Thursday, November 19, 2009

Community, "Environmental Science": Tigre, tigre, burning bright

Spoilers for "Community" coming up just as soon as I rest gently on your pecs...

This was a really strong night for all four of NBC's comedies, and this week I think "Community" was my favorite of the bunch. I'm always more kindly disposed to comedies with multiple storylines if they find a way to tie them all together (see the best episodes of both "Seinfeld" and "30 Rock"), and the climactic sequence here - with Abed and Troy's duet of "Somewhere Out There"(*) accompanying both Shirley's presentation and the Senor/Senora Chang dance reunion - was both hilarious and oddly touching.

(*) In case you didn't get the reference, or why Abed called his rat "Fyvel," go watch the original performance from "An American Tail."

Beyond that, "Environmental Science" was just a nice showcase for virtually everyone in the cast, including Ken Jeong. Jeong was added after the pilot (no doubt due to his performance in "The Hangover"), and there have been times where he's either felt shoehorned into episodes, or else working in a style that's just a little too broad for the room. But he melded very well with Joel McHale, and the opening classroom scene - from pulling Annie, desk and all, out into the hall to lengthening the paper in response to Britta's ass-kissing - was the best of those since Chang's debut scene in episode two.

Pierce got to be right several times (and briefly usurp Jeff's role in the group), Shirley got to give everyone a sandwich, Abed got to question other people's level of reality, and Troy got to squeal like a little girl - a lot.

Strong, funny, very satisfying episode.

What did everybody else think?

50 comments:

Snacktime said...

I liked it a lot. There were some great asides by Chevy Chase, who generally is my least favorite in the ensemble. I'm glad he got to stretch beyond the one note character he usually is. The "Fyvel" bit, replete with the song, was amusing, but you're right Alan, the chemistry between Joel McHale and Ken Jeong was the best part of the episode.

Anonymous said...

"First we give a month to the blacks now we have to waste a week on the Irish?"

When you have that big of a laugh in the first ten seconds you know you're in for a great episode.

word verification - antatop. Ant a top.

greentara said...

It's grown on me. My problem is Britta. Either she's not funny or has pissed the writers off and now has the worst job on TV. She's just there as opposed to the other characters, and I get the need for a straight man, but I mean she disappears.
I think the issue is that the show has evolved past the need for a romantic interest for Joel McHale.
I'm sure they'll try to go back there, but they have zero chemistry.

Everybody else is doing solid work. Ken Jeong is over the top, but brilliantly so. Abed and Troy are my new OTP.

greentara said...

Allison Brie with Joel McHale (last week's ep) on the other hand? Hella chemistry!

Laura said...

I didn't think this episode was as laugh-out-loud funny as tonight's "Parks & Rec" or "30 Rock", but the song at the end was oddly touching. Loved it.

Anonymous said...

Didn't do it for me at all tonight. Thought this was one of the worst of the season. I get Abed's pop culture thing he has going on, but the reference to Fyvel and An American Tale is way too obscure to resonate with most people who aren't professional TV watchers. Also thought they're a playing it a little too over-the-top with the Senor Chang character.

Anonymous said...

Is it too early to draw some consensus about Troy being the best new character of the season? No matter how good the episode is, it's always a home run, both in terms of writing and delivery. Am I alone in thinking that?

NumberSix said...

Chevy Chase's pratfall out the back of the chair was obviously coming and still hilarious. I like the fact that the show has let the Jeff/Britta die and given that time over to characters like Shirley and Pierce.

I don't think An American Tail is that obscure a reference. It was one of Bluth Animation's centerpieces during Disney's late 80's lull and spawned three sequels and a TV show.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Also, Clay Aiken sang it on Idol! And then Anthony Fedorov did!

paul in kirkland said...

Bizarre moment of the night...

I got Choke on Netflix and decided to watch it tonight while DVR'ing Community (among others).

Little did I know that the woman who plays Britta is in Choke, playing a stripper (yes, she does btw).

