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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Monday (5/9/11) 3:14pm - ... wherein Peter posts a Weekly Media Update.

Movies:  <none>
TV:  Community [1x14-1x19]
Books:  European Thought and Culture in the 19th Century [audiocourse]



Community [1x14-1x19]
The third DVD of Community's first season includes the episodes "Interpretive Dance", "Romantic Expressionism", "Communication Studies", "Physical Education", "Basic Genealogy", and "Beginner Pottery".

Honestly, I feel a little guilty for continuing to like this show.  In many ways, it's a really unambitious show.  It's formatted like a classic American sitcom, like Cheers or Taxi, with an ad-hoc 'family' of wacky character types mostly hanging out in a single standing set.  It has no satirical bite, like Better Off Ted or Arrested Development.  Its serialization remains feather-light, and it's mostly the sort that slowly builds up the characters instead of sending them on a journey -- sure, you know more about these characters by the end of the season, but for the most part, you could watch the epsiodes in any order.

So why am I still watching this?

"Because you're staring at Allison Brie, Peter."

Okay, *besides* that.

I think the bottom line is that Community does its basic, 'guys at a bar' sitcom very, very well.  Without a laugh track, they can pack in more jokes, including improvised offhand mutterings that are often funnier than the clear setup/punchline jokes.  Abed continues to provide moments of wincing self-recognition.  And the show does a nice job of weaving between wacky genre exercises (the sea adventure in the parking lot was pretty damn impressive) and simple character stories (such as the long, long series of furtive glances after Jeff explains that *any* of them could pair up sexually).

But I think, also, there's something about the tone of the show that keeps bringing me back.  Honestly, I would compare community to, of all things, The Middleman.  Both shows are hip-deep in cultural references -- they have playful attitudes towards their own conventional TV-show formats, as well as towards the genres they visit week-to-week.  But tonally, they're both unapologetic throwbacks.  The Middleman almost fetishizes its old-school, square-jawed, un-deconstructed heroism.  And Community has no shame about being a plain old show about a Cheers-like crew of lovable oddballs who, flawed as they may be, are basically decent, and come through for each other in the end.

So maybe I keep watching because it gives me some relief from all the acerbic, nihilistic irony of edgier shows, and it does it in a way that doesn't insult my intelligence.[1]

Onward to the rest of the season!


European Thought and Culture in the 19th Century by Lloyd Kramer [audiocourse]
This is what it says on the tin:  it's an audiocourse from The Teaching Company that covers European thought and culture in the 19th century.

I have little to say about this, beyond "I've rarely been so tempted to bail on an audiocourse halfway through."  The library happened to have the first half of this audiocourse, and I figured I'd try listening to it.  Unfortunately, philosophy is a subject I know little-to-nothing about, so the new information from the lectures never had any existing information in my head to link up to.  And the lecturer is dry and dull, laying down fact after fact in wikipedia-like informative sentences, all with identical intonation.

So I guess we'll chalk that one up as a mistake.


For next time:  I'm starting on a (sorely needed) Teaching Company audiocourse about communication skills.  On DVD, I'm grudgingly finishing off Modern Romance -- hopefully after that I'll finish off Stephen Moffat's Sherlock.  Meanwhile, I'm reading through David Michaelis' massive and authoritative biography Schultz and Peanuts.

________
[1] ... the way that, say, any number of 80s sitcoms would insult your intelligence with mawkish and unearned 'heartwarming moments'.

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Mood: [mood icon] contemplative · Music: none
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