish? In a falafel restaurent? In Ohio?) Britta, appalled that Abed's dad seems to have planned out his life for him, gets out her checkbook and offers to pay for a film class.

Back in class, Whitman berates Shirley into self-actualization in classic reclusive kung-fu master fashion. He moves to Ms. Edison, whom he criticizes for preferring "to write about what happens to other people than live what is happening to her." This is what usually passes for a humanistic sentiment in our culture, and it's possible the writers meant for it to sound wacky and authentically endearing, but Community will thankfully go above and beyond by ripping this idea to shreds.

We'll come back to it.

On the way out, Whitman singles out Jeff, having identified him as a tourist. "If you don't genuinely seize the day before the end of the week," he instructs, "then you'll be seizing an F for the semester."

Outside, Abed is about with a handheld camera. "Our first assignment is a documentary," he explains to Britta. "They're like real movies but with ugly people." He say's doing a film about his dad, and on cue, Abed's dad--Abedad?--approaches. Britta, being Britta, takes the opportunity to make the personal political. "Oh, I get it. Because I'm Arab I must hate women. Let me tell you something. I love women, but I'm getting a major b-word vibe from you." (Personalization achieved!) Abed's dad makes a Seacrest joke. Britta tries to fight for Abed, but he won't join in, and continues filming everything dispassionately. Jeff tries to intervene, and Abedad storms off, at which point Abed declares that Jeff is now playing his dad.

In the cafeteria, Jeff desperately tries to display authentic whimsy for Whitman, who's having none of it. Abed, flush with Britta's cash, spends ostentatiously and shows off his new, more expensive camera. Pierce sits down with Troy and offers to help him develop a manlier sneeze. C-plot 67% complete, and we move on.

While Whitman crosses campus, Jeff runs through with a kite, stopping only to jump rope with a group of girls; Whitman remains unimpressed. Britta approaches, and complains to Jeff that Abed wont' talk to her: "He just keeps filming me, and, and--telling me that I'm playing the role of his mother!"

An interior shot brings us back to the study room, where pizza is being served. Britta signals to Jeff that it's time to be leaderful. "So, Abed," he asks, trying and failing to sound nonchalant, "how's film class?" Abed replies that the movie's more important than class, insensate to Britta's offense; when a coffee guy walks in bearing a tray full of lattes he's purchased with her money, she freaks out and leaves. Jeff soon follows suit.

A short commercial break later, we're back in the study room. Jeff has lured Britta and Abed's dad there for a discussion: Britta with Ravi Shankar tickets, Abedad with the promise of meeting Weezer. Jeff argues to both of them that the lesson here is that people should stay out of each other's business; Abed's dad makes a convoluted Iraq joke that turns out to be about Britta's boobs. Just as the yelling gets started in earnest, Abed, who has been sitting at a smaller table wearing headphones, takes them off and announces, "I'm finished!"

The film, like most Real Actual Things, fights summary and deserves viewing on its own. For those who really, truly insist on reading these without having seen the show, I'll refrain from asking what the fuck is wrong with you and summarize nonetheless: Abed ruins his parents' marriage, his mom leaves, his dad resents him for it. Abed's father is in tears, and speaks to his son in Arabic: "I never said I blamed you for her leaving." Abed replies, "You never had to say it."

"My son is hard to hard to understand," says Abed's father to the anglophones. "If making movies will help him be understood, then I'll pay for the class." I'm still feeling my way through the format, and I'm finding that direct quotes are usually redundant. You might not realize it from this entry, but I'm trying to cut back on them. Nonetheless, it felt wrong not to include this exchange, because...well, there's some real pain in this episode, and this scene is its redemption. It's just a glimmer in Britta's eyes as she fights her own fears and inadequacies on Abed's behalf, and in Abedad's insistence on arguing with everyone except Abed about Abed's life. Abed may or may not be on the autism spectrum. It doesn't matter very much. Abed is weird, and like all authentically weird people, it's not always funny. Sometimes it's heartbreaking and unsettling and scary.

But that's not the show yet. We're almost there.

Britta asks whether Abed manipulated her on purpose, and he's unapologetic: "Well, Britta, it isn't called friend business. It's called show business."

Outside, Troy tries out his new sneeze, scaring Shirley. C-plot complete! But back to Britta and Jeff. Britta thanks Jeff for getting involved, and tells him to kiss her; Whitman sees it, and squeals congratulation. "We're even," says Britta, and walks off. Jeff, thoroughly Peeta'd by this episode's plotline, is somewhat at a loss for words as he watches her go.

Like I said, taking pictures of taking pictures.

Finally, the end tag: krumping. It's a thing.

First Appearances
  • Abed's first shown as an aspiring filmmaker, as opposed to a non-specific nerd.
  • Prof. Whitman, who will be taken from us far too soon. Are you listening, Yahoo?
  • Troy's effeminate mannerisms make a brief appearance, but are quickly clubbed into submission.
  • Abed's dad will be back once or twice.
  • "This is no way to teach accounting!"
  • "9/11 was pretty much the 9/11 of the falafel industry."
  • "Troy sneezes like a girl!" "How about I pound you like a boy--that didn't come out right."
What Have We Learned?

"Only when we stop stopping our lives can we start starting them!"

Blood Pact