Category Archives: Community

“Community” Season 6, Episode 13 “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” Review

I can’t count the reasons I should stay/one by one they all just fade away

The opening theme song for “Community” (“At Least It Was Here,” by The 88) has become oddly prophetic. One by one, the characters on the show have left, as one by one, each of them finds fewer reasons to stay at Greendale.

This all leads into “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television,” which just may have been the series finale. Nobody is saying if it is or isn’t…yet, and it wouldn’t be the first time the show has seemingly had a series finale and then came back, but this time it feels more ready to leave than it ever has before.

“Community” has always been a show about shows, and about itself, and now it’s almost as if that show has swallowed itself up. It was a near perfect premise: “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” had all the study group member pitching Abed ideas for a seventh season of the show, if one was to happen.

There were some great scenes here, as each member of the group tried to come up with a reality that fit him or her: Abed’s (Danny Pudi) formula scene, Britta’s (Gillian Bacobs) version of the show, which is the hardest I’ve laughed at “Community” in a long time, the commentary on Annie’s (Alison Brie) dresses, and there’s stuff here, like Abed’s TV speech, that will probably be quoted in TV criticism classes for years. It’s supposed to be fun, remember?

But those laughs rang a little hollow, and did serve as a reminder of earlier seasons of the show. Season 5 has by no means been the show as its best, and it is a little odd for a season that has spent so much time looking back to have a finale that is firmly planted in the future.

It’s also interesting that none of the pitch ideas were really good — or at least good in a way that most fans would want to watch. I have no clue whether that’s a statement that the show (and by extension, Harmon) thinks they are out of ideas, or it was just a presentation of bad ideas no one would want to watch, or maybe that continuing to try to resurrect something that is fading away is a bad idea.

It’s almost as the show is saying it’s ready to go. A seventh season won’t be good. ‘You won’t like it,’ the show is seemingly saying. It’s time to move on.

And even Jeff (Joel McHale), the leader of this rag-tag group of heroes, Jeff, the person who started this study group just to bang Britta, Jeff, who is maybe actually in love with Annie now, Jeff, who goes from quickly hating on Abed’s idea to pitch shows to desperately embracing it, Jeff, it seems, is now ready.

Jeff has been building to this all season, and it’s easy to forget how this show was really a Jeff story from the beginning. All season he’s been worried about everybody leaving, and it’s appropriate that it’s Jeff that drives Annie and Abed to the airport to leave. This started as his story, and ends as his story, as people, just like in life, pass in and out of his story.

But even Jeff, who all season, hasn’t been ready to say goodbye, finally is. This might be goodbye for good (and the fact that we don’t know for sure undercuts that a bit), but at the very least, this could be the note the show ends on, and Harmon finally got a chance to say goodbye to the show in a way he wanted to. He seems ready. The show seems ready.

And maybe it’s time for fans to be ready, too.

Notes & Quotes:

-The end hash tag takes away from that whole idea a bit. It would seem a little mean to dangle #andamovie out there if there was zero hope of it happening. But who knows at this point. I do wish we had a bit of closure one way or the other…but Harmon is keeping radio silence.

-That end tag with the board game was laugh-out-loud hysterical.

-After resisting it all season, we got not one, but two ‘fucks’ this year. Take that NBC! No censors on Yahoo Screen!

-“School’s out, bitches”

-nipple dippers

-“That’s crazy…people used Linked In?”

-“Do you guys think bar scenes always have to start on a billiards shot?”

-“Don’t put a nickel in him.”

-Abed’s whole TV speech

-“This gives me a more solid reason to interact with you.”

-“But not little girl hot.”

-Damn those boring-ass Marvel movies

-“I farted during the 4th one. It’s an inside joke.”

Community Season 6, Episode 12 “Wedding Videography” Review

Community Season 6, Episode 12 “Wedding Videography” Review

“Community” seems stuck.

This season has been a cyclone of recycled ideas, some of them working quite well (Paintball, Honda), while the others served more as a reminder of how great the show once was, and how great it can be when it breaks free of itself and delivers the unexpected instead of new twists on old tales.

” Wedding Videography ” is a combination of two things the show has already done: A wedding episode, and a documentary-style episode, with Abed (Danny Pudi) behind the camera.
It also was a stinker of an episode.

Garret (Erik Charles Nielsen) proposed to Stacy (special guest, Erin McGathy, Dan Harmon’s real life wife) in the middle of Jeff’s (Joel McHale) class, giving us a “Community” wedding outside of the regular cast and players. It’s a good idea! It shifted the focus away from the main cast, in an episode where the main cast continually tried to shift the focus back on to themselves.

In a lot of ways this episode seemed to – spiritually at least – call back to the “Seinfeld” finale. Both episodes were reminders of how horrible the characters in the show are, and both also served as a rude awakening to how the rest of the internal universes of each show view the characters.

