Category Archives: recaps/Community

Community, “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design”: And That’s Why You Always Leave a Note!

I’d started to think that maybe writing about TV had made me (more) cynical, because while there have been some solid episodes of Glee, The Office and Community in the past few weeks, it had started to seem like I no longer felt excited and energized and wholly enthusiastic about certain episodes the way I used to. But I realized after watching this week’s Community that it wasn’t me – it was them.

Because this episode rocked my socks. Amazing writing, amazing story, amazing performances – more fun than a giant blanket fort. I love when Community acknowledges those secret childish desires that we all still have to do things like make dioramas and build blanket forts and walk around on moon shoes (just me?) How much FUN was that blanket fort? The answer is so much. SO MUCH FUN. Britta is a bitch, and anyone who is too good for a blanket fort is no friend of mine.

There are episodes where I have a lot to say because there were good points and bad, and there are episodes that are so terrible, they require a manifesto, but this episode of Community doesn’t require much because it was just fun.

The Annie/Jeff/Dean Pelton/Professor Professorson back-and-forth, twist-and-turn storyline kept getting more and more hilariously ridiculous, and I found myself laughing out loud as the shots rang out. I was glad to see the writers finally acknowledge the Annie/Jeff cliffhanger from last year, and Jeff’s line “You are going to Nancy Screw me out of my free credit!” was terrific. The whole episode was terrific. It was reminiscent not only of the greatness of last season’s paintball episode, but I hope we all thought of J. Walter Weatherman and the perils of teaching lessons, a la the “Pier Pressure” episode in season one of Arrested Development. And if we didn’t all think of that, then we all need to be watching a little less CBS and a little more IFC.

Anything that calls back to arrested Development is bound to be good, but Community is making a name for itself all on its own. It’s a smart, funny, relatable comedy with a great cast (minus Britta), and great writing. Episodes like these remind me why I love TV.

Community, “Cooperative Calligraphy”: Verbal dyspraxia and octopus laws.

Oh Dan Harmon, you saucy minx. Just when I start to get my Joel McHale lust under control, you have to put him in his underwear again! Aside from that highlight, this was an average to above average episode – nothing really groundbreaking, and there were certainly some weak points, but a solid mid-season contribution, nonetheless.

I maintain once again that Donald Glover is this show’s breakout star. “Sometimes I think I’ve lost something really important to me, and it turns out I already ate it.” Kudos to the writer who came up with that little bit of heaven and kudos to Donald Glover for delivering it in a way that makes it not only seem appropriate for that character but makes us all (no? just me?) think back and wonder if we’ve ever believed something was lost, only to realize it was… swallowed.

What this episode really left us with was questions. A hallmark of the great writing on Community is that there is enough obvious comedy to keep the casual viewer interested but enough layers to keep the dedicated fans invested. Britta knows what kind of underwear Jeff “usually” wears? Troy only carries a pillow in his backpack? Troy’s look when he realizes Shirley may have gotten pregnant during Halloween – was that a callback to her time stuck in the bathroom with Chang? Or something else? Mmm hmmm… (that’s a sassy, eyebrow raised, insinuating look mmm hmmm, by the way)

Also, Ryan Murphy – take note – this is how you build a plotline. With a few exceptions (Jeff seemed to go from 0 to maniac a little quick for believability), the build up during the great pen hunt was reasonable. We start off with platitudes, go to a cursory search around the room, and eventually land on a boys vs. girls strip search – I mean, that is, after all, how I got my favorite red Swingline stapler out of my thieving co-worker’s ass.

Speaking of making people uncomfortable, are the writers essentially telling us that Abed does, in fact, have Asperger’s? That seemed a little more implied prior to this episode.

