Spoilers for the second episode of "Community" coming up just as soon as I remind you that real stories don't have spoilers...
The day before my "Community" review, which I had already written, was going to run in the paper, "Spanish 101" arrived in the morning mail. All at once I was excited to watch it - "Community" being my favorite new show and all - and yet nervous that it would stink, since I didn't want to have to rewrite the column, and since I wanted the show to stay good.
So I quickly popped in the DVD, and by the time Senor Chang (played by the always-hilarious Ken Jeong, who'll be a semi-regular castmember) finished explaining how his knowledge will bite your face off, I was completely relieved. I wouldn't have to rewrite a thing, because this episode was turning out to be even funnier than the pilot.
In addition to the hysterical Senor Chang scene ("Use your hands! It's 90 percent of Spanish!"), "Spanish 101" was a great showcase for Chevy Chase as Pierce. As with his guest stint on "Chuck" last season, I think there's a danger at this stage of Chevy's career that the writers who grew up worshiping him in movies like "Caddyshack" and "Fletch" will just assume that his mere presence is an automatic laugh-riot, as he wasn't one of the stronger parts of the pilot. But just as the "Chuck" writers started giving Chevy funny material to play, "Spanish 101" makes it clear just how disconnected Pierce is from reality, in mostly funny but occasionally sweet ways. I'm still laughing at the notion that Pierce's skit was both homophobic and "surprisingly and specifically critical of Israel"(*), and laughing even harder at the montage of Jeff and Pierce's presentation, ironically scored to Aimee Mann's "Wise Up," which has become a cliche choice to accompany extremely earnest movie montages. I can't decide my favorite image: Chevy and Joel McHale in the tiny hats, the afro wigs (a "Fletch" homage?), or the robots. But it was wonderful throughout.
(*) Bonus points for paying off that joke with the Israeli flag in the montage.
Meanwhile, the subplot with Annie and Shirley trying to impress Britta with their protesting skills (brownies, electrical tape) made it clear that "Community" isn't going to be a comedy sausage-fest. And it also made clear that the Jeff/Britta flirtation won't be just the story of a d-bag chasing a completely awesome woman - that in some ways, Britta has constructed a self-image that's just as phony as Jeff's, except that she's better-equipped to acknowledge that. And that's good. I prefer my will-they-or-won't-they pairings to be on equivalent moral footing, more or less.
Abed continues to be the show's go-to character for meta jokes about all the pop culture tropes that are being used and/or satirized here, and I'm fine with that so long as it's limited to him and Jeff. Some shows ("Knights of Prosperity" was one) run into trouble when every joke from every character is a pop culture reference, but so far "Community" is offering a nice mix of jokes built on actual behavior along with lines like, "Conflicts like these will ultimately bring us together as an unlikely family."
The second episode is often the hardest one for a new show with a great pilot. "Spanish 101" makes me feel very confident about this show's future.
What did everybody else think?