The documentary format did allow a bit of this to come through; instead of the focus on the main study group it was easier to see just how self-obsessed all of these characters really are. Framed outside of the group, it successfully showed them as the quite obnoxious wedding guests they actually were.

It’s not much of a shock that they all showed up late to the wedding (even if the timing didn’t seem to really make sense, since they somehow went from thinking they were three hours early to being late), or that they turned the whole ceremony into an inside joke about themselves. These are self-centered, “synergistic” people, as Jeff would say.

The idea of splitting the group up – and that everybody else at the wedding hates them – is not a new one for the group, but it’s the first time the show has really hammered the idea home, but sadly did so poorly. Elroy (Keith Davis) took up a lot of screen time to essentially set up a single joke, Britta (Gillian Jacobs) just danced around, and Annie (Alison Brie) and Frankie (Paget Frewster), while making some humorous dragon names, seemed to serve very little purpose other than to further plant seeds for a Annie/Jeff future.

At the end, it turned out that Garret and Stacy were cousins, and it was none other than Chang (Ken Jeong) that somehow delivered the “Winger” speech at the end and convinced the happily married couple to stay incestuously married. That was weird enough in itself, and it also gave Jeff (and everyone else) a pass on messing up the wedding (even if them being cousins wasn’t really his fault), but also seemed to give the group as a whole a pass for the behavior the show seemed set to condemn from the start of the episode. There were a few more lines on incest, and then credits rolled.

Yup. It was as weird as it sounds, and the episode just didn’t work, resulting in missed opportunities and one of the more disappointing episodes this season. It came and it went and it happened, but that’s about it. Revisiting the documentary format mostly resulted in a few “Jim” jokes from Abed, but putting him behind the camera is one way to deal with the show’s inability to write him this season, it seems. The wedding, which could have been a real moment in showing just how the rest of Greendale views the beloved main characters, ended in nothing but an odd comment on incest.

One episode left. Abed convinces the group to pitch ideas for a seventh season. Hopefully it sends the show out on a much better note than this episode, at least.

Notes & Quotes:
-“Aren’t you still smelling hair?”

-“I’m getting laid!”

-“I lived in New York.”

-“The color black….”

-‘Somebody laughed at that the wrong way.”

-“You are my favorite video game.”

-“If I can it can I give it another name?”

-“It’s like knitting…”

“That was Stacey’s first time!”

-“Now this is a man who knows how to marry his cousin…”

-None of Britta’s default analogies

-“Ugh, so much Jim-ing it.”

Community Season 6, Episode 11 “Modern Espionage” Review

Community Season 6, Episode 11 “Modern Espionage” Review

Hopefully “Community” viewers aren’t sick of paintball.

There are some valid concerns, of course. This isn’t the first time “Community” has returned to an idea, and this season especially has at times felt like a remix of best hits from a golden era the show can make referential jokes about but not seem to reach.

So, paintball returns, again. But this time the game has gone underground, fit with a spy theme, a unique custom intro, and of course, fancy suits.

There’s a difference between the show making a joke about doing “paintball to death,” and then actually doing it to death. City College is after Greendale…again. There’s some mysterious ringer…again. Koogler (Mitchell Hurwitz) is back…again. As much as there is new going on, there’s still quite a bit looking back.

And this season of “Community” has continually returned its past, but returning to paintball is more the exception than the rule to the law of diminishing returns. The paintball scenes are as fun as ever, it was great seeing Annie (Alison Brie) and Abed (Danny Pudi) pair up again, and even the Dean (Jim Rash) got an awesome action scene that was pretty perfectly fit to his personality.

Even Kooglar coming back as the paintball dealer (though the show seemed at one point to suggest the ammo was coming from City College, not from the inside) worked better than expected, through the gradual deepening of the character bench, like with the Vicki (Danielle Kaplowitz) and Garrett (Erik Charles Nielsen) opening and ending didn’t really fit in with everything else going on.

It’s also great how the one-note gag from paintball eons ago about the janitors having to clean it all up fed right into the plot. Any instance of pitting the school against the study group for all the havoc they’ve caused over the years is great fuel and a moment of grounding for an other side often ethereal show, and it provided just enough “different” ground to keep things from feeling overwhelmingly similar.

It seemed the show might take another page out of its own book and do a two or three parter, but it resisted the temptation, even though there were some threads it didn’t wrap up this week. The silver gunner is still a mystery, and this was one time this season where the show really could have used more time to keep developing something and it decided against it.

Skepticism aside, “Modern Espionage” proved that going back to the same paint-soaked well for ideas isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and that even if the third time isn’t a perfect charm, it’s still a very enjoyable one.

