Seasonal Observations: Community, Season 3

The Makings of a Study Group

Cellular mitosis is a process in which a cell duplicates its innards. It’s not the complete split of the cell into two identical ones, but rather the lead-up to the split. At the end of mitosis you’ve got one cell, but with two nuclei and all the other inner bits of cells. Anyone familiar with Community and the amount of work that goes into every detail of the show will know that the term wasn’t chosen by random out of the Big Book o’ Biological Terms. This process describes exactly what the past season of the show has been about.

Throughout the entire season, Harmon and crew have been chipping away at the Greendale seven, pushing at the borders of this cell of friends. The end result, as the wonderful montage at the end of the final episode shows, is that the group may split, but they carry the important stuff of their friendship inside them. The nucleus that holds them together has duplicated itself seven times over and while Troy may be off to Air Conditioner Repair School, he’s still part of the group. These are seven people that have been through the best and worst together, and their stuck with each other no matter.

The whole season examines the bonds of these people from the get go. The first episode throws the first obstacle in their way – there are not enough spots open in Biology class for all them. At first, Jeff claims this isn’t a problem, and they’ll manage to be friends despite the separation. While this may be true for the group now, at season’s end (and I think next year they might do away with the single shared class), it was not so initially. Once he’s on the out Jeff realizes this, and fights tooth and nail (and makes the ultimate sacrifice) to rejoin the group.

This point is revisited several times through the season’s first few episodes. In “Competitive Ecology” the group is split once again, this time within itself – and it proves futile. Professor Kane’s punishment – that the group shares a desk, a microscope and all their grades – only serves to highlight the need these people have for each other. At this stage, still relatively early in their relationship, they are still one cell, with one nucleus. They still need the cohesion of the group to function.

Things begin to break in the soon-to-be-seminal “Remedial Chaos Theory”. This episode, by far the season’s (and possible show’s) best, looks at how the group functions once it’s missing one of its key components. In a wonderfully written tour de force of an episode, we are introduced to the various timelines wherein each member of the group goes to fetch the pizza, and the repercussions of that absence. I could spend the next 5,000 words dissecting and analyzing each of the timelines (and its something I might do someday), but for the purposes of this piece, I’ll keep it short and say that each member of the group provides an important component to the functioning of the group as a whole. Much like, (and I promise I’ll try and keep the cellular analogies down from here on out) the nucleus, mitochondria and other elements are necessary to a cell’s survivor. This examinations continue in the following episode, Halloween’s “Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps”. While “Chaos Theory” examined the group from without, as they are separated by external elements, “Horror Fiction” examines the group from within. As each of the seven tells their variation on the horror story, they reveal their opinions of the others in the group and, more importantly, of themselves in the group. In this way we can see that Abed sees himself as the voice of reason and logic, not as an emotionless computer. Annie thinks of Britta as loose, but sees herself as timid and helpful (with a much darker underbelly). Again, a full piece can be dedicated to an analysis of each of these stories, but the bottom line is that these two episodes show exactly the inner workings of the group. Like a clockmaker, these episodes pick the group apart, separate the individual elements, and see what goes where. Unlike clockwork, however, these people do have the capability to function autonomously, they just need to learn how to “borrow” the pieces they don’t have from the others. This is what the latter two thirds of the season is about.

