A review of last night's "Community" coming up just as soon as I spend money on breakaway clothing...
14 episodes into its debut season (which just added three more episode, as part of NBC's push to avoid repeats post-Leno-in-primetime), "Community" is still exploring different combinations of its large cast of characters, here striking unexpected gold with a Troy/Britta pairing. As the show's token straight person, Gillian Jacobs has a tougher job than the other actors, and the writers have often struggled to make her funny when the situation calls for it.(*) But she had some very nice moments here, first with her delight in getting to be outraged over Shirley saying "You people," then with the goofy "Tea for Two" tap dance. And Donald Glover, who's already established himself as a terrific physical comedian on this show, was as fun as you'd expect in showing Troy learning to express himself through modern dance.
(*) This isn't an uncommon problem - see also how "The Simpsons" tends to sag when episodes are built around Marge, who fills the same role in that family that Britta does in the study group. While sitcom straight men can be funny - Michael on "Arrested Development," Dave on "NewsRadio" - it's fairly rare.
What concerns me, a little, is the way Britta's stage fright was caused by seeing Jeff and Professor Slater holding hands. I was glad to see Slater come back, as Lauren Stamile and Joel McHale had great chemistry in the Halloween episode - and certainly more than McHale and Jacobs had in the early episodes when the show was still trying to make us care about Jeff and Britta as a couple. I had thought that later episodes (including that Halloween show, where Britta didn't care at all about Jeff's date, even though Shirley kept assuming she did) suggested the creative team had recognized Jeff/Britta wasn't working and that the writers had just turned their initial attraction to each other into a running gag. But we're clearly meant to see that Britta still has feelings for Jeff, which I think is a mistake. The only thing more frustrating than a show that drags out sexual tension for too long between two characters with chemistry is a show that tries to force chemistry where none exists in the first place. It's entirely possible Jeff and Britta could work at some point, and Britta has become a more interesting and likable character since the start of the series, but I don't want the show to keep going to that well just because the writers think they're supposed to.
But overall, "Interpretive Dance" was another winner, also giving us smaller character moments like Annie's repeated panic at the thought of Troy and Britta being together, Dean Pelton's repeatedly creepy behavior around Jeff and Slater, Troy denying that he thinks of Shirley as his mom, Jeff comparing the truth to Jim Belushi, and every joke about Pierce's Twitter account. So I'll worry about too much Jeff/Britta when there actually is too much of it, and not when an episode only hints that there could be.
What did everybody else think?