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Updated Evaluation of Community s04e01

In my previous post about the first episode of this season of Community, I made the assertion that it felt weird because it did not follow one of Dan Harmon’s story circles.  I’m now revising my evaluation because I wasn’t thinking about it in the right context.

It is Abed for whom the story circle fits, but it’s a complete circle because it takes place in the context of the actual show. It’s pretty awesome, really.

  1. Abed is in a zone of comfort being in college with his friends, having finished three years (seasons) already.
  2. But he wants something: For it to last for six seasons and a movie (repeat the first three years of college over again).
  3. He enters an unfamiliar situation, having realized that the show could come to an end before finishing six seasons and that it was almost canceled.
  4. He adapts, accepting that the show could change and end at any time.
  5. He gets what he wants. Another season closer to 6.
  6. But he pays a heavy price. He lost his creator, producers, and some writers.
  7. He returns to his familiar situation, being in college with his friends and living in the moment.
  8. Having changed.

But here’s the twist: It’s not Abed who traveling this story circle…

It is us, the fan base of Community, who are traveling the story circle.

Dan’s departure was the “Atonement with the Father”.

The story of the story is the story.

Story Circles of Community s04e01

Update: I’ve re-evaluated my assessment.

In which I examine the first episode of the 4th season of Community.  I’d love to hear some other opinions.  Did I miss anything?

Assertion: This episode, while a decent and entertaining return, feels a bit off because it does not follow the standard story circle.

Dan Harmon’s Story Circle is defined as:

  1. A character is in a zone of comfort,
  2. But they want something.
  3. They enter an unfamiliar situation,
  4. Adapt to it.
  5. Get what they wanted,
  6. But pay a heavy price.
  7. Then return to their familiar situation,
  8. Having changed.

Image reference:

Dan Harmon Story Circle

Described in more detail here: http://channel101.wikia.com/wiki/Story_Structure_101:_Super_Basic_Shit

So let’s examine this episode from this perspective.  Almost all previous episodes of Community follow this simple structure.  A lot of times, an episode would consist of multiple characters traveling along their own circle while the group as a whole traveled through a bigger one.

I argue that this episode did not follow a complete story circle among any one character or even the group as a whole.

I started out considering Abed as the likely candidate for whom the story circle fits.

  1. Abed is in a zone of comfort: he’s happy being at college with everyone
  2. But he wants something: to stay in college forever
  3. They enter an an unfamiliar situation: possibility of the group splitting up and college ending (last first day of school ever)
  4. Abed adapts to it.

This is where the story circle breaks down for Abed, since he adapts to it at the very end.  He gets what he wanted, but he didn’t have to pay a heavy price for it.  He returns to his familiar situation, but he hasn’t changed.

Instead, this circle continues with Jeff paying a heavy price and returning to his familiar situation.  He doesn’t get what he wanted, though, having not changed at all from his original state.

Let’s back up and look at Jeff’s circle as a whole (or as much as possible):

  1. Jeff is in a zone of comfort
  2. But he wants something: to graduate early
  3. He enters an unfamiliar situation where he’s helping the rest of the group instead of only himself.

But it breaks down here.  Does he adapt to it? He doesn’t, really.  But he pays a heavy price regardless, returning to his familiar situation, not having changed.

Shirley and Annie might as well have not been in the episode, since all they did was play a prank on the dean.

Troy and Britta had their own side thing going on with the wishing well, but it, too, was anecdotal. Troy and Abed accept Britta’s new wishing well rule without any sacrifice.

Pierce was trying to think of a joke for most of the episode.

Now let’s look at the Dean’s story circle:

  1. The Dean is in a zone of comfort
  2. But he wants something: for Jeff to stay at Greendale
  3. He enters an unfamiliar situation.

No, he doesn’t.  Nothing changes with his story either.

The study group as a whole doesn’t have a circle either.

The only part that finishes the circle was the very end.

