Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Episode Review of Community-Sample for the AV Club

Community C

As the first season closes, I can’t help but applaud how far “Community” has come since that awkward pilot episode. The show has not only gotten more comfortable with its own rhythm but we’ve grown towards the show and its characters. Unfortunately, the season ended with a clunker which is made worse by the fact that last week’s episode seemed like a legitimately capable season finale. The main question of the season- “Will they band together as a group in order to pass Spanish?”- was resolved and that was when the curtain should have dropped.

This week's wholly unnecessary plot centered on the return of the Jeff-Britta-Professor Slater love triangle. This triangle later unexpectedly turns into a love rectangle. Or is rectangle the right term when you consider there are three people connected to one person and no romantic complications in between? Maybe a three-pronged fork of love? Anyways, Professor Slater lets Jeff know she wants to get back with him which awakens a sense of competition in Britta for Jeff’s affections. There’s a certain ambiguity over whether Britta really wants Jeff or if it’s more of a case of love tasting better when it’s gone. Or maybe Britta just thinks that Professor Slater is a bitch. If I was convinced it was the latter, I’d be more inclined to justify this episode’s existence.

However, if Britta suddenly came to the realization that she wants Jeff, it turns a character dynamic that was one of the show’s biggest strengths back into the cliché it originated as. The Jeff-Britta relationship grew to the point where it never boiled down to “When will he get her?” or “Will they or won’t they?” It is to the show’s credit that as Jeff’s purpose in life stopped being directed by a desire to sleep with Britta, the audience became sufficiently distracted from those expectations. Britta suddenly coming to terms with feelings for Jeff threatens to turn into a standard rom-com what was once a relationship wonderfully devoid of definition and unbound by sitcom convention. I very much liked that the show didn't treat Jeff and Britta sleeping together as a defining moment in the series.

In other plot lines, we have Annie and her struggle over whether to transfer with Vaughn or stay at Glendale. His reason for transferring (to me, this was the single most hilarious thing in the episode) is because he’s being recruited to join the number one hackey-sack team in the nation. Annie is so full of ambition that she’s always seemed destined for better things but it’s fairly clear that this isn’t one of them, so it’s no surprise she stays. Oh yeah, and she also kisses Jeff. The way I wrote that was the same way I reacted to it: It felt like an afterthought to the story. Of course, we can be sure it won’t be treated as an afterthought next season since the repercussions of Jeff kissing Annie can’t be ignored. Still, it felt like too desperately plotted a moment to register with me.

One of this show’s strengths was that it avoids gimmicky drama in favor of realism. Relationships don’t just turn into things they’re not supposed to just because the drama demands it. I’m hoping that this was a case of bowing to network demand. Maybe, the network wanted a classic “Ross kisses Rachel”-type cliffhanger (correct me if I’m wrong but I’d have a hard time believing that at least one Friends season didn’t end with Ross kissing Rachel) that made sure the audiences were coming back.

Maybe the show’s references to jumping the shark was a tacit acknowledgement that the show knew what it was doing something wrong but couldn’t help itself for whatever reason. At many colleges (at least I know this was the policy at mine), there’s a policy of having to clear out your dorm room after you take your last final rather than stick around during finals week. I wish “Community” had followed the same policy.

Stray Observations:

-There was also a C-plot which I wasn’t able to work into the above recap that deserves mention as well: Troy has to move out of his home and hopes Abed will take him in as a roommate. Abed turns him down but Pierce agrees to take him in. I neither liked nor disliked this story but it does get me looking forward to the possibilities of what will happen with those two.

-Also, there are a lot of smaller little developments relevant to the bigger picture. The D-, E-, and F- and G-plots are that Shirley is reconnecting with her kids, Senor Chang is looking for a shortcut, Jeffery Winger has made friends with a lot of people outside the study group too, and Dean Pelton is dancing with a bear. I’m sorry I don’t know why he was dancing with a polar bear. Was that important?

-John Oliver makes a nice return and steals the little screentime he has. His best line: “I have a counterproposal. How about I point out to you that we’ve never been friends and then laugh at your very well-deserved misfortune”

-On jumping the shark: “And for the record, there was an episode of Happy Days where a guy literally jumped over the shark and it was the best one”

-The closing credits bit was a great bit of humor that felt like the kind of unrestrained improve you see in a Christopher Guest film. I liked Britta’s line: “I don’t believe in yearbooks.”

-“I’m sorry do you have a patent on loving people?”

1 comment:

Eric said...

I'm inclined to agree that Community's finale last season was not their best episode ever, but I would consider it an errant shot more than a sign of trouble to come. Popular opinion amongst my co-watchers was that it was atrocious but the fact of the matter it is still got laughs throughout and provided a little bit of "bumps in the road" drama for the characters to resolve in the future. Granted, they packed too many into one episode to have it be in any way realistic, but like you said perhaps it was a bow to network pressure to have a classic "cliffhanger" episode.

End of the day? Not their best effort, but they will recover without a problem.