Notes & Quotes:

-“done it to death”

-Club Club was funny

-lol at the whole ending janitor museum, steamy pipe exhibit especially

-I wanted more paintball! I have questions that need answers!

-“You’re weird at picnics”

-“taken by an indie comic book or horrible tequila”

-“Mischaracterized by the ignorant as parody”

-“I can’t help being a bad ass.”

-“We need intelligence. No references, no call backs.”

-“Are your ready to party the way they do in clubs?”

-“Aladdin.”

-“The first rule of club club is we are not a fight club”

-“That’s the description of every paint ball.”

-“Of course it’s the Indian guy.”

Community Season 6, Episode 10 “Basic RV Repair and Palmistry” Review

Community Season 6, Episode 10 “Basic RV Repair and Palmistry” Review

Apparently all this season of “Community” needed was a big hand and an old, dilapidated RV.

But first: Three weeks earlier.

No study room opening. No study table. Hell, almost no Chang (Ken Jeong). “Basic RV Repair and Palmistry” was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, a constant give and take between the show that people are used to, and the show that has been evolving and growing over the last season.

Bottle episodes aren’t new to “Community,” but unlike the other territory the show has retread this season, this time it decided to actually do something new and fresh with the idea. Abed’s (Danny Pudi) fourth wall commentary is nothing new, but having Jeff (Joel McHale) get fed up with it to the point of outright decrying it, is.

Jeff tends to take Harmon’s voice, and while it’s impossible to write this sentence without using the word show (or this review itself), Jeff’s frustration over Abed hit a new tipping point, and one that while probably won’t be an end to Abed’s character as we know it, it could be the mark or reasoning for the change (or toning down) to his wild side that we’ve seen this season.

The show (sorry!) has been struggling all season with what to do with Abed, but at least here he’s given a gimmick that works. It’s always great when the show breaks form and fiddles with itself, and the jumping back and forth gag was a great play on form.

This week was also the group bonding story this season has so desperately needed, and probably the best example yet of the whole group (including the newcomers) bonding together nicely and working off each other quite well. These are the stories that made the study group a true…well, community, and hopefully the types of stories that will knit this new group of vagabonds together.

Ultimately though, it was Abed, and his inability to connect with people, that helped him connect with the Dean and save the day. (It was also Abed who had to stop Annie (Alison Brie) and Frankie (Paget Brewster) from being crazy earlier in the episode as well). Abed pulled it out in the end(even if he needed Frankie’s help), with a speech about the power of holding and letting go. And it’s hard not to read that as an overall metaphor for this season: Fans have held on to “Community” so strongly, that even after it was cancelled, it wasn’t let go. Harmon wasn’t able to let the series go and came back after leaving, but eventually, at some point, the show will have to let go. Everybody will have to let go of “Community.”

It wasn’t a perfect episode, but it’s one of the better entries this season, and just had the feel-good resolution that’s hard to decry. There was a soft but sure heart here, with a “Community” twist, and that’s something worth holding on to.

Notes & Quotes

-Is this really how RV (or car) batteries work?

-“I’m pretty sure the answer is no.”

-“I wonder what they are talking about.” “God who knows, they are sealed off behind this soundproof vinyl.”

-“Darn it i want to hijack this RV but I’m foiled but its impenetrable post-2001 security measures.”

-“I’m yelling even louder so you have to stop.”

-“We’re all gonna die.”

-“I’d like to establish this moment…”

-“Insert dialog here about you dropping the 4th wall shtick.”

-“It’s just sitting there in Memorial’s Day’s Shadow like a military Hanukkah.”

-“Season two you mean?”

-“Can I ask that it not be a show about you saying its a show because…dumb.”

-“Most conventional weapons don’t require electricity”

-“Are you going to eat me first?”

-I’m an adult, and you can’t make me not cry>”

-I can’t cry anymore unless someone brings me a Pedialyte?

-lol, people chess

-“That’s a really stupid question Annie. Obviously something fell off the roof, the question is what.”

-“What’s wrong with me if that’s hot?”

-“And I had to Christopher Nolan it.”

-“I’m space elder Britta…what are you guys talking about?”

-I almost thought they killed off the Dean, and Rash tweeted that there was actually discussion about it.

-Up next: More paintball. I’m very, very hesitant to them returning to pinball again, but the spy thing just might work. Also interesting that there’s two episodes up after paintball. Curious…curious.

Community Season 6, Episode 9 “Grifting 101” Review

Community Season 6, Episode 9 “Grifting 101” Review

Usually, in any given episode of “Community,” there are a lot of things to chew on, dissect, and talk about.

Instead, this week was rote, ordinary, and horribly predictable. “Grifting 101” was about as basic as episodes of the show get, and that’s saying something, since it was somewhat of a themed episode.