Anyway, I finish the movie and turn on Community. There's a scene where Jeff and Chang walk out of his office laughing as if they'd just shared a joke, and all Jeff says is "Cherry Tequila?!"

Guess the name of the character that Gillian Jacobs plays in Choke.

I think the movie just became available in the last week or two.

There's no way that can be a coincidence.

Katie said...

I loved the American Tail references, and I think they're probably supposed to resonate more with people from my generation (I'm 24 and watched Fievel Goes West a LOT growing up) than older viewers. Abed and Troy singing "Somewhere Out There" was hilarious and executed terrifically.

MadMax said...

The pepper-water spray ending was awesome.

paul in kirkland said...

Sorry, I meant Cherry Daiquiri.

I was so excited to be the first one to notice this that I got it wrong.

:)

Hoosier Paul said...

Great episode. But did anyone else think that Annie's "Gravy Train Leaving" moment, while funny and adorable, was also really out of character? We haven't seen anything that would indicate she can be that goofy and extroverted. Minor quibble, but it pulled me out of the show for a bit.

Andrew Jotson said...

Trudy totally makes the show.

vic said...

@Hoosier Paul: I just figured she's a lot more comfortable with the group, hence her increasing abandon when around them.

I have to say, apart from the pilot, this was easily my favourite episode. Loved the song, and had to rewind after both the big Troy scenes. Plus there was less Britta, which in my book, is always a good thing.

One last thing: Chevy Chase sure lost a ton of weight from the beginning of the show to now. Apart from the whole, you know, being old thing, he's looking more and more like his old self.

Karen said...

Troy's reaction when the rat ran up his pants leg had me helpless with laughter. I don't even tend to like slapstick or that kind of physical humor, but I had to stop and rewind and replay it before I could go on.

I thought this was a great episode. McHale and Jeong were on fire.

And, yeah, the closing song montage was tremendous.

AbbyG said...

Few things

First, I hope they continue with Chevy Chase falling in some way. It's just too awesome whenever it happens. Second, I'm definitely not a professional TV watcher but I grew up in the 80s and I loved the American Tale references. Third, I really really want to like Ken Jeong but for some reason he just makes me completely uncomfortable. It may take some time for me to fully appreciate him.

unless said...

paul in kirkland: You are absolutely right, and that is AWESOME.

Word verification - dablymon. An amateur Pokemon.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I didn't like this episode at all, found it incredibly weak.

Steve said...

I don't think An American Tail is obscure at all. Spielberg produced it and it was a staple in my house growing up.

Kelly said...

I'm with you AbbyG, Ken Jeong makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I blame it on the nakedness in the Hangover. Hee!

I didn't think this episode was all that great until the very end and then I realized that it actually was a fantastic episode. The rat crawling up Troy's pant leg, Chevy falling in the chair, the dancing, the singing and the pepper water. Who puts pepper in water?!? I laughed hysterically.

katefate said...

Handsome hobo! Loved the MM reference. @paul in kirkland, the Choke reference was a great plate o' shrimp moment.

The musical montage was a great send-up of musical montages, and, as @Laura points out, oddly touching.

I've been reading the smart analysis here for a while, and finally had to make my first comment.

floretbroccoli said...

I was over the target age for An American Tale. I was old enough to be highly entertained by the idea of the McDonald's tie-in item: Come to McDonald's and get your Feivel Christmas tree ornament.

Did anyone catch who played Senora Chang? She looked familiar.

belinda said...

I do agree that this is the best we've seen of Ken Jeong in Community, but I'm not convinced his style of comedy does actually mesh well with the show (or with anyone else other than McHale). But otherwise, yeah, I do like how they tied everything together in the ep.

Abed and Troy are a really great team - for some reason, whatever they do, they always make me laugh. (And I agree, An American Tail is pretty classic and very well known movie.)

Obviously it was expected (and it's the right thing for the show to do), but I was still a teeny tiny bit disappointed there was no fallout/awkwardness from the age inappropriate but smoking Annie/Jeff kiss.

