Thursday, November 12, 2009

Community, "Debate 109": G vs. E

Quick thoughts on tonight's "Community" coming up just as soon as my shirt gets out of my pants...

"Debate 109" continued Alison Brie's comic hot streak that's bounced impressively between the period repression of "Mad Men" and the pop culture silliness of this show. Despite the difference in eras and styles, Trudy Campbell and Annie Edison turn out to not be so different in their ambition, in their indomitable wills, in all the emotions hiding behind that plastered-on sunny demeanor, and in their awareness of how to manipulate their man when needed.

My one big issue with the Jeff/Annie storyline is that it never really addressed the huge age gap between the two of them. We've established that Annie's 18, and Jeff's at least in his mid-30s (Joel McHale turns 38 in a few days). While I suppose you could interpret sme of Jeff's reluctance - and the head pats - as him being very aware of the gap, I think there was some material they could have mined there but either forgot to or chose not to.

As with tonight's "Parks and Recreation," the episode's biggest laugh came from what was practically a throwaway moment, with the arrival of the fuh-laming Greendale men's basketball team (complete with midriff-baring jerseys and handlebar musaches) in the middle of the debate. But as with "P&R," the rest was a lot of fun, too.

Despite the focus on Jeff and Annie, everyone had their great moments, whether it was Troy's brain being wrinkled by Abed's psychic films, Shirley being so excited to hear Jeff invoke Jesus in the debate, or Pierce tripping over the drums the second time(*). And Abed's films provided this weirdly satisfying layer of meta humor, complete with Not-Troy and Not-Abed appearing in the tag, alongside the actual Troy and Abed. A very satisfying episode.

(*) The first time seemed lame, but the second fall reminded me of Chevy's physical comedy genius back in the '70s. The difference, I think, was in the slowness of the second fall. If you watch any of Chevy's old Gerald Ford sketches, what made them work so well was that time seemed to slow down and it took Ford forever to hit the deck, knocking into/over many things on the way down, and yet he could never stop himself. That's funnier than just your basic pratfall, which the first one was.

What did everybody else think?

47 comments:

jason said...

Ok. I think I figured it out.
Britta = Ginger
Annie = Mary Ann
Jeff = The Professor
Abed = Gilligan
Pierce = Thurston Howell III
Shirley = Mrs Howell III / The Skipper

DonBoy said...

I don't think the first fall is Chase. It's shot quickly from behind, face hidden, then cuts to Britta, then we see Chase on the floor. You'd think they wouldn't waste the fall without showing it better if it really was him.

R.A. Porter said...

I watched both falls twice; I get nervous seeing Chevy pratfall because of the drug abuse. I'm with @DonBoy and don't *think* it was him in the first tumble. The second was vintage Chevy Chase.

AppleJill said...

I was really impressed with the show tonight. I think it was tonight's funniest Thursday night comedy. Alison Brie is perfect in her character and I was sold on the Jeff/Annie storyline. I love the on-going jokes on the show - like the "human being" mascot.

Chase's crazy old man lines made me laugh tonight, especially the barn/cross burner one.

The use of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros' song at the end also went a long way to endearing me to the episode, too.

Tobey said...

Thanks to Youtube, I was able to show my friend the original "spanish rap", as performed by the "real" Abed and Troy. It was Meta Humor 101.

Am I the only one who Jeff and Annie's kiss totes hot? Way more chemistry there than Jeff and Britta.

I thought the gay basketball team joke was pretty weak. Limp-wristed, mustachioed guys named Bruce? Is this 1983?

Katie said...

I thought they KILLED IT with this episode. It was chock full of everything we've come to love about this show, from Abed's videos to Annie kissing Jeff to win the debate (an act which felt completely true for both characters). I also loved seeing Sandeep Parikh (from The Guild and Legend of Neil) as Not Abed, and that "Home" from Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes was used at the end.

Question Mark said...

Three cheers to Alan for the outstanding picture choice! Huzzah!

Anonymous said...

I was impressed at how good Abed's actors were with their impressions. With the exception of Zaboo, sadly.

I feel as if the character blur is especially strong this week, with Zabed, Jeff Lewis doing his Vork-face on Glee, and my increasing inability to watch Annie or Trudy Campbell without thinking of the other character.

Manton said...

This has become shockingly post-modern, but I enjoyed the really easy bits they threw in to keep themselves honest (a pratfall, from no less than Chevy, a blatant, aforementioned gay joke).

