The 4 Types of TV-to-Film Adaptations

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CREDIT: NBC

Adapting TV shows into feature-length films is one of the many regular ways that the cinema industry keeps the reboot process alive. As a devoted Human Being, I am particularly invested in the possibility of a Community adaptation to complete the #sixseasonsandamovie prophecy. This has led me to consider two important quandaries: 1) what different types of tv-to-film adaptations exist, and 2) which ones are most likely to result in box office and/or critical success? Over the course of pondering this topic, I have come up with the following taxonomy:

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Community Episode Review: 5.13 “Basic Sandwich”

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Community-Basic_Sandwich
This story is not over.  If it does stop here, it will be because a major catastrophe will have prevented the real ending from happening.  And THAT’S canon.

Community goes meta basically every episode, but it doesn’t generally break the fourth wall, though it does lean quite hard against it.  The distinction here is that the human beings of Greendale act like they are characters on a TV show, but they don’t know that they are characters on a TV show.  In “Basic Sandwich,” Dan Harmon got as close up against that wall as he possibly could, reassuring fans that there is still more to come, even though that decision isn’t entirely within his control.  (I think there will be at least one more season.  The ratings aren’t great, but not really any worse than they’ve been.  There are just too many people invested in making the #sixseasonsandamovie prophecy true at this point.  If NBC doesn’t bite, I’ve seen rumblings that Hulu or other channels may be interested.)  Creatively, though, this decision was in his control, and I think he is invested in seeing this journey continue to the point that an asteroid would have to fall on him for it to end now.

As a regular listener of Harmontown and a regular reader/viewer of any interviews with Harmon, I have gotten a strong sense of Harmon’s philosophy, and I recognized several lines in “Basic Sandwich” as moments when the characters speaking them were essentially mouthpieces for Harmon.  Not that Community hasn’t already presented the Tao of Harmon plenty of times, but in this episode it was especially obvious and particularly special, because the Harmon stand-ins were talking to characters who were being audience stand-ins.  Take this moment of reassurance between Abed and Annie:

“Annie, look, I don’t know people.  But I know TV.  When characters feel like the show they’re on is ending, their instinct is to spin off into something safer.  In Jeff and Britta’s case, something that would last six episodes and have a lot of bickering about tweezers and gluten, starring them and an equally WASP-y brunette couple, with a title like Better With My Worse Half, or Awfully Wedded, or Tying the Knot, but “knot” is spelled without a “k,” or #CouplePeopleProblems-”
“Abed.”
“-and every episode you get to decide-”
“Abed.”
“who wins the fight by going-”
“Abed! Stop developing.”
“Sorry. The point is, this show, Annie, it isn’t just their show.  This is our show, and it’s not over.  And the sooner we find that treasure, the faster the Jeff-Britta pilot falls apart.”
“Got it. Thank you, Abed.”

Abed sells himself short here, because he has shown before that he does know people, and he knew Annie well enough to be able to tell her exactly what she needed to hear in this moment.  Perhaps what Abed means is that he doesn’t know people by means of people-to-people interactions, but by the lessons he has learned through watching TV.  Abed’s rattling off of potential spin-off titles gives this moment away as one in which he is essentially being Dan Harmon (who can come up with fake titles at the drop of a hat), and he is speaking to Annie as the audience.  When some people began watching Community in Season 1, they were turned off by it, because they didn’t want another sitcom centered around a typical bickering couple.  With the potential of Jeff/Britta rekindled this season, it is time for the response to that reservation to be stated again: if you don’t like the focus on Jeff/Britta because you don’t think they’re a good pair, well, Jeff might actually end up paired off with somebody else.  Or if you don’t like it because you don’t want the show’s focus to be romantic, well, it’s really about the entire group, anyway.

