A review of "Community" coming up just as soon as I choke the Little Mermaid with a bike chain...
It's been instructive to watch the ups and downs of "Community" and "Modern Family" this season, not only on their own paths, but in relation to each other. (And I say this as someone who enjoys both shows a great deal and thinks the whole "there can only be one" attitude among some fans of each to be pretty silly.) Though "Community" got pegged at the start of the season as the colder, more ironic show with all its meta humor and pop culture references, I've found that it's not only displayed more heart over the course of the season than "Modern Family," but done it more naturally. Where "Modern Family" has felt compelled to spell out its morals at the end of each episode and make sure no one could possibly forget that these kooky people really like each other deep down, "Community" has chosen to show and not tell the story of its impromptu family coming together and learning to care about each other.
Yet this week, the roles reversed. "Modern Family" gave us the show's first episode in a long time (if not ever?) that didn't end with a voiceover where one of the actors summed up the deep meaning of the story. "Community," on the other hand, gave us an episode where the characters more blatantly talked about their feelings, about what they mean to each other, what they should take out of relationships with each other and with their biological family members, etc.
And I didn't necessarily mind it, particularly in an episode that had as much good comedy as "Basic Genealogy" did. But the slight change in style was noticeable, particularly in this week when "Modern Family" ducked away from this particular pitch. In particular, Abed reassuring Shirley that she's a good mom and Annie getting Jeff to realize he wants to be a good friend were a bit more on the nose than the show usually gets. (Though in both cases we at least got a good punchline, with Jeff again marveling at Annie's powers of manipulation, and Shirley's son winding up in the vending machine.)
As for the comedy, Troy trying to talk while crying has now become one of the show's most reliable laugh-getters, and the unlikely Troy/Britta partnership again yielded great dividends, with Britta's more-enlightened-than-thou whiteness getting her a good switchin'. Katharine McPhee was fine as Pierce's grifter stepdaughter (and certainly much more lifelike than fellow "American Idol" alum Carrie Underwood was on "HIMYM" last week), and it had been a while since we got some good Pierce/Jeff interaction. Early episodes had established that Pierce is who Jeff will become if he's not careful, and it was nice to see Pierce himself recognize this and for once have the self-awareness to try to talk Jeff out of it. (And that also had a good talking-while-crying gag, with Jeff venting about "Glee.") And the Pictionary/swastika/Rabbi Chang gag was wonderfully set-up.
NBC renewed "Community" last week, after the hilarious "Physical Education" aired. (Here's video of Dan Harmon telling the cast the good news.) This has quickly become one of my favorite things on TV, and I'm glad I'll get to see both the show and the study group grow and evolve for another year.
What did everybody else think?