A review of last night's "Community" coming up just as soon as you agitate my sciatica...
Last week, I complained that "Beginner Pottery" tipped the pop culture reference scales too far and threw off the show's balance. In many ways, "The Science of Illusion" was even more reference-laden, yet I enjoyed it a lot more.
Part of that is conceptual: Shirley as a salty sea captain seems incredibly random, whereas Shirley and Annie as buddy cops competing to be the alpha dog seemed both more potential-laden (Alison Brie totally went to town playing Annie as a snarling, toothpick-chewing renegade cop, just as Danny Pudi did a perfect Disapproving Black Captain impression) and because it seemed a bit more on point with the characters. Annie and Shirley are constantly trying to prove they're not the timid mouses people take them for, and it felt right to then place their police misadventure in an episode where Britta and Pierce and even Troy(*) are also taking ridiculous steps to transcend people's preconceptions about them.
(*) As I've said before, Donald Glover trying to talk while Troy weeps will never not be funny, no matter what he's saying, and it was especially funny here because the writers were acknowledging that Troy is too young to get the Cookie Crisp reference they were making. (Wikipedia has a good breakdown of the history of Cookie Crisp mascots.) Too often, the writers on shows try to apply their own tastes and references to characters who are younger than them, so I always appreciate a kind of meta acknowledgment like that.
The Britta story was also a good example of the "Community" writers continuing to turn into the skid with that character, rather than trying to fight it. Whatever the original conception of Britta was, it didn't really work. But because the show has embraced and acknowledged that she's the group's buzzkill, she's become more likable, and then jokes can be built around the difference between how others perceive her and how she perceives herself. Britta's self-deprecating knock-knock joke ("Cancer!" "Oh, good, come in! I thought it was Britta!") was a very sad, sweet, funny and charming moment for Gillian Jacobs.
There were a lot of funny jokes scribbled in the margins - old man Leonard as the most ruthless and vulgar prankster on campus, Senor Chang's fear of frogs, Pierce's gay psychic reading of Jeff - but the main jokes were even funnier. Annie doing a foot pursuit of Jeff and running through the pepper spray mist alone was worth the price of admission.
So, the big question is, which buddy cop spin-off would you rather watch: Annie and Shirley, or Sawyer and Miles from "Lost"? Could we combine them all? Or would Annie spontaneously combust if asked to spend a lot of time with a shirtless Sawyer?
What did everybody else think?