Annie serves as an audience surrogate throughout the episode, in one instance practically repeating verbatim what Jeff/Annie shippers have been yelling over recent developments.  Her cry of “You guys are ridiculous together!” may have been partially motivated by her own feelings for Jeff, but it is also not an uncommon opinion among their friends and viewers that Jeff and Britta’s constant sniping isn’t exactly the hallmark of the most romantic of relationships.  Her insistence that nobody even acknowledge their announcement paired with the Dean’s comparison of it to an hour-long episode of The Office also make it resoundingly clear that Jeff and Britta are being a distraction to a crazy scheme that might actually save Greendale.

Apparently, not everybody is happy with Community returning to the well of that old sitcom standby, the love triangle.  But Community has taken on so many old sitcom standbys and given them its own spin.  And its take on the love triangle is not the typical one.  Annie wasn’t even a part of the triangle in Season 1.  In Season 2, the triangle kind of existed, but because of information that remained hidden for a while, it played out with a lot of dramatic irony.  And then it was essentially no longer a triangle in Seasons 3 and 4.

Season 5, romance-wise, has been the year of rekindled feelings, or the realization of feelings that never went away.  By my interpretation, Britta has always been the safe choice for Jeff, the type of girl he has always pursued, while Annie has been the one he feels more passionately towards, so passionately that it scares him a little (or a lot), and he has never directly admitted it to anyone (though scenes that have taken place in his head or his heart have made his feelings clear to the audience).  Jeff has always felt protective of Annie, to the point that he wants to protect her from himself.  He worries about the influence he would have on her if he were to act on his feelings.  But in “Basic Sandwich,” she gets to show him with a Winger Speech of her own how positively he has influenced her:

“We were driven down here by sellouts with crappy values.  Since when do human beings decide which dreams are worthwhile?  Look at him.  He’s one of us.  We have to respect each other enough to let each other want what we want, no matter how transparently self-destructive or empty our desires may be.”

Ostensibly, she is making the case that saving Greendale isn’t worth taking advantage of Russell Borchert, Greendale’s first Dean (a barely recognizable Chris Elliott, who, with a full beard, crazy curly hair, and thick glasses, looked more like Marc Maron than himself), and that they should just allow him to keep living underground with his beloved computer, Raquel.  It would only be right, seeing as how they’ve been living their lives indulging each other’s craziness.  With a preponderance of the reaction shots on Jeff during this speech, it is clear what else Annie is also talking about.  She loves Jeff, and she loves him enough to say that even though she thinks he and Britta are ridiculous for each other, she is willing to allow him to make that decision.  She is also talking to herself, allowing herself to still have the feelings that have brought her a lot of pain.

I have seen some people characterize Jeff’s proposal to Britta as a selfish move, which I don’t see.  I think in a moment of panic he really thought that decision was best not just for himself, but for everybody.  For much of this season, Jeff has been freaking out about the current state of his life.  I have wished that we could have seen more direct manifestations of this than we have gotten, but the past few episodes have made it clear just how scared he has been.  So, selfish? No. But cowardly? Absolutely.  Jeff finally reveals how much passion he has been bottling up when he offers a “blast of human passion” to shock Raquel’s mainframe into a cold start.

The passion that Jeff provides could have been that which he has for the entire group, or that which he has just for Annie.  I know I may be biased towards seeing it as the latter, but I think there were certain clues that make that the right interpretation.  I’m assuming that Jeff guesses what everyone is thinking (as opposed to actually reading their minds).  He doesn’t respond to what the Dean or Britta, but with Annie, he actually initiates their “conversation.”  The mainframe doesn’t start up gradually, but rather, it responds only after Jeff looks at Annie.  One could argue that the build of his love for each group member contributed even though it didn’t show right away.  Either way, Jeff thought it was his feelings for Annie, as he nervously looked away from her when everybody turned around.  Perhaps it was his passion for the whole group, but it was also his passion for Annie a little (or a lot) more than everybody else.  The perpetually noncommittal Community still didn’t commit to any romantic decision, but it did allow itself to say as much as it definitively could by indirect means.