Anyway, far more good elements than not-good elements this (um, last – sorry, busy weekend) week. The conclusion was particularly well done, and some of the subtler moments really landed for die-hard fans – Jeff’s lawyerspeak, Abed handing Annie the first piece of chocolate and Pierce jumping (so to speak) on the opportunity to take off his shirt. The closing bumper was great because – well, puppies, but also for the Dean’s booing of the “equality and togetherness” float. For me – a borderline-psychotic-dog-lover, the real question was, would I have rather watched this episode or the puppy parade, and the episode edged out the puppies, but only barely. I mean, puppies on one hand, Community (and Joel McHale) on the other?  Peanut butter? Chocolate? I’m just saying… a little more puppy screen time next time, and we may achieve the perfect episode.

Quality writing, people. Quality:

  • With every moment , these puppies grow older and less deserving of our attention.
  • Britta: So, if I took it, it’s larceny, but if you find it under Mother Hen, it’s a mistake. Shirley: Mother hen? I think we’re about the same age. Britta: Sure, unless time is linear. Shirley: I’ll make your ass linear. Britta: That doesn’t make any sense. Shirley: I’ll make your ass sense.
  • Gwynnifer
  • Just a quick nonviolent reminder…. (Fair warning to friends, family and co-workers: I will be using this insufferably)

Community, “The Aerodynamics of Gender”: Double-bounce me!

Brace yourselves. I know that all four of you who read this do so for the joy of hearing me wax poetic about Joel McHale’s rockin’ body, and boy do I love the producers for putting it on display again in this week’s opening scene – a basketball game between Jeff and Troy – BUT I’m beginning to gather evidence that Joel McHale may actually be somewhat of an asshole in real life, which just makes those toned arms seem less majestic and that chiseled jaw a little less… I don’t know… chisel-y. Don’t worry – we’re not imaginary breaking up just yet, but he is on thin ice, mister, and he’d better watch his step.

Now that that messiness is out of the way, let’s talk about the fact that I can’t understand a fucking word that comes out of Abed’s mouth. I get that he was being insulting, but he talks too damn fast, and the volume is up on my TV as loud as it can get, and I just don’t understand rap music these days and why are all these kids on my lawn?!?!

Seriously, though, I bet this episode was 5-10% funnier than I thought it was because I couldn’t understand some of his mean-girl insults. He was “commissioned” by the girls (Britta sucks, btw) to be a bitch to the bitches but then he realized that all girls are bitches when he became the bitchiest bitch that ever bitched. The concept was fine, and the execution was above average, largely due to Chang’s background celebrations of every burn and “Oh Snap” moment.  He continues to be a highlight of the show as the misfit desperately trying to belong to the group. And props must be given to the writers for finding a good place for Chang after his fall from grace as the Spanish professor. More often that not, when shows significantly alter a character’s on-screen role, they either find a way to quickly bring the character back to his/her original place in the story (see: ‘The Office’ – Michael, Jim, Pam and Jim again) or the characters gets shoved awkwardly to the side because no one quite knows what to do with him/her (see: ‘The Office’ – Darryl, Ryan).

And then there was the trampoline. It was nice to see Jeff unwind a bit, and Donald Glover has seriously great comedic timing, but the main purpose of this B-story was that it provided a vehicle for Pierce to be hilariously insane. “I’m going to slit your butts’ throats!” “These balls… on your butts!”  “Enhance… enhance… enhance… stop. That’s it!” as the screen shows “How to download photos from you spy camera” in 96-point font.  Good stuff, all of it, but the absolute high point was Joshua the gardener’s completely out-of-left-field racism. Another example of Community keeping its viewers on their toes and guessing – that’s just good comedy, people.

And speaking of good comedy – the reemergence of the term “gaywad” continues to brighten my day like the neon wind shorts and matching leg warmers I wore when that term was in its heyday. Overall, it was a solid episode. I just don’t get why ‘Community’ insists on every episode having A Very Important Lesson. I wondered if it’s just more heavy-handed on this show, but maybe every comedy does it to keep its characters grounded, but honestly, 30 Rock, The Office and others don’t seem to bother with it most of the time, and I think they’re stronger for it… yes, even ‘The Office.’