I'm also desperately in love with Alison Brie.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had recorded it to double check the falls. Hell, just to watch the whole episode because I loved it.

The joke about the basketball team being filled with homosexuals was something I predicted would happen as soon as the initial comment about the basketball team being gay was first made. I still laughed, however.

I think the age difference between Jeff and Annie was acknowledged in the same way the attraction was--in a mostly unspoken way. Like Annie telling Jeff to pat her on the head when they didn't know how else to touch each other in celebration of their victory.

If the show continues this storyline, which I hope they eventually do because I found them hot, I suspect the age difference will be played with in some way.

Matt said...

I thought this one worked better than most of the show's other episodes, even if it wasn't the funniest. Usually, there's a plot I think it totally hackneyed and stupid, but the good stuff covers for it; this week, I thought they were firing on all cylinders (though I loved Abed's films the best).

Alison Brie is like Batman: she has these two very public personas who give off two different impressions and does them both seemlessly. I'd love to see her on Mad Men more (especially after Sunday's episode), but I don't want to see her leaving Community.

I really like how likable Britta's become over the last few weeks. Once she stopped by the obligatory love interest, they were able to do some interesting things with her.

The age issue wasn't as big a deal for me, as Jeff's supposed to be younger than Joel McHale. Not by much, but younger.

Hal Incandenza said...

...what Question Mark said.

Number FIve said...

I try to avoid this particular Internet commenting cliche, but Alison Brie...wow. !!!

jason - that does work pretty well! Wouldn't be surprised if the show makes the comparison itself at some point.

Abed's videos were hilarious in of themselves, but they were also a better use of him than random pop cultural references. And it was still in character.

The first debate scene was pretty predictable (although Lord of the Flies was the perfect choice for Annie there...has anyone not read that book in school at some point?). But I loved the way they wrote and edited the second one, between the sports-style reaction shots, the increasingly shorter back and forth responses, John Michael Higgins' interjections (double counter-rebuttal!), and the perfect arguments at the end. And I was impressed they avoided going the 30 Rock "Garkle" route with the guy in the wheelchair. Just a brilliantly written scene and a perfect use of the single camera format.

Nicole said...

I found the age difference very distracting in the Annie/Jeff storyline. I don't think you can throw together two characters with a 20-year age gap (especially if one is an 18-year old girl!!) without addressing it. I could see Annie kissing him, just as a way of winning the debate, but the whole attraction bit in the studying scene creeped me out a bit.

BigTed said...

Did we learn that Annie is 18 at some point? Alison Brie is 25, and I think that's about how old she looks.

In fact, none of the younger characters look as if they started attending this college straight out of high school. I think there could be some more generation-gap humor to be mined from a place where late-teenagers mingle with people going back to school at midlife, but we haven't really seen so much of that.

WondrousHippo said...

This is one of my favorite episodes of the show so far. All the characters worked. Jeff and Annie make for a cute couple (and Allison Brie looked incredible this episode), age difference or not, although the unrequited feelings for Britta and Troy respectively would be a speedbump. But still, they worked great together, so I'm interested to see if they go anywhere. Britta as just a character in the cast rather than being forced as Jeff's love interest is good for the show, and Pierce had some great moments tonight.

It's probably the John Michael Higgins factor. The dude makes anything better, because he just has that perfect over-the-top delivery. From Mentok the Mind-Taker to DirecTV commercials to being the only bearable part of Kath & Kim, he just makes shows better.

JJ said...

She's 19. Established a few episodes ago.

Loved the episode. Phenomenal work from the whole cast. They're really just letting all the characters'personalities kind of run rampant. The odd thing about Abed's scenes, and in turn, his overall character, is how he is increasingly becoming the straight man for the rest of the cast, besides being the strangest. I mean, he does a dead on Christian Bale impression in one episode and write/films a movie to tell his Dad how he feels. I love how well the writers and producers of the show seem like they are accelerating the wacky factor of the show (image of Gibbons(?) floating through the air comes directly to mind).

My favorite TV show right now, and a joy to watch. Kudos to the whole team.

Anyone else notice how Troy was the only one in the group upset that Gibbons(?) was "robbed"? If they continue the relationship with Annie and Jeff, they'll probably end up playing a love triangle towards the end of the season and resolving it at the beginning of the second season. Should be interesting.

