COMMUNITY Season 1 Episode 3: Introduction to Film

This might be the quickest a network sitcom seems to find itself. The pilot episode was bad, the second episode was good and this one is really solid. It has a lot of the Community quirks in it that make the show one of the best of all time. It has an odd story, a wonderfully unrealistic character found in the group’s teacher for their new class, obvious but funny family metaphors, funny jokes and a big heart. The A story, possibly the B story, begins with Abed (Danny Pudi) telling Britta that he has to take classes that will only help him with his families falafel business. He tells her that he really wants to study film. Britta with her warm heart and poor life decisions says she will pay for his film class. He starts making a documentary about his parents, who are divorced. He starts skipping class, acting weird and using Britta’s money to buy unnecessary things like a bunch of pizza or coffee deliveries. This begins the family dynamic of the group. Abed’s father comes in and tells off Britta and Jeff for helping in which Abed then says that Jeff will have to play the part of his dad. Britta is also budgeting Abed’s expenses which makes her feel like the mom. It is possible that Dan Harmon wants these people to be close already, so he writes an episode where it just happens to all fall into place where it seems they are. It is remarked that the pizza they are all having together makes it seem like they are a family and Jeff rejects that immediately showing that as much as the show wants them to be Jeff, and probably a bit of everyone, is nowhere near ready for that yet. Harmon does this a few times during the course of the show. The first season is all about this man, Jeff, who doesn’t want to care about anyone, beginning to care and love these odd people that stumbled into his life. In this episode the B plot, or A2 plot, is all about Jeff fixing his own problem.

The first scene of “Introduction to Film” is Jeff running to class. He gets there and ask a young kid if he is passing, with no reply, then if he is a fan of Dane Cook. He says yes which leads Jeff to believe that he found a nice blow off class. He is right and the teacher is a wacky fellow named Professor Whitman, played by the brilliant John Michael Higgins. His class is basically the Robin William’s film Dead Poet Society or at least the big, inspirational speech by Robin Williams in that film. Carpe Diem is what the Professor wants you to perform asking students to throw their shoes, swim in a river and stand on their desks (ala Dead Poet Society). Jeff convinces nearly everyone to take the class to get an easy A. The great part about this is that Whitman is a goofball, maybe a bit stupid, but he does see past Jeff’s bullcrap. He knows he is not really seizing the day and is in it for the easy grade. He threatens Jeff to actually do something exciting by the end of the week or he will fail him. It is an obscure story line, but certainly classic Greendale. It is all so perfect for Jeff’s character for a guy who needs to let go a little to let his soon to be best friends in.

There is a pretty great C plot, which last about two or three scenes. Before the Jeff and Abed plot really get going, Troy sneezes and it sounds very feminine. Troy is made fun of and is embarrassed. He does it again in the lounge and Pierce comes by and gives him a quick lesson on masculine sneezing. He wants more and the next we see the two Troy is sneezing loudly startling Shirley, which impresses her. This story is nothing, but is actually quite funny with the little it offers. It is certainly the funniest part of the episode with Piece doing his powerful sneezing and suggesting he has the ability to not sneeze at all because he is in control.

This episode introduces the world to Abed’s brain. It is complicated and they get it right for most of the series. He is different, they never go into if he has some sort of mental condition, but he clearly does. From the rewatch that I recently finished it seems like he is always on the verge of some mental breakdown as well. Here is no exception. He is really focused on his documentary, it might be the only thing bringing him joy. He really does not care that Britta was broke before she started paying for his classes and books. It ends up being all for his father. I do like that this is our introduction to Abed behind the camera making a documentary, which is a trope that they go back to over and over. Luckily it is a successful trope, it even works in the Harmon-less fourth season. Here though he is manipulating everything, to the point of harmful effects just to make a movie for his dad about his mom leaving. Abed makes strange movies, I feel like he is always on the verge of his Apocalypse Now or There Will Be Blood, but they are mostly terrible. One day he will stumble upon his masterpiece, but for now he is just going to make really strange movies for very specific people. The movie he makes here is not for Jeff and Britta who watch it. The first thing Jeff says after it is “Well, it’s no Citizen Kane” not knowing that the movie has brought his father to tears and has convinced him to pay for his film classes. It is a really beautiful moment with a character that seems like a blank slate. Besides Troy, who becomes his best friend, Abed might have the most heart. He clearly needs the group and they need him. The secret is he knows that the entire time. He doesn’t have to figure it out, he has at moment one. He does a lot to get the group what they need without giving it a second thought; it just looks like that because he seems like a robot. It seems that Abed makes the movie to be close to his dad, but probably also to get Britta out of running out of money paying for Abed to follow his dreams.

This episode was written by Tim Hobert and Jon Pollack. Pollack has written for many successful shows like Home Improvement, Spin City and 30 Rock. Hobert also wrote for Spin City and a few episodes of The Middle which is an underrated show. They don’t return after the first season, but they have a few more credits after this. Anthony Russo directed this episode. I hope to find some threads with the director’s individual episodes. All I know is that the Russo’s are a big part of why Community is so great.

 

I DON’T GET THAT REFERENCE: I actually don’t get a reference here, but in the DVD commentary Dan Harmon and Gillian Jacobs are talking about Jeff’s character dressing up as Mork from Mork & Mindy which was Robin Williams first starring role. He is clearly sucking up to Whitman hoping he is just a huge Robin Williams nerd. He is not, he just was really inspired by Dead Poet Society which is the basis of his class.

 

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Speaking of Professor Whitman’s class, at one point Jeff screams “This is no way to teach Accounting!” Does this mean that is what the class is supposed to be about? It is brilliant and a perfect fit for Greendale classes which just get weirder and weirder as time goes on. Nice background jokes of Jeff holding his shoes after coming from Accounting, but it is never mentioned. Also a kite that Jeff has is seen later in the background. I like these touches, they literally do not matter but are fun things to notice. The tag at the end where Abed, Troy and Jeff are trying to “crump” is awesome. Dan Harmon must really like The Karate Kid because he keeps using it. Anyways there is a Karate Kid club which is pretty funny. Also, disco club is there too. That will come back in the paintball episode.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS: This episode is another huge leap in quality. It does go like that for a while, yet there are a few stinkers coming up, but not next time thank goodness. Abed is one of TV’s greatest achievements and his first big plot line is real solid. Jeff is still a bad guy. In point a girl falls as the class stands on their desk. The other members of the study group go to help, but Jeff is near the exit before Whitman asks to speak with him. The family parallel works nice and I like the idea of the universe forcing that upon Jeff to possibly save him from a world of sadness. This episode is great and the fact that it is so soon in the series is even better.

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