Friday, February 05, 2010

Community, "Romantic Expressionism": Who's your Greendale daddy?

A review of last night's strong "Community" coming up just as soon as I die from a lack of service...

I've talked a lot in these "Community" reviews about the dangers of trying to force an Unresolved Sexual Tension situation when the chemistry's lacking, as it was with Jeff and Britta. "Romantic Expressionism" kind of brilliantly reacts to that concern by creating UST between every single member of the group, regardless of gender, age, or Pierce-ness. (Okay, so maybe Pierce-ness is still a problem for the rest.) I doubt the series is going to follow up on most of the potential combinations we saw in that hilarious staring contest scene at the library - unless NBC pushes for the Annie-Britta one to goose the male demo numbers, that is - but at least they're out there now, and the characters have accepted that they're not really a family, but a collection of unattached, consenting-but-weird adults.

And I will also admit this: Jeff and Britta were great together last night. Not necessarily in a "now they are clearly meant to hook up" way, but just as comedy partners. Britta opposing Jeff's antics in the early episodes was a cliche, and it also didn't serve Gillian Jacobs very well. But having them work towards the same goal - in this case, protecting Annie from "gateway douchebag" Vaughn - with markedly different levels of skill at manipulation was very funny, and the first time in a while that I enjoyed them as a duo, sexual tension or not. Give us a few more stories like this for the pair, and I might stop objecting to the idea that they're each other's romantic density, even if I don't know how necessary it is.

At the same time, Alison Brie was on fire (as she's been for most of the season), regardless of which character Annie was paired with, be it Vaughn (who turned out to be just simple, but not bad, in the end), Troy (being hilariously gross as he tried to mark his territory with her, and calling back to his obsession with "butt stuff" from the psychology episode), Jeff(*), Britta, etc. And seeing Annie absolutely melt in response to Vaughn's song was a reminder that, for all the pop culture references, meta jokes and withering sarcasm, "Community" is a show with a lot of heart, and the kind that rarely feels as forced as it does on some other sitcoms.

(*) I don't think it was an accident that, in the staring scene, Annie's gaze lingered on Jeff for a very long time, given the abundant sparks between the two in the debate episode. I wonder if, in retrospect, the writers regret making Annie so young, as it makes a potential Jeff/Annie romance kind of icky. On the other hand, they seem to be having a lot of fun with the characters' awareness of the icky of it.

The B-story was a simple but effectively funny one, showing old man Pierce's struggle to adapt to yet another college ritual: snarking on bad movies in someone's dorm room. The "Kick-Puncher" movies were amusingly awful in their own right, as were many of the comments, but Pierce's need to hire a writing team was a great touch (as were complaints like, "What are you, my third wife's therapist?"), and then we got another vintage, slightly meta(**) Chevy Chase fall where he knocked down lots of things and made everybody laugh.

(**) This week's winner for meta humor, though, was Vaughn referring to Shirley as "that Sherry Shepherd lady."

What did everybody else think?

51 comments:

J.J. said...

My DVR's description of the episode didn't seem to have anything at all to do with anything that happened in this week's show. Unless I missed something happening with Jeff's pottery class.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the effective admission of Abed/Troy. I mean, just listen to what they were going to film next!

Chazz Goodtimes said...

I really enjoyed this episode and even had to rewind it a couple times to see what I missed while laughing to loudly. The call-back to the butt-stuff by Troy was amusing, but the beginning of that sentence, "Dear Red Shoe Diaries" had me in stitches (and probably anyone else who was an adolescent in the early '90's and knew someone who had Showtime).

I agree with your comment on Allison Brie but of the young cast members Troy has in my opinion been the most consistently funny character. A credit to both the writers and the actor considering he easily could have been a one-note (dumb jock) character.

Karen said...

It wasn't just Annie's gaze lingering on Jeff in that fabulous staring scene, it was the almost wistful smile on Jeff's face as he gazed on Annie. There is absolutely chemistry between those two and I have to believe they will explore that eventually. It wasn't just their mutual gaze but their mutual indignation as each disavowed the fact of the debate kiss. There is something going on there.

I also enjoyed the Jeff/Britta action for the first time ever. Britta wasn't the insufferable prig she usually is; she was actually fun.

And it does seem that Troy and Abed are officially a couple now. Which is good, because now that I've seen how Troy works his moves--when he moves on Annie--I don't EVER want to see him pick up a woman again. Yikes.

Greg said...