With all this discussion of the romantic subtext, I haven’t really gotten around to discussing the actual plot, which was basically non-stop effervescence.  I must admit here, though, my one problem with this episode was its lack of Shirley, who really didn’t have much to do all season and remains the one main character Dan Harmon continues to struggle to figure out what to do with.  She did manage to make the most of her screentime this episode, getting in a good zinger at Hickey about fighting at City Hall, for one.

The whole Goonies idea of an adventure falling into the group’s lap, instead of having to go find one as usual, tracked well.  Although, it must be said that even though Abed usually has to impose a pop-culture framework on the plot, it’s not like Greendale is lacking in adventure.  But the point is made that with this story coming to them, it is clear that these stories are not going to stop coming.

Ultimately, the search for Russell Borchert allows Community the show to re-state its purpose.  Borchert disappeared underground because he worried that the rise of computers would lead to “emotionless eggheads” at the top of society doing their best to get rid of all feelings among the so-called “idiots” at the bottom.  Borchert strikes me as the hermetic version of Dan Harmon.  They both rail against the cold logic of the system, and even though they are both logical, they both know in their guts there has to something more than that.  A singular focus on logic leads to a soul-crushing standardized formula for everything.  Amazingly, though, after decades of computerization, it is the Russell Borchert’s of the world who have been proven right.  I actually teared up when Britta offered the cat video as proof that humanity isn’t hopeless.  Never before has a troll-filled comment section looked so beautiful.

With the re-emergence of Russell Borchert, and with the study groupers confronting some of their deepest feelings, Greendale is not only saved, but reinvigorated.  As a season finale, this was my favorite thus far.  As a series finale, it wouldn’t kill me, but there’s more to this story. #sixseasonsandamovie #BOOYAH A

And now, the bullet-point portion of the review:
-The tag was well-trod territory, of the sort we’ve seen more often on 30 Rock than Community.  Bu it was perfectly updated to 2014 levels, with “Depends On What Fails” serving as the perfect tagline.
-“Am I thinking what you’re thinking?”
-“Today’s now is yesterday’s soon.”
-Russell Borchert invented the 9-track cassette and was an anti-deodorant activist.
-“What the hell’s your penis look like?” “Obviously a cluster of buildings, so let’s all have a big laugh at the freak.”
-“Oh, look, it’s Jeff Winger, Fun Police, here to pull over our smiles, cause our mouths have tinted windows.”
-“Married?  We’re gonna need way more doves than this,” says a freshly electrocuted Duncan.
-“That’s right.  We got names.”
-“It’s only as dangerous as whoever invited you.”
-Alison Brie sounded like she slipped into a bit of a Valley Girl accent when Abed told Annie he thought she was about to start a kiss-lean.  “I was not.  That would be, like, so totally grody.”
-All the 70’s-era details were delightful (basketball cards with white people, “Open the Door” by the Secret Doors, Donald Sutherland vs. Elliott Gould).
-When Borchert is revealed, the music sounds like that from The Thing.
-Jeff loses track of how big he’s getting (meta).  The Dean doesn’t.
-“I think I’m just mentally ill.”
-“You know what? You guys can have my food and water.” Annie is awesome even when she sounds defeated.
-An example of true perfection: Chang dropping his sunglasses while interrogating Hickey and Shirley

Real Life Applications of Community Quotes 401

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“Yo yo yo yo yo: Pop! Pop!”

I don’t know if Community is the MOST quotable show of all time (it’s up there), but I think among quotable shows, its quotability may be more applicable to everyday life than any other show.  Here’s the evidence:

“I need help reacting to something.”

“Is this you being me-ta?”

“Cool.  Cool cool cool.”

“There’s no such thing as bad press.”

“[Young person] is young.  We try not to sexualize him/her.”

“I’ll allow it.”

“Suggestion?  Suggestion suggestion suggestion?”

“Is she a friend of Ellen?”

“That’s nice.”

