“Introduction to Film”
October 1st, 2009
I feel a little bit awkward writing a review of “Introduction to Film,” as if I should be out impulsively making out with someone or climbing a tree or telling 10 people I love them. The week’s class, considered a bird course and a chance at an easy grade, is all about “carpe diem,” with a professor straight out of Dead Poet’s Society and the kind of class that seems like the ideal fit for this cast of characters in that it is in fact that most awkward fit imaginable.
It’s an episode that, like the class in question, lulls us into a false sense of awareness, making us believe the episode is about one thing when in fact it’s about something else entirely. It does it in a really subtle way, like a sneeze that just keeps threatening to arrive but doesn’t, as the show demonstrates a mastery over the sneeze that one did not expect.
All in all, it’s a simultaneously funny and kind of heartbreaking episode that continues to show some really great tones to the show’s brand of humour.
I generally love John Michael Higgins in things, but he was perfectly cast here as Professor “Dead Poet’s Society come to life in a community college environment” Whitman. The class offered the requisite laughs that it needed to, with the girl falling after standing on her desk and the general sense of shoe-throwing madness he created. However, when he identifies Jeff as a cocky opportunist, you realize that this wingnut is not the first person to make this observation, and he isn’t wrong. Of course, the other people in the class are probably mostly there for the grade as well, but moreso than Jeff they seem transformed by the message. Pierce is all about siezing the day (being older than the rest of the class and overly aware of it), and Shirley is at community college for reasons that run deeper than personal gain which emerge in the context of the class. Even Troy’s sneeze subplot stems from the idea of seizing your weaker qualities (his baby sneeze) and turning it into something that can be used to your advantage.
But Jeff isn’t at Glendale for any such reason, so the class really is just an easy grade for him. And when the professor calls him on it, he goes about doing what he always does, pretending to care and staging an elaborate show with a light-up Christmas tie and suspenders. When that fails, and when his efforts to seem spontaneous unwittingly turn him into an apparent pedophile, he’s forced to resign himself to the grade and turns his attention elsewhere. That elsewhere, however, is his role as Abed’s father in his video he’s producing for film class, as Britta takes the role of his mother after his father refuses to take part in the project. At first, it seems like an annoyance for Jeff and a chance for Britta to become more and more frustrated with Abed’s misuse of money as her own parental issues make her feel responsible for him.
And, simultaneously, the show gives Jeff something to accomplish (bringing Abed’s father and Britta together with Abed to remind them that this is really about Abed’s freedom to seize the day) and a stunning moment where (as contrived as it may be) all of the dialogue from Jeff and Britta is turned into an abstract representation of Abed’s mother leaving them alone and Abed’s belief that his father in some way blames him for that departure. When Abed, at one point, noted that Jeff “even knew the lines,” I thought it was just Abed being clever, but at the core of that project was a personal pain that honestly really punched me in the stomach. Suddenly, the behaviour that we thought was all one big joke returns to a really honest and emotional place, and what I had expected to be an epic laugh out loud sequence (ala Jeff and Pierce’s moment last week, which was also somewhat heartwarming but also an unmitigated farce) was instead something that emphasized the heart the show has, and that there is something under the surface that can be tapped into.
And when Jeff and Britta had that moment on the stairs, where Britta told him to kiss her knowing that the professor’s presence would ensure him a good grade and as a result make them even for the favour he just performed, Higgins exclaims that that was a life-changing kiss if he has ever seen one. And while we know it to some degree was not, as Britta had no such intentions, it did feel like more of an awakening for Jeff, and with the show’s current track record there is every chance that could really be a turning point in someone’s life. It’s showing itself to be a far more human show than I would have imagined from that pilot, a streak that I really enjoy and that makes me very excited to see build in the future.
- I like that Jeff got Britta to visit the school by telling her about a Ravi Shankar concert, and that Abed’s father came in order to see Weezer.
- On the note of Abed’s father, Britta’s sudden explosion of racial stereotyping seemed a bit out of character even taking her daddy issues into account – maybe needed to get dialed down a notch.
- Also on the same note, really loved Iqbal Theba (who’s currently playing the Principal on Glee) as said father.
- My favourite moment in the episode might have been Chevy Chase’s delivery of “These are both mine” with the cokes. I was devastated when he eventually gave one to Troy, was hoping they’d keep the bit intact.
- Loving the totally random and disconnected codas: “Am I krumping? Am I krumping?”
- The one supporting character who got largely shortchanged was Annie, and because I love Allison Brie I want this to be remedied in the future.