Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Advanced Documentary Filmmaking (Season 4, Ep 6)

Here's a Link to the Episode

Time for a "Chang" of Plot Focus

I felt like this episode had its roots more deeply set in the first three seasons. Mostly from the filming style/ content. Abed is filming a documentary for the Dean which focuses on Chang, now known as Kevin, and his Changnesia. If you click on the picture to the left, it will send you to the opening of the show which explains this tragic disease and some of the plot leading up to this episode. This clip also was a quintessential opening for a documentary, so great job, Abed. The slow fading in and out of the worlds/ title of the documentary, the use of visual dictionary definitions, splices of other interviews which help give setting and background for the subject of the documentary.

 We find out that Greendale is going to apply for a fair amount of grant money from a research society. To win said grant, the Dean asks Abed to direct a documentary to make the board members more sympathetic to 'Kevin.' So Abed and Garret are following the gang around which results in the shaky unfocused content we are watching.

A man on a mission
Conflict? Jeff doesn't believe that 'Kevin' is faking it and can really remember everything. At first he tries to challenge the Dean and his friends but they truly believe that 'Kevin' is telling the truth. Jeff then tells Abed that he is going to find evidence that he is faking and will expose Chang to the whole audience. But to do so, he is going to pretend that he believes in Changnesia and wants to help with the presentation. Jeff recruits Troy and Annie (who don't have many plot lines together) to do an investigation on where 'Kevin' had been for the past few months starting with his appearance. He also ask Pierce to give a speech, which Pierce immediately indicates will be VERY racist. Even if Troy and Annie don't find anything, Pierce's puppet show will drive the board members away.

Now I wasn't the biggest fan of the Troy and Annie cop duo plot line. I think that they did do an excellent job digging up the the information which will definitely come back in an few episode but they have done the Cop show episode before. When the gang's yam will 'murdered' they design the episode after a Law and Order show. It was one of my favorites from the season. But this was clearly just a side plot to add some depth. Not as much chemestry between the two of them. But it got the job done.

The Duo Hard at Work
Jeff ends up going too far in the presentation and Kevin hold his ground. Everyone still believes that he really can't remember and the school gets the grant money (god knows they need it, did you see those study rooms?). Jeff is an outcast until he apologizes to Kevin who then tells him that he is forgiven.

We find out in the last few seconds of this episode what I had suspected for some time; that Kevin is really still Chang!! It would have been too flat of a plot line, and a waste of talent, to keep Chang locked away inside the puerile Kevin. True, the lunch room scene between Kevin, Shirley, and the irate Jeff was one of the better parts of the show, but Chang's anarchist tendencies are too valuable as a conflict for the Gang. More importantly, it seems that some shadowy figure is orchestrating Chang's insertion into Greendale. But who has a reason to infiltrate the community college and the Greendale seven? I would like to put my money on the Dean from City College, Greendale's rival. We have seen that City College has no problem with invading Greendale in the second paintball episode and they have expressed their intention to wipe Greendale off the map. If this is true, then possibly, the gang may some how resolve this threat to the campus either by ameliorating relations or by defeating the other Dean. 

Can't wait to see the next episode.

See you all soon,

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations (Season 4, Ep 5)

Link to this episode Here 

Thanksgiving: Food, Family, and Fighting

We find the gang finishing their studying (in their study room), discussing their plans for Thanksgiving. Shirley informs the group that everyone is invited over to her house to join her and her husbands family for dinner. Everyone is excited except for Jeff who grunts that he already has plans. The Dean then tells everyone that he is actually having dinner with his estranged father. The gang (and I) were all excited to hear this especially Britta (note the picture) who took the credit for their reunion.

Jeff drives over to his Dad's house, only to panic and run away. He then calls Britta and she reveals to him that she is already in Willy Winger's house. Now Jeff has to return. It seems that Britta was really only there to provide comic relief to this plot line. Jeff finally confronting and bonding with his Dad is a bit tense so its understandable. One could argue that the second plot line was also set up so that it would counter balance the heavy themes and dialogue of this section of the show.

