The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya – “Who Are You?” “John Smith”

This film was watched with subtitles. An American release by FUNimation is due later this year complete with American dub. (EDIT: This is a repost, the release is out).

I’ve been familiar with Haruhi franchise for many years now. To me, it’s one of the most fascinating stories in all of anime, and arguably beyond. I watched the TV series in its original order, the second season (included Endless Eight, which I enjoyed!) as well as watching them both together in the 2009 chronological order – which is perhaps the best way to view this curious franchise about the most supernatural of things living in a boring world where everything is as it seems.  The original novels by Nagaru Tanigawa are spectacular too. So to say I was exciting about this film, at a time where it’s one of the most critically appreciated anime around was an understatement…

(Spoilers abound, skip down to the last paragraph for a quick summary)

It’s an ambitious tale that works in parts but doesn’t necessary feel right as one whole. It’s a long film, 160 minutes in fact and that functions both as both a detriment and advantage to it. The first half, both the original bouncey Haruhi and the slow deconstruction Kyon when he realises his world has changed is outstanding and it continues in that trend up to and including the scene in the clubroom when Kyon contacts the other side. The problems begin when he’s thrown into the past. I’m okay with time-travel, and the show excels at explaining complex theories in ridiculous phlebotinum so that the audience both understands the emotions of the situation (through Kyon) without necessarily getting the finer points of the space-time continuum. The (relatively minor) problem is in the awkward transition in switching the focus to Yuki. This was originally setup in the first half which worked well on a thematic level but lacked the audience, and Kyon, lacked investment in that girl because she’s not OUR Yuki. Nagato Yuki has always been a character the show has had trouble defining and switching gears to provide an quasi-forced look at her individual sad undercurrent felt almost unnecessary although it works to give the plot extra emotional resonance.

Let me step back a bit first though: Kyon. This is Kyon’s film. The show has always been Kyon’s show, but there have definitely been points when Haruhi takes the spotlight because… Kyon doesn’t exactly want it, but it’s his story and his life no matter how you slice it. It’s a bold choice to adapt this, but I can’t imagine this tale working in a long-form narrative at all so here we are: A story about Haruhi, without Haruhi. And so there’s sense of eerie familarity when she finally disappears. The series does the fantastical so often and in the few months they have known each other they have survived an endless summer, the destruction of a universe and a culture festival so what’s a small alteration when we know its going to go back to normal? Nothing, really, except to destroy Kyon’s very soul…

The story works because of its character-based history. The timey-wimey stuff does indeed matter as a matter of plot, but the reaffirmation is something that Kyon was beginning to need. I haven’t read beyond so I don’t know exactly how him choosing the real world (with aliens, time-travels and espers) changes him on a superficial level but I can’t imagine his attitude flipping to positive. It wouldn’t be what Haruhi wants, nor natural to him. Without the show noticing his complaining, however, the act would have become trite and downright annoying so its a fantastic answer to a reoccurring theme and almost problem even if the results aren’t immediately obvious.

How a fantasy like this, with several different parts linking together, would tie up in at the end was always going to be an interestingly difficult task (and one that the show or film will eventually delve into again) and I don’t think it felt it accomplished as well as it could have. I understood the pity towards Yuki (through some plot-hammering, obviously) but I don’t think it was earned in the slightest. The sequence on the hospital rooftop only emphasised it. His growing-appreciation for Nagato has been a slow development and I think something like this could theoretically work, but it simply didn’t. One of the reasons I think it felt off was because has to do with her function as a narrative god – the scene didn’t have the expected necessary wink to say the world was real (it did feel awful “it was all a dream” in that hospital for a while). Rather, it felt like it was tying up loose character-ends because that’s the motions it needed to go through than staying true to the world at large. It’s not a huge problem, and one that I might be okay with in the future.