There was hope from the early moments of the show. The artwork intro and “The Entertainer” intro were both keys into this being a slightly different episode of the show, and the first time we’ve seen a modified opening this season. And there’s nothing like some self awareness right off the bat: “This is one of those things where Jeff gets jealous of something dumb.”

A lot of other critics have been talking about the Jeff-inizing of the show, and that’s really come into focus this season, and especially the last few episodes. Jeff (Joel McHale) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) are starting to become the dominating characters in the group, and Abed (Danny Pudi) and Annie (Alison Brie) are being pushed more and more into the fringes.

It’s the first time the group has taken a class together in some time, in Professor DeSalvo’s (Matt Berry) Grifting 101 class. Of course the course was a rip off. Of course Jeff was going to be right (his reaction to being right though was partially entertaining)

The show needed Jeff and DeSalvo to not get along, so things escalated quite quickly, with two men who are in a lot of ways alike just kind of bickering and deciding they didn’t like each other because….plot. The episode is never really clear why Jeff “needs” this win so much, but just like the episode predicted, it does end up being all about Jeff in the end.

“Community” has done the whole twist-for-the-sake-of-shock song and dance before (OK, I do like the dancing and jumping shots of the group, especially when the rest of the cafeteria was looking at them in disdain, but did we need it a few times?) way back in “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design,” and it didn’t do it any better (or have an awesome fort Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed b-story) here.

And, was anybody really surprised when Britta had planned it all along? I was half expecting it to end there, with it really being a Britta coming to Jeff’s rescue story, and that would have had some meat on it. Of course it didn’t end there, and of course it was all a big plan by the group to win in the end.

Predictable. But predictability doesn’t equal greatness. And if there’s one thing that “Community” doesn’t need, it’s to become predictable and normal within itself, and lose the spark that made it so great in the first place.

Notes & Quotes:

-More quotes this week than I expected.

-“The candy has lost its appeal now that I work at the store.”

-“This is one of those things where Jeff gets jealous of something dumb”

-“Pass them like your sister’s dying.”

-“I’m God’s paintbrush.”

“Well it was homework.”

-“You don’t have to go teach a class but you can’t stay here.”

-“like gypsies”

-I do like the running gag with Britta borrowing money and people just getting it from her parents

-“You hit me…with a woman’s hand!”

-“I lived in New York!”

-“Someone taste it.”

-“Are you counting the amount of money or the number of stacks?”

“Three more and she’ll have her two year degree.”

-“You can’t expel her with four week-asodes left in the season-mester.”

“That usage may fly in the UK, but not in the states.”

–Points for Leonard (Richard Erdman) and the briefcase parade.

-Guy from Jeff’s Gym was a pretty funny closer

-Looking ahead, and being honest, I’m really hesitant about doing paintball again…and about Kooglar.

Community Season 6, Episode 8 “Intro To Recycled Cinema” Review

Community Season 6, Episode 8 “Intro To Recycled Cinema” Review

 

“Community” is flirting with its previous greatness.

Like a love struck teen, it has slowly moved from sitting across the lunch room, to sitting the table over, and now is finally just a few seats away from its crush, trying to do everything it can to say just the right word to make its crush laugh and get back to the good ol’ days.

And its close, but still not quite there.

Only “Community” could pull off a bit where Chang (Ken Jeong) goes to Hollywood due to his success with a catch phrase in a commercial for ham (Hammmmmm Girl). It’s something that just makes so much sense, it’s almost surprising the show hasn’t done it before, given Jeong’s success from “The Hangover.”

The bit worked so well it almost seemed like an actual exit of the show for Jeong. (It wasn’t).

Now, with Chang’s fame, Frankie (Paget Brewster) brings in one of her Hollywood friends, Maury (Steven Guttenberg), to help turn some of Abed’s (Danny Pudi) old footage of Chang into a get- rich-quick scheme for Greendale.

As much time as the show spent setting up the whole concept, it didn’t really manage to explain how the footage was the school’s property…and not Abed’s. Abed doesn’t usually give up control easily, and the idea that he just handed over control to the Dean — or anybody —lacked explanation. If there’s going to be that much screen time devoted to selling the premise, then it should actually sell the premise.

The show is also getting in the not-so-great habit of spending way too much time setting up each episode instead of letting them just start. This week distinctly felt like three individual pieces instead of one cohesive whole.

Case in point, the movie within the show within the show: Chief Starr and the Raiders of the Galaxy. The episode may have worked better if it just started here (the show’s done this before) and backed its way into the premise, or really trimmed down the opening set up. Instead, seven minutes of screen time were already used up before the bit even started.

It was funny seeing how the show was able to make use of the same footage of Chang over and over again, (like when he shot Magnitude (Luke Youngblood) by putting the phone down or him walking into the space station) and somewhat ironic that the show is poking fun at the fact that it found the best use for Chang by not actually having Chang be there.