"This Ain't No Fairytale, This is Thanksgiving"

The other plot line, which to be honest didn't add much to the overarching plot of the series, took place in Shirley's home.We immediately find out that Shirley's in-laws are rude and overall horrible to be around. Abed, Troy, Annie, and Pierce all retreat into the garage to escape all of the "tension, the back fighting, and judgmental comments."

They declare that they feel like they are in prison and Abed starts to narrate this plot line as though it was a prison movie such as "Shawshank Redemption." Abed becomes 'the guy who can get you things" like Red from "Shawshank," Troy starts to lift, and Shirley is their warden. They tag team taking turns out with the  family as the rest of the Gang waits for dinner in the garage. But the prison theme soon breaks as Shirley figures out that they are trying to escape her house. She tells them that normally the Bennet family makes fun of her all night so she invited her friends over in an attempt to even the odds. So it turns out she is just as much of a prison her has they are.

Scotch, Scotch, Scotch, They love scotch
Jeff’s reunion with his father, played by James Brolin, can be compared with a similar reunion in an episode of "How I Met Your Mother". On that show, Neil Patrick Harris plays the smooth talking, womanizing, fashionable, lawyer named Barney Stinson. Similarly, Jeff was a lawyer for 7 years, is known for his fashion sense and prides himself  in his romantic abilities. But more importantly, both of their characters were raised by their mothers after their fathers left their family. During the reunion with Barney’s father, played by John Lithgow, originally tells his group of friends that his dad was exactly like he was; smooth talking, ladies man, who drank scotch and had a manly job. But we later find out that his father lives in suburbia with another family and makes a living as a driving instructor. He is mild mannered and and upstanding father. When Barney visits his father’s family, he becomes jealous, emotional, then lashes out at his father for leaving him.

            Although Jeff and Barney’s familial and personality situations mirror each other, Jeff’s confrontation occurs in a very different fashion. Jeff’s father is equally manly, has con stories, drinks scotch, and the two get along quite well. But the emotional conflict reveals itself in a different way. Jeff’s father tells him that he is proud of him. Hooray, fatherly acceptance! But Willy Winger goes on to say that Jeff should thank him for leaving him because his leaving him caused Jeff to be an independent, resourceful, self-made man. Jeff's father blames himself for Willy Jr who has turned out to be "softer than wet cheese." After one of his epiphanies, Jeff confronts his dad by telling him that he is also responsible for Jeff’s abandonment, insecurity, and other all relationship issues.

Willy Jr.
 I think the most dramatic and surprisingly serious story was of a young Jeff who lied to a class mate telling him that he got his appendix out. When the classmate asked to see the scar, Jeff went home and made a scar with some scissors. Everyone at school believed him and he got 13 get well soon cards from his class mates. Jeff still keeps those cards today to remind himself that there are people who cared about him. “I am not well adjusted. I’m barely holding it together. I’m constantly testing and there is no one on the other end. I’m afraid that they will see that I am broken.” –Jeff

Heartbreaking! The desperation, the vulnerability, Jeff’s fears of losing his friends. It was an unexpected realization in a normally light comedy. Barney eventually has a sitcom moment with his dad, but Jeff’s new relationship with his father seems more real because we see the damage that the abandonment caused Jeff. Barney is more of a womanizing jester than a three dimensional character. 

Overall, the show was alright. Jeff's plot line was the best as we learned so much more about his character and got to see some resolution between him and his father. The Bennet Prison plot line was alright but then even Abed admits that it fell short. But I have high hopes for the next episode, I think its going to focus on Kevin's Changnisa? 

Well, see you all next week. Thanks for reading.
Tweet @TomBrande or leave a comment. 

