Friday, October 02, 2009

Community, "Introduction to Film": Call me Nwanda

Quick thoughts on the third episode of "Community" coming up just as soon as I say "Shazbot!"...

"Introduction to Film" was probably the weakest of these early "Community" episodes so far, but it was still enjoyable enough. Abed's the funniest character they have, and though he was oddly absent for much of his own episode, I liked the payoff at the end with his weird movie and the revelation that he'd been manipulating Jeff and Britta the whole time.

As the professor who's modeled his entire personality on Mr. Keating in "Dead Poets Society"(*), John Michael Higgins was his usual hilarious self. That said, I think the show is walking a really fine line with all the pop culture gags. I think it works when Abed does it, and at times when Jeff does, but if the entire show is going to be filled with jokes about old movies and TV shows, it's going to get old, and it's going to keep the characters too thin to be as funny as they should. By far the strongest part of the episode was the opening scene with the study group, with everyone predicting Pierce's racist comment, and that was rooted in behavior and what we already know about these characters, and not in a reference to "Mork and Mindy." (Though it was a nice touch for Jeff to try to ape another Robin Williams character to gain the teacher's approval.)

(*) And once again, I feel incredibly old to learn that movie came out 20 years ago. And can anyone explain Iwhy Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke and Josh Charles all went on to have careers, while the guy who played Charlie Dalton mostly didn't?

What did everybody else think?

41 comments:

Ingrid said...

It's funny. I actually tolerated this episode better than the previous two. I am still not sold on the show, though.

S said...

It wasn't that funny, but I did enjoy it. You're right, it was the weakest episode of the series thus far, but somehow it didn't leave me cold or disappointed. I like the basic premise of the show, although I thought the "Dead Poets' Society" riff got old pretty quickly. Right now though, it's a much more compelling sitcom than "The Office".

Lisa said...

I think I heard that they're moving the time to 7 p.m. CST next week. I don't know if that will be good or bad for the show, but I'm still a believer.

Anonymous said...

amazing that charlie dalton didnt even really act after that

Lane said...

I liked this episode far better than last week's. The sight gag of the girl's desk breaking and her falling when Higgins said "Why -don't- we get on our desks more?" made me LOL.

I think this ep worked better than last week because it was concentrated more on Jeff/Britta/Abed and Chevy and the others were relegated to the background more.

Bryan said...

I'm with you on most of it Alan except I found last week the weakest of the three.

I think the community college teacher modeling himself after Dead Poets is a great and hilarious idea on so many levels I think too it might have been diminished because of all the previous pop references.

However, I watch the show with my 2 boys (17,13) and they love it even though they don't get some of the references (ie- had to explain the Shozbot thing) There's so much going on on other levels it doesn't seem to bother them at all. My oldest spit out his milk he was drinking last night at the end when the teacher - almost out of frame- ran away and started climbing a tree.

Geo said...

Thought it was actually the best of the eps so far. Not high praise, as the series as been underwhelming, but something about this one felt a little less "sitcom setup" than the first two.

J said...

Oddly enough - I ranted about pop culture refs after the pilot - this was easily my favorite so far. It helps when they keep references germane to the atmosphere; though Dead Poets Society is an easy target (I so loathe that film) it made total sense. I thought Higgins was roughly ten thousand times funnier than the Ken Jeong was, even if Robin Williams is an easy target (Iso loathe Robin Williams). I will probably be tempted to run into every Starbucks I pass today, rip up a pamphlet and scream, "I want a birthday cake!"

And his class worked perfectly against the grain of the McHale character. It was something that demanded substantive development rather than recited learning.

The Abed storyline was surprisingly sweet and well-handled.

This is the first episode that made me care to actually follow the show, instead of watch it because it has followed The Office.

Anonymous said...

I really want to like this show, but so far I'm finding it more amusing than laugh out loud funny. That's sort of how I felt about My Name is Earl, which I spent the entire first season hoping would cross into the laugh out loud category. It never did and I ended up dropping it.

filmcricket said...

I agree with J that the Higgins character worked much better than Jeong's last week, and the desk collapsing made me laugh out loud.

Abed's film plot was... weird. I don't think the payoff quite worked, given that I didn't remember hearing anything about his mother before this (although I might not have been paying attention). I did enjoy Britta getting her assumptions about his father rubbed in her face.

But my biggest problem was that I'm not buying the Jeff/Britta thing. Since the whole point of his character is that he's coasting, I can't believe he would be working this hard to get her. Surely he would just go on to find some other cute blonde who was more susceptible to his charms. We haven't seen enough of her to understand why he'd be taking all this trouble, or why their kiss was "life-changing."

Doc said...

I also agree that this was probably the weakest show so far but it was still really funny.

"Go host American Idol"

That opening pre-credits sequence was the highlight of my night. The timing of the onslaught of jokes was perfect. I was literally crying from laughing so hard by the time Pierce made his "You're not?"

