Dear TV Writers: Your Fear of the Moonlighting Curse is Killing Your Show

What is the Moonlighting Curse, and why is it such a big deal to television writers? Read this in-depth look at the crippling phenomenon and find out!

Getting Rid of the Stigma: Mental Illness in Young Adult Fiction, by Megan Mann

In this piece, Megan brilliantly discusses the stigma of mental illness in literature and how some young adult novels are helping to change the landscape for this discussion.

In Appreciation of the Everyday Heroine

A mask does not a hero make. In this piece, I discuss why it's wrong to dismiss characters without costumes or masks as superheroes.

Friday, July 27, 2012

2x05 "Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples" (The Significance of Friends)


"Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples"
Original Airdate: October 21, 2010

One of the best comedies of all time (if not the best) in my humble opinion is a little show that used to be on NBC called Friends. And, apart from the sheer hilarity of the situations the group managed to find themselves in, the one thing that I really love to this day about the show is the bond that each main character has with the other characters. Everyone is quick to remember the Ross/Rachel or Joey/Chandler dynamics, but the true gems of the show’s stories (in my opinion) were when the audience had the opportunity to watch other pairings unfold – “The One With All the Cheesecakes” was an episode that was centered around Rachel/Chandler – a pairing the audience didn’t frequently see together in many episodes. And what’s special and wonderful about these plotlines are that they remind the audience that, while the six main characters of the show function as a unit, when broken down into individual components or even pairings, the significance and importance of those moments is highlighted. Because the bottom line is that these people (both the characters in Friends and the ones in Community) are friends and some friendships will always be closer (see: Joey/Chandler, Troy/Abed) than others (see: Ross/Phoebe, Shirley/Abed), but not less important. The beauty of these less-publicized (as I’ll call it) pairings is that, when the audience sees them, it’s something fresh, unexpected, and – most importantly – allows viewers to recognize the significance of the lesser frequented pairings. So what’s the significance of “Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples”? It’s not an episode that people generally declare as a “go-to” Community episode, but it’s one that I think is very intriguing and heartwarming because of the Shirley/Abed storyline. So I’ll spend the majority of my time today discussing them, why I feel their relationship is so important, why – as characters – they are each important, and who knows, maybe I’ll discuss Leonard and the Hipsters (which sounds like the name of a less-ironic and unoriginal hipster band).

So let's talk about the plot for the episode then, shall we? We open the episode with the gang in Anthropology class. They're watching viral videos on the Internet and... well, not doing much learning of anything related to their subject of study. While everyone else seems to find the videos hilarious, Shirley doesn't.  I think that it’s interesting (and a bit sad for Shirley) that no one seems to respect her in the class. And I know that she’s supposed to have her religion played for jokes but Troy’s line (“What happens if you type in God?” “Everyone hates you and wants you to shut up”) and Abed’s (“You asked for it!” in reference to the God of Farts video) line are particularly harsh, but primarily because they are lines that would seemingly be directed at Britta. In “Comparative Religion,” Shirley displayed her controlling tendencies in regards to her faith and beliefs. At this point in season two, she has come quite a way from those antics, and even though her behavior may be annoying or irritating, I’m just intrigued by the fact that it was as attacked as it was. But perhaps I’m just reading too far into things. And I think that Shirley’s method of operation (and we’ll return to this throughout the episode in regards to both her and Abed) is to become defensive when someone attacks or belittles her belief system. She takes action throughout the episode, whether or not that action is rooted in justifiable or selfish causes.

Everyone, even Jeff and Annie, are suggesting absurd videos for Professor Dunan to search. It’s amusing to see someone like Jeff actually relax in class and not slouch into “too-cool-to-pretend” mode and for someone like Annie to loosen up from her tightly wound, obsessively studious ways in this episode. And, even though they aren’t in it much, it shows a bit of character development for each of them, even if the development is seemingly insignificant and a tad silly. Shirley asks who would want to watch offensive videos like the ones they are watching, and Duncan replies with: "17 million people." The mother, visibly distraught, explains that there were nine people at her church the previous night. When Shirley makes the statement about how many people attended her church, it’d be easy for me to mistake her statement as guilt-inducing, but I really don’t think that it is. I genuinely think that she was upset by the fact that her belief system and her faith – these things that are so fundamental to her, that she’s built her life on – are so unimportant to EVERYONE around her. And for the briefest of moments, Jeff and Britta (and Troy and Abed) feel momentary flickers of regret and maybe even sympathy… which are quickly forgotten when they view the next YouTube obsession.