PS, no clue what this is about, have to search around online to find if there is a clip with the cast as puppets. 
Check out this link, of the cast with their puppets.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Alternative History of the German Invasion (Season 4, Ep 4)

Return of the Germans

This season has had a fair amount of content about history or past events. The first episode with the Ice Cream History class, second episode with Pierce and Jeff's past issues with their father (btw we never found out what happened with his dad after that phone call), and now this episode revolves around the theme of "history is written by the victors." The gang is forced to take a Modern European History type class as the Ice Cream History class is now full. Unlike every other class in Greendale, it appears that this professor has a degree and intends on actually teaching the class. Also attending the class are the three Germans from the Foosball episode in Season 3 (technically the main German is replaced by his brother but its not a major plot point and his replacement adds nothing to the plot, the brother was played by Nick Kroll who now has a show on Comedy Central, was probably too busy to be in this episode).

After the class, the three Germans are sitting at a side table in the Gang's study room. The group eventually agrees to let the Germans stay for the day but the next day the Germans have claimed the room for themselves. The Germans call security who sides with them because they have signed up for the room. Surprisingly, this actually becomes a central plot point.

This Means WAR!

The Greendale Seven attempt to arrive earlier the next day to sign up for the room but, alas, the Germans have beat them to the punch. The gang then has to use a new study room which has a flickering, and as Pierce finds out, electrifying light.
Annoying isn't it?

This repeats several times, with the gang trying to arrive earlier and earlier, only to find the Germans there waiting to laugh in their face. The injustice! And each new study room has something new that is awful about it (all of the chairs crack, dead raccoon in the air vent).

(I literally loled when this happened)
Finally the Gang decides to partake in some cleaver hijinks to rid themselves of this German Occupation. They incite the Germans with a peace offering in the form of an Oktoberfest celebration. The festival is complete with authentic bratwurst, beer, pretzels, and of course, 99 red balloons. Turns out this is all a ruse to frame the Germans into celebrating their own culture which, according to Greendale rules, is forbidden (no culture can celebrate their own culture). This results in the rivals from being banned from the study room.

Hooray! The heroes have prevailed! But what's this? As the group returns to the study room the next day they are met by an angry protest of Greendale students. They tell the Seven that they are sick and tired of them hogging the only good study room on campus. The mob is angry because when someone actually stood up to them after going through the sign up sheet, the Seven crossed the line and got the Germans kicked out.

This is where the history theme reveals itself. We find out that throughout the past 3 years, other people have been trying to use this study room but have been unable because the Gang has been claiming it as their own when others had signed up to use it. This leads the group to realize that "we thought the Germans were the Germans but really we were the Germans." They have dominated a space which was not their birth right while others suffered. They joke about how ridiculous of a comparison this is but it is what it is (namely a ridiculous show so you can't take it too seriously.)

So the group now feeling horrible, decides to give reparations for their past crimes and renovate the horrible study rooms.  They can now return to their room because everyone else now has somewhere else they can go.

"History Can Be Seen From Multiple Vantage Points"
After the Gang declares war on the Germans, I thought the show was trying to make a homage to World War II documentaries/ movies. The soaring music, the typewriter like text noting the setting of the new scene, and most obviously the American/ German rivalry. But as we later learn this episode was trying to show that alternative side to every conflict. Now I in no way am claiming that NBC/ Community was attempting to justify Germany's actions during WWII but one could take this theme further; namely to critique American History. There have been several moments in American history where we have thumped our chests with patriotism, duty, and other ideals to start wars when then are convenient. In the show, the groups thinks they are in the right without considering the others around them.

This is also true for say, our invasion of Grenada. A small, peaceful nation, with the military might equivalent of my hometown was claimed to be planning a full invasion of the USA. They may have been shifting to a Communist government but we saw that as a sign of aggression. USA invades and subdues the nation in three days. Hooray, liberation!

Oh well.

Well Chang's back, now with Changesia (Amnesia). The Dean thinks that he isn't faking it anymore but I still think that he is. He'll most likely be a focus in one of the next few episodes.

Andddd it looks like we're going to have Thanksgiving dinner at Shirley's with JEFF'S DAD

Here's a really good interview with Yvette Nicole Brown who plays Shirley

That's all for now, looking forward to some turkey. 
Tweet @TomBrande and let me know what you think OR leave a comment!

See you all soon,