The special effects were also pretty good, considering the “low budget” effect that they were going for. Stylistically, all that stuff worked.

In the the past, Dan Harmon has talked about not doing a straight “Star Wars” riff, even though paintball part dos did take a few notes from the saga, but here the show went right for the jugular in a galaxy not that far away. The Catina scene? We get it. You are doing “Star Wars.”

But, credit where credit is due, and the trash compactor scene was quite funny (We’re gonna get crushed…is there a monster?”) and played up the tropes that the audience was expecting by even having  the characters in the show expect the same thing.

Act three tried to bring about some resolution, with Jeff not wanting his footage to get cut, after spending most of the filming deriding the whole idea (and the cut to Garret (Erik Charles Nielsen) with his Glip Glop shirt was great). It was nice seeing the whole affair turn it into a story with a heart and a center, with Jeff starting to worry that he will be the last person in the group left, and he’ll be stuck at Greendale forever watching his friends outgrow him.

But, that realization was undercut by Abed, essentially, resolving everything because of Annie’s boobs. It, as usual this season, seemed out of character for Abed (Jeff, sure, but Abed?) and a writing cop-out. What’s the moral of the week? Boobs? Ok. Sure. Annie’s boobs happened! It was all OK in the end! Let’s go with it.

(Not complaining, but there are better resolutions to hang a story arc on than Annie’s boobs, even if it was a metaphor)

That being said, there’s also something simplistic, saccharine, and honest in what Abed said. Here are two guys who are just trying to make the best of everyday life, as their friends pass them by. And who, unless everybody else had left, would never be friends like this. Maybe it does take something like Annie’s boobs to bring them together, if even for a moment.

But, the episode still suffered from pacing, and the third act dragged too long. It was also light on the hard hitting laughs, especially after last week. This is an episode that just reeked of “it was more fun to shoot than watch,” (that’s not to say it wasn’t a fun episode), and had many of the pieces of what could have been a classic “Community” episode, just not the laughs or the execution.

 

 

Notes and Quotes
-Take note: The main opening scene this week was at the bar, not at the study room. Slowly but surely, the show is shifting.

-“Britta, pay your rent”

-“It’s my only chance at the main stream success I need before I can make weird stuff for money.”

-“People like dinosaurs and aliens and anything Chris Pratt can join forces with.”

-“Why am I wearing a blouse? It’s sci-fi, it doesn’t matter.”

-lol, steel drums came back

-“Space version of the Wild West!”

-“Pay your rent or shut up.”

-“I feel Dracula Force”

-#WhoIsGlipGlop

-“Somewhere, every once in awhile…Annie reaches down her shirt.”

-Little heavy on the Chris Pratt jokes, guys.

-“What’s YouTube?”

-“Tell Steven Spielberg to lick my butt.”

Community Season 6, Episode 7 “Advance Safety Features” Review

Community Season 6, Episode 7 “Advance Safety Features” Review

 

If “Community” needs quotes for any upcoming article sponsorship deals, here’s some hand mined gems:

“The hardest I’ve laughed at Community in a long time.”

“The best episode yet this season.”

 

This was the funniest episode of “Community” in a long time. It may even be one of the funniest episodes since season three (which feels so long ago at this point). Just take a look at the quotes section this week! Line after line, laugh after laugh, this is the “Community” that fans fell in love with.

The show opened with a great study room scene (which the show has been nailing of late), including hilarious commentary on Elroy’s (Keith David) role in the group, Abed (Danny Pudi) self-realizing how boring he (and the rest of the group) has been since Troy (Donald Glover) left, and even Jeff (Joel McHale) stepped into the game with a payoff joke about steel drums. Even gags like Chang’s (Ken Jeong) PowerPoint intro, which normally probably would have fallen flat, got big laughs.

The bigger question is where this fire and wit was at the start at the season. Where was this commentary a few episodes ago? It’s been sprinkled here and there, but this was a return to form for a show that is almost as much about itself as it is about pop culture.

Britta (Gillian Jacobs) old flame Rick (Travis Schuldt) returned, with a beard, this time as a guerrilla campus marketer for Honda. (It’s the same story all over again!). The double irony is that, of course, it is essentially the same story again, and the ghost of “Community” episodes past haunted this otherwise great episode.

It almost seems that “Community” is out to top itself this season, but it’s hard to top yourself when you are dancing in fields already plowed. The Subway stint was a great use of product placement, but the show turned everything up a notch with Honda, (and it was equally funny to see how the show managed to continually avoid ever mentioning Subway by name), but just like last week’s episode being the third in a trilogy, there’s an unsettling feeling that we’ve been here and done this and see it before, and even the show commenting on that very idea isn’t enough to make it go away.