Looking forward to seeing all the professors together next week.

Brandy said...

I don't think it's the funniest of the eps but I liked it a lot. It had a lot of nice character moments. Troy at the end comes out in a sports coat after Chevy gives him the you can have lots of sneezes lecture. I liked that.

Anonymous said...

It was the very first character line of the very first episode - "[my father] has an angry energy, but not like angry at america, just angry at my mom for leaving him, although she did leave because he was angry, and he is angry because she's american."

olucy said...

This was milquetoast OK, and I'm still not feeling this show. One more week and then goodbye.

Krystle said...

Re- Gale Hansen/DPS

Perhaps his age had something to do with it, he was/is ten years older than the other guys (he was born is 1960, Robert Sean Leonard 1969, Ethan Hawke in '70 and Josh Charles in '71..

Diana said...

I actually liked this one the best of the three shown so far. Maybe I'm just a sucker for pop culture references?

bsangs said...

Ditto Diana. I thought it was the funniest episode to date. Much better than last week's lameness and a bit better than the pilot. Guess I'll see next week if this is going to suffer from the "Every Other Week" syndrome that "The Office" did - in my opinion - during its first season.

GregP said...

I'm dumbfounded by these positive comments. This show is just plain boring, unfunny, annoying and stupid.
(the exact opposite of "Modern Family"

Melissa said...

Modern Family is funnier, but I like this show and will give it time to grow.

Jen said...

Wow since when do we have to pick between Community and Modern Family? It's not like they're in rival timeslots. Personally I like them both. NBC was right when it said that people want more comedy. Unfortunately they thought that meant Jay Leno.

Also, I loved that Abed's dad is played by Iqbal Theba from Glee. Is Hollywood running out of actors that they're borrowing them all from other shows?

Millie said...

I'm giving up on this show, mostly because I can't stand stand to look or listen to Chevy Chase anymore, but also because it's just not funny. I find myself just staring at the tv, waiting to laugh at something. The appearance of JMH means that I have to watch at least this week's episode before I delete it from my DVR.

Amelie said...

This episode wasn't as good as the others I think but still had one of the best lines thus far:

Shirley: "You sneeze like a girl."
Troy: "I'll pound you like a boy! Wait, that didn't come out right."

Matt said...

C'mon best line of the episode was when Higgins tore up the menu at the coffee bar and said

"I'll have a birthday cake!"

Incredible stuff.

Q Ball said...

@ GregP

Comedy is incredibly subjective and Community is certainly not for everybody. If you don't enjoy pop culture references and fast-paced jokes (you probably aren't a fan of Arrested Development), then this show is not for you.

For the record, I enjoy Modern Family, but so far only the dad and the Sophie's Choice character have stood out to me. On Community, almost every character has made me laugh at some point.

Hatfield said...

I'm with Jen, why the need to compare the two and pick sides? I'm not going to the Grey's Anatomy thread and telling them that House is way better.

That said, I find this show to be pretty damn funny (and look, I like Modern Family too!), and it's been since Arrested Development that a network comedy has made me laugh this much. Higgins climbing the tree was classic, and being a ridiculous pop culture junky, the reliance on it for humor actually falls right in my wheelhouse. The dancing after the credits was also hilarious. Keep it coming.

Savvy Veteran said...

I think I liked this one better than last week's as well. I'm definitely on board with this show, and I anticipate that it will only continue to get better.

I can't believe that there are TWO great new comedies that I like this season! What a pleasant surprise.

Lizbeth said...

John Michael Higgins is the male equivalent of Jane Lynch. I always enjoy whatever kooky characters they play...and love it when they show up randomly because I know they're going to deliver and make me laugh.

l.b. weighs in said...

Any show that gives Chevy Chase a chance to eat pizza is a show I am going to give a lot of chances. Saying that, I liked this episode. It feels like they are still trying to figure out what they can do with the situation and the characters, but there are more than enough good, funny moments to keep me watching.

Steve B said...

I'm going to fall into the 'not funny' category here. This show just doesn't do it for me. I've never seen 'Talk Soup' before, so maybe I just don't get Joel McHale's humor, but his character isn't a charming jerk, he's really just a jerk. The lead female actress isn't especially funny, and I hated the constant references to Abed's religion/background. How the other characters thought his father needed to be taught what it is to be 'American',and accept girls as equals.

I don't know. I just don't find it funny. And, in my opinion, anyone that compares this to Arrested Development must be crazy. That show was brilliant because the characters, even though they were terrible people, were at least great characters, and you wanted to spend time with them. These characters really aren't that funny, likeable, or memorable.

The reason this show keeps getting compared to Modern Family is not because they are on rival networks, etc, but rather because they are the two high-profile freshman comedies of the season. They are a natural comparison, and Modern Family is just so much better right now.

CJ at Creating a Comedian said...