8. Having Chang’d.

20-year-old albums to help you feel old (or young)

Here’s a handful of albums from my music archive that turn 20 years old this year (2012), released in 1992:

  • "Dirt", Alice In Chains
  • "Sap", Alice In Chains
  • "Generator", Bad Religion
  • "Check Your Head", Beastie Boys
  • "Relentless", Bill Hicks
  • "Images and Words", Dream Theater
  • "Funky Divas", En Vogue
  • "III Sides to Every Story", Extreme
  • "Angel Dust", Faith No More
  • "The Predator", Ice Cube
  • "Peace and Love, Inc.", Information Society
  • "Fear of the Dark", Iron Maiden
  • "James Brown Is Dead (Single)", L.A. Style
  • "Countdown to Extinction", Megadeth
  • "Broken", Nine Inch Nails
  • "Fixed", Nine Inch Nails
  • "Vulgar Display of Power", Pantera
  • "Automatic for the People", REM
  • "Off the Deep End", Weird Al Yankovic
And that’s not all!  Here are some of the debut albums from bands in my music archive that are 20 years old this year:
  • "Diva", Annie Lennox
  • "Gordon", Barenaked Ladies
  • "Blind Melon", Blind Melon
  • "The Chronic", Dr. Dre
  • "Soul of a New Machine", Fear Factory
  • "House of Pain", House of Pain
  • "Carnival of Carnage", Insane Clown Posse
  • "Totally Krossed Out", Kris Kross
  • "Duh", Lagwagon
  • "No Doubt", No Doubt
  • "Ignition", The Offspring
  • "Experience", The Prodigy
  • "Rancid (EP)", Rancid
  • "Rage Against the Machine", Rage Against the Machine
  • "In the Good Old Days (Demo)", Reel Big Fish
  • "Cruel Sun", Rusted Root
  • "Mack Daddy", Sir Mix-a-Lot
  • "Core", Stone Temple Pilots
  • Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip”, TLC
  • "Opiate", Tool
  • "Little Earthquakes", Tori Amos
  • "La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Vol. 1", White Zombie

I went down to Austin, TX this weekend to visit some friends and ate way too much food while I was there.  Oh well.  Just more reason to work harder this week.

Straightaway time this week was 12:25 which isn’t too bad considering I just spent almost 4 whole days relaxing.  Only 4 seconds slower than my fastest time.  The headwind tonight was brutal on the return.  18.53 mph average speed.  I used the rest of tonight to just relax on the wheels.

Oops.  I forgot to reset my computer before starting tonight’s ride.  Oh well.  Just have to zoom in on the graph for a better view.

I was a few seconds slower on the straightaway than last week at 12:38 last night, but redeemed myself tonight at 1-second slower than my best time of 12:22.  I wish I had pushed myself a little bit harder to set a new best time tonight.

Also got to ride through a thunderstorm on my cooldown and casual laps.  Rule #9, bitches.  I had the biggest grin on my face while riding through that.

I drove down to DC last weekend to ride the Bay Country Century with my good friend Mike.  Unfortunately, we arrived a couple hours late and couldn’t logistically do the whole century.  If we had tried, we would have ran out of water because the refueling stops would have been shut down by the time we got there.  Oh well.  We ended up doing the half century.  It was a really nice and relaxing ride and I can’t wait to do the actual century next year.

I started out earlier tonight, so I decided to extend my ride a little bit until it got dark.  I did the normal Jail Trail loop but kept going after doubling back, reversing the original route.  I also went down the other direction along the river.  There were way too many gnat swarms.

On the straightaway today, I did a lot better than all the previous rides.  My previous best time was 12:40 on August 25, 2011.  Tonight, I took off a whole 19 seconds at 12:21.  Compared to the previous best time, my average heartrate was down at by 3 at 180bpm (vs 183) and my speed was up by .51mph at 18.70mph (vs 18.19).

Now to see if I can maintain and improve on the new time.

Yet another standard Jail Trail loop with double-back.  About the same as the previous ride.  Slightly lower average heart rate.  I could have pushed myself harder I think.  I ordered a speed/cadence sensor today, so I should start getting more accurate data next week.

Standard Jail Trail loop with double-back once again.  About the same as the ride on Thursday.  Slightly lower average speed and heart rate, but that’s okay.  5 seconds slower on the straightaway.  Some slower riders somewhat to blame, since I had to slow down behind them a bit.

Standard Jail Trail loop with double-back.  Another day of pushing myself.  I managed to take a minute off of my straight-away time (lap 2) vs the previous run, increasing my average speed by about 1.28 MPH. That I was wearing full cycling gear probably helped that a lot with wind resistance.  Previous rides up until now I’d been wearing my cargo shorts and a tshirt.  I really need to invest in a speed sensor.  The gaps in the graph are caused by riding under bridges where the satellite loses signal.

Fingers crossed that it doesn’t rain too much this weekend.