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Community - Intro to Recycled Cinema + Grifting 101 - Double Review: "The show is fighting for its relevance"

First of all, sorry for the delay, the last two weeks have been crazy, but I still could have found the time to make the reviews, but didn’t. So far this season I have managed to do a much better job than last season bringing the reviews, but I still have work to do, and I’ll try my best to keep them coming week after week no longer than Thursdays or Fridays.

With that out of the way, I have something to say regarding Community as a whole: things have been quite. Not only inside the show, but the fanbase hasn’t made as much noise about it as it used to. There’s an interesting article about it that you can read about by clicking right here. The article says it’s not the show’s fault, but I think there is an ongoing issue about this sixth season that places the question: is there a need for more Community?

The show is still funny, its storylines are still amusing, the characters are still incredible, but is it relevant? Community was once a show that delivered on all fronts, and was able to develop characters arcs and story plots that stretched through whole seasons, something that this season clearly lacks. As such, we may feel the need to watch Community, but discussions about it have been very quiet as there is not much to discuss aside from saying “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it”.

That’s a dangerous territory for one of the comedies that has been one of the biggest cult hits of the decade. For 5 seasons the show was the stage center of discussion about how comedies should be and how bold decisions and the care of the characters should be integral to every sitcom. That discussion now seems to have faded into oblivion, and I think it is because Community is no longer as groundbreaking as it once was.

It’s a horrible thing to say, since the show is still pretty creative and pretty funny, but I feel like some of its spark is gone.
But thankfully, “Intro to Recycled Cinema” is an episode that largely allows for that spark to light, and “Grafting 101” is an effort to return Community to its more playful side, but there’s still work to be done.

So let’s talk about the episodes and then let’s circle back to this issue.

Intro to Recycled Cinema

“Intro to Recycled Cinema” is an episode that shines once it shows what it is truly about; near the end we have a Jeffrey freak out, in which he steals the computer and he gets a chat with Abed about why he didn’t want to get his scene cut from the movie and what is underlying; Jeff feels he’s the only one who is going to be left on Greendale, that eventually everyone will move on but him.

It’s a powerful moment, because Greendale has always been a place that has been fervently protected and as such I started to deem it as something special, but there’s another side to that coin. Greendale is a place where everyone is accepted and a place where you can come to terms with who you are, but that means that this community college is meant as a place of transition rather than a home.

That shouldn’t be so surprising since this is a college after all, one graduates and moves on with their lives, but Greendale has been so much more that I have been a bit blind about what the purpose of this place is. The group of people that come together here are all flawed and by being accepted and coming to terms with their quirks they evolve and become able to face the world that once rejected them. That’s how Troy’s journey led him to travel around the work, and that’s how Shirley became able to make the hard choice to take care of her father and start a career of her own cooking for a detective. That’s how Jeff sees it, they grew to the point where they were able to leave Greendale while he himself is stuck in there.

The scene is only a few minutes long, but it shows something the show has lacked this season; there have been too little heart to hearts.
Community is a show that usually hits me right on the heart when it goes for drama, but this season has lacked real conflict and drama whatsoever, with the endings being end closed, and the storylines being fun, but mostly irrelevant. The characters interactions have been fun, the storylines have been goofy and entertaining, but there’s been a certain lack of depth and conflict that “Intro to Recycled Cinema” brings with this scene.

Jeff feels he is going to be stucked on Greendale forever while everyone moves on, but Abed assures him that it doesn’t matter if his plans don’t pan out, because every once in a while life turns to work out (or by using his metaphor “Annie reaches down her shirt”). It’s a beautiful moment and one that is true: it is always darkest before the dawn, and when it comes it is work the beat up you got before. Life is going to work out some way or another, so you can’t plan out everything, you have to live it until, finally, Annie reaches down her shirt.

If the episode was just that scene alone, it would have been an easy “A”, but there are 28 minutes of footage, and just like Chief Starr and the Raiders of the Galaxy, it stretches longer than necessary.

Chang got his big break on a jam commercial as he went viral after coming up with a catch phrase, so the group comes up with a way to capitalize on Chang’s break out by using the old footage Abed has of him on a cop film he was making by cutting Chang’s pieces into a low budget, poorly written and poorly acted sci-fi movie.

This is acts as Community’s first parody of the season, as the show makes fun of the incredibly abundant amount of poor B sci-fi movies around there. Some bits work (like Frankie playing the steel drums) and some other are less than stellar (like the first scenes that introduces Jeff, Annie and Britta’s characters), but as a whole I wasn’t that impressed by what was showcased. I laughed at some points, but most of the times I was merely watching the thing develop expecting for something truly entertaining to happen, but time just went by.

The best that came out of it is the Jeff and Abed scene, that’s for sure, the scene itself elevated an episode that otherwise is mostly forgettable. By the end, Chang’s success is brought to an end and he crawls back to the group as he has done many times before.
Jeff is wrong, Chang is obviously going to be the last man standing on Greendale.

There is something sad about seeing Greendale as a place to be stuck until you are fixed, but at the same time it showcases the positive effect it has on people; Jeff is on a rush to get out of there and he has forgot that he has to live the experience and learn from it and that’s what Abed reminds him. For that alone, I’m willing to see this episode for something more than an average half hour of comedy, but as something meaningful.