(Less spoilers)

To end, though, even though I had my problems ‘Disappearance’ for all its might earns a 10/10. It’s as perfect as a Haruhi mythology film is going to get (…for now). It’s characters work, it done the Haruhi twisty-turny time-travel plot with that almost incestuous location three years ago. It’s emotions grounded all the actions and it both resolved and opened many questions. KyoAni done impressive work and from purely an aesthetic standpoint, the cinematography and direction was terrific. It’s not surprising for the franchise to be creatively bold but the use of repetition and inspired music choices like the always-fun Gymnopedie No. 1 just made me happy. I think that’s probably the take-away from the film. It’s not perfect and you have to go through hell to get where you want to, but upon arrival all you feel is happiness. Until that other upcoming shitstorm.

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The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya Reviewed!

This film was watched with subtitles. An American release by FUNimation is due later this year complete with American dub. (EDIT: This is a repost, the release is out).

I’ve been familiar with Haruhi franchise for many years now. To me, it’s one of the most fascinating stories in all of anime, and arguably beyond. I watched the TV series in its original order, the second season (included Endless Eight, which I enjoyed!) as well as watching them both together in the 2009 chronological order – which is perhaps the best way to view this curious franchise about the most supernatural of things living in a boring world where everything is as it seems.  The original novels by Nagaru Tanigawa are spectacular too. So to say I was exciting about this film, at a time where it’s one of the most critically appreciated anime around was an understatement…

(Spoilers abound, skip down to the last paragraph for a quick summary)

It’s an ambitious tale that works in parts but doesn’t necessary feel right as one whole. It’s a long film, 160 minutes in fact and that functions both as both a detriment and advantage to it. The first half, both the original bouncey Haruhi and the slow deconstruction Kyon when he realises his world has changed is outstanding and it continues in that trend up to and including the scene in the clubroom when Kyon contacts the other side. The problems begin when he’s thrown into the past. I’m okay with time-travel, and the show excels at explaining complex theories in ridiculous phlebotinum so that the audience both understands the emotions of the situation (through Kyon) without necessarily getting the finer points of the space-time continuum. The (relatively minor) problem is in the awkward transition in switching the focus to Yuki. This was originally setup in the first half which worked well on a thematic level but lacked the audience, and Kyon, lacked investment in that girl because she’s not OUR Yuki. Nagato Yuki has always been a character the show has had trouble defining and switching gears to provide an quasi-forced look at her individual sad undercurrent felt almost unnecessary although it works to give the plot extra emotional resonance.

Let me step back a bit first though: Kyon. This is Kyon’s film. The show has always been Kyon’s show, but there have definitely been points when Haruhi takes the spotlight because… Kyon doesn’t exactly want it, but it’s his story and his life no matter how you slice it. It’s a bold choice to adapt this, but I can’t imagine this tale working in a long-form narrative at all so here we are: A story about Haruhi, without Haruhi. And so there’s sense of eerie familarity when she finally disappears. The series does the fantastical so often and in the few months they have known each other they have survived an endless summer, the destruction of a universe and a culture festival so what’s a small alteration when we know its going to go back to normal? Nothing, really, except to destroy Kyon’s very soul…

The story works because of its character-based history. The timey-wimey stuff does indeed matter as a matter of plot, but the reaffirmation is something that Kyon was beginning to need. I haven’t read beyond so I don’t know exactly how him choosing the real world (with aliens, time-travels and espers) changes him on a superficial level but I can’t imagine his attitude flipping to positive. It wouldn’t be what Haruhi wants, nor natural to him. Without the show noticing his complaining, however, the act would have become trite and downright annoying so its a fantastic answer to a reoccurring theme and almost problem even if the results aren’t immediately obvious.

