Thursday, March 04, 2010

Community, "Physical Education": Naked came Jeff

A review of tonight's "Community" coming up just as soon as I commit a third sin...

When I wrote my story for Sunday's paper about TV shows that do and don't label characters as having Asperger syndrome, a few of you asked why Abed wasn't included. Part of that was simply a function of space - only so many inches in the paper, and Abed's on a much less well-known show than "Big Bang Theory" or Bones" - but part of it was that, other than the "ass burgers" joke from the pilot, Abed has seemed more TV-quirky than specifically Aspie. Dan Harmon talked about this a bit in Jace Lacob's own story about Hollywood tackling autism, and said, "I want my characters to be my characters, with rules that I create, based on my life experiences, not rules set forth in someone else's manual."

That's an entirely reasonable approach, and it's one that allows the show to do an episode like "Physical Education," in which Abed is shown to be far more together and sure of himself than any of his well-meaning friends, and to have a perfect understanding of human relationships, even if others don't recognize that at first. The idea of a character who has so much self-esteem and natural talent that he can be anything he wants is pretty cool, and so far the show has been careful not to take it too far and turn Abed into Fonzie.

It was a really nice, sweet Abed story - once again, this show that allegedly leans so much on irony and meta references has no problem finding and showing its heart - and one where Danny Pudi still got to inject some humor with his makeup-enhanced portrayal of Joey (aka White Abed).

And the existence of White Abed (who thinks of Abed, of course, as Brown Joey) was one of several surreal touches in an episode that was frequently content to go for broke and embrace the crazy.

Jeff's half-naked, then all-naked game of pool with the uptight phys ed teacher was completely gonzo. I thought I was laughing hard enough when the soundtrack started using Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" (which accompanied this similar, iconic Tom Cruise scene from "The Color of Money"), but when the coach ripped off his underwear and let out a primal scream, and then Jeff followed suit, I completely lost it. No real logic to any of it, but there are times when you have to sacrifice plausibility for the sake of a really ridiculous, funny, extended sight gag.

And the rest of the episode was filled with other great jokes, like the runner about the rest of the study group understandably mocking "I lived in New York"er Britta for her pronunciation of "baggel," or Shirley and Troy needing every pop culture reference translated into its black equivalent, or one of the best Abed/Troy tags to date, with their Bert and Ernie impression interrupted when Troy remembers he's supposed to be at a funeral. Like the naked pool thing, there was no point to it, but it was silly and really damn fun.

The show can't be this strange every week, but every now and again it works.

What did everybody else think?

66 comments:

Anonymous said...

Don Draper hit on Trudy!

Anonymous said...

Winger. Annie. It's a done deal.

AL said...

Anon. beat me to it! Really loved this episode, but the best moment had to be the Mad Men meta jokes!

Speaking of, less than three weeks until the release of the Mad Men Season 3 dvds!

Dan said...

Great episode. Annie's reactions to Abed as Don Draper and Jeff during the naked pool showdown were priceless.

Anonymous said...

First episode of Community I have ever seen and I think I'm hooked. I could not stop laughing when Abed did Don Draper. Wow!

Anonymous said...

This show is really hitting its stride and I don't think its a stretch to say its the best of their Thursday night comedies right now.

Nicole Marie said...

This was such an amazing and hysterical episode that I laughed all over again reading your write up! Even if they'd stopped after Don Draper Abed and the translation of references (I loved Troy calling Can't Buy Me Love, which is years older, the white remake!), it would have been a great episode. But the entire pool sequence was so totally over the top ridiculous that it's an instant classic!

Why aren't more people watching this great show. It's getting better every week!

Zach said...

Outstanding episode, couldn't stop laughing throughout. Didn't realize Winger is 40% John Dorian, 30% Hilary Swank, 20% Sam Malone, 10% Dick Van Dyke

Dawn said...

That was fantastic! I loved the beginning with Brita's pronunciation of "bagel" (I know people who pronounce it that way!), and how they kept coming back to it. But the first thing that had me laughing out loud for 5 minutes was Abed's vampire impression. And I loved how it didn't end, with Troy carrying him out of there.

It just got better from there, with Abed's impressions (Don Draper!) and then the awesome pool showdown. Can't wait to watch it again on Hulu!

peachgeek said...

I want a screenshot of Muppet Abed & Troy for my wallpaper. Anybody got one? That was the best part. Also loved hissing vampire Abed and, well, anything Abed does.

S.A. Miller said...

It was really quick, so I didn't see it clearly, but was there a Teen Wolf type student shown when "Werewolves of London" started playing?

Alex said...