Last but not least — the Abed/Troy bumper at the end was weak. If only the weather guy had been this guy – it would’ve been fantastic – one of those things that’s only relevant to a relatively small population, but that population would appreciate the shit out of it.

P.S. I still love you Joel. Mostly because of this. Let’s never fight again.

Community, “Epidemiology”: You’ve just been proved racist by the racist-prover!

Let’s get this out of the way first – Human Centipede reference on primetime network TV, for the win. It almost redeemed an episode that I felt was incredibly misguided – and not hilariously so. I haven’t quite been able to articulate what it was I felt was off about this episode, but it has to do with the mix of reality and fantasy. I can’t think of an episode of Community that has gone so far “out there” in terms of plausible plot devices as this episode, and I’m hoping they never venture out that far again.

At the core of my criticism, I found this episode gross and a little scary. Like any comedy, everything goes back to normal in the end, as it should, and supposedly no one remembers how they got the HUGE HUMAN-SIZED BITES on their bodies, which I guess makes it so that these characters don’t have to deal with the psychological ramifications of turning borderline-cannibal for six hours. Maybe I have a weird aversion to biting the way one of this site’s other reviews has a strong aversion to neck-snapping. Just watching it made my skin crawl, and that’s not the reaction I’m looking for from my favorite network comedy’s Halloween special.

I wish they could’ve chosen some other main plot thread, because I thought that the ancillary humor was pretty strong. Digs at Shatner are always great, and I laughed at Troy’s interpretation of “sexy Dracula,” which included a toilet seat cover and toilet-paper rolls. Actually, I guess what kept this episode from being really beyond hope for me was having Donald Glover as the lead. He is increasingly emerging as the best source of subtle, smart humor on this show, and I’ll admit – his pick up line “You’re safe for now, but if that thing comes back, I’m going to need one – or both – of your phone numbers” would’ve worked on me.

Other Troy highlights included is reference to the freaky basement cat “Is somebody throwing it?” and when he decides to embrace this episodes Very Important Lesson about embracing nerdy friendship or something like that, and he faces the “zombies” as Ripley, only to realize that, while noble, it wasn’t the most practical decision. “I don’t know why I thought this would work.” And finally, his frustrated declaration to the zombies “okay, okay, I’ve been bit, y’all.” It made me think of elementary school dodge ball games, when a kid is walking off the court after being hit but keeps getting pelted.

Other highlights included Jeff’s obsession with his suit, even in the face of imminent danger and zombie Jeff still being cool, playing on his PDA in the corner. But even those two moments help illustrate my point – the episode didn’t know what it wanted to be – a comedic parody of a zombie movie or a dark comedic interpretation of a zombie movie. If Jeff was seriously afraid for his life, even he wouldn’t have bothered with the suit. It would’ve been more realistic for him to strip down to his underwear and crawl through the window to safety, and for the sake of artistic integrity, I would’ve supported that decision. But if we are just “playing” at a zombie apocalypse, then he would’ve been more insistent about taking his suit jacket with him to the basement. Or he would’ve freaked out when he got to the basement and realized he’d left it behind.

I’m not expressing myself very well, but basically, I just felt like the plot device gave the episode an ambiguous direction – it was too scary and gross to be funny and too lighthearted and silly to be scary. It was fun to see Troy be the first black man to make it to the end though… even just for a little while.

Community, “Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples”: God of Farts

I didn’t like it. This episode fell flat to me, and even Joel McHale’s supreme hotness couldn’t rescue it. I felt like Chang – an outsider – because I’ve never read the Bible, I’m not very familiar with Charlie Kaufman, and I didn’t see Inception, so all the clever references and inside jokes were lost on me. Is this what it feels like to be out of the loop on something cutting-edge and funny? Is this what Two and a Half Men fans feel like on a daily basis? Or is it more of a blissful, slack-jawed, protective-headwear-at-all-times kind of ignorance?

I honestly don’t even know if what I thought were Inception references really were – maybe they were just going for trippy and – you know what? No. No excuses for those guys. I’m not going to take the blame for not getting what the hell they were going for with Abed’s movie within a movie within a movie within a flailing plot device. It just sucked, pop culture reference or not.