LDP said...

I thought it was a mediocre episode, but I loved Pierce dropping the squirt gun, turning around and walking out, Michael Corleone-style.

And Alison Brie gets hotter every week.

Hannah Lee said...

Alan, no it's not wrong that you would buy that song...I would too.

Is it wrong that I'm enjoying this show as much as I am? And that I enjoy it just as much on rewatch?

The Green Day <> Greene Daye mistake cracked me up. It reminded me of a time years ago when I dragged friends to see an Irish rock band called The Black Velvet Band. They had a great album out at the time called “When Justice Came”*, and I was psyched to see them live.

When we got there, though, we saw it was a *very* different Black Velvet Band, a group of Irish-American guys who looked almost exactly like the Greene Daye guys, but who weren’t half as talented.

*http://www.answers.com/topic/when-justice-came

aimee said...

I agree with some of the other commenters - thought it was pretty weak (I think because I just really don't like Senor Chang) but did like the oddly touching music montage at the end.

Abbie said...

I was exactly the age for An American Tale when it came out, and saw it a hundred times at sleepovers. Have I seen it since 1990? No, but I knew all the words to that song.

mrsb said...

Loved it! This show seems to get stronger every week.

Anonymous said...

Count me as one of the disappointed ones. Despite some nice moments, I didn't find any of the plots satisfying.

Hatfield said...

Fantastic. I didn't crack up as much as I sometimes do, but I had a very pleased feeling at the end, especially during the montage. And the squirt gun tag was amazing.

To Paul in Kirkland, while I can see why topless Gillian Jacobs melted your brain briefly, that movie's already been on the movie channels (Cinemax, I think) for a while now, so even if it was a reference, it wasn't a promotional tie-in like you allude to.

And who hasn't seen An American Tail?

My favorite thing was whatever strange video the dean was watching, leading to him saying, "This better not stir something deep inside me." That killed me.

Jennifer said...

The end of this show made me mushy. Dang.

Also, kudos to Pierce and his pepper water! Maybe he is a genius!

Blogette said...

I remember watching the Fyvel movies in elementary school at the end of the school year numerous times. Not really obscure.

Madame George said...

i can't get over how much content these NBC comedies have. Multiple things are happening at once, with subtle touches you might miss on the first time through. I keep being slayed by Shirley who is often in background of another person's scene. And the music is partiularly original and funny on this and 30 Rock.

The musical number worked as satire and as way to tie the stories together and be...yeah, endearing.

I almost wish I had DVDs of these shows in blocks. They play so well off each other.

Speaking of that....as usual, Abed and Troy ...kill me. I don't even know exactly what it is, but they always make me laugh.

steph said...

sorry, i have to: fievel.

it's fievel. thanks! :0)

(also: "you can't lock your knees. do you know what happens when you lock your knees?... you die."

"speaking as one of the meek, when i inherit the earth you a dead man.")

jeffrey said...

@ f-broccoli - senora chang = andrea de oliveira.

http://akas.imdb.com/name/nm1377417/

Anonymous said...

Floretbroccoli, 'Senora Chang' is played by actress, Andrea de Oliveira. I found a profile of her online: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1377417/

Eric said...

For the google-deficient, I present Cherry Daquiri:

http://i38.tinypic.com/2q36k1z.jpg

floretbroccoli said...

Thank you, jeffrey and anonymous. Well she looked familiar to me, but nothing on her imdb page rings a bell.

arrabbiata said...

"And who hasn't seen American Tail?"

I haven't. It seems those movies came out in my college years, when I was way to old to be interested myself, and my generation didn't have our own kids to take to them/watch videos with. As a result, Fyvel was just an amusing name, and I wasn't sure if the song was a real song or something made up for the show.