This was *not* the episode to watch at the gym; I was on the treadmill, giggling like a fool.

Loved the "Mad Men" reference. Loved the "breakdown" of Jeff, especially the Van Dyke and Swank elements. And as someone posted before- Jeff & Annie? SO happening. She was giving him real interested looks.

Josh M. said...

Gotta say, I think that's the show's best episode yet. The meta-"Mad Men," the spread-eagle on the pool table, the absolutely best Abed/Troy capper, and what's likely the first and only pop culture reference to Love Don't Cost A Thing.

As disappointed as I was in this show in the beginning, I think it's becoming the best of NBC's Thursday night lineup. I would have never believed that three months ago.

Seange said...

According to last night's Community panel at PaleyFest last night, Troy having to be at a funeral was a Donald Glover improvisation.

Anonymous said...

I saw the potential of this show right away. Watching the characters develop in that last couple months worth of episodes has been hysterical. Abed and Troy are two ridiculously talented actors. I am excited to see what everyone else has up their sleeves!

wjm said...

The rumors of Bert & Ernie's gayness just add to the mayhem. This episode was all kinds of fabulous. Danny Pudi had better be careful, or he's going to become a very famous man.

I haven't laughed that hard at my TV since, well, the "eyes around the table" scene. This show is by far the funniest thing on my schedule right now. And half the fun is that I never would have guessed it from the first third of the season.

And...uh...Joel? Nice legs!

Andrew said...

Wow, a sitcom has not made me laugh like that in forever. Great episode.

Jennifer J. said...

S.A. Miller: Yes, there was! We caught that, too. :)

Meta-awesome! :)

Flap Jackson said...

Towards the end it just devolved into a cascading cavalcade of ridiculousness, but I still loved every moment of it, and I'm really starting to like all the characters.

Lorrie said...

The naked pool game was one of the funniest things I've seen in any program this year. I love how Community allows jokes to build until they reach insanely hilarious proportions.

My mother couldn't hear the difference between baggel and bagel. We paused Community for a few moments to make her say "bagel." She pronounced it just like Britta. Which makes sense, because a few years ago we were confused about why mom wanted us to give each other "gay" Christmas gifts that year. Turns out, she thought she was saying "gag" gifts.

Anonymous said...

Loved the Abed Don Draper.... had to repeat it a half a dozen times to catch all the little nuances (Annie being subtley all extra girly in her facial expresssions before Abed Draper approaches, How Abed Draper already has the cigarette case ready to deploy even as he's sitting down), how everyone has a different archetype of sexy defined by TV. This part cracked me up:


Abed!!! What are you doing?!?

Don Draper from Mad Men. What did you think?


Weird!

Awesome!

Put your tongue in her ear!

I liked it!

Don't be like him, he cheats on his wife. Be someone nice like Mike Brady.

The writers were on fire writing this episode.

Henry said...

He did Don Draper! And he hit on Trudy! And Trudy looked like she was turned on. Best joke of any show on the night. Abed's hilarious! I especially loved his vampire or serpent impressions near the beginning. Shoot! Everything involving Abed was hilarious. His Jeff impression was impeccable. Too bad they just didn't show the fight between Abed and Joey.

Britta pronouncing it, "bag-gull" was a great gag.

But what community college has a phys ed class? And why would they have short shorts for uniforms?

paul in kirkland said...

I can't believe I'm the first to mention this, but when the bagels fell on the floor Abed just glances at them and says "13".

Total takeoff on the diner scene from Rain Man.

belinda said...

Draper. Trudy. It's a done deal. I was wondering when they'd make some kind of reference to MM.

Naked pool was delightfully and hilariously hot. And not to be a girl about it, but mmmmm, Joel McHale.

Yes, what was all that about? Annie was totally checking out naked Jeff. Which is awesome.

Henry said...

Makin' me want to watch Mad Men now. Coupled with that profile on Christina Hendricks a couple of weeks ago. Season 3 DVDs can't get here fast enough.

Henry said...

I also loved Jeff's indignant, "Zach Braff?!"

Anonymous said...

Oh My GoD!!!! need Mad Men Fix Stat!

Starting to Hallucinate about Christina Hendricks answering the phone of the incredible new firm:

ring-ring

"Hello, Sterling Draper Cooper Pryce Winger, How may I help you?"

:)

Cassie said...

I think most community colleges have phys ed classes, but not sure if they are actual "PE" classes like we had back in middle school/jr high, where you would play different sports. It's probably more like you can choose a certain physical activity - such as pool, or dance (Britta and Troy), or something like that. And I do think that some require a PE credit.

