by Thom Yee

Community images courtesy of Sony Pictures Television.

Community images courtesy of Sony Pictures Television.

6×08: “Intro to Recycled Cinema

If there’s one thing I consider a gift in terms of my writing ability (if I can truly claim to even have such a thing) it’s that I rarely labour for inspiration. I’m not the type of writer who puts off writing until the last minute or stares at a blank page for long, and it usually takes mere minutes of consideration before I can start off in a relatively strong direction. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have to go back and edit or revise or that everything spills out in its final, pristine glory the first go-round (if ever), but if there’s one thing I can usually count on, it’s that I don’t have to wait too long for inspiration to strike.

Right now, I am absolutely struggling for something to say about “Intro to Recycled Cinema”. But it’s not that there is nothing to say about it, just that there’s not much I want to say about it.


Señor Chang, why you in a ham commercial? Why not a Kumon math commercial? Why not a camera commercial?

This week, the Greendale Activities Committee is dismayed to find that Chang has suddenly made it in Hollywood, starring in commercials and being pursued by the likes of Steven Spielberg after gaining fame from lunch-meat ads and his catchphrase, “Ham, girl!” Feeling both awe and resentment for Chang’s newfound success, the Committee decides to cash in by making a movie starring Chang out of the three minutes of Chang footage Abed had shot for a different project.

On a thematic level, “Cinema” reflects any number of entertainment studios’ attempts to cash in on the successes of rising movie stars by repurposing, featuring and selling anything they’d shot that in any way featured those stars before their rise, but that comparison is pretty obvious and it never really goes anywhere. Nothing in “Cinema” really goes anywhere, and the parts I liked best were all relatively esoteric — the biggest laugh of the night for me was Elroy’s vocal confusion over what sport his green ‘3’ ball was from (love Keith David, he is killing it), and the part I most appreciated was seeing the framed photo of Annie and Abed from soon after the two were drenched in orange paint as part of a campaign to save the school from the hands of Pistol Patty, a treasured memory from Community’s golden age.

“Thank you sir, I make everybody sick.” Who said that, what does that even mean? Doesn’t matter.

“Intro to Recycled Cinema” also featured Police Academy’s Steve Guttenberg (no, not the audio-review guy) as the questionable Hollywood producer Frankie brings in to advise on putting together a movie meant to star Chang despite the relative lack of footage featuring Chang, and I don’t know if it’s an indictment of Guttenberg’s withered star power, a reflection of the fact that he was never that special, or if he just didn’t bring anything to the story, but his performance was pretty easy to miss. I will say that for a guy who basically looks the same, Steve Guttenberg somehow also looks pretty different now.

For an episode that spends so much time in shooting a movie that’s so crazy, weird, and clearly disconnected from its intended source material, “Cinema” is also surprisingly joyless, taking cheap shots at Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy without saying anything new about them or adding anything that hasn’t been covered by Community before. Soon enough Chang’s stardom takes a sudden plunge and he returns to Greendale, not so much as if nothing happened but as if everyone in the group would prefer to pretend nothing happened, and on a meta level there is a humour to that that I sort of appreciated. The real resolution of the episode, however, comes with the relatively unnatural but still somewhat poignant spotlight on Jeff’s fears that, especially after Troy and Shirley’s departure and Pierce’s death, he’ll be the only one of the original study group still left (and stuck) at Greendale. The strength of that premise alone is enough for me to consider the episode worth my time, even if it didn’t really reflect the contents of the episode.  But make no mistake, “Intro to Recycled Cinema” is a one-off, “What If…?” episode that can easily be skipped.

Community Intro to Recycled Cinema” final score: 6

Items of Note:

  • Did Abed and/or Annie move the TV in their apartment? Isn’t it usually in the corner?
  • You fools and your endless pursuit of McRibs.  Don’t you know you can get the same thing with pickles, onions, a Swanson’s frozen dinner, and some day-old bread?
  • A “POP-POP”-less Magnitude? Y’know what, I’m still just glad to see him again.
  • Britta, pay your rent!

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