This episode was actually "Romantic Expressionism," not "Beginner Pottery."

Alan Sepinwall said...

You appear to be correct, Greg. But my DVR, like JJ's, listed it the wrong way.

Matt said...

Troy and Abed are bringing more laughs, but Alison Brie is also scoring on an emotional level, which is unusual for a sitcom of this sort (as opposed to something like The Office, which is as much light drama as it is a comedy).

And even though I recognize the utter wrongness of it, I'm concerned I'm becoming a Jeff/Annie 'shipper--perhaps because I identify with Jeff (as a fellow snarky lawyer) and have a crush on Annie (I have a thing for secretly brittle overachiever types). Alison's 26 and McHale's 38, so real-age based, it's OK.

Phil said...

How about Chevy Chase going back to the falling down for a laugh joke? That was one of the real laugh out loud moments for me.

Anonymous said...

I'm fully prepared to believe that Jeff & Britta are each other's "romantic densities," a sort of black hole of romanticness where chemistry goes to die. But they're an utter failure at the "romantic destiny" thing.

Chip said...

Speaking of pop culture references... Was "density" intentional?

Gateway douchebag was my favorite line of the night. And it was a strong night of NBC comedy.

Alan Sepinwall said...

"Density" was a George McFly nod, yes.

Anonymous said...

I was a big fan of the use of the Wilhelm Scream in Kickpuncher.

Steve said...

"KickPuncher" was an obvious ripoff of Cyber Policeman: Operation CrimeKill

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2010/1/26lachler.html

jenmoon said...

Oh, this was just fun.

I'm sort of rooting for a Shirley-Troy hookup now, on top of Jeff/Annie. Hmmmmmm.

Yes, Jeff and Britta as friends rocked in this one. Also, Abed and Troy's movie making.

njames said...

I LOVED Abed & Troy reassuring each other at the same time: "They're just jealous."

Annie saying that Troy once tried to hold her hand because he accidently thought she was Abed.

Vaughn is just awesome. His scene with Troy comparing things that are all connected - like rocks and hats.

Otto Man said...

"I thought Troy tried to hold my hand after class, but he thought I was Abed."

Bryan said...

what a great show - and I agree with you all about the Jeff/Brita thing. There was a moment last night- (right after the hilarious "you ate all the macaroni!" I think) where Jeff made some sexual comment Brita brushed off and I actually thought they finally got the chemistry. But it doesn't necessarily have to end up romantic - they just finally seemed very good and natural together.

mlebaron said...

FYI, the members of Pierce's writing team were played by members of Donald Glover's comedy team, Derrick Comedy. They've done some great stuff.
http://www.derrickcomedy.com/

Bia said...

And even Britta got to be funny! (at least for me...) That "Give me some fivesies -- turning it into a snake..." reached high levels of Liz-Lemon-ness. I almost fell off my chair laughing!

Hatfield said...

This was a hilarious episode, and paired with Parks and Recreation after it, I can almost forgive NBC for being such assholes. Almost.

My favorite bit was Leonard running in and accusing Jeff of eating all the macaroni, followed by Jeff admitting he did eat it and saying it was creepy Leonard knew. It also reminded me of something I discovered when I recently watched Stalag 17  with my girlfriend: Leonard is played by Richard Erdman, who played Hoffy, the awesome barracks chief in the film, and I think the last surviving cast member other than Peter Graves. Just some random trivia for any film buffs, but I do highly recommend the movie. William Holden and Billy Wilder at their best.

Jeff said...

Donald Glover is amazing at physical comedy. Just the way he contorts his face makes me laugh.

Anonymous said...

For me, this show rates as well as Parks & Recreation did last year. I was okay, but I didn't love it. Hopefully, it will follow P & R's path and have a strong 2nd season.

Abed is my favorite character. I'm not crazy about Peirce or Troy though which is a shame b/c I love Chevy Chase. He just always seems to have the weakest plots/lines.

Christian said...

Is it wrong for a 29 year old to have a TV crush on somebody who is 18 on the show (even though in reality she's 26)?
Ah well, Alison Brie is amazing anyway, so who cares ;-)

Jerry said...

This show seems to be improving week to week. This was another strong episode.

Manton said...

This show really seems to be hitting its stride. I'm very impressed by all the "newcomers" (Glover as the stand-out, and I can't believe he went from "the guy in Bro Rape" to being THIS gifted in comedy). And I looove how meta this show is, and how they're pushing it even further. NBC got one night properly programmed, it seems.