Shirley decides to enlist the help of Abed in creating a viral video that will send a positive message to young people. I think it’s adorable that Shirley approaches Abed about making a religious film. We, as audience members, usually understand fairly well that these two characters are externally different. But, as I have said numerous times before, it’s amazing how fundamentally similar both Abed and Shirley are. Both seek some form of acceptance and approval among other people, whether or not they admit it. But – and this is significant – the major similarity between Shirley and Abed is that both have a desire to control people and circumstances. Remember what I noted in “Anthropology 101”? The reason that Shirley and Abed are just as much to blame for the dissention within the group during that episode as Jeff, Britta, and Annie are is because of control. Abed was so insistent on controlling the outcome of their year and Shirley on the outcome of Jeff and Britta’s relationship that both managed to lose sight of the fact that their actions were inevitably leading (in part) to the group’s blow-out. So maybe, just maybe, Shirley and Abed aren't as dissimilar as it would appear on the surface.

In line in the cafeteria, Pierce attempts to order macaroni and cheese, but Abed stops him and calls Britta over. The blonde insists that Pierce order vegetables as well.  So our B-plot centers around Pierce and his new “hipster” friends (a group of old people with hip replacements, headed by Leonard). And I think that this episode provides a nice contrast to what will happen later on in Pierce’s seasonal story arc. Pierce is not someone who was born evil or uncompassionate. He, like many characters on the show, is backward in his way of thinking. And Pierce needs the group – he needs them just as much as Jeff and Abed do, and the study group needs him more than they actually are able to express. I think that, for a lot of the members, at least, they need someone to NEED. They want to take care of Pierce and look out for him (as Britta does in this episode) because he is family to them, and that’s just what families do. I really do think that the storyline is a nice way to set up contrast as to what Pierce is like with the study group and what he could become if he was left alone. Leonard (while a clearly amazing and hilarious character on the show and nearly everyone’s favorite recurring figure) doesn’t have family or friends. He has the “hipsters,” of course, but later on in the episode, it becomes clear that they aren’t true friends. Pierce actually DOES become like Leonard later on in the season, however – at the very end of “Early 21st Century Romanticism” we see that he is left alone, family and friend-less on a park bench because that is the path he chose in that moment. But he doesn’t have to be like Leonard because he has the study group – because, as Jeff explained to him in the first season, “when you have friends, you have family.” And maybe the grass seems greener on the other side without rules and without the confinements of his social circle, but it’s probably not.

I think the bottom line for our B-story is that Pierce feels the need to be accepted. But moreover than that, he needs to feel like he is somehow contributing to the group. And I think that, as much as he needs to be around the study group, he sometimes feels like he isn’t wanted or needed. Britta attempted to humor him in “Debate 109” in order to make him feel like he was doing something right. Pierce decides to ditch the study group for the remainder of the episode and hang out with the "cool" hipsters, taking on their rebellious attitude (but only to a certain extent). Meanwhile, Jeff and Annie watch how Pierce begins to act out, and Annie claims that Jeff is the "dad" of the group, so he has to do something about the elderly man's behavior. Jeff insists that he does not, and this role of father-figure to the group will come back around at the end of the episode and intrigues me, especially in light of Jeff's own father issues.

Abed finds Shirley in the library and agrees to do the religious film for her, because he read the whole New Testament and was intrigued by the character of Jesus, comparing him to Edward Scissorhands and Marty McFly. Shirley is initially thrilled... until Abed begins to explain the concept of his movie to her. It's a meta film, he explains, and one that will be titled "ABED" (in all caps). One interesting thing to note in regards to both Shirley and Abed’s characters is an issue of pride. And pride, like I’m sure I have said before, isn’t a word that should always have a negative connotation associated with it. Pride in your work and pride in yourself within limits is healthy. However, this episode explores Abed’s pride. Originally, Shirley discussed the prospect of working with Abed on a film and the student agreed. In the library, however, Abed declared that the film would be “[his] masterpiece.” Very quickly, he’s abandoned all pretense of helping a friend and instead sets out to makes HIS name known. And Shirley, rather than becoming condescending or lecturing Abed right off the bat, decides to walk away.