I think Jeff's shorts were the only ones that were super short - some of the other students had longer shorts. I took it just that the instructor was on some sort of power trip (like Senor Chang!) and that's why he was making the students wear the shorts. As my sis pointed out - in the naked pool scene, none of the students in the class were wearing their gym shorts. Did Jeff just come back after the class, or was it actually during class - if it was after, the students in the class just still happened to be there?

This episode was hilarious. The scenes in the library are always great, plus there was the other scene in the classroom where they were trying to teach Abed to be someone else. I love when the whole cast is together - even with 7 people, nobody fades into the background!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone under 30 know what an after-school special is? I love the jokes that appeal to my generation, but I wonder about them.

Anonymous said...

On repeated viewing, I noticed the cool jazzy MM music playing in the background as Abed Draper is hitting on Annie Trudy. Great attention to detail Production team!

Christian said...

Awesome episode.
And I really loved the meta-jokes with Mad Men (Trudy!) and Scrubs (executive producers Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan were executive producers on Scrubs for the first 8 seasons).

annie said...

That was amazing! I watched pretty much the whole thing. Normally I'm sketching, even during my favorites, but the cast was captivating, and the jokes were one right after the other.

Abed is hilarious. I was rolling during the Bert and Ernie tag.

Blake said...

Plus, Troy made what has to be the only Calvin and Hobbes reference ever in pop culture. My respect for the writers of this show just grew even more.

BigTed said...

Actually, Winger is 30 percent Bill Murray in "Stripes," 20 percent Bill Murray in "Meatballs," 20 percent Hawkeye in "Mash," 20 percent Alex Rieger in "Taxi," and 10 percent Bill Murray in "Ghostbusters."

Anonymous said...

"Jeff" has got some body on him. Who knew?

mrsb said...

There were jokes?

Jeff in tight black pants then in nothing.... that's pretty much all I remember. Dayum!

Matt said...

1. Alison Brie just killed the little non-verbal stuff in this--peeking through her fingers to catch a glimpse of nakedJeff?

2. The Bag-El thing was also a meta-joke. Apparently Dan Harmon pronounces it that way, and was roundly mocked for it.

JERRY said...

I have to mention chevy chase. Still hilarious and cracked me up with his fat jokes!

Her name might as well be Gravy Jones!! lol

Bryan said...

(not going to be too hyperbolic here because I don't know if this show was really it but...)

Out of all the shows on right now I say this one has the most potential of pulling out a "classic" episode at some point, a la Jim's driving test on Taxi or WKRP's flying turkeys.

Chazz Goodtimes said...

Wow- just reading your review and being reminded of some of the scenes had me laughing out loud. I love this show. The pool class was absolutely bizarre but still funny- and every cast member was able to bring some laughs in the Abed storyline but Daniel Purdy just crushed it in this episode.

The tag bert and ernie / cousin funeral bit would be exhibit A if I ever had to explain my sense of humor to someone.

Andrew said...

If this episode had just given us vampire Abed, dayenu
Or just Don Draper Abed
or the beg-gel cold open
or Abed quanitifying the elements of Jeff
or Abed/Troy as Bert/Ernie*

*except that all of the NBC thursday show run a few seconds into the next show, that the tags are always split across separate recordings.

I've recently had that bagel/beg-gel conversation with someone who similarly mispronounces the word.

semicolwin said...

Andrew, I know what you mean w/ the DVR overlap. Unless you are watching something else (and only have the ability to record two shows at a time, while having to watch one of them, like I do w/ my DVR), I have found that it works to record a minute later than the scheduled end-time. That way, it can get all of Community, for instance, on one recording, and still catch the beginning of Parks & Recs on another recording.

Christian said...

And one more meta-joke:
Abed being half polish.
Danny Pudy is half-polish in reality.

LA said...

This was easily my favorite episode of Community to date. Don Draper hitting on Trudy Campbell, the werewolf in the background when Werewolves started playing, the translation to black cultural references, to the naked pool match, I've never laughed so much during this show. Just awesome.

And who knew Joel McHale was so damn hot nekkid? NICE!

Ant$ said...

they can't possibly top this episode...I haven't laughed this hard since...well...the last episode of Archer...

Hatfield said...

Yeah, even as a heterosexual male, I couldn't help but have a Harry from Dumb and Dumber moment when McHale got naked.

I won't make any bold declaratives about the show, because I've loved it from the beginning, and it just keeps getting better. The 8-9 hour is insanely strong right now.

Word verification: "feralrun." Presumably what the pool coach went on after he lost.

DeeTV said...

