Friday, February 12, 2010

Community, "Communications Studies": Drunk-dial 'C' for 'comedy'

A review of last night's "Community" coming up just as soon as I get in a fight with animatronic Ben Franklin...

Another week, another big step forward for the transformation of Britta from annoying fifth wheel to funny, integral part of the ensemble. In fact, given that we've had three Britta-centric episodes in a row (albeit one here where, by design, it's more about Britta than it actually features Britta), I wonder if this is a concentrated effort by Dan Harmon and company to respond to the early complaints about the character. And, if so, it's working. Gillian Jacobs played hungover very well, and was just as good at portraying Britta's shame as she was her later smugness after having received Jeff's own drunk-dial. And Jacobs' chemistry with Joel McHale continued the improvement we saw last week in "Romantic Expressionism." I still don't know that we need the inevitable Britta/Jeff coupling - particularly since Lauren Stamile has fit in so nicely as Professor Slater - but I don't see that I'll mind it as much when it happens.

If you've read me long enough, you know I'm a sucker for funny dancing (and no, I will not link to the Turk dance again; you know where it is if you want it), and so of course I'd dig an episode that not only featured Jeff and Abed recreating the dance number from "The Breakfast Club" (complete with Karla DeVito's "We Are Not Alone," the song from said number), but Senor Chang booty-dancing with Pierce and Troy while the guys are clad in elegant ladies' pantsuits(*).

(*) It was particularly genius of Chang - and writer Chris McKenna - to insist on pantsuits and not dresses. Not only is "elegant ladies' pantsuits" funny to say, but it's less cliched and more bizarre-looking, and I loved watching Donald Glover show Troy trying to maintain his dignity in the thing. This was the episode being filmed when the TV critics made our field trip to the set on the first day of winter press tour, and while Ken Jeong was in costume for the dance, Glover and Chevy Chase were not. I'm glad I didn't have that surprise ruined for me.

This was also a great Abed showcase, from his attempt to make his sarcasm more obvious to him bossing around his actors to him trying to coax a real performance out of Jeff (and then to him waking up "broken" from all the booze). There's always a danger this show could fly off and become too meta and too dependent on the pop culture references, yet by cofining it largely to this one character - whom Danny Pudi manages to play absolutely seriously - this stuff never feels that self-indulgent.

What did everybody else think?

58 comments:

Alan Sepinwall said...

Also, where is Greendale supposed to be? The "They're going to love you in California" line makes it clear that it's not there, so what up with the palm trees and warm weather?

Figgsrock2 said...

I wondered that too Alan. I always thought it was in a suburb of San Diego. Perhaps it's Arizona?

Fine episode to lead in the Vancouver break. How many fresh eps are left this year? I seem to recall NBC adding a couple of extra eps for this season, no?

Matt said...

Also, they're really getting their money out of the spending on the statue of Luis Guzman set piece.

Stealth said...

Wikipedia claims Greendale is in Denver, CO. Although it also says Greendale, CO, a paragraph further down. Ah, Wikipedia.

Keith said...

The Greendale Community College web-site puts it in Colorado

HarrySTruman2 said...

I think it's Colorado.

Savvy Veteran said...

I have a friend from Greendale, WI, so I had always assumed that the show was set there (out of egocentrism-by-proxy, I suppose?), but like you said, that really doesn't mesh with what the weather would actually be there at this time of year.

I'm finding more and more each week that I really do love this show. It's evolving in a really splendid way, and I would bet that, if some sort of statistical analysis were to (for whatever bizarre reason) be performed, its freshman season would probably hold the highest average of laughs per episode at this point of any of the network shows.

This one wasn't as funny as last week's (which was one of my favorites of the series so far), but was still a fun outing. I'm still laughing every time I see the Greendale Human Being, so getting a glimpse of the miniature Valentine's version was a delight.

Diane said...

Apparently, palm trees are not unheard of in Colorado: http://bit.ly/aYhdNt (For a show that puts men in pantsuits, I'm wiling to let them get by with palm trees.)

Another fun episode. The ensemble is great, and the writing gets better and better. The show did get an order for three more episodes this season, which I hope bodes well for a second season.

pmaha said...

Señor Chang slays me every time. He just runs away with every episode. His dance alone had me on the floor!

Kathleen Taylor said...

I would swear that it was Abed in the Cupid suit, even though there was a scene that combined both Cupid and Abed (which is the sort of trick this show would love to play)

MikeNJD said...