Shirley then decides to recruit (or, more likely, guilt-trip) both Britta and Troy into helping her film her viral video. (As you can probably tell, the two are just thrilled to be participating in a rapping Jesus YouTube video.) However, before Shirley can get through the video, there is a loud crash outside. As it turns out, Abed is filming the movie that he intended to start for Shirley. There is just one tiny thing that Shirley disagrees with in regards to the film, however -- Abed portrays himself as Jesus and, in a very meta film, claims to be him. Now, Abed is the kind of person who, in spite of claiming in the first season that he had copious amounts of self-esteem, still thrives on feelings of acceptance and desires to be understood. We learn early on in the series that Abed’s films allow him to feel that way – to connect to people who he would otherwise be unable to form an emotional attachment with. And even though the group has managed to be the support that Abed needs the majority of the time, he often resorts to his fallback – controlling and manipulating – in order to establish himself in their lives. Because (flashing forward to an episode like “Virtual Systems Analysis”) if Abed isn’t able to control people and circumstances, what role does he have in the group at all? (Remember: this is how Abed perceives himself.)

Shirley’s desire from the beginning of the episode was to connect in some way, shape, or form the existing media and deliver her intended message. Abed’s desire, I believe, was to establish himself – his career, his status, etc. – and those visions clash as the episode wears on. But there is also an undertone to the reasons why Shirley acts the way that she does. Part of her reactions stem from righteous indignation and accusations of blasphemy. But another part (a part that Abed cannot come to grips with until the end of the episode), a larger part, is trying to save Abed from himself. And in a way, Shirley’s behavior throughout the episode provides better insight into the “light” of the message that she wanted to send than any YouTube video could. Abed sacrificed his movie so that he would not be a laughingstock. Shirley sacrificed her pride and status in order to save a friend.

The mother slowly grows more irritated with Abed's behavior as the episode wears on, evolving from mere concern and worry to full-on anger at the end. Similarly, Pierce's behavior begins to evolve as the episode wears on -- he begins to become more and more rebellious and resentful of the group's babying in regards to his behavior. Jeff begins to lecture the study group and Pierce before stopping himself -- with a newspaper in hand and a lecture coming out of his mouth, he's beginning to feel like too much of a father to the elderly man and he doesn't like that. Pierce storms out of the study group in response, and Shirley affirms to Abed that she's going to shut his meta production down because his claims to be Jesus and his delusions as a filmmaker have clouded his better judgement.

Later on, Shirley arrives on the set of Abed's movie to do just that -- with a complaint filed to the dean invoking the separation of church and state, she declares the production be shut down for good. And clearly, Abed’s ego has already hit a high point when he tells those involved in his film that they have contributed in a “small” way to the greatest film ever made. Shirley’s anger has overtaken her by this point in time (remember that she has thinly veiled rage issues?), but I believe there is a part of her that is still concerned for Abed’s well-being and not just bitter and upset.

Outside, Pierce and the hipsters go for a joy ride in Dean Pelton's car. But when one of the hipsters, Richard, "crashes" into a curb, everyone else bails out of the car. Leonard claims that it's "every man for himself," which leaves Pierce alone with Richard. This is the one scene of importance to note between Pierce and the hipsters. Pierce recognizes that friends – true friends – won’t leave you, even when you’re being irrational, even when you’re wrong and completely unbearable. True friends, he realizes, are probably the people HE decided to leave earlier in the episode because he wanted to be rebellious.

Back in the cafeteria, Starburns is replaying some of the footage to Abed from his film. The student merely watches the scenes before leaving the cafeteria and heading outside into the courtyard. Abed then looks up at the sky and begins to pray to God to take the movie away from him. Abed’s moment of vulnerability is one that is extremely touching because he recognizes his mistake in his self-indulgence. He recognizes that he placed the emphasis of the project only on himself and deserves the punishment he’ll have to pay for it. It’s a step in the right direction for Abed, and something easy to gloss over the significance of. Abed decides to hand over the reins of his career to a God he’s praying to because he feels like that’s what he deserves for being selfish. (Again, Abed can be very self-deprecating at times – see: “Virtual Systems Analysis”) And overhearing him in the garden was Shirley, a person who willingly sacrifices her social status for Abed’s sake. Shirley then walks away from overhearing the conversation, and Abed assumes that since no meteor appeared or no lightning storm destroyed the set of his film, God was allowing this to be his punishment for being selfish. But just as it seems that his prayers have not been answered, Shirley appears on set, wielding a baseball bat and destroying the cameras.

