Season 6 Episode 8 – “Intro to Recycled Cinema”
Finally, character development! Also, an episode using Chang as a plot device, it’s almost as if Dan Harmon has been reading my reviews! But no really, this has probably been one of the best episodes of Community this season.
Of all the characters to make the jump to internet fame, Chang would be the most likely. Jeff is too narcissistic to allow the internet to judge him, Annie is too anal, Britta is annoying, and Abed is way too self-aware. Chang, catapulting off his star making turn as Mr. Miyagi, has committed himself fully to being an actor apparently. After becoming a viral internet meme, Chang, burns all of his former connections to paint himself as a suffering loner who finally made it big (as ‘blue’ in Spielberg’s Play-doh) movie.
The study group is obviously incensed at Chang not only divesting himself of the group, but him getting out of Greendale, which bothers Jeff. Abed reveals that he has a few minutes of footage from his yet to be finished cop film. Frankie, never missing an opportunity, pulls in a two-bit producer (played by Steve Gutenberg) and rallies the whole crew to pitch in whatever resources they have to make a film, which will ‘star’ Chang. Abed, sensing the catastrophe that is to come, tries to warn the group about the quality of the film, not sensing the true cash grab nature of the film.
As shooting begins, Abed is distraught at the quality of the film. I think we all believed this was going to be another ‘Abed goes crazy but is rescued by the group’ episode, but it was a nice change of pace when Jeff heads off the impending disaster by explaining that some things will never be finished, and that you need to get them out the door. In short, perfection is the enemy of the good. I was afraid this would cause Abed to breakdown, but instead, showing growth, he decides to lean into it and persevere.
After shooting the ridiculous movie (Annie’s boobs, LASERBOMBS), Abed actually shows some of his creative genius and edits genuine crap into something a bit less crappy. The episode really comes to a head though when they have to cut six minutes from the movie, and Abed decides that the six-minute shirtless monologue that Jeff did, the only part that he was excited about. Jeff, in a seeming fit of narcissistic rage, steals the laptop and desperately tries to edit anything but his scene.
In a fit of reversal, Abed goes to talk to Jeff, and that’s when we discover that it’s not his selfish need to be seen, but his fear of being left alone at Greendale. That’s where this episode really came together for me. It would have been really simple to make this an “Abed gets better episode” or a “Jeff becomes less selfish” episode, which all have been done before. This episode finally feels like we’re breaking new ground, Abed being able to talk to his friends and helping them move on, not just through his own weirdness, but in a way that uses their friendship to help each other grow.
Of course, Chang inevitably goes through a Hollywood style breakdown, and eventually gets replaced by Randall Park (of The Interview and Fresh Off The Boat fame) as Spielberg’s token Asian in the Play-doh movie. As he slinks his way back to study group, he finds himself easily reintegrated in the gang, showing again, that the group is like family, because only in family do you tolerate a borderline psychopath who bad mouths you back into your circle. If that’s not Community in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.