I thought the episode was great. My favorite part was Abed, now "broken, being unable to throw in his pop culture references. When he ended the scene wby saying just "Movie reference," I almost fell off my couch laughing.

filmcricket said...

I haven't watched this in quite a while, and Ken Jeong still makes me cringe with the scenery-chewing, but a lot of things made me laugh last night. For some reason, the line that got me the most was Pierce's "Tweedledum and even Tweedlerdum." I also wondered how Jeff wound up in the pizza guy's shirt.

By the way, Alan, I think in your last paragraph you mean "confining" not "combining."

Mike said...

Other pop culture references:

Senor Chang's "chicken dance" in the class, a la "Arrested Development.

Britta's entrance into the dance, which is basically every pretty geeky girl school dance entrance.

debbie said...

LOVED the broaches on the pant suits.

LDP said...

Here's Greendale.

Alan Sepinwall said...

By the way, Alan, I think in your last paragraph you mean "confining" not "combining."

So I did. Thanks. This stuff happens when I blog before breakfast.

Marc said...

guess im in the minority that finds too much of an overreliance on pop culture references from the past

Karen said...

I never thought I'd be rooting for Jeff and Britta, but this episode definitely edged me closer to that team. Wow. Well done by everyone.

I really want to hear the other 39 minutes and 40 seconds of Jeff's drunk-dial. I hope the writers are keeping that in their back pocket.

Trilby said...

I love silly dancing more than just about anything. I love how it is so revealing of people's inner self or something. It just tickles me. I wish I could cut loose, myself, sometimes.

J.J. said...

I liked Abed explaining that he never got past the opening credits on any episodes of "Who's The Boss?" I know pop culture knowledge is his thing, but sometimes they go a little too far in how knowledgeable he is (instead of possessing the knowledge of one very passionate person, he usually walks around possessing the knowledge of the entire writers' room). So it's nice to acknowledge there's some stuff he just hasn't watched.

And I loved the joke about Chang separating the gristle from the meat... so he could eat the gristle.

Jim said...

Señor Chang slays me every time. He just runs away with every episode. His dance alone had me on the floor

They cut that too short. It was a riot. Also, "movie reference," "Molly Ringworm", "You broke me". And the 'forty-five minute message' was a great ending. Maybe the best episode yet. They made me forget chaperoning a community college dance, where alcohol was being served.

Anonymous said...

bets sitcom going right now

Ben said...

Mentioned in the 30 Rock thread that I Tivo the NBC comedies and watch later in the night. Now, typically 30 Rock is where I start, then the Office and if I have time, watch Community that night (I'm too far behind on Parks and Rec, need to ctahc up in offseason).

Well, I have noticed lately that Community is my go-to show and the last couple of episodes only make resolve even stronger.

Abed rules!

Anonymous said...

Is there even an animatronic Ben Franklin at Disney? He was never president so I don't think he'd be in the Hall of Presidents and I'm not sure where else you'd find an animatronic founding father.

Anonymous said...

Harmon is from the Milwaukee area, and Greendale is a suburb of Milwaukee. That may be the basis for the college name.

Q Ball said...

This show has been neck and neck with Parks & Rec for my favorite of the NBC comedies. I think it's getting better every episode and the Jeff/Abed drunk montage was hilarious. Here's hoping Community gets renewed for a second season.

njames said...

The Office & Commnuity are my favorite Thrusday shows.

I LOVED when Pierce told Chang that he couldn't fail them if they didn't wear the pantsuits; to which Chang yelled: "Have you MET me?!" The BEST line of the night (and satisfying for those who have watched since ep 101).

I also love the Human Being. He's especially creepy since the person in the suit doesn't talk.

Jerry said...

Very funny show...my favorite part was the drunk Breakfast Club montage but there were several other great moments. After just a couple episodes the show found its rhythm and what it wanted to do and it has been delivering. They seem to give you just the right amount of all the characters to where none of them get overdone and they play well off each other---even Jeff and Britta now!

I hope it gets renewed...

Alanna said...

Adding to the list: I thought the fight with an animatronic Ben Franklin was a reference to the Duff Gardens episode of The Simpsons.

Hannah Lee said...

Britta turned the corner for me with the squirrel costume (the giant acorn sealed the deal) and she just keeps getting better and better.

