Community – Introduction to Film [1.3]

Britta pays for Abed’s film class when his father refuses to.  However, Abed appears to take advantage of her generosity and drives to explosive moments of frustration, all captured by Abed’s camera.  This turns out to be Abed’s strategy for making a documentary about his parents and their break up over the stress of raising him.  Abed’s father comes to realize that film helps his son to express himself and agrees to start paying for his classes.  Meanwhile, Jeff attempts to get an A from a free-spirited teacher by “seizing the day”, something he is only able to do when Britta gives him a strategic “life changing kiss” in front of the teacher.  Pierce helps Troy to develop more mature-sounding sneeze.

Written by Tim Hobart & Jon Pollack • Directed by  Anthony Russo
Previous Episode:  Spanish 101 • Next Episode: Social Psychology

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Cast Notes
John Michael Higgins will appear two more times this season as Professor Whitman.

Iqbal Theba, who plays Abed’s father, will also play the part two more times, although not only in this season.  He apparently plays the principal in Glee as well.

Matt Jones (Coffee Delivery Guy), meanwhile, also shows up two more times this season, as “Stoner Friend”.

Ken Jeong is credited but does not appear in this episode.

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Comments
Introduction to Film shows definite indications of the show beginning to find its feet, thanks to some tight writing and probably the fact that it’s the first episode to focus on Abed, who is arguably the show’s breakout character.  And although we don’t yet get to see the depths of the Abed’s obsessions and imagination, the episode does serve as an effective introduction to the guy, and sets us up for everything else that is to come about Abed and his semi-“idiot-savant” status.  In retrospect, Danny Pudi does a good job bringing Abed to life, sort of for the first time.

Something I’ve always appreciated about Community is the way the admittedly absurd characters are grounded in fairly realistic but conflicting worldviews.  These guys wind up friends even though they are actually very different from one another in just about every important way, and the show has never shied away from making it clear where its characters stand.  This episode offers our first indication that Shirley is a Christian, Britta is an athiest, Abed is a Muslim, and so on.  We get such un-politically correct comments like Shirley saying Abed’s Muslim father might cut off her head with a salami sword, or Britta angrily yelling at him, “I’m a woman with rights!  And you can see my whole face!”  I think these moments work really well because they’re funny but also Abed’s father is  a reasonable and well-developed character, and calls Britta out on her comment.  And the satire cuts in different directions:  Shirley’s line makes her look ridiculous, and the show’s story bears out weaknesses in Britta’s approach to things as well.

Speaking of Britta, the character is beginning to show signs of the personality she’ll eventually come to have.  Her portrayal here still fits in with her “smart girl” depiction from the first two episodes, but we’re also seeing her predilection for making a mess of things, which is nice.  Of course, the program still has a long way to go before it eventually arrives at the status quo we’re more familiar with.  For example, at this point, there are at least three attractions amongst the main cast that don’t wind up being all that important to the series in the long term (Jeff to Britta, Annie to Troy, and Pierce to Shirley).  But it’s on its way.

If there is a weakness to Introduction to Film, it’s that it’s not especially funny.  I mean, it’s enjoyable, and there are definitely laughs and all, but nothing that really breaks the mold.  Maybe the best thing is Troy’s sneeze, and how Pierce helps him to gain a more “respectable one” by the end of the show.

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Pop-Culture Connection
There are lots of references, such as to Professor Whitman and his Dead Poet’s Society approach to teaching.  There are references to Citizen Kane,  Sixteen Candles (Abed’s movie is called “Six Candles”), Aladdin and Robin Williams (Jeff even curses once by saying “Shazbot!” from Mork & Mindy).

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Meta-Qualities
The episode doesn’t have the “meta-factor” that many do, but it’s sort of simulated by having Abed walking around videoing everything.  You get interesting comments like Abed telling Britta, “I don’t think I’m in this scene” at one moment, and also this bizarre realization that Abed’s unpleasant behavior is actually a calculated way to get Britta and Jeff to react to him in a way that re-creates his parents splitting up when he was a child.

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Observations
• This is the first episode not to be written by series creator Dan Harmon..

• Professor Whitman does have a number of funny lines:  When telling people that they should seize the day because anything could happen to them, he says, “You, that mole is raised and dark. It’s not a good combo.”  Later, at the coffee shop, he dramatically announces, “I shall have…a birthday cake!”  And then to Jeff, “Had i not already cried at the sunrise this morning, I would be weeping right now.”  And it’s pretty funny when that girl falls off her desk.

• Professor Whitman’s appearance makes you think that every episode is going to involve some new crazy teacher.

• I’d say that Britta losing her patience at Pierce trying and failing to use the voice command on his phone is the first sign of “real” Britta.

• And Abed has some good one liners:  “9/11 was the 9/11 of the falafel business.”  And about his new camera, “It’s more expensive, but it lets me adjust really specific settings That most people don’t notice or think about.”  And finally, when Britta tells him he hasn’t been a good friend, “Well, Britta, it isn’t called Friend Business, it’s called Show Business.”

• But my favorite Abed line this episode is, “Our first assignment is a documentary.
They’re like real movies, but with ugly people.”

• Shirley’s backstory makes its debut, but no real attention to her children yet.

• Jeff says, “Holy war!” when Abed’s father storms in.

• Another funny Jeff-moment is when he comments that “All money is spending money.”

• This episode features what I’d say is Pierce’s best moment yet, when he counsels Troy with the variety of sneezes he cultivated for various circumstances.  It’s sort of the first real sign of the Troy – Pierce bonding that will become somewhat important later.

• Troy’s school jacket comes up again (like in the first episode).  Is this where he permanently ditches it?

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Closing Tag:

“Am I krumping?”  Jeff stumbles upon Abed and Troy krumping, and shows them how it’s done.

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Most Inspired Moment
The serious tone of the climax, when we see Abed’s film and realize what he’s been doing this whole time, is actually quite inspired and works surprisingly well.  A lot of that is down to Iqbal Theba’s effective performance as Abed’s dad, and the exchange, “I never said I blamed you for her leaving,” and “You never had to say it.”

Previous Episode:  Spanish 101 • Next Episode: Social Psychology

 

 

 

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