However, I don't think that not knowing the reference detracted at all from my enjoyment of the episode. If anything, it might have made it more enjoyable, as I watched Abed and Troy singing a random ballad duet to a rat as if it was the logical thing to do. And I suppose it's fair to include some pop culture references that would make sense to the community college students of today.

I've been enjoying this show a lot more than I expected at the start of the fall season. The study group characters work well in just about any combination, second only to what Parks and Recreation was been doing with pairings this season.

By the way, my word verification is "pinocio", which is just two letters short of an animated feature that I have seen.

Anonymous said...

I don't get the Britta hate. I think she's a very appealing actress and I think she and McHale have great chemistry. On the other hand, I loved Ken Jeong in movies like Knocked Up and Role Models, but I think he's too much of a good thing in Community. His style doesn't mesh and his character just annoys me.

Hannah Lee said...

I haven't seen a lot of Britta-hate lately. I think the negative comments about Britta started after the first couple of episodes.

In those, it seemed the character was just sketched out as a quirky/icy blonde there to react to Joel McHale and reject his advances. A character note that got old very quickly.

Once the "Jeff pursues Britta" plotline got dropped (or moved to the background), Britta has gotten a greater variety of things to do, and notes to play, ramping up to join the other characters. That has made her a lot more interesting. Her attempt at romance with Vaughn, her overly earnest squirrel, her awkward attempts at girl talk: all these have led to funny moments and made Britta more entertaining.

The Dan Peck Show said...

Chevy pretending to be Jeff in the chair killed me, as did Troy's deadpan "Ignore what she's doing" while Annie acted out the gravy train and Annie taking notes from outside the window to end the cold open.

There isn't a show doing funnier pop culture "catch the reference'-style humor than Community, not one (take that, Seth MacFarlane). Between the Halloween episode (Pierce as the Beastmaster, Troy as Eddie Murphy from Raw) and tonight (you knew "Somewhere Out There" was coming back after the first time they sang it), the show has come out of the blocks smoking hot.

If there's one thing to criticize, it's Ken Jeong. He's too broad, and apparently thinks that when you can't say something funny, say something LOUD! Some of the stuff the character does is funny, but I'm anxious for them to introduce a new teacher in the spring and I wish they'd use John Michael Higgins or John Oliver more.

Great stuff, though.

cadfile said...

Okay this show has won me over.

I watched the first couple of episodes and wasn't impressed and should have remembered that new shows clunk along a few times before hitting it and "Community" has now started to hit for me.

I like the cast and the subtle bits like the references and throw off lines like Chevy commenting about Jeff's power over the group coming from his chair and the pepper in the water gun bit.

I try to watch it live on Thursday but will now make sure it is on my DVR so I don't miss an episode.

Jerry said...

To me, there's nothing wrong with the Britta character---she is the straight woman to balance out the wackiness. The problem was the first few episodes when it looked like it would be the conventional when-will-they-hook-up thing with Jeff. Once they went away from that, she's been fine.

This show had really hit its stride the past few episodes, but I thought this one was just "pretty good".

Anonymous said...

I personally really appreciated the Cherry Daiquiri reference by Pierce and Jeff in the previous episode I believe. Best pop culture reference of the show so far. It was a nice tie in to Gillian Jacobs character in Choke.

Anonymous said...

does anyone know what the dean was watching on his computer before his assistant comes in to tell him that Greene Daye has arrived? He says "Hmm, this better not awaken anything in me . . ."

Anonymous said...

LDP, I agree with you on the dropping of the squirt gun. I caught it when I watched the episode a second time and I love how the show hides these little TV and Movie references. Unlike like Abed, most of us don't realize how much our perceptions of events (like mob hits) are not shaped by actual events, but rather simulated scenes from TV and in the movies and their dramatic touches. The look on Pierce's face as he drops the gun is so spot on and hilarious. Loved it!

Bb said...

The show is really picking up the pace now - love it! But I'm completely embarrassed that I thought Sra Chang was played by Katie Holmes!(I use the excuse that I was cooking dinner at the time and no longer focused on the TV.)