And that’s the unsettling thought that kept plaguing me between finishing the episode and finishing this review. There was so much great stuff here: The Dean (Jim Rash) and Frankie (Paget Brewster),  as she tried to stay positive and not make fun of the Dean but just couldn’t. There was Britta’s “Avatar is puke.” Rick apologizing to the car after hitting it. Britta telling him to stop the awesome and amazing and fully detailed breaks of the vehicle. Very funny stuff all around.

There was even heart, with Elroy coming clean to Britta about having dated the Natalie is Freezing singer, and Britta’s own “level 7” realization, that just tugged at the heartstrings.

It was a bit of a stretch that Elroy was keeping Jeff at arm’s length because of an old flame 20 years ago, but at least everything built to something and connected. It was neat and tidy in a way the show hasn’t been yet this season, and also was the first to feel really planned out and like the well oiled machine “Community” can be.

But it still feels a bit empty, because the show has done this before. “Community” can’t keep looking back, and when some of the best jokes of an episode are based around characters that aren’t there anymore and seasons long gone, there’s a bit of fear that even if the show takes old ideas and turns them up to a thousand, it’s still overly reliant on looking back, instead of forward.

Cue steel drum solo.

 

 

Notes and Quotes

-The episode was written by Carol Kolb (from the Onion) who hasn’t had a writing credit yet this season. Hopefully there’s a lot more where this came from. It was almost night and day above anything else we’ve see n this year.

“They can’t send you to prison unless they know you’re poor.”

“Do you believe half your own politics?” “Yeahhhhhhh. Yeah.”

-“By which I mean figure out what makes a DJ good, or bad. Or different from a phone or laptop.”

-“Sounds like brain Windexing.”

-“Is he black Pierce? Or old Troy? Shirley without a giant purse?”

“You guys have been boring too.”

-“That’s won’t pay off immediately. But it’s gonna pay off.”

-“Don’t ever say that name without compensation.”

“..wait for them to notice your cool.”

“-We weren’t supposed to leave the rec center.”

-Did anybody else have Subway commercials air during the show? OH THE LEVELS OF META.

“That’s moon man talk.”

-“I’ve been saying that since the invention of the shuffle button.”

-“if you need anything reached, I’ve been practicing.”

-“We like Avatar?”

-Yup, the bar IS becoming a staple of the show it seems.

-“Play the game.”

Community Season 6, Episode 5 “Law of Robotics and Party Rights” Review

Community Season 6, Episode 5 “Law of Robotics and Party Rights” Review

“I hate science, unless it helps me build a robot.”

That’s from Trevor Armstrong’s “Party Where Your Heart Is,” all the way back from season one of “Community.” It’s probably just circumstantial that science and parties combined again this week, but it seems it isn’t the first time Dan Harmon has played with the idea.

“Law of Robotics and Party Rights” kicked off with a great cold open; probably the best cold open of the season. Not only did we get a few more jokes out of the staffing changes, but at least the show somewhat addressed Elroy (Keith David) finally joining the group. I say addressed and not explained for a reason: while the show got a few laughs about him joining the group it didn’t really bother to explain why or how he has taken a seat on the committee (unless the IT thing from last week is sticking). Either way, he’s turning out to be a great new addition.

The road from the table, however, was paved quite unevenly, including Abed (Danny Pundi) for some reason doing weird and unnecessary Jerry Seinfeld impersonations. Odd. Weird. We’ll get to that.

But first! The A plot this week focused on Colorado’s prison system sending in convicts to join Greendale. No other schools were biting, and it came with a $300,000 grant, so Jeff (Joel McHale) convinced the Dean (Jim Rash) to let it happen.

I think it was that manipulation (and past transgressions, I suppose) that the whole episode hinged on, but it was such a tiny infraction this week (and got Greendale a lot of money, so it wasn’t like he was doing it for selfish reasons) to pin a whole story on.

The whole iPad gag is something I knew I wasn’t going to super love, just from seeing the previews. It seemed like a really out there gag and quite ridiculous — even for Greendale, but the initial results were promising: Leonard (Richard Erdman) sticking the parole sign, and the other students hiding behind trees from the inmates all got better play than I expected.

The problem was the bit alternated between ridiculous to the point of funny and so far past ridiculous it was almost eye-roll worthy, and couldn’t seem to lock on to a solid center. It had its moment, and it was an interesting use of technology (I wonder how they filmed the iPad screens) and a very Web 3.0 kind of idea, but just because it is an interesting use of technology doesn’t give it a get out of jail free card to be the focal point of an episode.

When we last saw Jeff as a teacher he was starting to like it, but it’s not that far of a stretch to have him back in coast mode. Guest star Brian Van Holt as Willy, turned the tables on Jeff, wanting to actually learn something from the college he was now enrolled in. Of course, this leads to the battle of the witty banter, resulting in Willy waiting by Jeff’s car to try to (overly telegraphed) push him down the stairs (as an iPad, of course).