Little Miss Smoke and Mirrors said...

"Gateway douchebag" killed me.

I'm loving the one-two comedy punch of Community and Parks. They have both been on fire.

LA

timb said...

Christian, since it's not wrong for this 40 year old man to have the crush on a 26 year old, then you're fine. She is teh awesome

Anonymous said...

"What?!" Britta and Jeff were great, as was the group discussion and Kickpuncher. I wasn't too interested in the other stuff, but there were some nice touches here and there.

I realize that I am probably in the minority, but I do wish the show would take it easy with the callbacks to stuff from previous episodes. It's already wearing out "La Biblioteca" and "Gettin' Rid of Britta", and now my favorite moment from "Social Psychology" was cheapened somewhat. I didn't have a problem with another Chevy Chase fall, though.

pws said...

i haven't watched community since the pilot since my tv viewing schedule is already full as it is (it's on my need to eventually watch list, next to parks and rec but after chuck :p), but i have to say that shot of allison brie is delightful! i enjoy her presence on mad men but i'm incredibly excited to hear she's doing so well on community. looking forward to when i actually get started on this show!

Alan Sepinwall said...

I realize that I am probably in the minority, but I do wish the show would take it easy with the callbacks to stuff from previous episodes.

If episodes were as heavy on callbacks as, say, third season "Arrested Development" (which was virtually nothing but callbacks), I might agree with you. But as with the meta humor and the pop culture references, the callbacks are only one small ingredient of the weird comedy stew Dan Harmon and company are making here.

Anonymous said...

I hate to always be in the minority on this, but I have always liked Britta (the character and the actress), and I actually think that she and Jeff have a nice chemistry going. I think it would be quite gross if Jeff and Annie got together.

Anonymous said...

I like that they keep using the other Derrick Comedy members in cameos (as reporters for the school newspaper, members of the improv comedy troupe).

belinda said...

(*) I don't think it was an accident that, in the staring scene, Annie's gaze lingered on Jeff for a very long time, given the abundant sparks between the two in the debate episode.

I'm so glad you brought this up. (And Jeff also had a big ol' smile on his face in his gaze back at Annie) I was wondering about that myself, especially compared to the other glances (between other combos of the characters) that were much more comedic and friendly - Jeff and Annie's shared look was very hot. I hate to be a 'shipper' on a comedy, but I'd be lying if I didn't say a little part of me is dying to see them get together later, even though it is pretty icky (what, almost 15 years or so at least apart).

I love Abed's eyebrows.

I think I really enjoyed Britta this week because she was secretly manipulating Annie not because of the reasons stated to Jeff but because of something petty and girly like not wanting Vaughn to make out with Annie. It made Britta instantly more likeable.

It's just so Pierce to take the fun out of ribbing at a crappy movie with friends by actually rehearsing for it beforehand. A perfect subplot, even though Shirley didn't get too much to do this week.

belinda' said...

Oh, and Troy was awesome this week. His moves on Annie were spot on and HILARIOUS.

Chris said...

Am I the only person who think nothing funny ever comes from Jeff and/or Brita. This show is all about the background characters.

Geoff said...

STARBURNS!

It cannot be stated enough, the background humor is the most fun part of this show.

Number Five said...

Another great use of the whole ensemble...pretty much everyone except Shirley had something significant to do. And I like they've incorporated the Abed/Troy closers into the rest of the show by referring to their "relationship." The entire staring contest was perfectly done.

I liked that they just shoehorned Ken Jeong into the movie scenes, along with his use of the tuxedo as an excuse.

Starburns! And a nice nod to the fact that your group is never the only group to be ragging on other people.

It's too bad Britta has gotten a bad rap; she just has to be the straight man most of the time, and as others have pointed out, this episode and especially moments like the fivesies/snake show she can be just as funny.

Christian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christian said...

Ok, wow this Alison Brie picture gallery(probably NOT NSFW!!! You've been warned) together with that video by Tyler Shields (not 100% NSFW either) definitely makes me not feel weird for having a crush on her anymore.

Sorry for posting that here, but seing that Alison Brie was featured as the picture, I couldn't help but share it...

Christian said...

sorry, wrong youtube link in previous post, that's the rigt one (still slightly NSFW): Tyler Shields video

unless said...

"I'm not Juno, OK homeslice?" just about made me fall out of my chair, and the scene just got funnier from there.