How a fantasy like this, with several different parts linking together, would tie up in at the end was always going to be an interestingly difficult task (and one that the show or film will eventually delve into again) and I don’t think it felt it accomplished as well as it could have. I understood the pity towards Yuki (through some plot-hammering, obviously) but I don’t think it was earned in the slightest. The sequence on the hospital rooftop only emphasised it. His growing-appreciation for Nagato has been a slow development and I think something like this could theoretically work, but it simply didn’t. One of the reasons I think it felt off was because has to do with her function as a narrative god – the scene didn’t have the expected necessary wink to say the world was real (it did feel awful “it was all a dream” in that hospital for a while). Rather, it felt like it was tying up loose character-ends because that’s the motions it needed to go through than staying true to the world at large. It’s not a huge problem, and one that I might be okay with in the future.

(Less spoilers)

To end, though, even though I had my problems ‘Disappearance’ for all its might earns a 10/10. It’s as perfect as a Haruhi mythology film is going to get (…for now). It’s characters work, it done the Haruhi twisty-turny time-travel plot with that almost incestuous location three years ago. It’s emotions grounded all the actions and it both resolved and opened many questions. KyoAni done impressive work and from purely an aesthetic standpoint, the cinematography and direction was terrific. It’s not surprising for the franchise to be creatively bold but the use of repetition and inspired music choices like the always-fun Gymnopedie No. 1 just made me happy. I think that’s probably the take-away from the film. It’s not perfect and you have to go through hell to get where you want to, but upon arrival all you feel is happiness. Until that other upcoming shitstorm.

Parenthood Season 1 – “Team Braverman”

Jason Katims is an interesting writer. One of his first credits are on the defining teenage-drama series My So-Called Life. A show that’s still cited today as being one of the most realistic portrayals of adolescence put to screen. Since those days have past, Katims has developed quite something of a cult following by “developing” (something of a running trend with him) Roswell for The WB back in 1999. Roswell was obviously a successful hit for them and although it was cancelled after three years the fact that teen-dramas have obsessives themselves, it was trapped in sci-fi trappings meaning that a whole other cult audience would see it. He eventually was tapped to showrun and develop NBC’s television adaption of Friday Night Lights: a show that went on to earn two Emmy nominations for the Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler in the central roles of Tami and Eric Taylor and infinite amount of love and adoration from critical reviewers of the shows portrayal of a football obsessed town in “Middle America” Texas. For the final couple of years of Friday Night Lights – Katims once again begun developing a show based of a little-known but very appreciated classic; this time, Parenthood.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUIK17oJuRA

Unlike Friday Night Lights, Parenthood doesn’t come out guns-a-blazing. Katims knows his characters and for long period at the beginning, it was all setup. We got awkward storylines about masturbation, temper tantrums and worklife. In theory, a lot of these (mostly episodic) arcs should function fine but there’s a certain unfulfilling quality to them all. They are almost all introductionary episodes, and not particularly amusing ones at that.

Parenthood has the difficult task of walking the line between messy, but not hard to watch; funny, but not a comedy; melodrama, but not so disproportionate there’s no realism in it anymore. There’s murmurs of this at the beginning, perhaps seen best in Dax Shepard’s portrayal of Crosby – the guy who finds out he has a son. This storyline, basically from the beginning, gives the series a reason to exist. Crosby is something of the ideal character here because he accentuates everything that is successful about the show itself (funny, but not too…, etc).

Over the course of the first season, both Crosby’s arc along with other members of the Braverman family dovetails into something far more representative of what this show is going to be (and seems to be, two episodes into second two) and it’s noticeably from the Friday Night Lights wheelhouse; and I’m not just saying that because Minka Kelly is around. All the members have a real earned a real pathos to their lives and their world is better for it.

The cast is huge, the stories have a slightly darker edge than most and there’s some outstanding performances caught, but most of all Parenthood evokes a early 2000s sense of family drama and community that has been lost in recent years with the snark of Gossip Girl and Desperate Housewives being at the watercooler. There’s a troubled beginning but the show ne of the strongest network ensembles on television, and I urge all Friday Night Lights addicts to give this little show another try because it’s really worth it.

Are Glee and South Park the same show?

