Thursday, October 01, 2009

Never Judge a Show by its Pilot: Community

First impressions:
This looks funny and I can see the show appealing to those of us who went back to college later in life. I personally had nightmares about gong back to school.
The big question is "Can Joel McHale carry a primetime network show?"
This show also looks like something I might write. A simple story about a guy who is making the best of things in a bad situation.

This show will draw in the Joel McHale and Chevy Chase fans. Also having The Office as a lead in will help greatly.

I watched the Pilot:

Joel McHale's character, Jeff Winger, is a DUI lawer whose bachelor’s degree was proven fake. Now he has to get a BA. degree within four years or be permanently be disbarred.

Off the bat, I see two problems. Please note these are observations not judgments:

DUI lawyers are the most despised of all attorneys. When you add the fact that his predicament is entirely of his own doing, it is hard to be sympathetic towards him. He is not a victim of circumstances.

Jeff has to find redemption ASAP. Historically American sitcoms cannot have a lead character with no redeeming qualities.

Like any good sitcom pilot, you know everything you need to know before the first comercial break. The supporting cast is creatively introdiced by type (Like the characters in the Gillian's Island theme) in a speech from the college's Dean. Later we learn everyone's name. Half of the supporting characters are college age. Abed, played by Danny Pudi is the pop culture junkie with assburger's syndrome. Annie, played by Alison Brie is the high-strung perfectionist. Troy, played by Donald Glover, is the former high school football star adjusting to his new status while clinging on to his high school glory. The other characters are adults returning to school. Pierce, played by Chevy Chase, is the senior citizen of the group and whose life experience has brought him infinite wisdom. Shirley, played by Yvette Nicole Brown, it the middle-aged divorcée. Rounding out the cast of characters is Britta, played by Gillian Jacobs, the 28-year old drop out who has returned to school. Britta is the one extracaricilar activity that Jeff is interested in. Britta is the most grounded character and can serve as the conduiet between the normalacy of the viewers and the crazyiness of campus life. I identify with Britta because I went back to school at her age and from my expirence, there is another cross section missing in the ensemble. Many of my classmates were downsized adults who had been in the workforce for a couple decades only to have their jobs no longer exist. I want to see that person.

In the pilot, Jeff has two goals. First, he wants to blackmail Dr. Ian Duncan, a teacher (played by John Oliver) whom Jeff represented in a DUI case, into giving him answers to all the tests. Second, he wants to get into Britta's pants. He tells her that he is a board certified Spanish tutor (He only knows a few words of the language). Britta invites other classmates to to join her and Jeff as a study group. The group learns more about themselves than their course work. I see the show having potential but I never judge a show by its pilot.

I watched the next episode. Ken Jeong is introduced as Spanish professor, Señor Chang. Jeff's attempt to become Britta's partner in a Spanish class project fails miserably. He winds up teamed with Pierce who wanted Jeff as a partner. The chemistry between Joel McHale and Chevy Chase is great. Meanwhile Britta’s comment about an executed Guatemalan journalist inspires Annie and Shirley to stage a protest. Their protest involves baking brownies, creating piñatas and placing duct tape over their mouths as a silent protest. I think it would work better if the socially conscious, albeit misguided, students focused on domestic issues like the two wars, the economy, or healthcare. All in all, I predict this show will last the season.

To quote Jeff Winger and Dr. Ian Duncan:

Jeff: I discovered at a very early age that if I talk long enough, I can make anything right or wrong. So either I'm God or truth is relative. In either case, booyah!"

Ian: Interesting, it's just that the average person has a much harder time saying 'booyah' to moral relativism.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

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