“Shut up, [insert name here]! I know about [insert insult here.]”

“You’re a bad person.”

“Hello during a random dessert, the month and day of which coincide numerically with your expulsion from a uterus.”

“Did you say ‘S’?”

“You’re the worst.”

Chang/Dean-based puns (because there’s no shortage of situations in which puns are appropriate)

“Obama’s America.”

“It’s better than good.  It’s good enough.”

“‘Sup, girl. How you livin’?”

“I like that Asian guy.  He pops.”

“Stop putting gay things in my mouth.”

“You’re actually more handsome than the guy who’s famous for being handsome.”

“Maybe I’m a god.”

“Aww!”

“Busted!”

“This is rare: both versions of Michael Jackson.”

“The stakes have never been higher.”

“Where the white women at?”

“What it is, soul brother.”

“All hail Sir Eats-Alone!”

“You know what?!  Strike two!”

Even “six seasons and a movie” can be used as a mantra to comfort yourself regarding the state of a low-rated show.

And of course,

“Harrison Ford is irradiating our testicles with microwave satellite transmissions!”

(Thank you to the folks at the Commentarium Zone for helping me spruce up this list!)

For the Record: Jmunney’s 2012 Emmy Predictions

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I predict the winners of a lot of awards shows, but I usually don’t predict the Emmys.  For one, predicting the Emmys can be kind of boring.  The same shows are nominated every year, and the same shows win every year.  (Well, not quite.  Lead Actress in a Comedy is one category that actually has mixed it up each year for about a decade, with a newcomer winning each time most of the last several years.)  For another thing, I guess I’m so focused on taking it upon myself to recognize the shows that the Emmys continue to ignore, so I don’t have that much energy left to focus on predictions. I’ve already spoken my peace regarding who and what should be nominated.  Now, for the record, at least this year, I have decided to make it known who I think will win.

Drama SeriesMad Men
I keep hearing that Breaking Bad is the best show on TV, but Mad Men keeps winning the Emmy.  That could change this year, but I don’t think it will.   (Homeland or Downton Abbey could break through.)

Lead Actor, Drama: Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
This category has the opposite issue of Drama Series.  People keep saying Jon Hamm needs an Emmy, but Bryan Cranston keeps winning.

Lead Actress, Drama: Claire Danes, Homeland
The strongest contender on a rookie show.

Supporting Actor, Drama: Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad
This should be a contest between Giancarlo, last year’s winner (Peter Dinklage), and 2010’s winner (Aaron Paul, who wasn’t eligible last year).  The buzz seems to be in Giancarlo’s favor.

Supporting Actress, Drama: Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
She’s Maggie Smith.

Comedy SeriesModern Family
Girls might have a chance for an upset?

Lead Actress, Comedy: Lena Dunham, Girls
Literally, any of the nominees here could win.  What’s in Lena’s favor?  She’s on HBO, and it’s her show’s first season.

Lead Actor, Comedy: Louis C.K., Louie
Jim Parsons and Alec Baldwin have already won enough, and it just feels like something has to give eventually regarding Louie.

Supporting Actress, Comedy: Kathryn Joosten, Desperate Housewives
This category could go in a number of directions, but I like Kathryn’s postmortem chances.  (Let’s not forget how she dominated the Guest category before upgrading to Supporting.)

Supporting Actor, Comedy: Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Maybe Ed O’Neill will win if they want to give everyone on MF their turn to win, but besides that possibility, I don’t see anyone strong enough to knock off last year’s champ.

Also, I don’t know who will win Writing for Comedy, but I think Community actually has a legitimate chance!!!

Best Scenes of Community Season 3

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You might have heard that Community is a show that is on television.  And you may have also heard that it is a great show that is totally worth watching.  (And you may have also heard about what’s been going on behind the scenes at Community.)  Well, you’ve heard correctly.  It will be returning for a fourth season on Friday, October 19.  But first, let’s take a look back at the best scenes of Season 3 (which was recently released on DVD).