At the front office, Pierce and the other hipsters were caught for joy riding in the dean's car and are being held in a room together. Jeff, apparently, is Pierce's emergency contact and arrives, requesting to be removed as his contact. When he looks into the room and sees Leonard and the others, he asks if anyone would be coming to get them. The woman at the desk says that Leonard's family has requested that the school stop calling them. No one, as it turns out, wants to come and pick up the elderly man. And I’d like to think that Jeff bailing Pierce out had a lot to do with a) the fact that he does consider Pierce to be a part of his family and b) the fact that Jeff’s own father was never there for him. He spent the entire episode acting as the father figure to the group, and refused that role (much like he refused the role of leader at first). So maybe this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Jeff’s issues with his father or maybe it’s just the realization that – as much as he hates to admit it – he is family with this group. And family (as Lilo puts it in “Lilo and Stich”) means no one gets left behind.

The next day in Anthropology class, everyone seemingly avoids Shirley, except for Abed. He explains to her that everyone believes she's a villain for destroying his movie. They all think, he explained, that his movie was too good to ever be made and that he's a hero. And in that moment, Abed realizes that Shirley heard him praying and destroyed the movie to save him from himself. When Professor Duncan enters the classroom, he is excited because The most touching moment comes at the end of the episode, where Abed realizes exactly what Shirley has sacrificed for him, and explains that he humbles her. And Shirley reciprocates the sentiment, leaving me to realize that even the most seemingly different characters work on the most deep and fundamental levels.


Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode:
- I miss Professor Duncan. Seriously.
- Annie’s first outfit is super cute. Ahem. As you all were.
- “Abed, guess who has two thumbs and an exciting career opportunity for you?” *points to ceiling* “This guy!”
- “Pierce, please just step aside and make room for a new generation.”
- “Would the dad walk away from this conversation?” “… no?”
- “Unacceptable. And none of your business. And barely the whole truth.”
- “Jesus WAS Jewish.” “Are you EVER gonna let that go?” (True story: my Christian friend sent a Christmas card to me that said ‘Jesus Was Jewish, Too.’ I love that card.)
- “I mean, it’s almost like he’s Jesus.” “I GOT IT.”
- The tag solidifies why Troy/Annie/Abed works comedically.

Next week, we are leapfrogging ahead to the first episode written by the beautiful and talented Megan Ganz -- "Cooperative Calligraphy." Join me at 8PM EST on Twitter with the hashtag #itsnotapen for our live-tweet and the following day for the blog-review. Until then, folks! :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

#TheJoelProject



So, I decided to make a post today about a project, aptly named "The Joel Project" that Kim (@dramakim on Twitter), Jaime (@elspunko) and I concocted pretty much on a whim. Hopefully this will be a little lighthearted fun for your Thursday morning or afternoon! :)

(As a shameless self-plug, also remember that tonight is Thursday night re-watch for Community, so hop onto Twitter at 8PM EST and watch "Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples" with me then!)

And now, more #McHaleAPalooza stuff beneath the break!


Friday, July 20, 2012

Emmy Nominees (Or "Oh, Boy. You're Going to Talk About Snubs, Aren't You?")




If you think that the Emmy nominations have officially sunk in for me, you’d be wrong. Even though, as you read this, they happened twenty-four hours ago, some nominations (the plethora of “Sherlock” and “Downton Abbey”) surprise and excite me, while the significant lack of others (“Community” in particular) continue to baffle me. So let’s discuss my particular point-of-view when it comes to some of these nominations. I won’t cover all of them (because once we arrive at things such as sound mixing and/or lighting design, I don’t have much of an opinion). If you didn’t see my tweet from last night, feel free to check out my updated blog post from a few weeks ago – “The Road to the Emmys (Or Jenn’s Slightly Narrowed Ballot)” which I updated to highlight the nominees of categories that I predicted. If you want to check out the complete list of nominees, you can view a PDF version of the list here.

