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Community Spec Script – “The Science of Sleep Deprivation”

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This is a spec script (my first one ever for anything) that I wrote for this TV show called Community that I believe some people like.


If you’re interested, after the jump I’ve written a big, rambly postmortem sort of thing of the whole screenplay.

A version of this script existed way back in July of 2011, not long after the second season had ended. In that version, there was all this weird crap in it about Jeff hearing voices and Pierce taking drugs and Troy was the one in the predicament now facing Abed. I have to thank my friend James for tearing the whole thing down and making me realize I kind of had to do it over due to it mostly making no type of sense.

It got revised and revamped loads, plus updated here and there to reflect the changes in the characters’ lives that arose as Season 3 began to air. I didn’t know what I actually intended to do with the script once it was finished. I’d read some business about how you use specs to build a portfolio and get an agent and so forth, but this was my first one ever and the show’s not-fantastic ratings, plus NBC’s treatment of it in Season 3 forebode that Community might get the boot any old time, so I wanted to move fast. Truly, the goal here was to somehow, magically, get the script to strike Dan Harmon in the head, whereupon he’d be all: “I want this Joe Matar on a plane to Hollywood, America this very day, stat!”

The original scheme, conceived by James, was to, once the screenplay had been built to a sublime state, “leak” it anonymously to the internet. We toyed with the idea of maybe even printing it out, then scanning it in to give it some kind of authentic-looking purloinedness. Then we’d upload it on some bastion of truth like 4Chan, claiming it was an unproduced episode that I, disgruntled show staff fella, felt was too much of a damn beauteous gem to not show to the world in some form. Then, of course, everyone would believe it and word would get around, eventually reaching Harmon, who would’ve no doubt tweeted: “Fake script. But, still, I want this Joe Matar on a plane to Hollywood, America this very day, stat! #sixseasonsandjoemataristhecoolest”

However, despite all edits, the script continued to be over-ambitious and too long (it still is) and then, abruptly, Dan Harmon got fired. Suddenly, this leaking idea seemed less worth pursuing because I am pretty sure nobody else at NBC even knows the internet exists because how do you hook up a Nielsen box to her?

So I let the screenplay fall into hibernation for a time. Then I found out about NBC’s “Writers on the Verge (of a Breakdown)” program in which writers send in spec scripts to be considered for an all-intensive course designed to refine their skills as television penmen whilst they hemorrhage cash and are then not necessarily guaranteed a job.

“The chance of a lifetime!” thought I, so I resurrected the script one last time with the figuring that I’d submit it by the deadline, regardless of its state.

The submission period lasted several months and I ended up submitting it online with ten minutes to spare. There was (and is) still stuff in it that could be better and, no matter what I did, it was still, as mentioned, overlong by about 10 pages. But I hoped it might be considered quality enough for its short (and long) comings to be overlooked. After all, this was not a program for writers who make no mistakes, but for writers on the verge (of exhaustion).

Not too surprisingly — whether it was the length, the formatting, the fact that NBC was in the throes of murdering the very show I clearly adored to replace it with stellar shit like¬†That Show with Animals — I never heard back. Community may be on its death knell now and Dan Harmon has moved onto a likely awesome cartoon on Adult Swim, plus, I believe, five new sitcoms on Fox, CBS, and Telemundo. As such, I’ve decided I might as well put this on the internet so that anybody who might enjoy it, can.

A couple of notes about some of the content in this mamma jamma:

1. Pretty obvious, but this is meant to take place after Annie moves in with Troy and Abed, but before Hot & Brown shuts down.

2. This screenplay oddly has a decent bit in common with the episode, “Contemporary Impressionists.” Both feature Jeff’s vanity becoming a big enough issue to endanger his health with Britta being the one trying to save him and both have hints of unrest in the relationship of Troy and Abed / Abed and the rest of the group. I swear to shit that these two basic plot elements were a part of my script from the beginning, long before Season 3 had started. In fact, I had become bothered by how perfectly things always worked out for Abed and how he and Troy’s blissful, weirdy, childlike relationship never faltered, so the original intended main thrust of this episode was supposed to be a plotline in which Abed basically pisses off and pushes all his friends away.

However, as I jammed the thing full of ideas and it got more and more packed with nonsense, that aspect of the story took a backseat. As a result, I do think one of the failings of this screenplay is that I ended up with an almost entirely silly episode, when I had hoped to have some sincerely dramatic, relationship-testing stuff going on.

Incidentally, my explanation of the similarities between my plot and the plot of “Contemporary Impressionists” is neither that it’s coincidence nor that the show is predictable. I mean, Jeff’s vanity problem exhibits itself (and concludes itself) in a drastically different manner in my script than it did in the show and the Troy/Abed rift was a much bigger season plot point, told over the course of several episodes. Really, these are just similar plot concepts and I think any resemblance is just a matter of how exceptionally well-defined Community‘s characters are. If you’re big enough into the show, you know that Jeff is vain to the point of problematic; Britta sometimes keeps Jeff in check and will also take any opportunity to show off her (lack of) psychiatric experience; and Troy and Abed needed some kind of conflict so things wouldn’t get stale.

I’ve said this elsewhere on this stinky blog, but I’d surmised long ago that if I had ever written another Community script, my idea was to think of a way to get the gang inside a video game. For a show that forever plays around with characterization, media, and genre these were just logical places for it to go.

3. The hallucinatory stuff was always in it. Based on the craziness of Season 2, I figured the show could sustain an out-there concept like this (especially if it had origins in homage). However, once the magic of the Dreamatorium was introduced, it might’ve fit more snugly into the show’s world had I found a way to make those hallucination scenes take place in there or something. But, whatever, I’ve always loved the Study Room, so the more stuff I can make happen in there, the happier I am.

That’s all! I hope you like it. I hope it feels like something that actually could’ve worked on the show. I still kind of hold out a faint hope that Dan Harmon reads it for some reason one day, whether he hates it or not. Community is not the first show I’ve been super-amorous in love with, but it is the first one I’ve felt that way about in a long while (as explained here). Growing up, there were shows I loved, but never imagined I could write for (The Simpsons) and there have been other shows I’ve felt I could write for, but had no huge desire to (current Simpsons).¬† Community is the first show I’ve ever felt like I would be so flippin’ overjoyed to be a part of and that I actually could (with a bit of work) proficiently and snugly fit myself and my writing into.

This was genuinely, without question, the hardest thing I have ever written (comparatively, my Master’s thesis — which I basically composed two complete, entirely different versions of — was a piece of piss-nothing). I worked on this screenplay on and off for over a year and felt it hanging over me the entire time. I’d never tried to write a story within someone else’s created world and it was a real pain in the ass. It never fully formed the way it should’ve, I suppose, and I probably should’ve scrapped a lot of it and hugely retooled it, but I’m still awfully proud of it.

Hopefully, you won’t think it reads like some sucky fanfic.

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