Grade: B+

Stray Observations:

-Chang’s absence has the benefit of lowering Greendale’s insurance premium by 6%. Sounds about right.

-Elroy: “I already forgot his name.”
Annie: “Did you ever know his name?”
Elroy: “The chinese, right? Whose name was kind of a noise? Clang? Blang? Morang?”

-Magnitude shows up and there is no “pop! pop!”? Something went seriously wrong!

-Annie: “Pay your rent or shut up!”

-Jeff: “Go away Abed! Once I watch this tutorial on how to edit I’m going to save this movie without taking its soul!”

-Abed: “Bazinga!”
I literally had a flashback to the TBBT episode in which Sheldon was in the ball pit and burst in laughs.

-Jeff: “I told you I see you in hell!”

Grifting 101

“Grifting” is a fun episode, but it is not a stellar episode. It is similar to “Conspiracy Theories” but less stellar than it. It has plenty of games of deceive, but it’s not loud enough or relevant enough. Matt Berry is an excellent guest star who carries a lot of comedic momentum through the episode, but still, something didn’t work as much as it should have in order to make the episode memorable. That being said, the episode is playful enough to be consistently enjoyable through the whole half hour.

I honestly love the passing sequences that has everyone drawn ala The Sting while a ragtime piano plays on the background. There are plenty of little details to love as it is usually the case with Community.

The whole episode played some slow build up the beginning by having professor DeSalvo grifting everyone in class and then by having Jeff competing with him to see if he could grift him, and as it often happens, everyone gets involved in his thing as a way to get revenge on him.

I always knew Jeff was holding the aces for the ultimate grift, with Britta as an inside spy which knew what professor DeSalvo was up to, and the final act features many hilarious moments of him trying to get the briefcase full of money. The briefcase parade made me chuckle and suddenly I started bursting into laugh; the way in which the whole school was quickly involved was pretty fun and the pay off by the end was great.

It’s really common ground for Jeff to get obsessed by something stupid, but it is really great when he and everyone else work together to put a stunt such like this together; I could tell by the beginning that he was in cahoots with everyone else to pull the grift and it was pretty darn enjoyable to see how DeSalvo was forced to admit that he got grifted.

It may not have been the most inspired episode of Community and it may not have the great heartfelt scene of the episode preceding it, but this was a really enjoyable episode that I’ll be happy to re-watch any time. And that’s a pretty great accomplishment for a show on its 6th season.

Grade: B+

Stray Observations:

-Elroy: “Those are actual diabetes symptoms”
Chang: “That’s what the doctor said!”
Frankie: “So is he treating it?”
Chang: “I asked him the same thing!”
Frankie: “What did he say?”
Chang: “He said make an appointment through his office during business hours because this is his home, his children are sleeping, you know doctors.”

-Frankie: “Wait, what do grifters do again?”
Elroy: “I got this. I’ll tell you for 5 bucks.”
Frankie: “No.”
Elroy: “You better sign me up.”

-Chang bought extra believable socks, but those were half off, so he feels like he grifted professor DeSalvo.

-Britta: “Why are you guys still doing that?!”
Annie: “Well, it was homework. And we’re getting better, right?”

-Jeff: “I’m going to grift you! I’m going to grift your ass! Or is that the grift?”
DeSalvo: “None of it’s a grift! It’s all nonsense!”
Frankie: “How many times do I have to tell you people this is not a bar! Come on people, you don’t have to go teach a class, but you can’t stay here.”

-DeSalvo: “You hit me! With a woman’s hand! You midwester…!”
Britta: “I lived in New York!”

-Chang: “Yeah, right! He is grifting us. Grift blood!”
Surprisingly, Chang was right for once.

-Elroy: “You can’t expel Britta. She is the heart of the group. She started it all. A fake biology group… so she could have sex with… Troy?”

-Annie: “You can’t expel Britta! She’s been here for 6 years! 3 more and she will have her 2 year degree!”

Now back to the relevance issue

I say Community is still relevant; this season hasn’t been as stellar as the previous ones, but it’s not the train wreck season 4 (though I don’t find that season as bad as some people suggest, you can read about that here), it’s simply in a place in which it had decided to lay off a bit and have fun.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but the show ended up feeling both different and the same, and as such it is hard to approach it. Most of the times I have a pretty good time watching episodes this season, but only the season premiere and the 3rd episode this season have truly reached the kind of enjoyment I get from previous season (okay, sway in the Honda episode too).

What I miss the most are the constantly developed story arcs for both characters and plot, Community needs that to feel like what it once was. There’s nothing wrong with a TV show evolving into something different, but it shouldn’t lose its essence.

Community hasn’t lost itself completely, but it has started a journey towards a different approach that has made the discussion about the show all the more quiet,
It is still one of the most reliably funny sitcoms on the air, but the show used to be more than that. If anything, Community is worth watching by how it develops its comedy and its great characters interactions, but I want more, because the show has showed me it can do better.

It is still relevant, but it needs to regain a bit of its voice that has been lost on the way.

About the Author - Pablo
I'm currently studying Psychology while also writing fantasy books (one already published in my home country, Chile, you can check it out on the facebook icon). I watch many different types of shows, including my favorites Revenge, Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time and about 23 more. Currently writing reviews for Once Upon a Time, The 100 and Community
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