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.