Anonymous said...

I really like Gillian Jacobs, and think she doesn't get enough credit. As much as I love Alison Brie, I actually wasn't feeling the chemistry between Annie and Jeff.

Aaron Himelstein stole the episode, in my opinion. The expression on Simmons during the motorized wheelchair vault was hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Troy was backing Simmons well before Annie kissed Jeff. While I'm sure they wanted to play his reaction ambiguously (they thought enough to conveniently divert Britta for the kiss), there wasn't any real indication of jealousy.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I thought the gay basketball team joke was pretty weak. Limp-wristed, mustachioed guys named Bruce? Is this 1983?

That was the point. Greendale is obsessed with political correctness and avoidance of stereotype (hence the Human Being mascot), and yet the basketball team represents a really old, really obvious stereotype.

Plus, mustaches are inherently funny.

Figgsrock2 said...

Did anybody catch the meta joke when they were first watching Abed's film and someone made a crack saying "it was two weeks ago but we're just seeing it now" or something like that? Seemed to me they were making a crack about NBC flip-flopping the running order of the eps.

This was my favorite one yet. After almost 5 years of working every Thursday night, I'm glad I was able to get into this show on the ground floor (which I was not with 30 Rock or The Office).

Bryan said...

This show has really come into it's own the last couple weeks- it's developed its own -very different- personality. It's great.

To my surprise this is actually the Thursday night show I'm enjoying the most right now - I got home late last night and could only watch one show this is the one I chose.

Speaking of 80's pop references when Alison Brie took down her hair I felt just like Frazier Krane when Lilith did the same- WOWZA.

mrsb said...

I thought the "2 weeks ago" thing was about Abed posting the video 2 weeks ago, but the event only happened 1 week ago - hence setting up the story line of him being psychic.

mrsb said...

Oh, and forgot to mention, this episode was just hysterical! Probably my favorite episode to date.

(Except maybe the one where Joel took his shirt off. Wowza, indeed.)

JJ said...

So try exclaiming "Simmons got robbed!" and looking pissed isn't enough of a reaction? Come on, you know it's coming. It HAS to happen, it's to good an opportunity for a convincing plot and the writers to cut the characters loose for them to NOT do it.

Anonymous said...

Pierce: Wow. This is a real barn burner. Oh god, did I just cross-burner?
Shirley: No you did not!
Pierce: Oh good.

Chevy Chase is strong.

Mike said...

Another consistently funny episode. Not the best but still a half hour a week where I know I am guarenteed to laugh.

I still prefer Ken Jeong as the "teacher antagonist of the week" supporting character over the others. I feel the dean's character just seems to forced and while I like the DirectTV commercial guy, he just doesn't have the punch the Jeong has.

Oh, and is it just me, or am I the only one who was sitting there last night thinking, "Man, I didn't realize how hot Annie was until now?"

vic said...

@Mike: Haha, nah, you're not. Funny how a sweater and a bit of hair pinned back can make such a huge difference.

I love seeing Chevy Chase do the falls, and couldn't resist having "Live from New York..." running through my head. Same with Chase dropping the pocket watch right against the drums, made me think of classic Gerald Ford.

Favorite lines:

"Jeff, she's right there..."
"By the way Jeff, I think your shirt's trying to get out of your pants"
"As debate coach I am offering you the opportunity to spend the night drinking from the cup of life rather than romancing your never regions in front of the E channel"

maura said...

The tiny moments are what get me on this show. Annie, the dean, and the debate coach trying to convince Jeff to debate, and Jeff doing a sideways fake to dodge them in the hall resulting in all three running into each other. Alison Brie is really getting better and better in this role.

HarrySTruman2 said...

Great Show!
I too get nervous when I see Chevy taking a fall.. seriously we don't want to see him hurt himself.
I think there is more Chemistry w/ Jeff & Annie than Jeff & Britta!

Jay said...

I hope that next week's storyline involves Pierce getting better grades/ being top of the class over Jeff giving an extra big payoff to this week's Abed psychic storyline.

leor said...

proud to say i guessed your "as soon as i..."

Carrie said...

This was by far my favorite episode to date. Jeff/Annie and Pierce/Britta are great comedic pairings for this show. And it was great to see Friedman again (although it took me at least half of the episode to remember where I recognized the actor from).

"I think your shirt is trying to get out of your pants."