The most important thing to remember when reading this blog post is that I am not a television critic, nor do I profess to be. If you’re looking for someone who professionally watches television and has a more educated and well-rounded point of view when it comes to certain shows (see: “Girls,” “Louie,” and “Veep”), then I would highly recommend reading Alan Sepinwall. But since chances are you’ve found this blog because of the “Community” reviews or because you’re tired of seeing me shamelessly promote it on Twitter, I hope you enjoy reading from the point of view of a television fan and semi-professional writer. ;) So, are you ready to discuss some Emmy nominees? Jump below the cut, because we’re about to kick it off with the category that “Community” was snubbed out of – Outstanding Comedy Series.


Friday, July 13, 2012

2x04 "Basic Rocket Science" (Of Annie and Greendale and Space Buses)


"Basic Rocket Science"
Original Airdate: October 14, 2010

Have I ever mentioned that Annie Edison is practically my spirit animal/soul mate? She’s the type of young woman who is driven and serious and dedicated, often to a fault. She, just as easily as Britta, can become a buzz kill. But she has respect for herself, partially because she worked so diligently to piece her life back together that she HAS to hold onto that respect and partially because she wants other people to see her as an adult. But what’s great about Annie Edison – what’s really great – is that she knows how much she still needs other people. Sure, she’s tightly wound and a perfectionist, but that doesn’t mean she isolates herself from the group… until this episode. In the minds of the audience, Annie is the last person we would assume would transfer schools. After all, this is the young woman who got Chang fired so that she could keep her study group together. We’ve come to grips, I think, at least slightly with how much Jeff needs the study group and what they mean to him. Throughout the second season (and the third too, for that matter), we learn that the study group, once viewed as nothing more than annoying classmates, becomes his family and his best friends. He loves them. But what does the study group mean to Annie, in particular? “Basic Rocket Science” is an episode that touches on this question, much like someone accidentally touches a hot stove – there are these brief moment of realization and poignancy that is then quickly removed. I’ll return to this intriguing (or absurd, depending on your point of view, really) analogy later on.

To note something else that is of interest, this is the first episode (apart from “Modern Warfare”) that was an homage seemingly for homage’s sake. Now, don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t mean that I disliked “Basic Rocket Science,” in the least bit. I do appreciate this episode for the comedic aspects of the episode (and the homage itself, even though – admittedly – I haven’t seen the entirety of “Apollo 13”). This episode did force the study group closer together than they have ever been before. The group is trapped within a claustrophobic space bus, which forces them to confront issues with themselves and each other that are uncomfortable. It’s definitely interesting territory because everyone seems much more vulnerable when they are in the bus than when they are outside of it – Jeff becomes more sensitive to leadership, Annie is less rational, and Pierce is… well, Pierce is mad. The only person who avoids this vulnerability is Abed who is, instead, at the control seat. Interesting, no? We’ll discuss later on the first emergence of the Jeff/Troy power struggle as seen in this episode.

Now, in case you all were just so enthralled by the fact that my blog-review was returning (shh, let me have this one) and managed to forget what the episode was actually about, never fear because I am here to remind you! "Basic Rocket Science" opens with the dean calling a meeting regarding a space simulator that City College plans to launch the following week. Since City College is pretty much the Wil Wheaton to our Sheldon Cooper, this doesn't sit very well with Dean Pelton. He wants Greendale Community College to launch their own space simulator before City College manages to launch their own. City College, the dean argues, will be able to put an astronaut on their school's brochures. And what will Greendale have? A foosball table. I think that the two relationships that intrigue me most in Community are not Jeff/Annie or Jeff/Britta or Troy/Britta (even though I enjoy watching those relationships and friendships for various reasons), but Dean Pelton/Greendale and Jeff/Greendale. Both have a rather tumultuous relationship with the community college – the dean tries so hard to make Greendale something that it is not, because he can’t accept things the way that they are. He doesn’t believe that he is better than mediocre, so he has to continuously attempt to prove it to others in order to prove it to himself. Jeff, on the other hand, adamantly and continually affirms that Greendale is the worst place in the world. And yet, he defends the school (as we will see in this episode), and becomes depressed when it is taken away from him (as we saw in “Course Listing Unavailable”).