(Note: Some of the embedded videos do not show the entire scene, but they were the best that I could find.  If anyone knows where to find better videos, please let me know!)

20. Pointing out the celebrity lookalikes (“Contemporary Impressionists”)
What do you know, it turns out that every member of the study group (not just the guy who’s more handsome than the guy who’s famous for being handsome) has a celebrity doppelgänger (including both versions of Michael Jackson).

19. “You’re a bad person.” (“Curriculum Unavailable”)
Abed’s sentencing of Shirley was cruel cruel cruel,  but the opinion that prompted it was true true true.

18. Britta’s scary story (“Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps”) (This scene lasts until 0:43 in the video.)
She totally Britta’ed telling a scary story, to our delight.

17. Starburns memorial tag (“Course Listing Unavailable”)
A silly use of green screen for a silly man who has never realized how silly he is.

16. Abed’s stand-up tag (“Origins of Vampire Mythology”)
Abed’s too-specific-to-his apartment comedy stylings served as a kind of a meta-joke about how esoterically inaccessible Community can seem to the uninitiated.

15. “These your friends, Pierce?” (“Advanced Gay”) (This video includes only the very beginning of the chosen scene.)
Archaic forms of prejudice equal comic gold.  Thus Cornelius Hawthorne is a comic masterpiece.

14. Annie’s Model U.N. tantrum (“Geography of Global Conflict”)
Annie screaming: usually a good sign that comedy gold is about to be struck.  Alison Brie deserves for completely going for it with the jumping up and down, fist pounding, and thrashing about.

13. “Maybe I need to take one.  A test, not a penis.”: “Competitive Ecology” tag
Classic Britta: she’s not dumb so much as she sees things hilariously differently than everyone else.

12. “It’s not working.”/“I wonder how many women I’ve affected this way.” (“Origins of Vampire Mythology”)
A bit of beefcake just because they can, and forced laughter with varied subtext.

11. 2001 homage hallucination (“Biology 101”)
A scene of brilliant setpieces that managed to elucidate both Jeff and Pierce’s relationship as well as 2001 itself.

10. Karaoke (“Studies in Modern Movement”)
Jeff Winger learns to like liking things by way of karaoke.  But there is a lot more going on here than just learning to enjoy a cheesy hobby, as underscored by the editing that checks in on all the other storylines of this episode.

9. Britta the grief causer (“Course Listing Unavailable”)
A classic example of comic interruptions, with Jeff Winger butting in on Britta Perry the ultimate antagonistic pair.

8. Season-opening fantasy song and dance (“Biology 101”)
What does Jeff Winger want his life to look like?  What is his fantasy?  By his third year back at school, it is a Greendale filled with the friends he has made (minus Pierce).  This place where he is, is the place where he wants to be, deeply within his subconscious, and this is conveyed through a delightful song and dance routine.  Also, we get to see Alison Brie’s butt. (Photo courtesy of fishsticktheatre.com)

7. “The people at the bank loved my outfit!” (“Virtual Systems Analysis”)
Dean Pelton has a crisis about his eccentric lifestyle, but he is lucky to meet a group of accepting, curious people, and he cannot wait to tell his favorite people all about it.

6. Darkest timeline tag (“Remedial Chaos Theory”)
Goofy in a way that an alternate timeline can get away with being, this tag also served as the antithesis of what the study group strived to be in Season 3.

5. “Baby Boomer Santa” (“Regional Holiday Music”)
Annie explained it best: “They’re just trying to pander to your demographic’s well-documented historical vanity.”  And Pierce punctuated it: “You’re welcome, for everything in the world!

4. Troy gets the pizza (the darkest timeline) (“Remedial Chaos Theory”)
One disaster leads to another bizarrely, yet logically, in a perfectly staged piece of physical comedy.