Great episode. This show is running neck and neck with Modern Family as my favorite show, with Community ahead by a nose after last night's episode.

I can't wait to buy the first season DVD of this show. I have a Community marathon in my future.

SaneN85 said...

I don't think I've ever laughed as hard as I did at Abed's vampire impression. Can't Buy Me Love/Love Don't Cost a Thing was hilarious as well, including the remark about how it should be insulting to white people. This episode is definitely getting saved.

Sidenote: Alan, I just watched "Legends of the UNWired: The Avon Barksdale Story" last night. Although I work PT at a video store, I've never seen any other Legends of the UNWired. Do you know if there are already others out?

Jenn said...

This was definitely one of those episodes where I had to keep pausing or rewinding because I'd be laughing so hard at a joke that I'd miss the next one.

I just about died when Troy made a Calvin and Hobbs joke and Pierce asked thought he was talking about Calvin Coolidge.

SR said...

I hope every other sitcom on TV is noticing the wealth of joke opportunities that open up by having two black leads in the cast.

Anonymous said...

It goes to show you that un-PC jokes are fine if they're FUNNY!! Three (of the many) that I recall made close together: Using Fat Albert to remind black people about a preachy show made for white audiences (After School Specials), calling Joey the "employable Abed", and while going to commercial, Joey calling out to Abed,"Let's go, Slumdog.".

Alan Sepinwall said...

NBC just announced a season two pick-up for Community. (All four of the Thursday comedies will, in fact, be returning.)

Hatfield said...

Woohoo!

DeeTV said...

Thanks for the great news Alan about Season 2. It almost makes up for the bad Party Down news in your other thread.

Anonymous said...

All four of the Thursday comedies will, in fact, be returning.

They won't all be returning to Thursdays, I'm assuming.

Anonymous said...

I keep thinking the skies the limit for Joel McHale. I'd love to see him take over the Tonight Show, he'd be awesome

Alan Sepinwall said...

They won't all be returning to Thursdays, I'm assuming.

We'll see. None of the non-Office comedies are strong enough ratings-wise to stand on their own.

Anonymous said...

Probably a good thing the strip pool showdown happened with the height of the table concealing their nether parts when needed. Touch football or soccer sans jockeys might have been too much, even for Community. Hilarious.

Evad said...

Wow, Alan, don't think i've ever seen such a unanimous YEAH on your blog!

Great episode, the Jeff stuff started pretty slow, but built to a fantastic/hilarious conclusion.

Cameron said...

Henry said...

I also loved Jeff's indignant, "Zach Braff?!"


and Abed goes, "sorry"

Anonymous said...

NBC just announced a season two pick-up for Community. (All four of the Thursday comedies will, in fact, be returning.)

YESSSSSS. Thanks for this news, Alan!

Any word on whether or not Chevy Chase will reprise his role as the great Pierce Hawthorne next season?

srpad said...

Good news on the renewal. Great episode all around. This show is quickly taking over the top spot for Thursday NBC comedies.

Annie had a lot of great moments this week but my favorite was her little dance at the end of the teaser. She rose in cuteness level to "Tiny little sneakers made for babies".

ADW said...

I'm thrilled to hear about the renewals. My secret wish for something I shouldn't buy but want to buy is a multi-disc playing Blu-Ray player so I can ride my exercise bike and bounce from Modern Family (different night, I know) to Community to Parks & Rec, and so on.

Humor is a very non objective thing but this episode had more humor in the first 5-6 minutes than most shows have in 30.

When my tiny, Southern mother first heard of bagels some years back she called them "bangles" so I was laughing like hell from the start.

Add: the multi-character reaction perfection on Abed, many funny pop culture references, and particularly Shirley's priceless "unless it's a boy, then we need to find them for Jesus" (what a delivery)..all in the first four minutes.

I'm still laughing about Abed making like a vampire that looked like a human lizard/dinosaur imitation plus the hysterical ending "You son of a bitch..you magnificant son of a bitch!" . I laughed the first time, I laughed when I rewatched it.

And the Mad Men jokes..perfection..

WWWeaves said...

Dayenu.

'nuff said.

Lacy said...

The funniest moment for me was when Jeff put his leg on the pool table. The ridiculousness of the entire situation was great. It reminded me of the brawl at the end of the Christmas episode when I asked myself "Are they really going to do this?" And they did and they took it to the extreme...way too funny.

JMC said...

I'm also catching up and wanted to add to this great thread of funny moments Chevy's line that had me and the wife laughing so hard about Abed

Pierce: I can't think of anything more frightening than a half-Polish, half-Arab virgin in his thirties. One way or another, that ends with an explosion!