It did put me on the other side of the fence for once, though, and it made me consider why Community may not be the runaway success I think it ought to be – because if this is what CBS fans feel like when they watch it and don’t get the clever callbacks and references, well, then that blows more than… build-your-own Charlie Sheen/hooker joke because I don’t even care enough to come up with one on my own.

The core of the problem with this episode was that there was just too much going on. They tried to jam too much into this episode and failed to build a plausible way for the stories to intertwine. Each piece operated more or less independently – Abed’s movie, Pierce’s gang of hipsters, the “gang as a family” extended metaphor, and of course, Shirley’s religious conflict. In the words of my personal god, “Hey – no religious talk.” I get that religion is Shirley’s thing, but I’m over it for awhile (and also cats). This episode seemed half-assed and relied too much on the narrowest definitions of the characters – Brita is controlling and judgmental, Annie is a nerdy ditz, Abed is an eccentric genius (or is he?), Jeff is a loveable jerk, Shirley is religious, Troy is just along for the ride and Pierce is old. Yeah, we know all that, but what usually makes this show fun is watching those quirks get the characters into crazy scrapes and hell, I’d even prefer A Very Important Lesson at the end to an episode like this that just seemed to meander without any clear purpose.

And while last week was heavy on the juvenile humor, this week the pendulum swung the other way, with one brief, and fantastic exception, as Leonard greets the hipsters with “Heads up, gaywads.” Gaywads? Amazing. I’m just waiting for someone to say “gag me with a spoon.” I did really enjoy the hipsters storyline, probably because I’ve been waiting my whole life to be old enough for my bitchiness to make me a lovable curmudgeon and my insanity to be make me a fascinating eccentric.

I also liked the close – Abed, Troy and Annie dressing up like Jeff just to mess with him. It reminded me (wistfully) of The Office’s better days and better gags. It’s fun because it’s the kind of prank you like to think you’d pull off with your friends I you could only get motivated and organized. But you can’t and you won’t because 30 Rock is coming on next, and then it’s time to watch The Office – out of the same sense of obligation that possesses you to still wave hello to that person you used to be friends with but now you’re not really anymore, and it’s just kind of awkward and you wish they would just move or acknowledge the death of your friendship before every good memory you ever had of them is written over with perfunctory waves and hellos and polite conversation. And then it’s time to turn the channel, quickly, before Outsourced comes on… because that show WILL eat your TV soul. And you don’t want to go to TV hell. It’s the entire series run of Viva Laughlin… syndicated forever and, of course, with Two and a Half Men bumpers.

P.S. WTF was with the des clerk chick’s boobs at the police station?

Community, “Basic Rocket Science”: Hard to believe I’m not really not really in space.

Jean Claude van DAMME I love this show! This episode parodied space movies like Apollo 13 and Armageddon, as Greendale endeavored to become the first community college to put a man in space. And while they couldn’t get away with doing something this gimmicky every week, every once in awhile is just fine with me. I thought this episode was clever and fun and had that great balance of different types of comedy coming from every direction that keeps you, frankly, off balance.

I wasn’t sure at first how deep into the parody they were going to go, so I had to admire their commitment to putting these characters into hilariously implausible situations and then letting the absurdity of the situation drive the characters’ interactions. But as the episode progressed, and we saw more and more of the “space drama” scenes – Abed running the control room, Pierce succumbing to space fever, and the dean slamming down his, uh, personal map – I realized just how great this was going to be, mostly because the writers keep you guessing all the time.

It would’ve been perfectly acceptable within the parody for Chang to come up with some way to “reroute the power” and save the day, but the fact that Abed called out the fact that the power didn’t need to be rerouted was just fantastic. The writers keep you on your toes because they call themselves out on their insanity on occasion, usually just as you’re starting to buy in to the fantasy.