The dean has, in his possession (I don't know exactly how he got it from the museum) a space simulator sponsored by KFC. The space bus, as it were, is pretty gross and dingy, but the dean assures his colleagues that he has just the crew  to clean it up. This is, of course, our study group. He calls them together on Saturday and insists that them cleaning up the simulator is punishment for a prank they pulled -- creating a new school flag with the symbol of a literal butt on it. When the dean announces that the way he found out about the prank is because someone from the group told him, six heads look at Annie accusingly. Annie is a person who – as we’ll discover later on via Britta – is tightly wound. It’s not that she isn’t a fun person to be around, or someone who is incapable of joking. But someone who is both tightly wound AND driven can often be stubborn and unrelenting. She clearly does not find the E Pluribus Anus flag amusing – the implication is that she doesn’t want her friends to disrespect the place where she attends school. And, truthfully, this isn’t a terrible thing to want. But Annie KNOWS her study group – she knows her friends and their personalities. So shouldn’t she have expected this kind of behavior from them? And, if so, then what is the real root cause for her desire to transfer? (You’ll hear my theories in a bit.)

I tend to believe that the rest of the study group enjoys pulling pranks (and things like the flag) and participating in wacky shenanigans because of, ironically, their love for Greendale. I believe that I mentioned this concept in the “Course Listing Unavailable” review, but the reason that the study group picks on the school and expresses their hatred for it is because it actually provides them with security from the real world. Each and every study group member has faced something outside of the four walls of Greendale that was tough, and so they retreated within its four walls for solace and comfort. They found this within their friendships with each other and their relationship with the school itself. It’s safe to pick on Greendale, really – the group knows they’ll always be accepted there. It’s a weird, crazy, backwards place that is their home. And no matter how much they may deny it, the fact of the matter is that they love their home and would be lost without it.

Once Dean Pelton leaves the group to get to cleaning the space bus, Annie abruptly says that they should all go and get coffee, but Abed and Troy have already entered the bus (when the dean explicitly told them not to do so). The rest of the study group follows the pair inside and examines the simulator (which has seen better days), with Annie and Pierce growing steadily more nervous, both for different reasons. Britta, meanwhile, uses a word twice (and Jeff once, when he's repeating Britta later on) in this episode when she talks to Annie that I think is really interesting. She says that the young woman shouldn't have "tattled."  This is actually an interesting Britta/Annie episode too, when you step back and consider it. The episode that I skipped (“The Psychology of Letting Go”) is one of my least favorite episodes, mainly because it drives a wedge between Britta and Annie that never is resolved (much like the conversation that Jeff and Annie have in “Intro to Political Science,” where they slap a ‘resolved’ band-aid on a conversation that is not over). Britta still has a lot of pent up bitterness toward Annie for the events of the Transfer Dance, and the word choice that Britta uses (and repeats) is interesting: “tattle.” She accuses Annie of tattling on the group, which is a word that – in my experience – is traditionally used in reference to children.

The fact of the matter is that Annie and Britta’s relationship was de-railed thanks to their involvement with Jeff. It’s easier for Jeff to think of Annie as a child (hence the head pats and kiddos which he admits are a crutch later on in the following season) because that way he doesn’t have to face whatever feelings and emotions he has for her. Britta, on the other hand, treats Annie like a child for a different reason – she doesn’t want to see Annie as an equal. And this isn’t Britta being harsh and cold to Annie, necessarily. I’m not the type of fan of “Community” who hates Britta and loves Annie. It is, however, important to know that – much like Jeff – things bother Britta more than she is able (or willing) to vocalize. In “Romantic Expressionism,” she was so concerned with appearing cool and collected that she buried the jealousy she felt toward Annie and Vaughn until she very nearly exploded. Similarly, Britta often turns her inability to vocalize feelings into barbs that she uses. A word like “kiddo” or “tattle” is a way to place distance between characters. Britta isn’t ready to be good friends with Annie again, and maybe she’s even not ready to trust the young woman completely. So, she keeps herself guarded and her walls up and the easiest way to do so is through using those words.

(Which, I now realize is a LOT to get out of just one word. But whatever.)

And yet, when Pierce moves to insult Annie moments later, the blonde seems appalled and offended. I think that there is a part of Britta that WANTS to be mad at Annie, but who never really can. She cares so much about Annie as a friend that she can rarely stay mad at her (see: “English as a Second Language”) for very long. That doesn’t, however, mean that their relationship isn’t rocky, because it is.

The group then gets locked into the space bus and Pierce begins to freak out because he is claustrophobic. Abed races out of the bus to go don a more appropriate outfit. And then, quite suddenly, the simulator begins to move and the Atari-Colonel Sanders begins to speak and insist that everyone sit down. As it turns out, the vehicle is being towed from where the dean parked it earlier that morning. Jeff's frustration begins to manifest itself when he realizes that there is no phone signal within the vehicle and he insists that Greendale deserves the flag that they made for it.