Whenever I try to discuss my affection for the long-running comedy, one of the biggest problems I come across is how difficult to pronounce how or why I find the characters in the microcosm that is South Park intelligent, funny and even loveable. This is a show that just produced one of it’s most emotionally resonant episode ever and it featured an adult using farts in a song and and literal shit as a metaphor. This is similar to Glee, a show that at-first glance appears to be the very opposite of crude and thematic, but the way both shows attempt to manipulate the audience into emotion and reasoning be it earned or no, is interesting. South Park used to be a pop-culture phenomenon when it first began, putting Comedy Central onto the map and used it’s buzzed about status to childish but evolving intelligence to arguably form the ideals of millions of people who tuned in each week to see who was being hated upon, what message was being learnt and how Cartman can up his dickish tendencies. The same applies for the smash Sophomore hit Glee, it’s garnered a larger and perhaps even more influential place in our media with traces of it being felt in gossip magazines all the way through to crowd-filling concerts with a demographic that can reach from children to elders and it can use the episode to argue points about homophobia and equality all while trying to tell a simple story.

Obviously, being a musical each week Glee has an unfiltered adoration of musical spectacle, from Journey to Wicked to Britney Spears. Something that the Matt and Trey behind South Park also share in form of mostly alt-rock, but their love for classic ’80s and even Billboard Top 40 shines through the shows history. Besides the creators behind lyrical with performance, that adoration shines through and if I’m allowed to quote wikipedia (due to lack of source)

[Trey] Parker says that the varying uses of music is of utmost importance to South Park. Several characters often play or sing songs in order to change or influence a group’s behavior, or to educate, motivate, or indoctrinate others. The show also frequently features scenes in which its characters have disapproving reactions to the performances of certain popular musicians.

Amusingly, but not surprisingly, that applies to Glee. Ryan Murphy and Trey Parker are of similar age (45 and 41, respectively) so they grew up consuming the same mainstream pop culture, which may have lead to them developing cynical outlooks against positive backdrops: Glee is about the underdogs, kids coming together, being snarky and laughing it off because they can pull together in the techicoloured McKinley High. The show, like South Park, works as a microcosm for larger America, and as  South Park uses it’s vibrant city to shower the audience simple but usually comical imagery, it more successfully turns headlines and ideas into overblown narratives that hinge on the characters darker edges.

That is, however, just on the macro level, the parallels are more striking when you look at the structure of both and how individual episodes inform their world at large. Glee and South Park both service a wide and ever growing ensembles, throwing bones to characters originally in the background much later on. An obvious example would be how Lauren Zizes, a character first joked about in a cutaway gag in the pilot episode of Glee and reoccuring extra since became one of the major new regular additions in the second season and then relegated perhaps other more important players originally. South Park, being on for significantly longer has a history with breaking out the characters, with those sitting in the boys fourth grade classroom having the most development. They have an entire town at their disposal, and when Matt and Trey find the need to tell a story without the main families and friends, the supporting cast is strong enough to be able to set episodes against with ease.