Nearly every episode in the next stretch separates the group into different storylines. “Advanced Gay” has the Pierce/Jeff storyline and Troy’s first forays into the A/C Repair School. “Studies of Modern Movement” has four distinct plots. “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux” goes all out and, with the exception of Britta and Troy, sends each member of the group on an individual journey of self-exploration. “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism”, likewise, has two concurrent storylines – Jeff and Shirley and the Annie/Abed/Troy trio. While “Regional Holiday Music” does bring the group together again, it’s only through pop-music inspired brainwashing that the seven get on a stage together. Initially, the group discusses their different plans over Christmas. This trend continues (I’m ignoring “Contemporary Impressionists”, the season’s worst episode by far) until it reaches it’s inevitable conclusion in the pillow fort two parter. While the divisions in previous episodes allowed for self exploration and a deeper understanding of the true elements of friendship in each pairing/triplet (whether it be Jeff and Shirley’s shared past, or Annie’s sincere apology to Abed/Batman), “Pillows and Blankets” brings us division for division’s sake. It’s not just any old division, it’s Troy and Abed, without a doubt the group’s strongest pairing. If Jeff and Pierce would lead opposing camps, it would mean much, as the two always go head to head. Troy and Abed, however, are something else. These two are so closely entwined, it’s almost like they’re one person in two bodies. Until now, that is. While the two make up (and the scene where they keep hitting each other because it’s the last thing they’ll do as friends is one of the best the show has to offer), it’s not the same. There is a rift now that can’t be repaired. This episode begins the separation process. It’s not all bad though, as it entails a process of understanding. Both Troy and Abed walk away with understanding of each other and of themselves. Troy sees himself not only as Abed’s friend but as his caretaker, the one who can control Abed’s more irrational tendencies (something that started in “Contemporary Impressionists”). Abed, on the other hand, allows this. He lets Troy be his social lighthouse, pointing out the apparent dangers the Abed would ignore.

All the poking and prodding and breaking off reaches it’s pinnacle once the group is removed from the place that brought them all together. Once the seven are expelled, they are back together again. It’s a wonderfully subtle statement – these people could, hypothetically, go their separate ways. Their expulsion could have been the catalyst for their destruction, they don’t have a reason to hang out together anymore. Except, of course, they have every reason to hang out together. These people are no longer students at the same school, but are invested in each other and in their general wellbeing. So, after a long stretch of episodes apart – we have the group together again working together to first attempt to “fix” their friend (who, it turns out, doesn’t need fixing) then help another and finally – save the world. The limited world that is Greendale, that is. Part of what makes the heist episode great is that in order for heist films to work, you need a group of people who are so in tune with each other – they can operate together down to the last detail. Elaborate heists are usually so complicated that they require a near hive-mind like entity to pull off well. Everybody needs to be on point and in step with everybody else, with very little communication, as the environment is usually hostile. And the group pulls it off, because now – they are this nigh-unstoppable unit. This cohesion is what allows Troy to go off to A/C Repair School, it’s what allows Jeff to represent Shirley against Pierce and just say the hell with it all at the end. The group is now enmeshed in each other. They each have a bit of Shirley’s optimism, of Britta’s sincerity or of Jeff’s cynicism. They’ve taken those qualities of the others they need, so they can carry them with them wherever they go. The mitosis is complete and now they can be divided, physically, but they will still remain the group.

That’s the direction I’d take if I was writing the fourth season. I’d use the season to illustrate that these people are so strong as a group that they can stand anything that’s thrown at them. I’d make the season about surviving despite being separated. Like I said earlier, I’d drop the shared class, it’s not something these people need anymore. Maybe have the Dean convert the study room to a porcupine petting zoo or something. Take that away from the group and show how resilient they are. Whichever way the new showrunners decide to go, they’ve got an uphill battle. The Community fanbase is strong and fanatic (present company included) and Dan Harmon did not go silently into the night. The show’s fanbase is like an honorary eighth member and we underwent the mitosis process with them, so there’s a little of Community in each one of us. It’s where our passion comes from. They’d be fools to try and make the same Community the past three years gave us, but they’d also be fools to try something completely different. I’m interested to see what September brings, but I am not without trepidation.

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My Life Changing Year: Prologue

About a month back, it was my birthday. I received several gifts, most of them in book form (for the life of me, I can’t figure out why). One of the books I received is this one:

This book provides you with one taks per day, for a year. Some tasks are simple, some difficult. Some tasks are serious, while some are hilarious. Achieving all of them, the book claims, will change your life.

I have taken it upon myself to preform these tasks. And, as an added bonus (and incentive to do some more writing (which I never do enough of)) I will blog about each day, right here.

So, starting tomorrow (or rather, later on today), be prepared for a year-long journey that will (hopefully) change my life, and yours.

