I wrote last week that we’ve now gotten to the point that we just have to accept that Community is a show that’s miraculously been on our screens since 2009, and it’s settled into its groove. It’s not a workplace or a hangout sitcom; it started as a college sitcom, but now it’s some combination of the three. Every week there’s a new plan to save the school and the consequences of that plan, as well as a B or C story that focuses on a few of our favourite characters. “Laws of Robotics” wasn’t as good as “Queer Studies” was, but the stories were largely character driven, which is a point in its favour. When I started to think about what felt off about the episode, I started to think about the Annie/Britta/Abed party situation, and I realised there was a crucial character missing: Troy Barnes.
I have no problem with Donald Glover leaving Community to focus on his music career and the show about the hip-hop scene in Atlanta he’s writing, but Troy was crucial to both Community and Abed’s success. Everyone I spoke to about Community (except my ex-boyfriend, who liked Pierce) said Abed was their favourite character on the show. Dan Harmon, the creator of the show, has said that Abed is a reflection of him and helped him realise that he may be on the autism spectrum. Back in the first season it became pretty clear that Abed wasn’t normal (but who is on this show?), but when we saw the Spanish Library rap, it was clear that there was something pretty special in Troy and Abed’s friendship. There were a few hiccups at the start, when Troy was pranking Abed, who didn’t get it, but it turned into the highlight of the show. Troy helped Abed relate to the rest of the world, and Abed helped Troy discover his nerdy side that he had to repress in high school because he was the football star.
This week, as Britta gets around Annie’s party rules that forbid any more than eight guests at the house by pretending she wrote a movie for Abed to make, Troy would have been helpful. Britta got around Annie’s rules, and though I enjoyed Britta suffering the consequences of Abed throwing a nonstop party for the film, and her weird apology and Abed’s punishment (a dodgy connection and getting arrested so far), something fell flat. I understand that Britta wouldn’t think through the consequences of her actions, but even if she was unintentionally cruel to Abed, it doesn’t seem right. Troy would have shut that all down before it got too serious, because he understands how Abed thinks, and it still seems like Abed is slightly unmoored without Troy. I still enjoy the characters and the actors, I just felt that the storyline was lacking some Troy this week.
Over at Greendale, Frankie has secured $300,000 from the department of corrections if they let some of the inmates take classes for rehabilitation purposes – via iPad. The Dean, who was the one with the right instincts this week is hesitant, but then Jeff tells him to do it. The Dean being the Dean of course, does exactly what Jeff says. In a nice little twist, this backfires on Jeff, as one of the convicts takes his class and then rats on him to the Dean for just showing movies. Somehow Kenny (I think that’s his name) manages to outcharm Jeff to just about everyone and Jeff gets jealous. This was dangerous, and I was worried it was going to be just like “Beginner Pottery”, but it also touched on Jeff’s relationship with the Dean. I’m so glad that Jim Rash is now a series regular on the show, he’s been great since the first season. After Kenny tries to murder Jeff by rolling his iPad into him and pushing him down the stairs, Jeff successfully destroys Kenny’s iPad and gets put on two weeks paid leave. What made this storyline worth it is Jeff breaking into the study room for the ceremony via iPad and admitting that he likes his job at Greendale and he considers the Dean a friend. No one can spend that much time at Greendale without succumbing to its charms, and the cynical Jeff Winger is just like everyone else. Sure, the Dean’s infatuation with him is slightly annoying, but Jeff didn’t have to stick around. He made that choice.