Community – “Beginner Pottery”

“Beginner Pottery”

March 18th, 2010

My lack of knowledge about the Community College system is something that Community takes advantage of quite often: I don’t know if they’re being accurate, but it’s clear that the show isn’t concerned about it. The show wanted to do an episode about “blowoff” classes, and it wanted one of those stories to be about a sailing class being held in a parking lot, so who are we to stop it?

At this point, the cast is gelling enough that just about any story is going to work so long as it doesn’t force the characters too far into a particular mould. “Beginner Pottery” isn’t one of the show’s best efforts from a conceptual standpoint, but its stories are full of either some fun running gags or some strong one-liners that make this a really enjoyable half-hour of television.

I actually felt that the sentimental nature of this week’s conclusion was a little bit more trite than what we’ve seen in the past. The idea that Jeff’s rivalry in Pottery class was driven by some childhood psychological issues was ultimately played for a nice balance of drama and comedy, but the conversation between Pierce and Jeff almost took things too far. Pierce was a little bit too self-aware about his constant failures, and while I quite liked that characterization I don’t know if it’s really going to stick in the long term. I don’t often suggest that a show needed to undercut sentimentality more, since it’s one of my favourite parts of other comedies on television, but it seems like Pierce became suddenly lucid so that he could offer Jeff an important pearl of wisdom that helps him reconcile his own story.

That’s a small complaint, though, in a fairly comedy-packed episode. You have Tony Hale as the Swayze-hating pottery teacher, you have Admiral Shirley, you have Jeff and Pierce’s attempts to sell their blowoff courses, you have Ghosting and Titanicing, Pierce mistaking nautical talk and urban speak, and all sorts of enjoyable lines. The boat story was ridiculous, sure, but the sentiment behind the “Boat rescuing the canoe” scenario was on point. It didn’t feel like any of the sentiment was really going anywhere in particular, ignoring any long-term storylines, but there was a nice sense of camaraderie that the Sailing story inspired, and while it was a slight episode for Annie or Abed they still got some good lines amidst Jeff’s adventure.

I like my episodes of Community to feel a little bit more meaningful, and for the sentiment to spring a bit more organically, but the humour was more than enough to outweigh any ghost bursts.

On one final note, I spent some time last night talking Emmys on Twitter with Todd VanDerWerff, and we concur: don’t hold your breath for Community. As great as the show is, and as much as Chase’s pedigree could get him a nomination, the show just doesn’t have the star power to grab major nominations. I would like to think the show’s sharp writing could grab a nod, but I think the show’s too scrappy to compete with Modern Family and Glee in terms of the new show slots. It’s sad, absolutely, but it’s also true.

Cultural Observations

  • I didn’t think that the episode came together as some episodes of the show do, but I thought the quickness of the “No King of the Worlding” bit in Sailing class was perfect: it brought the two stories together without stopping on that beat to laugh at itself, and it was all the better for it.
  • I wonder if this idea had been pitched before Patrick Swayze’s death – either way, their negotiation of whether or not it’s “too soon” (Tony Hale explaining that it was made before he died, so it’s not in poor taste) was a lot of fun.
  • I don’t know if I’d rather call failure living, or breakfast. I know what Ron Swanson would prefer, though.
  • Really enjoyed the visual of Britta sailing across the parking lot as seen from inside the classroom: a nice bit of surrealism for a show that does well in that arena.
  • As I expected, this was airing out of order: the absolute lack of any real continuity points was a bit of a tip off.
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1 Comment

Filed under Community

One response to “Community – “Beginner Pottery”

  1. f12

    Great read as usual. Any chance you caught a reference in Jeff’s threat to his rival? I’m thinking Royal Tenenbaums, but I can’t place it.

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