Episode 103: Introduction to Film
There is a theory that a show should repeat its pilot six times so that new viewers can pop in at any time and be drawn in. Community chooses an interesting way to repeat its pilot. In the Pilot the show was centered on the Jeff and Britta dynamic and this was repeated in Spanish 101 with an additional introduction to one of the other group members in Pierce. Introduction to Film chooses to once again ground part of its episode in the Jeff Britta dynamic while allowing us insight into Abed. This is actually very similar to the way Cheers approached its first season with one of the two main plots of each episode focusing on the Sam-Diane dynamic and episodes immediately after the pilot introducing us to one bar denizen at a time. This comparison should not be shocking for anyone that knows Harmon’s respect for Cheers.
The theme of this episode is articulated by Professor Whitman; seize the day. Professor Whitman, a Dead Poets Society clone, counsels his students to live in the moment. But even though the seeming A-plot of this episode is dealing with Jeff trying to convince Professor Whitman that he can indeed seize the day, it is Abed who seizes the day in the B-plot.
To recap quickly for those not watching along. Jeff takes a class that he thinks will be a cakewalk but is quickly confronted with the fact that the Professor knows he is full of shit. The professor challenges him to truly seize the day. Meanwhile Abed cannot take this blow-off class with the others because his father will only pay for classes related to the Falafel business. Britta outraged at this gives Abed money to take a film class and he spends the rest of the episode filming Britta and Jeff for a documentary. Finally there is a very slight C-story involving Troy who sneezes like a baby. Pierce teaches Troy how to sneeze like a man.
Jeff plays a large role in both his own story and in the Abed story and most of the heavy lifting this episode goes to Jeff, Britta, Abed and the guest-starring John Michael Higgins as Professor Whitman. On rewatch what impressed me about this episode was how the A and B stories were integrated together. As mentioned above it is Jeff’s involvement in the class that spurs Abed to take a film class. Then Abed’s film starts infringing on the entire group particularly Jeff and Britta. Finally Jeff’s involvement in Abed’s project convinces Britta to help him seize the day by ordering him to kiss her (a nice callback to one of the examples of day-seizing that Whitman gave to Jeff earlier in the episode).
But even though Jeff is still the “main” character in this episode, this is an Abed episode through and through. This is still the point in the series where Abed’s Asberger’s is being played up (in fact it is directly referred to as such in one of these early episodes). Abed uses Britta’s generosity to drive her crazy and create the reactions he needs for his film. Meanwhile Jeff’s distraction because of his quest to seize the day already led to the distance that Abed was able to use to substitute Jeff for his father. Using Britta and Jeff as his surrogate parents in order to create a documentary of his own parents is an effective and heartbreaking infodump into Abed’s past (and I do mean heartbreaking, I tear up everytime I watch that video). Abandoned by his mother and blamed by his father, Abed’s “disease” has made him an outcast even in his own family. Abed is finally able to convey this nature to his father through his film because he couldn’t convey how he felt to his father in any other way. And in the end his father accepts that film may allow his son to communicate in a way that he has never been able to and allows Abed to continue taking film classes. It’s a beautiful little story that sets up the continuing Abed arc we have seen where he uses pop culture and film to grow closer to people in ways that he otherwise cannot.
Meanwhile, this is a pretty funny episode filled with small hilarious moments. My two favorites are Jeff’s elaborate attempt to seize the day which involves flying a kite and jumping rope with some paid off school children only to be told that the effort was sloppy. My other favorite moment is Professor Whitman’s reaction to Jeff and Britta kissing: “I know a life changing kiss when I see one” followed by Professor Whitman doing a heel tap and climbing a lamppost (probably the most random sight gag ever). Now obviously there was one layer of irony here in that Britta was kissing Jeff as a mercenary move knowing that it would get Jeff his grade. Harmon comments on this in the commentary. He wanted to deliberately subvert a will they won’t they here by having them kiss under false pretenses.
- So Shirley admits the real reason she is at Greendale: she wasted 15 years with nothing but stretch marks and a foggy memory of a man who only gave her two orgasms.
- Meanwhile Annie has a future as someone who will have sweater-wearing cats trained to use the toilet. Ironic since later it is established that Britta is the cat person.
- “That mole is raised and dark; that is not good”
- “9/11 was pretty much the 9/11 of the falafel business”
- “You’re not my mother” “she’s not?” Pierce has some brilliant lines in these early episodes.
- “This is no way to teach accounting!”
- “I shall have a birthday cake”
- For the second time in three episodes Jeff is compared to Seacrest.
- In the weirdest cross over ever, the latte delivery guy was Badger from Breaking Bad. I love that s.o.b.
- The Iraq metaphor joke used by Abed’s dad was fantastic. “We don’t need your speeches and guided missiles” which he later clarifies as Jeff’s speeches and Britta’s ‘guided missiles.’
- One part of the episode I didn’t mention yet is Britta’s breakdown when she can’t get through to Abed. It is by far the funniest moment the show allows her in the first three episodes and she nails it.
- It is also revealed that Britta had a dad like Abed’s dad. An interesting little note for those of us awaiting more familial cameos.
- Gillian Jacobs has the most hilarious boxing pose ever.
- “Dreams are for sleeping” “You don’t know that” “It’s clinically proven!” “So is polio!”
Fun with Commentary:
- Harmon calls out random extra for messing up the line he gave him at the beginning of the episode. It’s hilariously petty.
- Gillian Jacobs answering how you know you aren’t a lesbian “it’s called freshman year of college.”
- Harmon talks about changing Britta’s character, Gillian doesn’t want him to ever take her leather coats.
- Glover, Pudi and Jacobs all sing along to the theme song in hilarious fashion
- Harmon justifying the tone of early season 1, of course it isn’t as warm as it was later because the characters don’t know each other, and then he makes fun of critics for watching it wrong.
- They talk about picking on Glee and talk about why they wouldn’t make fun of Vampire Diaries, basically they are jealous of Glee and you can make fun of stuff that is doing better than you.
- Harmon talks about how early episodes suffer from more cuts than later episodes because they don’t have a page count rhythm, apparently the Troy c-plot suffered from this. They cut from 29-31 pages to 25. Modern Warfare was 23 pages.
- According to Gillian her skankiness cannot be contained by only one shirt. I love her so much.
- Badger from Breaking Bad lost his voice doing improve with Dan Harmon 15 years ago. That is the best random fact I’ve ever learned from commentary.
On the A.V. Club: http://www.avclub.com/articles/regional-holiday-music,66270/#comment-393459982 (page 39)