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Tara Ariano

Britta: The Screw-up Who's Such A Screw-up Her Name Is Now A Verb

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Remember the cop that was always called when a real (not campus security) cop was needed?  I got the impression he was lonely.  Britta should end up with him.  She could liven him up and he could let her play with his handcuffs.

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Using her psych major as a source of both comedy and character growth was a good idea. She was the hero of some of Jeff's more human moments in Season 3. And both directions worked better than wen she was playing eternal activist in season 1.

The problem is that they often didn't know what to do with her. Too many episodes she'd get a joke about screwing up and that's it. With 7 characters (plus increasing presence of Chang and Dean Pelton) that has to happen sometimes. But it did lead to her being underrated.

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Re-watching the pilot I get why a lot of viewers didn't like her. She was a buzzkill. Jeff made his first "Winger speech" and busts him for using the group to get with her. But she knew all along what he was doing so she could have just not shown up. Instead she invites Abed who invited the others, and so the real reason everyone's time was wasted was her!  She doesn't have the right to act "holier than thou" because of what a liar Jeff is. I think she was necessary because the other members of the group easily fell for Jeff's BS but as the first season went on you didn't need her to do that anymore.

Here's an excerpt fromn an old Dan Harmon interview after the first season in 2010:
 

Quote

 

Now, I have blinders on because of what I write and the readers who elect to read me, but with both the Jeff and Britta chemistry and Britta as a character in general, it seemed like early on there was fair amount of negative reaction to both her alone and her with him.
 

Yup.

And then that evolved and you started doing different things with her. What sort of stuff were you seeing both that Gillian was doing and that fans were saying about her?
 

Dan: I was seeing that whenever she was policing Jeff, it felt gross. It felt like she was all too convincing in the role of Jeff police. And the reason for that is probably I decided that she seems like more like a real person than any of these people. The other early results that came in were for all of my attempts to sell this character through the filter of TV, which wants everybody to be boiled down to “Well, this is the guy that loves scarves” and “This is the guy who was a hippie but now he”s a conservative,” “This is the guy that”s allergic to shellfish but he”s Jewish,” which, good for him. But the character of just the chick that I have a complex relationship with, the sort of indescribable, weird, self-contradictory, complicated, dragged and beaten, joyfully joyless, just hypocritical, hot, complicated girl. This character is hard to pitch and it”s hard to pitch to producers. It”s hard to pitch to your own writers and it”s hard to pitch to the audience.

And so for that reason, my attempts to combine that with a real simple cartoon Fat Albert function like, “Jeff stop doing that,” that was a disservice I did to the character. Because all of a sudden she was really being set up. And one of the things that happens, you can clearly see the audience going, “Blech – she”s just bitching all the time. Fuck her.” And then another thing I observed is factual testing, which a lot of writers hate but on “Community I received, early on, some very, very potent very simple messages when I opened my mind. And the biggest one being, “They like Jeff and Britta not as a relationship. They like Jeff, and they like Britta. And they like them because they”re the two normal people.” And hearing that made me go, “Oh. So for me, the complex, “I love her, I hate her and dragged-and-beaten and all this stuff,” it all comes through as normal. That”s the biggest success I”ve ever created on paper and I”ve been screwing it up by combining functionalities.

So we pulled her back and had her have her own problems. Like for instance, the football episode, which was actually written as the third but it aired I believe as the 5th or something. My first reaction was to have her start expressing the fact that women hate her, because I know people sympathize with people that are insecure and that have some kind of Kryptonite. I wanted to start to make her so-called weaknesses her strengths. And it”s always just as simple as somebody just framing it that way and telling a story about those weaknesses, because the only thing the audience hates is being told that someone ugly is handsome or being told that someone who”s a villain is a hero. And so they were hating me for telling them that someone they knew was real was some kind of useful, functional arch character with these really charismatic chemical uses in the ensemble.

So I pulled her back out of that relationship with Jeff to just let her have her own problems, and over time the easiest way to beat her up became to re-engage her with Jeff. But at a certain point the objective became to beat her up. And I say that as the God of that universe, like as if I”m talking about Job. The important thing became to make her suffer and to show people that she”s got it worse than they have it or maybe just as bad as they do. And that”s when you start to see these storylines like the cadaver story.

And things also were happening organically along the way. One of the funniest things I”ve ever seen Gillian do was in Episode 115, which was “Romantic Expressionism,” in which Annie dates Vaughn, and the cold open of that when she gives Annie a high-five because she wants to be cool and she tries to “turn it into a snake,” and she does this really awkward break-dance move and Annie”s reaction is to politely chuckle and walk away. And we hang on Britta who looks uncomfortable because her break-dancing move was hot. I thought that was the end of the journey for me. It was like, “Okay, we”ve done it now. We”ve created the comedic character out of an inherently non-sitcomy kind of archetype. The point of her character is that she does not belong in this. She can”t hold her own. She”s not double-taking and doing quick turns and she”s sort of awkward.”

 

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