McKinley High and South Park also share an weird type of memory-lapse wherein characters forget things week-in-week-out whilst other events remain the same. In South Park, it plays fast and loose with it. It’s always difficult to analyse an animated comedy for character development since they all like to play in open sandboxes and when they do change events up, they are only minor (American Dad, Futurama) but South Park characters, especially notable in the last few years, have retained a sense of memory and callback frequently. For a show where a character died every episode for the first few seasons, this type of continuity is baffling and strange. Or was? Still is? In season 14, the creators decided to do (another) fully-fledged three part storyarc focusing on the kids superhero identities – some previously established, most new – and the trilogy combined social situations (the BP oil spill), humour and character history (the sad self-awareness behind Kenny’s death) in a way never done before in it’s long lifespan. The “retcon” behind Kenny gave purpose to a throw-away line that appeared seven seasons prior and gave the world some balance that wouldn’t normally be found in a situation comedy. Glee, essentially, does the same thing – the characters are usually less consistent scene-to-scene, week-to-week than those in South Park, but it also offers up the same lack-of-caring that Matt and Trey do. Events and emotion is seemingly pulled out of a hat and then delivered on one episode and not the following, this is the norm. It’s a sitcom timeline. It’s The Simpsons. Except, sometimes it doesn’t hit the reset button offering some bizarre changes and “arcs” on television. Sue Sylvester, the character most lost struggle with comedy versus drama, became principle for several episodes during the show’s second season; for an episode, this type of joke works – it just does. There’s not much to it, it puts the shows antagonist into an authoritative position and the character beats almost write themselves after it. It’s a well-worn comedy trope and Glee almost accentuates why it doesn’t know what it’s own rules to it’s form are because of it. Common practice, resolved or not, would be a gag played in such a manner wouldn’t carry through. But it did. Sue remained the school principle for several more episodes and all logic went out of the window; it wasn’t funny, or inspired and didn’t even lead to any conflict. It was just a moment that carried through and might be the norm on a stricter drama, but felt out-of-place and outright bizarre on a comedy that once featured the same character dressed up and singing a song from How The Grinch Stole Christmas

The consistency on the two shows, two shows that do things no other series on television can do, is notable too. Glee and South Park can go from producing one of their most unsuccessful, unfunny, and off-mark pieces of writing to snapping up the following week with one of their wittiest, smartest hours and most heartfelt moments ever. The way their writing staffs are composed (three men on Glee, two men (plus some help) on South Park) emphasis how difficult it is for a Aaron Sorkin type domination to be had over a multi-faceted television show. Matt Stone and Trey Parker have always understood and had the time to work out what they enjoy and work their series around that – they use messages when necessary and use the (relative) freedom granted to them by Comedy Central to their advantage and form their sitcom in that manner. Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk behind Glee have an far wider cult following them and as their show walks the line, the realisation is apparent is that the form that they choose to write for is only accepted practice in comedies. Game-changing ideas can be executed and forgotten like that, but Glee’s identity problem is as simple as choosing as falling of a fence into the sandbox they want. If it wants to have a floating sense of continuity, like South Park, then it would need to be a thing that always happens. Not when a specific writer is writing a different show to his other two cohorts, as per Todd VanderWerff’s “Three Glees” theory (wherein each creator envisions and writes for their own show) but a unified sense of direction. This is ostensibly the largest difference between Glee and South Park. The superficial are obvious, but the biggest difference stems from it’s similarity. It holds no one ideal, no rule book, and because of that fact, it’s continued existence has only been to highlight this. Instead of having different themes and stories all fitting under one expensive umbrella, it opted to go cheaper and use many umbrellas – even though they keep breaking.

It’s third season will see an hired writers room which should, by all logic and reason, the show should feel more cohesive and hopefully won’t be seeing VanderWerff writing the Fourteen Glees theory come next winter. Meanwhile, South Park could very possibly be ending at the same time and although it’s has had it’s ups and downs throughout its lifetime, the writers are second-to-none for comedic stories that are both ripped-from-the-headlines and deeply rooted in character motivations.

“What if it doesn’t work, Elena?” – Narrative and story arcs in The Vampire Diaries

The timeliness of this post is unparalleled; the second season of The CW’s runaway supernatural hit has concluded and now we’re in the long summer hiatus until we’ll be joined once more by the buzz, and indeed the folk, of Mystic Falls. The finale of the second season was as-expected in many ways, and it’s pacing (oft termed as “breakneck”) has developed its own rhythm that is both awesome and problematic. Beyond the fiendishly cliché pilot, The Vampire Diaries has very rarely confined to the television form offering episode, and even season-esque cliffhangers in the second act of an episode (which may perhaps be best termed chapters). This pacing can be both advantageous and dangerous, as previously in Josh Schwartz’ teen-soap The O.C. The show became a critical darling (for a soap) because of it’s fresh, brisk use of storylines; with arcs that could have earned themselves entire seasons being dead and buried after seven episodes. The trouble was to keep up that pace for however many seasons the show would continue, and that was apparent in the subsequent seasons, notably the third (regaining energy for the fourth). Since then, Gossip Girl has continued to use Schwartz’ inherent beat for stories somewhat making it the norm amongst Primetime soap consumers. It was only a matter of time then, that that energy is sustained and is built upon for the next show — The Vampire Diaries.