I’m dedicating this project to Ahuva Goldstand, who got me the book and will no doubt cheer me on from the sidelines.

Mark Your Calendars

December 23rd, 2010.

This is my day. And by “my” day, I mean that I am slotted for that day on the3six5 blog.

The blog is a year-long project, from writers all around the world. Each day is post written by a different person, culminating for a year long exhibition of points of view.

I’m December 23rd. It’s a long way off, but I’m already getting psyched.

Seven Fifty

I signed up for 750words.com.

For those unfamiliar, which included myself up until two days ago, 750 Words is a site which is sort of an online, private journal. It really goes out of its way to encourage you to write everyday (you can guess how much you need to ride to be able to mark a day as “done”). It sends you e-mail reminders (well, you can set it to that), and it tracks your progress, giving you little trophies and a running score. The longer you maintain a streak, the higher your score goes in increments (kind of like bowling, where if you get a strike, it adds your previous scores). The interface is also really clean, there’s no fancy buttons or anything to distract you. Just white space and a blinking cursor. With a word count at the bottom.

Secondly, it’s private. Which means you won’t ever be able to see what I wrote (unless I share it) – there’s plenty of other places online you can go to see my writing (mainly, Writer’s Ink and Half a Picture, if you’re interested). This is for me, it’s a thought buffer, an emotional dump, anything I want to be without the fear of prying eyes.

Thirdly, and probably the best incentive to join is the funky stats they give you over time. The site uses all sorts of sophisticated text analysis tools to give you information about what you write. Besides typing speed, word count and time spent writing, which is standard, it tells you things like what themes you discuss most or what sense you make use of. Do you talk more about the past or the future? About yourself or other people. I’m sure that as the site develops (it’s still pretty new) these things will get even more sophisticated. If the explanation wasn’t clear, here’s an example of a statistic page for my writing yesterday (without the actual writing).

If you’re interested, check the website out. Sign up. It may take a few days, as the website is still fledgling.  Here is the link again, for those who don’t feel like scrolling.

From the Ashes

Those of you who know me, or have been following this blog for some time will be familiar with “Half a Picture”, my old flash fiction blog. About one year ago, I killed “Half a Picture” for a variety of reasons that don’t really matter for the discussion at hand.

The point is, “Half a Picture” is now back, with a facelift. The new fiction-blog will include flash fiction, as before, not exceeding 500 words. The twist is that this time, I am not alone. To start things off, the site will include fiction by myself (posted around the weekend) and the always wonderful Ahuva Goldstand (her stories will be posted around mid-week). We might be joined by others, we might not.

Anyways, my first story, entitled “Tap”, is now up. You are welcomed to check it out, leave a comment, tell your friends.

Enjoy.

Start Your Engines…

With NaNoWriMo set to start in a few hours, I’m revving up for the marathon that will be Novemebr.

Writing a 50k novel in 30 days is difficult enough in its own right, but add to that a full month of school, homework and such as well as juggling 3 jobs… let’s just say sleep will be a rare commodity in the coming days. The plus side being, sleep deprivation makes for excellent, imaginative writing. Whether it will actually be relevant to the work at hand is a different matter, one I will only be able to suss out once November has come and gone.

As to novel I plan to write in the coming month – it’s an as yet unnamed steampunk crime novel. One complete with clockwork body parts, a con-man with a split personality (trying to, incidentally, con himself) and one flying city. Throw in a nice helping of zeppelins and zeppelin-riding pirates, and we’ll see what happens out of this ecelctic collection of characters.

The only bit of prep I’ve done is write up a short (page and a bit) outline, so that I don’t lose sight of the plot itself. I may have dug myself into a hole here, as its a very convoluted, twisty-turny plot. So that’s why I need a map. Aside from those two sheets of paper, I’ve got nothing – I plan on just sitting in front of the laptop every night and letting it rip.

If you want to cheer me on/find out how’s it going – I’ll update regularly on Twitter (linked to the right), semi-regularly on Facebook (ditto), and I will most definitely have a weekly NaNo update right here.

So, in the immortal words of the Joker, “Here… we… go.”