My hopeful prediction for the end of this season: Jeff and Britta get together around three episodes from the finale, and it disgusts everyone, and they break up acrimoniously at the end of the season closer. It would disarm critics' (and viewers') concerns as to their utter lack of chemistry while simultaneously acknowledging them, and enabling a subtly different group chemistry to take hold after the study group takes the summer quarter off. Yeah?

hollphoto said...

"FBI Warning -I'm so scared" - a callback to the video pirates section from Amazon Women on the Moon.

Mike said...

What a terrific episode! That staredown scene was one of the funniest scenes I've seen on TV in quite some time.

Two bits I loved that weren't mentioned were Abed/Troy being paired up as an inseparable duo, with Annie saying that Troy tried to hold her hand when he accidentally thought she was Abed, and Troy referring to Abed as his "other half." Absolutely hysterical.

The bit in the tag, the end of the episode, with Troy and Abed acting out Kickpuncher and Abed filling several roles was dynamite stuff. Really really great.

Chrissy said...

I thought the age difference between Annie and Jeff was a little gross too in the debate team episode, but I think they are trying to age Jeff down a bit (not necessarily to make a relationship with Annie palatable, of course). In the episode about Jeff trying to get a date (I'm terrible at episode titles), Brita looks through his phone contacts and declares his phone the phone of a "20-something guy". And then he'd never seen MASH. So even though the actor is 38 and doesn't look a day below 32, I think they are trying to play him as 29 or so. Which is still a little bit weird, but more acceptable.

The real issue is Jeff's obvious sexual experience and aggressiveness, but I imagine if they ever went to that well they could pull something funny out of it.

Just got into this show, and with just a few episodes (Interpretive Dance, mostly), I've loved every episode and wish I had been watching from the beginning. Thanks god for being snowed in!

wjm said...

Gosh, I appear to be the only one who isn't creeped out by a Jeff & Annie pairing. There's no question the sparks fly when they're together, and he often acts like (as someone already mentioned) a twenty-something guy anyway. Maybe it's because when he gave her That Look, I felt it clear down in my toes. Or maybe I'm the creepy one. It's possible.

It pains me a bit to say this, but with the Christmas episode, Community surpassed The Office as my favorite show (not counting FNL, which stands alone at the summit of Everest). It's an irresistible little show.

Katty said...

This show really does keep getting funnier.
I also liked the lingering look Annie gave Jeff (and the little smile he gave). There was a lot more chemistry between the two of them in the debate episode than I've seen thus far with Britta and Jeff - so am hoping somewhere done the track....

Anonymous said...

I just got the Sherri Shepherd joke! Heh.

, Brita looks through his phone contacts and declares his phone the phone of a "20-something guy". And then he'd never seen MASH. So even though the actor is 38 and doesn't look a day below 32, I think they are trying to play him as 29 or so.

I could be wrong, but I thought Britta's response was more like a "hey, it's pathetic that you're in your thirties and your phone is still much like a twenty something year old's..." rather than Jeff is actually in his 20s.

Though, come to think of it, how old is Vaughn supposed to be? Though I guess he had to be younger than Britta, so ok with Annie.

Anonymous said...

Chevy Chase S*cks on this show (along w/everything else he's done for the last 20 years) and needs to be put into an Unfunny Folks Home already (along with Joan Rivers, Billy Crystal, and Eddie Murphy)...

Trilby said...

I am one who starting out HATING on Britta. Now I don't even remember why (maybe the name?). I even have a bit of a girl-crush on her now. As Annie said, she's the coolest. Sometimes coolest is a thankless job, but somebody's gotta do it!

She and Jeff make great "parents" to the group. That was the other thing I didn't like at first-- she was the obvious "pretty girl" choice for Jeff to glom onto but they had zero chemistry. That seems to be changing slowly.

I loved Abed's dance at the end of last week. Wasn't that awesome?

Lizzie said...

I don't think I get the "meta humor" re: Sherri Shepard. Do you mean because the actor who plays Vaughn was a writer for "30 Rock"?

crackblind said...

Little late but two things (besides the fact that my DVR didn't record this week because of the scheduling name error!!!).

One - the comment by Troy at the table pairing of him and Abed. Either "they're just jealous" or "they just don't understand" was golden. The two of them together can do no wrong.

Two- Anyone else notice when Annie made the comment of the the pumpkin shaped cloud everyone kept looking at her but Abed looked up and was scanning the sky for it?