It was ironic when Garrett (Erik Charles Nielsen) asked when Jeff stopped being funny, as his bit was dragging and it was almost as if he was reading the audience’s mind. It was an oddly serious moment for Jeff, and the show never really managed to explain why he was getting so fed up with Willy, or why Willy was out to kill him in the first place. There were just some jumps in logic and gaps in storytelling here that didn’t seem fully fledged. I thought the show might go for some deeper commentary on people wasting their opportunities in college while other people are truly there to learn, but it seemed to dip its toes in that topic and then skirt away from it just as quickly.

And then somehow, instead of being a Jeff self-realization story, it became a story about Jeff and the Dean. I think the culminating “iPad” fight at the end  was something that was actually too silly for Greendale. The show has probably gotten away with more ridiculous scenes — but it just seemed too unreal and too out there, even for “Community.”

(I’m also not sure why people cared that Willy wasn’t a murdered in the end, and it was a little odd that Abed didn’t seem to recognize him from “Cougar Town.” Though maybe that would have been a little too meta.)

On the B side, Britta (Gillian Jacobs) was intent on throwing a party in the apartment, but Annie (Alison Brie) and her rules were standing in the way. So, Britta unleashes Abed in an attempt to throw the party without Annie’s permission.

I enjoy Abed’s ‘pop back’ gag (and Troy’s arm!), but besides having Abed make another movie, even if this one was about a party, still feels like a waste of a use for him. (As were the repeated Seinfeld impressions). I also don’t like (the probably accidental) implication here that the show is holding back Abed until another character lets him go wild.

I do like how Annie has kind of figured out Abed — it’s something that no character aside from Troy (Donald Glover) ever really did — though I can’t tell if she has learned how to manage him out of acceptance or pity. Annie is rarely a bitter or harsh character (though her slowly closing the door was a good shot), but I can see how the way she handled Abed could be perceived on the one hand as friendly, but on the other as cold and manipulating. Either way, even if Annie knows who Abed is, the writers still have some work to do to figure it out again it seems.

Also, for crying out loud, how many times is this show going to do the fake TV show gag this season? Talking about beating a show about a dead horse.

The ending here actually turned out pretty good. Britta admitted the truth to Abed, and it worked as a brutally honest reflection of the truth of what partying is, and someone explaining it and revealing it’s loneliness and shallowness to an outsider like Abed made it all that more poignant. It was a brief moment of a cold, hard, dark truth that the show often goes to. Sure, parties can be fun, but more than often they are dark, depressing places for lonely people to try to find something to attach to. The human side of “Community” rears its ugly head!

But, none of the scenes rivaled the opening, and it’s a shame when the show starts off strong and then just slides downhill. The study room scenes are really popping, but the show needs an episode (or two) to really ground itself and settle in the new cast. Elroy is still doing a killer job, and was underused this week, while Frankie (Paget Brewster) wasn’t used that much, but I’m not complaining given how her character has been used thus far. We’re also closing in on the halfway point for the season, so there’s isn’t a lot of time left to mess around, but hopefully what’s to come is a little more even, and a bit stronger.

Notes and Quotes:

-“We’re fine. I lived in New York.”

-“I resent the idea this would alarm me.”

-“They’ll rape us. They’ll rape us all.”

-“It’s like watching magicians bully jugglers.”

-“It’s WASD to move it’s been the same since the invention of the keyboard.”

-Saw the bar again, so it looks like that might be sticking around as a backdrop. We also saw the new group seated in the bar as a mock up of the study room, so I’m thinking this could be a slow transition away from the study room.

-Half a point for the eradicate at the end, but a full point for laughs when the janitor also joined in.

Community Season 6, Episode 4 “Queer Studies and Advance Waxing” Review

Community Season 6, Episode 4 “Queer Studies and Advance Waxing” Review

Better. Good. Not great. But good. An improvement. A step in the right direction. Cake, but no cherry on top.

All of these phrases describe the fourth episode of this oft-foretold sixth season of our beloved “Community.” It was the best episode yet this season, but with a caveat: I’m not sure if it would have even made a dent in the top ranks of past seasons. At least it means the fated season six is starting to head in the right direction.

The runaway leader here, by far, was newcomer to the group Elroy (Keith David), who got some of the best laughs this episode. Sure, both of them came at the expense of Britta (Gillian Jacobs), and both of them took place in that magical zone around the study table, but that’s a strong start for a character the show hasn’t really been able to (or even really tried to) explain his existence in any way. Justify him with laughs. That might just be enough.

Truth be told, I wasn’t a fan of the Britta/Elroy pairing originally, but after their two brief interactions here I’d love to see them paired off again, in some setting that just has Elroy yelling at her and her backing away scared. Bonus points if the yelling is video game related.

