Tag Archives: The IT Crowd

The Dungeons and Dragons Episode

D&DTVLast night The Big Bang Theory aired its 122nd episode, entitled “The Santa Simulation.” News that its premise hit the internet and avid television watchers everywhere began to cry what may one day become a familiar saying, “Community did it first!” Every single one of them was wrong.

A full year before “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons,” [one of the best episodes of Community‘s second season, in my opinion] there was “Jen the Fredo,” the first episode of British sitcom The IT Crowd‘s fourth season. Both of these episodes were some of the best of their respective shows, so I was pretty excited for what TBBT had to offer.

The thing about the D&D-centric episode is how it’s been used as a plot device. As a role-playing game the players are able to reveal aspects about themselves that might not otherwise come out, and you can see this being done with various degrees of effectiveness  in each episode. Spoilers for all three episodes past this point.

The IT Crowd [S4E1]
“Jen the Fredo”

I realize that most of you have not seen, or maybe even heard of, The IT Crowd. Let me sum in up in that it is, in my ways, what The Big Bang Theory could be. It’s a show about two, well, nerds that work in the IT department of a large company and their boss, who knows nearly nothing about computers. One of the best aspects of the show is that it brings you into the nerdiness of Moss and Roy, and in watching you begin to feel like you really relate to them, becoming equally frustrated when people ask them for help with their computers.

“Jen the Fredo” is, if you’ve seen The Godfather films [which I haven’t], a clear reference to the character Fredo, whose job it was to take out of town businessman and “show them a good time.” Jen takes on the role of helping to entertain a few business partners, but ultimately fails when she takes them to see “The Vagina Monologues.”

Enter Dungeons and Dragons. Moss has been preparing to DM [Dungeon Master, can be used as a verb] and convinces Jen that it’s exactly what these gentlemen are looking for. The best part is, he succeeds [I had a great YouTube clip here but someone decided to make it private].

While the idea of entertaining [and riveting] a few rowdy businessmen with a little D&D is hilarious in and of itself, but there’s more to it than that. Moss uses the game to confront Roy about the latter’s painful breakup, something he’d been avoiding talking about for a while. The conclusion is tear-filled and, more importantly, immensely funny. You can catch it on Netflix, or here, though you didn’t hear that from me.

Community [S2E14]
“Advanced Dungeons and Dragons”

This episode has easily the most actual gameplay of the three, since essentially the entire episode consists of the Greendale Seven playing D&D in the library. It also treats the source material the most lovingly, complete with a voice over and fantastically appropriate score.

The game is set up due to Jeff wanting to help out “Fat Neil,” a young man planning to end his life [understated by the narration] due to his new nickname. Once everything is set up, with Abed as the DM, things really get going.

Each member of the study group essentially plays a version of themselves, with the voice over near the beginning describing them as “Troy the Obtuse,” and “Britta the Needlessly Defiant.” They react to the situations within the game as they normally would, with Jeff impatient and unwilling to put up with nonsense as usual. The best parts, however, are when you discover a little something about the character you thought you knew, well-illustrated in the following scene with Annie:


In this episode Pierce owns his most [as far as I’m concerned] unpopular role: The Villain. Incensed at being excluded from the game he steals Fat Neil’s magical sword and runs away, later using D&D manuals to cheat and garner immense power to himself.

Everything ends, as usual, with a fairly warm and fuzzy conclusion. Pierce is defeated, mostly through his friends forgiving him for his dickishness [hence his title, “Pierce the Dickish]. Neil’s spirits are lifted and he finds the motivation to keep on living.

The Big Bang Theory [S6E11]
“The Santa Situation”

A “guys’ night” is happening and the activity of choice is Dungeons and Dragons, which is territory you’d have expected these characters to have explored in-depth quite a few seasons back. Heck, as far as I can recall they spent more time playing Settlers of Catan than throwing around a 12-sided dice.

The game begins and Leonard, the DM, lets it drop that their quest is to rescue Santa Claus. Queue Sheldon’s disappointed face due to the fact that he a) loves D&D and b) hates Christmas. Also Raj gets shot in the face with a cannon in the first few minutes of the game, highlighting the fragility of life in a world that values perception checks.

Oh, and they ditch their respective girlfriends to play, which led to this scene, the last line of which was delivered excellently:

This was originally a series of four gifs, but I didn't want to embed each one in this order, so I just took a screenshot instead. I think it still works.

Using the structure of the game Leonard gets Sheldon to sing [all five verses of] “Good King Wenceslas”  and all three remaining players to play “Jingle Bells” using, the obvious instrument of choice, bells.

Upon finding Jolly Old St. Nick in chains they move forward to rescue him, only to have Sheldon cast a paralyzing spell on his companions. He then confronts Santa [or Leonard, in this case] and tells the heartbreaking story of how he asked Father Christmas for only one thing as a child, to have his grandfather back. He then walks out, leaving the old many to die.

In Conclusion

As far as really exploring well-established characters, Community probably succeeds the most, by virtue that it only has the one central plot that revolves around a single game of D&D. While it does feature Pierce continuing on his course to become more cartoonishly evil, Britta’s response to the beleaguered gnomes is a perfect example of how her character will react both in and out of the real world.

The IT Crowd and The Big Bang Theory tread the very similar ground. Moss uses the game to force Roy to come to terms with the love he lost, something that would have been impossible otherwise. Sheldon’s childhood experience with Santa Claus never would have come about without Leonard guiding him to that place where he could talk to the man who disappointed him.