Back at Greendale, Dean Pelton is panicking because the study group has left with the simulator, which he is supposed to display to the press later that afternoon. If the group doesn't manage to return for the launch, City College wins. Abed, in the study room with the dean, informs him that the simulator's windows open once the simulation is completed. So, the film student begins to walk his friends through the steps necessary to open the window.  This is the beginning of a great arc for Troy (that really continues throughout the rest of the season and subsequent one too) in terms of his character development as a leader. I’ve noted before that both Jeff and Troy can be classified as leaders, but both for very different reasons. Jeff is the type of leader who commands attention simply by existing. People gravitate toward Jeff, in spite of the fact that he does not want them to. He begrudgingly accepts his role as the head of the study group, and yet manages to not entirely break apart the group itself. But Jeff is selfish, and that is one of his greatest – if not his greatest – vices. He has too much pride and too much of a lazy attitude to commit fully to things that need attention. He’d rather take shortcuts (such as trying to open a window with a fire extinguisher) than do things that – while seemingly absurd – would benefit the group (like Troy, accepting Abed’s advice and heeding it). Troy is completely selfless, as we saw in the last few episodes of season three. He is the type of leader who is unsuspecting – he’s not the person people automatically follow. But he EARNS the respect of those around him, and THAT is what is important.

And Jeff and Troy clash in this episode because of the fact that Troy “pulls rank” on Jeff, who – until this point – had been able to save the group and was never questioned as the leader. Jeff does not like being helpless or vulnerable, and he is both of these things in the episode while in the bus. Because the truth is, he is threatened by the idea of someone taking his role away from him (much like he is threatened and scared by the prospect later on in “Course Listing Unavailable” of someone taking Greendale away from him too).

Suddenly though, everyone begins to snap within the space bus. Pierce has already been driven to near-insanity by the small, enclosed space and is locked up by the rest of the group in the back of the bus. Britta snaps at Annie, insisting that the fact that they're in the space bus is all her fault anyway. And this is where we learn the truth about why Annie had been so apprehensive to get into the bus to begin with... she was helping to sabotage Greendale's launch in order to get accepted into City College.

It’s interesting though, her excuse for wanting to transfer. Was the flag the last straw for her or… was there something else, too? Remember that Annie has known these people for two years and then, suddenly, can’t handle their behavior anymore? And what’s really intriguing is what happens to Annie – the petite brunette goes from an upstanding perfectionist and moral do-no-wrong to someone who sells out her own school for a chance to get ahead. That doesn’t sound very much like Annie Edison, do you think? I am left to wonder what the real motivation for Annie was, in the end. There’s no doubt that she was probably frustrated with not being taken seriously in the group. But perhaps, with everything that had happened post-Tranny Dance, it was more than that – perhaps Annie just wanted to be seen as an adult and someone capable of making her own decisions. Perhaps this was another shot at “living in the moment” or “living for herself.” Because, indeed, this is a selfish thing to really do – Annie is humiliating the school that she won the debate for half a year earlier. So what, then, is Annie’s motivation for transferring? Perhaps she needed to place distance between herself and Jeff or herself and Britta. Maybe that was a part of her decision-making process. I tend to believe that it was a combination of all the things previously mentioned – a desire to actually DO something and to be uninhibited… that, of course, backfires.

The study group is ready to jump at Annie for what she's done (not unlike how upset they were when discovering that she was the reason behind their difficult Spanish final the previous semester), but Jeff stops them. He insists that no one should be allowed to mock Greendale but them -- they have EARNED that right by attending the community college.  It’s only after Jeff makes his inspirational speech that he relinquishes his leadership role to Troy. It’s an interesting time to choose to do that, too, don’t you think? Nevertheless, the group settles in to complete the simulation.

In the study room, the dean has informed the mass amount of students who have gathered together with Abed to try and bring back the space bus that there is a point at which the space bus will be out of range and thus too far away to bring back in time for the launch during the afternoon. When the study group calls in their location... everyone realizes (with great disappointment) that the simulator is too far out of town in order to make it back in time.