Instead, Elroy got to have adventures with his new friend, Abed (Danny Pudi), who the show really does not seem to know what to do with this season. The pair’s little standoff with security was a nice one liner, but again Abed is back into the shadows with a new character. The show also really seemed to miss a chance to connect the baby bird’s mother with Abed’s own mom leaving. I’m shocked that they set that all up and then just whiffed at the chance to take it one step further, which is an opportunity the show in the past never would have passed up.

I keep going back and forth on Chang (Ken Jeong) and Annie’s (Alison Brie) “Karate Kid” spoof. It did give us an excellent guest star in Jason Mantzoukas as Matt Lundergard, who aside from Elroy, was one of the big reasons this episode really worked. He was great. Kudos on that guest star casting.

It was also…interest to see Annie’s (purposeful) horrible acting continue to go on and on while Chang was instead the one getting yelled at. It was a nice little twist and turn-of-the-tables when it turned out that she wasn’t actually brought in because she could act, but the contrary. It was Lundergard’s constant railing on Chang that stole the show and continued to be hilarious, and was probably the best bit the show has done yet this season.

But, the bigger difference here, as compared to similar pop-culture spoofs the show has done in the past, is that while I’ve never seen “Apollo 13” or “The Karate Kid” (you can burn me in effigy later), I feel like most of the bits the show does are funny enough in their own right, which this was, but I don’t think it really needed “The Karate Kid” license to be that way. Once we got past the initial scenes of Chang being verbally assaulted, I’m not sure there was anything to be gained from giving even more screen time here, and those scenes would have been just as funny no matter what the play was that he was working on. The early laughs weren’t derived from the references, which is usually the way “Community” goes, but I felt the longer the play went on the more it was relying on viewer’s having seen the film, and was more a direct parody, and less funny as a result.

This episode already felt a little on the long end (the extra time hasn’t bothered me yet this season, but this one did clock in at over 30 minutes, longer than everything else this season), so sticking with the play all the way to the end just didn’t work in terms of payoff, especially since the show had already dedicated a lot of time setting everything with Annie and Chang already. We already had gotten the largest jokes about seeing Chang get there, there was nothing gained to see the play actually being performed.

The biggest – and most interesting bit – was the Dean’s (Jim Rash) story. After a scuffle with the local Gay Pride Parade, the school board (who pulled in a few good laughs, even though I’ve never been a huge fan of the characters) wanted to promote Pelton to the board…assuming he was gay.

The sexuality of the Dean’s character has long been one of the show’s long jokes, sometimes in the forefront, sometimes more subtle, and has worked to a varying degree of success over the years. It’s never really been crystal clear, and it was creative to see the way the show managed to address his sexuality without ever really managing to address his sexuality. The one thing we are able to glean, at least, is that the Dean is not just gay (that’s only 2/7 of his sexuality), and I think it probably works best that we don’t know what the other 5/7 parts of his inner sex palace are.

The story was really working – the Gay Dean song was a nice bit, even if it did feel a bit unnatural for the show, but it was the resolution that I felt really failed everything the show was building toward. Instead of coming out as what he really was, Pelton came out as a politician, in a press conference that just felt like another giant whiff at the plate this week. It just wasn’t funny, and I can see what the show was going for (somewhat, I guess), but combined with the song it just really felt like the show was out of its territory here. I’m not saying they can’t do the more direct parodies or commentary, but the show needs to sell them. And having Pelton being kicked off the board because people like politicians to be in the closet? That just felt like a shallow attempt (and jab) at the trying to say something about the political process – and gay identity – but not really saying much of anything about either. The song I bought, but not the ending to the whole thing.

Oh! And before I forget, even if it did feel like the show was tackling too many stories and trying to throw too much into one episode, one other thing of note: We got our first shots of Britta bar tending, which I’m now curious if that is going to become a new set piece for the show (and the characters) to gather around giving the whole committee idea seems to be running low on fumes.

Notes & Quotes:

-“Why would a plumber be fighting a monkey?”

-“Gay doesn’t begin to cover it”

-“Cutting women out of sex, it’s genius.”

-“Annie got my part and I got the Asian part.”

-“Need time to fix it? You sound just like you work in IT.”

-“Act better. Thanks.”

-the whole tear speech to Chang

-“Insects have wings.” “I’m sorry!” Britta and Elroy are the best here

-Curious about Jeff and Annie at the end, BUT Jeff had his arm around Britta at the bird funeral, so who knows.

-Oddly enough, we haven’t seen a costume for the Dean yet this season, and this seemed like the episode to bring one out.

-Still having problems with Yahoo Screen and the show coming back from commercial at the wrong cut. It’s not a huge deal, but apparently I’m not the only one. Please get on this Yahoo!