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.

Podcast 79: April Fools’ Nintendo Direct

The long awaited Nintendo Direct is finally here! After lots of rumor and speculation, Nintendo held its latest direct on April Fool’s Day, but the news was no joke. There was a ton of new info dropped, and we give you our breakdown. From Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem, to new DLC in Smash Bros, to a huge blowout of Amiibo news, Nintendo packed a ton of info in the short Direct.

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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!

Podcast 78: Nintendo goes mobile with DeNA

In a surprise announcement, Nintendo revealed they are partnering with Japanese mobile developer DeNA and making games for smart phones. Nope, this is NOT an April Fool’s Joke. Will and Willie offer their thoughts on Nintendo finally giving in to demand and creating games for smart phones and devices. Listen in!

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