The Abed/Jeff drinking montage was hysterical as was Abed being broken. BTW, did he wake up in top the drawer of his dresser?

The show was able to take bits that would have been funny, and add little touches to make them even funnier, like the brooches on the pantsuits, and the reveal that Jeff had left not just a shmoopy drunk message, but a 40 minute long message.

Community has definitely become my favorite NBC comedy.

One side note: Alan, your podcasts have added another dimension to your blog for me. Every time I read it now, I can hear your voice in my head. Very strange.

Farrah said...

I especially loved Troy's "SLUT!" at the end hahaha.

Anonymous said...

Alan,

As a sucker for funny dancing, what did you think of the most recent episode of the Inbetweeners? Does anyone else think that Neil Sutherland (the tall, "slow" one) is kinda like a slightly older version of Bill Haverchuck (from Freaks and Geeks)?

Anonymous said...

I loved the Jeff/Abed scenes, I love Chang's dance, I love the lady suits...but I didn't love Britta/Jeff. I think they are working better together than before, but as mentioned, it's the third Britta centric episode in a row, so I'll be happy if they don't concentrate on Britta (or Britta/Jeff) as much in the next few episodes.

Especially when the rest of the cast was stuck in a kind of dull plot b (except for the dance and the suits, which were hilarious) in this episode.

srpad said...

This show is quickly becoming my fav thursday comedy. I started cackling like a loon as soon as The Breakfast Club music started (I recognized it right away). The meta humor with "Movie Reference." instead of an actual Movie Reference. The Pant suits. Everything just clicked. The entire cast seems to be gaining chemistry.

BigTed said...

The problem with this Winger-Hot Professor-Britta triangle that's forming is that Prof. Slater hasn't gotten much character development of her own, beyond just being a sexy yet "serious" contrast to Jeff's adolescent wackiness. I'd like her to have some quirks of her own, or else she'll just end up another disposable foil to a "meant to be" couple.

barbra said...

I agree with other posters:

I have a conflict on Thursday nights, so we DVR everything. My husband always wants to watch "The Office" first when I get home, but I find myself most excited about "Community" lately!

Anna said...

I love the way this show is continuing to mix up its pairings. Annie and Shirley were great as incompetent plotters (btw, how excellent was Troy's explanation of the Princeton letterhead?). Abed and Jeff were perfect, especially because Abed had the authority-- I like watching Jeff turn to him for advice and direction. Even Pierce (my least favorite character) was great when paired with Troy.

I belly-laughed through this entire episode! Hope they get a renewal; I've quit watching the Office and have been spreading Community gospel as much as possible.

Anonymous said...

BCI? Awesome. Also, Jeff and Abed cooking the hot dogs with the lighter made me think of Wendy Williams, who McHale makes fun of all the time on the Soup. Was that the first reference to his day job?

DeeTV said...

There's a Greendale in PA. Maybe that explains the Ben Franklin reference? (But not the palm trees.)

Anyway, I agree with poster Ben, this has become my go-to show and I love Abed!

This show and Modern Family have become my favorites. Better Off Ted would round that out to 3 shows if it were still on.

I have always loved 1/2 hour sit-coms and I am so glad they have come back in full force the last few TV seasons!

Chrissy said...

What I loved about Jeff/Britta was how sincere he appeared to be about wanting to stay with Michelle. McHale's performance made me believe he doesn't see Britta as his end-all/be-all, or Michelle as temporary. I could actually see this show not getting them together, which would be practically unheard of. His attraction to Britta got him the study group, which got him a great group of friends, which is more important than the original goal of sleeping with her.

He probably would still sleep with her, of course.

Also, "Movie Reference"? I had to rewind and watch that again like 5 times while my laughter subsided. I love Abed.

Henry said...

This is a show that seems to be getting stronger with every episode. I found the Greendale Human Being simultaneously creepy, strange, and hilarious. I'm okay with a Britta-Jeff hookup, but Jeff-Slater pairing is working for me as well so there's room for it to go either way with me. But let's just get down to brass tacks: I loved Abed's constant meta-referencing. His sarcastic line to Jeff "I have NO IDEA what I'm talking about. Abed doesn't constantly watch TV!" made me laugh every time I listened to it. And the Breakfast Club montage was brilliant, as was the aftermath of the drinking binge, with Abed sleeping in a giant drawer! That was funny... I also loved Troy being forced to dance in the pantsuit.