Disheartened, the group then discusses the reasons that they love Greendale, and it seems that all of them love and appreciate Greendale BECAUSE of its absurdities and oddities, not in spite of them. And it’s brief and hardly as in-depth as the conversations and emotions in “Course Listing Unavailable,” but the conversation is significant because the weight and importance is placed on Greendale and what it means to the study group. We often forget that this place is not just a school for them, or even a home -- it's the place that literally made them who they are: a group. Shirley apologizes to Annie for the way the group behaved earlier -- no one, she explains, should have to choose between their friends and their school. Britta affirms this but also adds: "But you shouldn't have tattled." But -- in a slightly surprising revelation -- Jeff explains that he was the one to tell the dean about the flag. (The revelation that Jeff tattled is one of my favorite moments in the episode, simply because of Annie’s disbelieving-turned-proud face.)

Pierce, who has been locked up the majority of the episode, says that he feels better and less claustrophobic and crazy and requests to be let out. The group agrees that the man seems calmer, so they oblige him... which has unfortunate results, because Pierce then rushes to attack the Atari-Colonel Sanders and rip the monitor from the wall. Ironically, this is the best thing that could have happened because Jeff peers through the now-gap in the wall and notices the driver's seat. The study group pages Greendale and insists that they're coming to rescue the school.

With Annie at the wheel, the simulator careens through the streets and races back just in time for the launch in front of the press. I know it’s supposed to be played for the homage factor, but the return of the space bus to Greendale is something that I think is pretty significant for the Greendale Seven – they’re back home, back where they belong, and being welcomed with open arms and loud applause and cheers. Yes, their adventure was absurd because who, exactly, would be causing all that commotion for a space simulator at a community college? (I think Jeff’s disbelief and amusement in his face when he steps out of the simulator really conveys it all.) The whole idea was crazy to begin with, but that’s Greendale. And the study group realizes, albeit only briefly in this episode, that they need this place in their lives, whether they admit it aloud or not.

Since Annie failed to sabotage Greendale's simulated launch, Dean Spreck of City College confronts her and declares her "not really City College material after all" to which the petite brunette smiles and says: "Thank you." Elsewhere, Jeff acknowledges Troy as the Captain of the mission, even if he DOES manage to throw in a little bit of sarcasm when he declares it. And then, for the third time this episode, someone humors Abed and his whims -- Jeff asks if the filmmaker would like to get in the driver's seat of the vehicle, but Abed declines and says that he doesn't think there could be anything cooler than what he experienced today in his commanding role.

… and then the bus explodes and the dean flies the E Pluribus Anus and everything is confirmed as absurd and weird and yet somehow right.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode include:
- “Can we stop walking in slo-mo now?” “… you guys are walking in slo-mo?”
- “How did you know it was our design? We submitted it anonymously… whoops.”
- “This is all my fault.” “Very much so.” *Annie gasp* “Hey, when you go fishing, sometimes you catch a boot.”
- “And Greendale becomes just another school on my resume that no one can call because it doesn’t exist!”
- “There is a time and a place for subtlety and that time was before Scary Movie.”
- Continuity nitpick: If it’s a Saturday, why are there SO many people roaming the halls with backpacks in the library?

Thank you all for joining me for our Thursday night re-watches on Twitter and for reading this blog-review! I really do appreciate all of you and your dedication to both the show and my craft. :) Next week, we return to what is probably my favorite (and only) Shirley/Abed episode: "Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples." Join me on Twitter at 8PM EST with the hashtag #ABED and have a lovely week until then!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Trips & Travels (Of Food and Dessert and Tours, Oh My!)

So, as all of you know, I was on hiatus for the past two Thursdays (and subsequent Fridays) from the blog-review because I was on vacation. In case you are curious about my travels and adventures, the following is a photo recap of my vacation abroad!


Saturday, July 7, 2012

If "Community" Was a Musical...


You'll notice that since it is a Saturday, this isn't a blog-review. Rather, it's a bit of a continuation from a Twitter discussion that I had a while ago with some friends. As a complete lover of everything and anything musical theatre-related, I had fun speculating with others the prospect of a Community Broadway musical. Now, of course, there is about a 99% chance that this would never actually happen. But if it did, it's fun to imagine who would play each of our lovable study group characters. So, in the spirit of all things silly (and the fact that I am still massively jet-lagged from vacation), let me introduce you to my choice for a Broadway cast for Community: The Musical.