My hope is that there will be a continuation of this trend, with there having being one D&D episode per year from 2010-2012. As the current DM of an ongoing gothic horror campaign I am well-aware of the storytelling capabilities of the game as well as how enjoyable it is to know people you know well deal when presented with fantastical situations. Although 2/3 of the above shows do feature “nerds” I’m sure that this could still appear in the more bizarre sitcoms, such as New Girl and Happy Endings.

A Brief Argument Against Anti-Piracy

Over the past couple years, the issue of regulating the internet has repeatedly arisen, and while there have been many issues contributing to this, there is perhaps none more well known than the contention over copyright infringement and piracy.

Now for  a brief disclaimer.

I am a Marxist. I do not believe in “property” as the word would be recognized today. Every written work, every film, every piece of art belongs to every human being living. The Godfather series is just as much a part of our legacy and inheritance as the Mona Lisa, and as such, access to it should be enjoyed by all.

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This is all to say that I don’t view “copyright infringement” as constituting any true offense. On the contrary, it’s simply the people taking back what was rightfully meant for them to begin with- but I’m not here to talk about that.

No, I’m here to talk about how the music and film industries’ witchhunt for media pirates is doing them (and everyone else) far more harm than good. Let me break it down for you.

I. Some People Will Never Buy

It’s a strange statement, but a true one. There may be a slim minority of people who pirates actually are keeping from the major industries through their cheaper/free service, however it ought to be fairly safe to say that there are plenty of people out there who would not otherwise listen to certain artists or watch certain shows. We’re living in tough times, and with your average movie ticket running at about twenty bucks (to say nothing of the gas getting to the theater and back), for many of us piracy is the only way we’ll see new movies and shows. Assuming there’s a segment of the population who will never, ever pay to see The Godfather, stamping out free avenues- namely piracy- doesn’t save the industry any cash. On the contrary, it just means that those people who don’t get to see the movie because they won’t pay for it aren’t talking about it, and generating buzz that might well attract people who will pay to see the movie. And speaking of them…

II. Some People Will Always Buy

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Just as some people simply can not or will not pay (such outrageous prices) for entertainment, you will find people who will spare no expense when it comes to it. There are plenty of people who want to see movies on the big screen. There are plenty of people who want to see their band live in concert.The Mona Lisa is a perfect example of this.

No ownership claimed...

You can see pictures of Mona Lisa anywhere; it’s one the most widely recognized images in human history. Because it’s available for free most anywhere, no one will actually go see it, right? After all, it’s been “pirated” to death. Yet that room in the Louvre is packed wall to wall with people who want to see the thing for themselves. Why? Because it’s the original. Doesn’t matter that it’s roped off, or behind glass, or barely visible, or that the guards usher you along after thirty seconds- it’s still wildly popular. The same is true of all media. Some people- plenty of people- will part with their cash to see Avatar in 3D, rather than watching some grainy, laggy version taken on a hand-held video camera in Thailand.

III. Anti-Piracy Hurts the Audience

You may not have experienced this in the states, but there was once a time when DVDs were listed by region codes, and could only be played on players that recognized that region. In other words, a DVD from America couldn’t be played on a DVD player from Europe and vice versa. You were granted a limited number of “switches,” but seeing as how you typically only got seven, it just put off the problem, rather than solving it. The goal (one of ’em, at least) was to prevent international piracy of DVDs through cracking down on how far away they came from, but all that just came down to it being a huge hassle for everyone, regardless whether or not their purchase was legitimate. Imagine all the time, money, and manpower that was invested in that venture that wound up solving nothing and quite possibly leading the industries involved to lose more money over that debacle than they would’ve lost to actual piracy. The same could be said for those hyperbolic ad campaigns comparing piracy to car theft

IV. Anti-Piracy Hurts the Industry

And while we’re talking about the industry shooting itself in the foot, let’s not forget the fact that preventing access to one film will very often lead to prevention of access to another. Quite simply, a person who doesn’t see The Godfather is not likely to go see the sequel, whereas someone who has seen The Godfather has a far better probability of winding up trying to see the sequel, either legitimately or through piracy. Is it a guarantee? No, but it’s still a better chance for the industry to make some cash than by preventing the person from seeing the first film at all.

V. Anti-Piracy Hurts the Environment

Lastly, I have to point out that we have free access to most films, music, and TV shows anyways- down at the local library. Only problem with that is when I drive to the library, I’m spending gas money, creating traffic, and spitting out exhaust fumes. Now I can get most anything down there for absolutely free, and no one complains. But imagine instead that I save on gas money, I keep the streets clear, and I reduce my carbon footprint by staying inside and watching the same movie I would’ve gotten free at the library. Suddenly, I’m a soulless criminal. Does that make sense to you?

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What’s to be gained from all of this? Despite the doom-and-gloom prophecies of the industries, piracy continues on its merry path and yet we haven’t seen a decrease in the quality or production values of our movies.

Though "quality" is such a tricky word...We have more music artists now than we did a decade ago (at least, more access to them), in spite of piracy, and two of the most popular genres of our generation, techno and dub-step (I will never stop being ashamed of that) is heavily based on remixing and sampling other people’s work, i.e., piracy.

Look- I’m not asking the media giants to be happy about piracy, but at the same time, I have to question whether it’s really even worth it. All that cash being poured into anti-piracy gambits isn’t workingif it doesn’t already outweigh the revenue lost, wouldn’t all that time and effort be better spent elsewhere? Wouldn’t it be more profitable elsewhere?

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Just sayin’.