Something of an departure for co-developer Kevin Williamson, who’s previous credits include Dawson’s Creek and the Scream films, The Vampire Diaries takes plotting to a new level. It doesn’t work on the season-long story arc that would now be expected of the form thanks of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It dances to it’s own beat and ends what should have been a cliffhanger for the season seven episodes in, swiftly opening up another arc before the former had time to sink in. The concept of The Originals is something I’ve had trouble to grasp all along, because after two (literal!) minutes of letting the characters soak up their drama-free lives we were thrown into this new mythos that lacked any connective tissue to the preceding 30 episodes.

Similarly, one of my frequent complaints about the second season is that there’s no time to breathe – and it sometimes lack reason for us, too. If we’re meant to care about a character, their life, and indeed their death – that death should hold some weight over the characters and show tonally. Creating the precedent that almost anything can happen is troublesome for obvious reasons – if a character can be brought back from death; why do we need to invest in such a character? When characters can be brought back whenever the plot necessitates it (which isn’t inherently a bad thing*) death instantly loses its significance. Although, weirdly enough, the show embraces this fact and doesn’t allow time for grievances or conclusions that most writers might strive for. A loss should bring back the significance of someone’s life: if they were horrible, you may get relief; if they were amazing, you may cry but for a show that tries to manipulate it’s fandom through romance, bringing it’s characters and their lives to the forefront is something that needs to return once more. No more plot machinations and meaningless anger directed at inanimate objects – Elena, Stefan and Damon, the core of the show need to be giving the direction, not being directed.

* The finale set-up for Jeremy’s past loves coming back to haunt (?) him will could feasibly change how I feel about it using death as a cliffhanger over it raising emotional stakes (which, it in fact successfully did in the first season with both Vicki and Anna’s death.

Let’s Talk About The Office…

Ever since Greg Daniel’s started working on Parks and Recreation three or four years ago, we lost the glint in the eye of The Office; the show at that time itself was wrestling with its own nature and concept. The longevity of this show was unprecedented and Daniel’s smartly implanted a necessary difference between the original British series and its US counterpart just in case it did reach such lengths. The change started in the second season wherein key relationship differences were simply equated into one, as driven-home by the singular vision of Michael Scott: the people who work in The Office are indeed work-colleagues to each other, but also friends and in both a literal and figurative in a manner of speaking – they are family. The British version, in its few hours of life, explores a few characters but consistently keeps it grounded and naturalistic, these people are unhappy with their jobs and are stuck in middle-ocrity. A form like this can work when telling a film or a short series, such as the british The Office but not for a show embedded in American culture that even dreams of reaching syndication. The show, for all its jokes and silliness is a love story, originally of that between Tim and Dawn, then Jim and Pam and eventually Michael Scott and his friends.

What’s interesting about this friendship is that every episode until “Todd Packer” — the friendship is just assumed. The characters banter, get along and never have a big moment in their lives without one another (though what this says about the minor characters lives is arguable). Through plot-contrivances and stretches of imagination, the entire office can go to Niagara to see Jim and Pam finally tie the knot and although events such as this aren’t particularly notable for anything other than getting the cast out of the office once in a while, they provide the chance for the sometimes cartoonish characters to go outside and interact with the hopefully normal and amusing folk that entertain this slightly elevated-reality that the show has developed for itself.

