This week’s episode of Community brings City College back into the fold, as Annie gets a late night email from a friend at a local television station warning her that City College is running an attack ad on Greendale. Thus, we have the ‘attack ad’ story of every election storyline on television, and being Community, there was a hilarious twist: Greendale might have granted a Bachelor degree to an adorable dog named Ruffles (although we have no idea whether or not that was actually Ruffles that was used in the ads. The election storyline was amusing, and I’m really enjoying Paget Brewster and Keith David, but it feels like Community is running out of story for our regulars.
This is a fine episode of Community given that the core gang has been reduced to four. With its original cast, the 100th episode of Community could have been something like some of my favourites, “Mixology Certification” and “Modern Warfare”, which were great for completely different reasons. It’s very Greendale to give a dog a degree, so it was amusing and within the realm of plausibility for the show, and I love any episode where Jim Rash is given a chance to shine. For the first two seasons I always wondered why Ken Jeong was a series regular rather than Jim Rash, and given the runner with Chang deciding to film a porno at City College but actually doing it at Greendale, it’s clear that his character is too far gone to actually work in any of the main stories.
Aside from Chang, Annie has often been my biggest problem with Community, despite Alison Brie’s talent. Like Annie, I was born in 1990, but since the second season, she has acted much younger than her age, and her crush on Jeff has dragged down Alison Brie’s great performance (also at the beginning of the first season she was defined by her crush on Troy). In “Basic Crisis Room Decorum”, I was glad to see that Annie is still an idealist. She has hope that the Dean didn’t give a degree to a dog, and is right to say it’s dishonest to make an attack ad about a dog; sure the dog didn’t get a degree, but it still managed to enrol. Her idealism is fresh, and it formed a natural conflict with Jeff’s cynicism, who took the David Lee approach to discrediting their opponent. He was thinking too much like a lawyer and less like a campaign manager; when they got in front of the scandal, he took a leaf out of Eli Gold’s book. After all, Annie would agree with Alicia Florrick in that if they want to be better than City College they have to act better, which includes not running attack ads (although Eli probably loves attack ads as well).
When Annie gets upset, she tells the rest of the Save Greendale Committee that she’s going to enrol at City College. This was a good emotional beat and accurate character moment that was slightly dampened by the fact that this is particular storyline was explored in the second season’s “Basic Rocket Science”, when the gang gets stuck in a KFC space simulator. It’s a fine story beat except for the fact that it’s been done before, and no one expected Annie to actually leave. It’s also good to see an Annie/Jeff storyline that’s about a difference in their personality and a cynic versus an idealist rather than them just making moony eyes at each other. As a cynic myself, her decision to leave is framed in her argument with Jeff, it’s not about the Dean or Frankie at all.
My other problem with the storyline is that Britta has become progressively more stupid as the series has gone on. Part of that is the discovery that Gillian Jacobs is a fantastic physical comedian, and the second episode of the season informs why Britta is so immature. But she’s not the acerbic feminist I fell in love with in the pilot. Characters change as people should, and it’s a good thing that Britta’s softened up, I’d just like her to not be written as a child in a 32 year old’s body, sometimes it feels like she’s regressed. It also didn’t feel right that Britta spent the end of the episode sleeping on the couch when Jeff and Abed were shocked that Annie decided to leave Greendale – wouldn’t it have made more emotional sense for Britta to be present in that scene? Gillian Jacobs, as always, is amazing. Imagine if she hadn’t left The Good Wife after the pilot, Community would be poorer for it.
This shouldn’t take away from the fact that this episode was great, and the Dean’s storyline with the Japanese teenager pretending to be Jeff was the standout (I could have done without that kid becoming Yakuza though). Jeff has given the Dean a fake phone number for his own sanity, and Dean Pelton is now being pranked by a Japanese teenager who forces him to bring Jeff five cans of olives. Jeff’s mildly bemused and extremely confused, but it’s strange that he hasn’t put the olives and the fake phone number together. Then again, who can possibly understand all of Dean Pelton’s quirks?
- Despite my initial reservations, I still laugh at this show, and while it’s a different show to the one I loved, I’m enjoying it. There’s enough of the original formula that’s still there. Though with Dani Pudi’s impending departure, I have no idea what the future of Community will be.
- Todd VanDerWerff wrote an interesting piece over at Vox about how the slightly extended running time compared to a network timeslot has improved the show. You should read it if you haven’t already.
- It’s also always worth reading Alan Sepinwall’s Community reviews, although if you’ve found this, you’ve probably read it anyway.