Am I making any sense here? Are these just the caffeine-fueled ramblings of a Joel McHale stalker, Community fangirl and fervent advocate for really good television? Perhaps, but anyone who isn’t watching this show should be, and if you do, and you don’t like it, well, then CBS has a lineup I think you’ll enjoy very much. Also, you probably suck.

This show really has mastered the formula, and that’s not to say that this is formulaic television, just that you have to get the right mix of all the elements to make a sitcom entertaining and edgy and relevant these days. It won’t translate to the written word, but Troy’s delivery of the line “How do you know it was our design? We submitted it anonymously. Whoops” was a perfect example of why this show is better than 97% of the other comedies in primetime. Because there is a very clear picture in my head of how Charlie Sheen’s character would’ve delivered that line on Two and a Half Men, and even with the laugh track, it makes me want to slit my wrists with the diamond-encrusted checks they use to pay those assholes. But Donald Glover’s delivery doesn’t – and I don’t know if that’s good acting or good directing (it’s not good writing, at least in this case, because that line is mediocre at best), but it’s something, and that something is what makes Community awesome.

Also, I’ve got news for all the kids out there: butt jokes, fart jokes, sex jokes and poop jokes never stop being funny. Your parents WANT to laugh at them, but they can’t because they have to set a good example. And while you can’t pack an entire show with them (or can you, Dane Cook?), you can trot them out on occasion and remind us all that it’s okay to be immature and silly and stupid and laugh at a flag designed to look like an anus as long as you know how to buckle down and steer that arrow into that moving rectangle when it really matters. This episode was a little light on the intellectual humor, but that’s okay because you know that they CAN do it – and do it well – when the situation calls for it.

It may not be strictly “intellectual humor” but I did enjoy the product integration piece for KFC. It’s a callback to the Snapple episode on 30 Rock, but hey – it works and it’s not overdone yet. So, bravo, Community. This episode was more enjoyable than a bucket of delicious chicken in original recipe or extra crispy, with a side of mashed potatoes, coleslaw, and a hot, buttery roll, enough to feed the whole family and all for a reasonable price at convenient locations across the country.

Community, “The Psychology of Letting Go”: Did you guys hear about that turtle in China?

Religion and spirituality again? Spluh. I’m not even five minutes into this episode of Community, and I’ve already got a prediction: Pierce is old! And crazy! And believes in something unconventional, so OBVIOUSLY he must be insane and out of touch and not actually dealing with his emotions, so it’s up to the group to come to his rescue. Like Jeff last week, Pierce is the unwilling recipient of the group’s overwhelming CARING, and at the end of the episode everyone learns A Very Important Lesson. And I’ll bet you a box of Joel McHale hair clippings that Jeff will be uncaring and self-centered and a bit of a jerk until the group finally gets through to him, and he turns it around just in time.

Save. Print. Send. I’m done here.

Oh, it seems there’s still more than half the show left to go, and I’m hoping that the pregnant woman who keeps showing up with Abed in the background of scenes is going to pay off, so I guess I’ll keep watching.

Other stuff that happened:

  • Britta and Annie got into a fight about the fact that they’re both gorgeous women and too many men worship them or something like that. Everyone knows blondes and brunettes are natural enemies.
  • Jeff starts freaking out about the fact that he has slightly elevated cholesterol. A laugh riot.
  • Professor Duncan has a restraining order against Chang, which he uses as a force field. That was actually pretty funny.

Good lines:

  • “If you guys will let me get to the can opener, I will feed you.”
  • RE: the gulf oil spill, “You don’t have to yell at us – nobody is on the other side of this issue.”
  • Did I accidentally tell you that you have AIDS? Because I’ve done that before.”

I give this episode a meh+, and the plus is because my predictions came true. Being right all the time never gets less awesome. And the pregnancy thing with Abed most definitely did not pay off. Weak.

In more-exciting-than-this-episode news, I’m seeing Joel McHale live tomorrow night, so depending on how the night goes, I may be writing my next review from a jail cell as prisoner #9283380 or from my honeymoon as Mrs. Joel McHale. Is kidnapping a felony?