In “Todd Packer” however, for the first time, or the first in a long time, the office has grouped together and had dialogue like people who have known each other for over a decade might. The cold-opening is interesting because it begins with the usual mixed bag of Dwight Schrute but quickly evolves in a much nicer and enjoyable sequence of Jim picking up on Dwight’s crazy mind and picking at it: the scene consists of Jim questioning Dwilight’s elaborate dream sequence about the end of the world. Smash cuts are used show time progressing and after hours have gone by, they are still at it… Jim, knowingly or not enjoys company of his workmate. This season two type of camaraderie extends to the episode itself as the office as an entity openly start dreading and hating Todd Packer, the incredibly minor and undeveloped buffoon of the travelling salesman, and in it’s unification of everyone it provides a real sense of community that the show has often embraced but backed down from.

Once again, this is an episode where Holly is forced to stand against, and then change opinion of, something Michael adores. (First occurring the episode prior, Threat Level Midnight). I wouldn’t mind this as a concept since its the show going back into the shows roots and mythology but it doesn’t work as effortlessly as one would want and essentially sums up Holly’s role since her reappearance: she hasn’t been so much as a character as a foil for Michael swiftly followed by a one-dimensional love-interest. The idea of Michael being with someone works, it works because it gives him happiness and a reason to live other than his support system in the office but if we had never met Holly before – we wouldn’t care. She’s altogether just been a vessel for Michael’s “Happy Ending” and that fact is incredibly annoying since what a cringe-worthy delight she initially was. Performed wonderfully by Amy Ryan too.

I like The Office, I love The Office and it’s certainly a scary thought that the current critical-darling Parks and Recreation could fall so low. I fear The Office’s main trip was its attempt at doing more episodic endeavours – once Jim and Pam were together, the office more or less lost direction. I feel that (ignoring changes behind the scenes) the show lost track of what it’s series bible said and embraced the sitcom heaven called ‘syndication’.

Community – “I can’t count the reasons I should stay”

Community’s core fanbase is constantly divided, not into two separate groups, not singular characters, but certain individual jokes. Kind of. Beyond that, its wider appreciators  love the shows reliance on good old-fashioned (yet post-modern) characters. The sophomore season of this comedy is trying to do everything, we have lost the little (read: bottle) exploits of the Greendale gang for right now, instead focusing on the larger twists and turns that an episodic self-aware single-cam like this can do. “Epidemiology”, the gangs showcase last week is similar to the season 1 offerings “Modern Warfare” (a spin on the action genre) and “Contemporary American Poultry” (a take on Goodfellas) in that it gives each character a duty to fulfil all whilst parodying and homaging several tropes and cliché’s in the filmic universe — that time, Zombies.

Community, being a clear single-camera show (as opposed to the popular mockumentary sitcom format) has the ability to completely embrace and convey certain jokes and parody just by using visual language. Not just Donald Glover’s hilarious expressions or background storylines, but using lighting, shakey-cam and non-diegetic music to exemplify ideas and riff on themes, creating something that both lives and breathes popular culture while creating an original story at the same time. The opening shot of “Basic Rocket Science” is a darkened hallway with a close-up of the feet, echoing as they run down the corridor – it last about one or two seconds, but right away tells you almost everything you need to know about this episode. The imagery is familiar, yet new, and like so much of Community – it is terrific fun to watch.

The show prides itself on having an eclectic world that allows for the stranger proceedings to happen, the characters ground the events, but the events do still occur. That level of a creative sandbox rarely turns up in television and I don’t believe it has been used to this effect since Buffy the Vampire Slayer – a show that had a musical, an episode without speech and even an episode without any BGM. Airing the same season as Glee, a show that introduced archetypes and never hugely broke them down, Community smashed its first impressions and shaded out every one of its characters,with Shirley, perhaps, being the last to get some real colour to her. These characters set and ground the world, not necessarily by winking at the audience and being an “everyman” – though an argument could be made for Jeff – its now developed into watching a group of friends having fun in the most eccentric or boring situations given.

“Somewhere Out There”