I remember at some point in 2010 watching the NBC line-up, most likely excited to see the new episode of The Office or Parks and Rec. I just happen to catch the latter half of the season 2 episode of Community “Aerodynamics of Gender.” This is the episode where Troy (Donald Glover) and Jeff (Joel McHale) find a secret trampoline that is being guarded by the great Matt Walsh, who by end they realize is a hardcore racist due to some things he said and a swastika tattoo on his chest he claims will eventually become a maze. This half an episode was so funny and kooky that I never missed an episode after. The next five years was an emotional roller coaster not only because during this time I fell in love, got married, moved away from my family to college and also left college. It was also a large amount of emotion because as Community fans we had no idea if season 3 was a sure thing and when it was it was nearly canceled half way through. Then the show’s creator, Dan Harmon was fired for season 4, but then hired back for season 5. Then the show was brought back for season 6 on Yahoo! of all places. As my life was going through its ups and downs, so was the show. For some reason during the sixth season everybody stopped caring about this once loved show. I even missed most of the sixth season and went back later to finish it. Well just recently, as of November 2016, I have rewatched the entire series and have no idea why anyone, including myself, stopped caring about this show. It has the weirdness that brought in the audience and the perfect blend of emotional character development while also nearly never falling into sitcom traps that curse later seasons of our favorite television shows.
So with all that said and done I have decided to start my own blog series in which I will go through Community episode by episode. I feel that I have attempted to do series where I promise one every week and gave up pretty soon after starting. So with these posts you might get eight in one week you might get one in a month’s time. Obviously I will start with the pilot episode and do the rest of the episodes as I please. Before I start the premise of the show is a group of flawed humans start a study group at their community college and that leads to their friendship. That is the simplest way I could put it, so let us begin.
Appropriately, the Dean (Jim Rash) introduces the show and characters with a speech that is meant to be inspirational but due to some missing cue cards comes off as an insult towards his students. The Dean in the first season is a semi-important character, but becomes more important to the show and eventually the characters he is introducing. Jim Rash also gets one of the only big laughs in the episode with this scene. A song with the lyrics “I’m High as Hell and Your About to Get Shot” is accidentally played before he starts talking with a microphone. He is one of the funniest parts of the show and proves it immediately with this scene here. We then move on to meet Jeff Winger and Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi). Abed is spouting off a bunch of facts about himself as Jeff barely listens wondering how to sleep with his hot classmate Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) from Spanish. And this is really the plot of the whole pilot. It is all about Jeff lying about a bunch that brings together an odd group of people just because he wants to get into the cute blonde’s pants. There is also a sort of B plot going where Jeff meets with a teacher that is a buddy of his to get him the test answers to all of his classes. If the show is about anything, it is about a bad guy who is made a little bit better by his unlikely group of friends. It is a bold move to make your first episode just be about how terrible the protagonist is, but they do commit to it.
I will focus on the other characters as the episode goes along, the first seven episodes do well on focusing on the seven main characters individually, but for this one I will focus only on Jeff. Jeff Winger before Greendale Community College is a lawyer who has been caught with a fake college degree so is now going to the school because it will be easy. He does go to Ian Duncan (John Oliver) a teacher who represented in a case and blamed 9/11 on his drunk driving. Jeff uses people to get what he wants. He expects Duncan to get all the answers to his tests, which first of all is a ridiculous idea that all the answers to test would even be available and second a terrible way to treat somebody. In the study room that we will get to know and love is where Jeff manipulates the group to fight and then make up just for a chance to have sex with Britta. I forgot how unlikable Jeff is in this episode. He is mostly a jerk in the first season, but becomes more likeable than this. Here he is just a true scumbag that is attempting to be cool. That may be a flaw on the creator’s part, I feel he is supposed to be more relatable. Joel McHale does pretty well here in this episode and for sure within the series he grows as an actor and a character as well.
Community is a show known for its comedy. At times it was the funniest show on TV. The humor in the pilot is lackluster though. They try and have some laughs but really it is not good enough. If I saw this pilot today I might not check in next week for more episodes. If I recall correctly I think I did catch part of this show when it aired and did not care for it only to fall in love with it a year and half later. Like I said the protagonist is a big jerk and the episode is missing on humor and it seems to be on purpose for some strange reason. There are some moments that are really funny like Jim Rash’s intro or anything dealing with Duncan’s character. Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase) has one great moment. It is clear that they knew they were lucky to get the great Chevy Chase so they throw in this great scene that does not matter to the plot but features Pierce trying to grab a hot dog from the cafeteria and follows with him squirting mayo out of a red condiment dispenser. It is unreal how he makes grabbing a hot dog such a perfect physical comedy moment. By the way this episode was directed by Joe and Anthony Russo and the writing credit has gone to Dan Harmon. I have never been too attuned to tones of directors or writers of TV shows. The Russo brothers direct a bunch of Community episodes and especially in the first season. I will use this blog to attempt what makes a Joe Russo episode or what a Tristam Shapeero, another frequent director, episode feels like.
I DON’T GET THE REFERENCE: Community is known for paying homage or making fun of the cliché. It makes many references. During its first season it is light on the homage and references so here I will call out the references it makes and if it is in good taste or creative enough. The whole episode is The Breakfast Club; a group of misfits who would never hang out eventually become a great bunch of friends. I’m not sure why Abed comes and quotes the Bender speech from the film. It kind of works with who Abed becomes, but seems too on the nose for the show I know.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Abed says “cool” six times at one point which he later does in the season six finale, one for each season. I hated Jeff’s pants; again I cannot blame anybody because they have to figure out the characters during the first episodes. He is wearing sweatpants and it just bugs me knowing that the Jeff formed by writers and actor later in the series would never be caught dead wearing such a lazy outfit. An angry Jeff tells Abed he has Asperger. They never really explore what is up with Abed and this is the only real hypothesis on what is going on with Abed’s brain. The classic Winger speech which is a stable of the show is actually pretty great here. Jeff mentions that we gave Ben Affleck an Oscar for writing and names a pencil Steve then snaps him in half. It really works, but most of them do.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The pilot is rough if I’m being honest. I don’t really respond to pilots that much. I do not like many of them for the shows I love, like 30 Rock, The Office or Friday Night Lights. I hate judging a show by its first few episodes, but this one is surely one of the worst for me. Jeff at one point gets the group to fight so that Britta could think that they are “untutorable.” This fight starts way too quick. I don’t believe people who know each other so little would start arguing this intensely. The show is also dying to be strange like it eventually becomes in later seasons. Troy while in the big group argument is overheard saying “I am the Barrack Obama of this room” and Duncan sends a text that says “Con-4-s-8-tion at the football field.” Maybe the reason that is not that great is that it is being held back so it could seem sort of normal so it will be picked up and get as weird as its creator, Dan Harmon is.