I'm half-tempted to review all our of NBC's Thursday comedies in the same post this morning, not because I didn't like them, but because my opinion of them is largely the same: that none of these four represented their series at its funniest, but that there was a core of warmth to each to compensate.
Still, I have enough specific thoughts on each to avoid the dreaded grab-bag post. So spoilers for "Community" coming up just as soon as I give you the Forest Whitaker eye...
Given the show's love of both meta and pop culture references, I was surprised that there wasn't more interaction between Chevy Chase (aka Clark Griswold) and Anthony Michael Hall (aka the original Rusty Griswold). But I thought Hall - whose weird and mostly disappointing career arc makes people forget what a good comic actor he was in his teens - fit in nicely, and I hope Mike and his shirtless fly dancer buddies become recurring characters like small-nippled Vaughn and the various professors.
Shirley's fear of all the non-Christians in the study group maybe went a little too far (though it gave Yvette Nicole Brown some very funny scenes to play, notably the menorah interaction with Annie), but in the end the writers redeemed her with the recognition that she cares more about her friends than about which deity they do or don't pray to. And it turns out that Alison Brie is just as convincing as a neurotic Jew(ish person) as she is as a repressed WASP; her "eh" at the news that Senor Chang would be teaching them for Spanish 102 was priceless.
Setting this episode at Christmas, and at the end of their first semester, puts to rest any idea that the show might try to get around the whole two-year problem of community college by having each season cover a semester. I like this show and would like it to be around a while, so I'll be curious to see how they deal with this down the road, particularly for characters like Annie and Jeff who are motivated to do more than just hang around at Greendale.
But if Jeff wants to get out, badly - an emotion well-played by Joel McHale - the spirit of the season, and the help of his friends during that ridiculous brawl(*), lets his heart grow three sizes so he can at least briefly acknowledge that life at Greendale hasn't been all bad for him. Again, they've done funnier episodes, but the emotion at the end felt genuine, and much moreso than some might have expected from such a snarky show.
(*) The song accompanying all the punching and dancing was "Kiss with a Fist," by Florence & The Machine.
What did everybody else think?