Anonymous said...

I always thought that Abed was "The Human Being."

Anonymous said...

Come on! Everybody knows Greendale is a suburb of Capital City aka The Windy Apple

Abhimanyu said...

Sorry if this has been discussed elsewhere, Alan, but do you think Community propagates an unfair negative stereotype of community colleges? I'm asking because I just came across something on anthropologist Grant McCracken's blog that alludes to the show:

http://cultureby.com/2009/10/community-colleges-another-view.html

Cassusriff said...

Maybe my favorite episode of the show to date, and I've loved it from the start. Abed might be the funniest quirky/deadpan character I've ever seen. The cast works so well together, even when they aren't the focus.

For a comedy, they sure left me with a lot of intrigue at the end of the episode. Was Brita really faking the getting dressed up? What were the other 39 minutes of the message?

I like where it's heading.

Number Five said...

It's good to see Britta get more outright funny scenes. Now I'd just like to see Shirley get a bit more attention...but it's a very balanced cast.

The meta humor can be a weakness (just how many Breakfast Club references are left?) but Jeff crashing Abed's pop culture memory was hilarious. And the inflection lines were so funny because I think every single line of Abed's dialogue before that was delivered straight.

As someone who frequently feasted on Ben and Jerry's in college, I loved "Chubby Hubby" and that Jeff would be afraid of it.

If Colorado is correct, it's cool that three of the four Thursday night comedies are set outside New York and Los Angeles. If there isn't already a Google map of current TV show settings, someone needs to make one! Someone like Abed?

Andrew said...

Chang calling Jeff and Abed the "law firm of Seacrest and Slumdog" slayed me.

Maura said...

The pants suits Pierce and Troy wore were funny enough, but that scarf thrown across Pierce's shoulder almost put me on the floor.

Poor broken Abed. I hope he's able to recharge. And I didn't realize he was sleeping in a giant drawer. I thought he had bunk beds. I think the drawer is funnier.

I love the shameless "Community" pimping The Soup does most weeks. Tonight's was particularly funny.

Melanie said...

You're dead-on about "Community" seeming a lot less self-indulgent with its pop culture references than other shows ("Psych" comes to mind).

Ant$ said...

this is easily the best new series of this season...okay, this, and Archer

Chrissy said...

@Maura - Abed does have bunk beds, which makes it even funnier that he made it into the top drawer rather than the top bed.

JJ said...

Does any know the name of the song at the end of the episode?

I love Community. This episode was one of the better ones. Chang and Abed really steal the show.

John said...

I assumed Greendale was either in Korea or Kansas. Ya know, because MASH and Jericho also tried to pass off southern California as somewhere else.

Maybe they can try the trick from The Unit, and use different color filters. Like any old Soviet republic was a blue filter, because, ya know, those places are cold.

And any African or Latin American country was a yellow filter, so those places were yellow.

So, if Greendale is Colorade, I guess the safe bet is to reach for the blue filter. At least til summer -- then out comes the yellow filter!

Anthony Foglia said...

J.J. wrote I liked Abed explaining that he never got past the opening credits on any episodes of "Who's The Boss?"

which would also explain why he didn't mention that was the plot of an entire episode. (The clip from that episode was in the credits in later season though.)

Anonymous wrote, Is there even an animatronic Ben Franklin at Disney? He was never president so I don't think he'd be in the Hall of Presidents and I'm not sure where else you'd find an animatronic founding father.

In Epcot, The American Experience stars Benjamin Franklin.

Overall a good episode. Not as funny as earlier ones, but the characters are really playing off each other nicely.

Mimi said...

After watching this episode I had a dream (or nightmare) that Chuck was on a mission driving an RV and it was the Greendale Human Being, with a Ring communicator in his hand ,trying to get into the RV and kill Chuck.

Potential crossover??

Matt said...

In the episode where Jeff is changing his phone book from "Hot Blonde in Spanish Class" to "Britta" I think I remember it showing her phone number as a 303 area code, so that would be Colorado. When I lived in CO, I don't recall seeing any palm trees! Global warming sure is a b***. Now excuse me while I pull out my snow shovel and clean up my driveway... in Texas.

keyser said...

i just wnated to kno wats the name of the song that senor chang is burning the floor to...???

Anonymous said...

The deal with Abed's pop culture references, there is a reason. He has aspergers. Its how he relates and communicates with people.