3. “Origins of Vampire Mythology” cold opening
There were times during Season 3 when I missed the scenes of the study group just sitting around the table, goofing off and talking about whatever, which seemed to be rarer and rarer these days.  Then, “Origins of Vampire Mythology” comes along and has possibly the best such scene in the show’s history.  The pieces were all there ragging on Britta, Pierce almost being cool, Jeff explaining everything, Troy and Abed geeking out, and Annie and Shirley aww-ing and laughing.

2. Greendale Asylum (“Curriculum Unavailable”)
If there was any show that deserved a Shutter Island twist ending homage, it was Community.  The idea that the study group’s adventures at Greendale were all just a shared illusion felt like it could have made perfect sense, but thankfully it was determined that it actually made no sense at all (even though, for a second at least, it really felt like it could have been the perfect explanation).  And the replays of previous scenes in the asylum setting were at least as awesome as their original appearances.

1. “Teach Me How to Understand Christmas” (“Regional Holiday Music”)
A perfect representation of Jeff and Annie’s “would they, might they?” relationship: hotter than it has a right to be, yet creepier than it really needs to be.  There is inevitably a push-pull dynamic between them whenever there appears to be a chance of development.  Jeff knows that he wants Annie, and by this point, he has more or less made peace with this desire.  But whenever Annie makes herself available, it just serves to repulse them away from each other.  Still, Jeff’s “whaaaat” indicates how flabbergasted he is by how much he “craves young flesh.”  Beyond the context of where it fits into the arc of season 3 of Community, the “Teach Me How to Understand Christmas” routine is an incredible moment in and of itself: Alison Brie brutally deconstructs the idea that turning dumb and talking baby talk makes women hot, while still managing to be the most unbearably sexy she has ever been.

Honorable Mentions:
Filming the hugging scene (“Documentary Filmmaking: Redux”), “I implanted your memories!” (“Digital Exploration of Interior Design”), Pillowman (“Pillows & Blankets”), “Me so Christmas, me so merry” (“Regional Holiday Music”), Abed’s scary story (“Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps”), “I’m thinking about breaking into the TV game.” (“Documentary Filmmaking: Redux”), “No such thing as bad press” (“Introduction to Finality”), Retrieving the friendship hats (“Pillows & Blankets”), Annie kills the blacksmith (“Digital Estate Planning”), The Dean reacts to Jeff in shades (“Contemporary Impressionists”), Abed’s cut of the commercial (“Documentary Filmmaking: Redux”), “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism” tag: Frozen pizza review/“Introduction to Finality” tag: Let’s Potato Chips review, Straw jerking (“Geography of Global Conflict”), Therapy with Evil Abed (“Introduction to Finality”), “Introduction to Finality” ending montage, “Basic Lupine Urology” opening credits, Greendale’s old commercial (“Documentary Filmmaking: Redux”), Reporting the “burglary” to Officer Cackowski (“Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism”), “Britta, don’t make jokes!” (“Studies in Modern Movement”), Jeff and Britta “getting married” (“Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts”), Discovering the charred remains of Chang’s closet (“Competitive Ecology”)

Something About Christmas?

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Sometimes, you’ve got plenty of things to say about something, but the only thing you should say, at least initially, is repetition of the original:

Teach me how to understand Christmas
Show me how to open a box
It hurts my little head, when I’m lying in my bed
With visions of sugarplum socks?
(Is this a bit?)

Teach me how to understand Christmas
Do I trim the tree or the deer?
I can’t keep it straight, and now it’s getting late
Where does the stocking go? Here? I can’t see!
What’s a Christmas Eve? Is that Santa’s lady?
Are snowmen cold or hot?
Won’t you be my daddy, I’m a silly Christmas baby
Tell me what to deck, a-heh, cause I forgot

Bwain hurty understandy Cwismas
Mistletoe for eaty taste good?
You smarty, me dumb
Help pwetty have fun
Boopy doopy doop boop sex!

Look, eventually you hit a point of diminishing returns on the sexiness.
What’s a dimini-ni-ni-ruh?