I laughed so, so hard at this.

puddy77 said...

Alan, I saw the title of this post and got excited about G vs E.
Of course there's no actual connection. (Unless there is, I haven't watched the episode yet.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

The subject of the debate is whether man is inherently good or evil, and it felt appropriate to salute the acting work of Deacon Jones in conjunction with that.

Chazz said...

Looks like I'm in the minority but I actually didn't like this episode (although I've loved the show so far). The potential for a story centered on Joel joining the debate team to argue that man is inherently evil not good had so much potential. I think what left me disappointed was the gap between this potential and what was actually executed.

During the actual debates, how many laugh out loud moments were there? With McHale's wit / delivery and the overall outlook of his character, shouldn't we have come away from the debate scenes with something more than how outrageously stereotyped the gay basketball team was (which I agree was hysterical)?

Still love the show- but they can do better.

usty said...

My favorite part was after the debate. Abed basically comforting Shirley about the werewolf because his new movie has Pierce as a genius followed by "Pierce, you're a genius!" A comment about a full moon and Abed running after Shirley.

Jennifer said...

I think this is my favorite episode. I generally loathe older men trolling on teenage girls, but did not loathe this. Actually loved Jeff and Annie together in this one so much more than with their designated love interests. I don't know if I root for it as an official coupling or not as yet due to the ages, but it was kind of adorable.

I'm amused that this episode aired the same week that Glee's wheelchair dancing episode did, somehow.

I totally loved the end of the debate.

William said...

I need somebody to reassure me that I'm not insane, because every single line that Simmons said sounded EXACTLY like Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein.

George said...

Community is really coming on strong, been really good since "Football, Feminism and You",

Jeff is coming off as a likable douche bag now, like Stinson but a lot more "real" and without catchphrases, the irony of the Good/Evil debate really emphasised that. Allison Brie is great in whatever she does, I didn't like Annie or Trudy before, both have really grown on me.

I think the whole cast is coming into they're own now, Troy and Abed on the tags are always hilarious, Pierce is really harnessing Classic Chevy and Britta is likable now that the writers have moved past her and Jeff as a couple, a shame really. I would have liked to see them as a couple despite the whole lack of laughs/chemistry/likability, just so I could call them Jetta. Shirley gets a few laughs, and the guest ensemble is really tight (Wayne Jarvis, he's professional).

NBC Thursdays is really good at the moment, and this was my favourite episode of the night. I liked them all, P & R was my LEAST fave (like omg.)

Also, it has the best theme music, hope it doesn't get cancelled

Anonymous said...

In the ever-prescient Community College Chronicles, Abed reversed Awkward Sexual Tension Curse placed on Annie and Jeff. It's a nice little wink.

Zabed. I like it. ¡Es potencial!

J. Bowman said...

Allison Brie totally gave me an "Alicia Silverstone in Clueless" vibe in that scene.

With regards to coupling, Community College Chronicles has a throwaway line by "Jeff" that he and Britta will be married in five years.

Anonymous said...

@jbowman -- TOTALLY. She was a dead ringer for a brunette Cher.

Farrah said...

great episode, Troy's "do you hate this, do you" at the end was hilarious.

Whiskey said...

we really enjoyed the ep, plenty of laughs, plenty of irony and I loved the Jeff & Annie twist because I totally wasn't expecting it. Their age difference made me a bit uncomfortable until I remembered that when I was 18 I dated a 32year old and a 36 year old and it was awesome, because guys my age just wanted to grope and had absolutely nothing interesting to say to me, while the older guys were great conversationalists and respected my physical boundaries... so I hope, like someone else suggested, that the writers do explore more of how that odd age mix (and life experience) prevalent at community colleges affects our characters' ongoing relationships. And while it's fun to have Chevy Chase be an easy target for jokes, I hope we find out that there's more to him.

dumneazu said...

Danny Pudi just keeps getting better playing a character who never breaks into a grin. Considering he's cast alongside Chevy Chase that's quite a feat. The scene from the last episode in which Abed speaks Polish is another case of smart writing utilizing the actor's actual background to break through the fourth wall in a refreshing way. All these playful meta-references remind me of the experience of watching The Simpsons in the early 1990s and realizing that television had never played games like this. My new favorite show of the season.

Clicker said...

Annie was really hot with her hair down god. But do any of you think that this show is better than the office because im really not sure god i need some help...