Since the comment thread for this show seems to be turning into a straw poll of sorts, please count me in the "I love Community" camp. I think it's the best comedy writing on TV since the first season of 30 Rock (which was the best since the oft-mentioned Arrested Development). It's packed so tight full of jokes that it makes my head spin—in the good way.

Any show with a throwaway like "9/11 was the 9/11 of the falafel business" has my undying loyalty.

Number Five said...

I'm also really enjoying the show so far. Yes, they're sometimes trying too hard and it looks like we're in for lots of 80s references, but then they have things like John Michael Higgins climbing the tree (and doing a perfect heel hick before that!) or the reveal it was an accounting class. And most importantly, the characters are all quickly gaining depth (except maybe Trudy from Mad Men) - it was a small moment but I really liked the emotion behind Shirley's outburst.

This is the second week a scene initially looked stunningly bad (the Guatemala rally, Abed's video) only to turn into something hilarious (the pinata/beaten to death exchange and the electrical tape) or poignant (the way the video was edited at the end, followed by the exchange between Abed and his father).

My class spent the entire first week of sixth grade on "Carpe Diem"...ugh. At least we only had to watch a couple scenes from the movie.

Tyroc said...

I'm with those who liked it better than the second episode.

Maybe I'm just a sucker for Mr. Higgins, but I thought his delivery was sensational.

Is it all clicking together? Not just yet, but I'm happy to give it time when the jokes are so well written.

Maura said...

I don't know. I just don't find it funny. And, in my opinion, anyone that compares this to Arrested Development must be crazy. That show was brilliant because the characters, even though they were terrible people, were at least great characters, and you wanted to spend time with them. These characters really aren't that funny, likeable, or memorable.


I think they're all funny, likable, and memorable. I'll reiterate Q Ball's comment, which is that what humor is highly subjective. I don't know if comparing Community to Arrested Development is on the mark or even necessary, because I think Community can already stand on its own. That doesn't mean that comparing the two makes someone crazy. It only means that they have different taste in comedy than you do.

Using Dead Poets Society as the accounting teacher's inspiration for his every waking moment was hilarious. "If I hadn't already cried at the sunrise this morning" made me laugh out loud, as did watching Chevy Chase trying to eat pizza. I didn't think I would ever find him funny again. He lost it ages ago, whatever "it" is. I guess he finally found it again. Maybe it was behind the couch the whole time.

I hope they keep doing a teacher of the week. I love the idea.

Toby O'B said...

I "watched" most of the episode from the computer room, which isn't a good sign. Nothing against the episode, I was still able to follow it without actually seeing it. But I saw Higgins and it gave me an idea for David Letterman "As Seen On TV" and I wanted to grab some pics.

From this point on, however, I'll have to watch on Hulu. Moving the show to 8 pm EST clashes in the DVR with Bones and Flash Forward. And I'd rather watch a half-hour show online than a full hour....

Anthony T said...

Although it was the weakest of the first 3 shows, I still rate it above most of the stuff o n TV right now. I really like this show and its characters and think Joel Mchale has a bright future. I loved the intro and hope the show can continue to gain some popularity..love your blog btw

ghoti said...

This is the first episode I liked.

The premise is still very flimsy and stupid, though. They better come up with a plausible reason for these people to stay together soon.

Eckstut said...

weakest of the three, agreed...but still super strong, IMO

maybe as a mid-30s guy, these guys are just playing into my wheelhouse...but I grew up watching these exact movies they're referencing

shalzbat! you gotta love it

altogether, the first three episodes of this show may be funnier than the first three episodes of any show in the history of television

Peter D Bakija said...

See, I thought this episode was hilarious. Possibly the funniest of the three I've seen (then the Pilot followed by Spanish Class). I'm not a huge slapstick/people getting hurt comedy fan, but the girl falling off the desk killed me every time I saw it--on the ad, in the episode, on the ad again when I watched my DVRed The Office. And "9/11 was the 9/11 of the felafel industry..." is making me laugh even as I write it.

Like, the whole Dead Poet's Society deal wasn't, like, a mere "pop culture reference". It was a whole hearted completely preposterous (and really funny) plot mechanism. Which totally worked. And the kiss punch line was a great pay off.

I loved this one. I mean, the semi-heartwarming yet bizarre film at the end (which was also a good punch line) was a bit too close to semi-heartwarming. But I'm ok with that.

Brian H. said...

Um, sorry Alan, but this was by far better than the last two episodes.

AJ said...

Loved it - it had many great individual moments, most of which have already been mentioned. Lots of shows end up with only one great/ laugh out loud moment, so this is doing well, and I look forward to more time with these kooks.

Lisa said...

Am I the only one who was confused that Abed and his father are supposed to be "Arabs"? It's a stretch to buy Abed as an Arab (the actor is of Indian descent), and even more unbelievable for the father (the actor was born in Pakistan). Non-Arab Muslims frequently point out that they're NOT Arabs, and that sharing a religion doesn't mean sharing an ethnic background. I've seen tv comedies use that confusion as a joke, so it just seemed odd here.