COMMUNITY is one of my favorite shows and is definitely one of the best written. They are so incredibly economical with their beats. If you watch the show, you can see that when they do their genre episodes there is typically one (maybe two) clear storylines but the more “traditional” stories (as traditional as COMMUNITY gets) will typically have at least two and often three. In today’s example we’ll look at the latter group with the cold open of the episode DEBATE 109.
The above is a link to a pdf of the episode script, you will see there are some minor differences between the script and the final edit of the episode but the essence of the beats remain the same.
COMMUNITY EPISODE 109 – BEATS
- Dean Pelton makes an announcement on the intercom regarding the school’s debate team. Anne says: We’re kind of kicking butt these days.
- Britta SNAPS at Pierce, shocking the group. Jeff tells them that it is because Britta is giving up smoking.
- Pierce offers to guide Britta in hypnotherapy to help her quick. Britta agrees.
- Troy shows the group Abed’s videos that are clearly based on the group but were surprisingly filmed two weeks before the events they depict. The group is shocked that Abed appears to be predicting the future.
END OF COLD OPEN.
In four pages, the writers of COMMUNITY have given us three storylines AND has introduced them in the order of their importance: The Debate Team, Pierce helping Britta quit smoking, Abed is a soothsayer. They also average about five jokes a page while establishing the mindset of each character going into the episode. There are several episode scripts on this site and I highly recommend reading them all. Many of the writers from the show joined new comedy LAST MAN ON EARTH, and the high attention to structure that they learned from working with Dan Harmon’s story circles certainly shows.