Friday, April 23, 2010

Community, "Contemporary American Poultry": Rags to riches

A review of last night's "Community" coming up just as soon as throat surgery humanizes me...

I talk a lot in these reviews about how much pop culture referencing is too much, and "Contemporary American Poultry" took the idea about as far as it could go with an extended, marvelously-executed homage to "Goodfellas." We got Abed-as-Henry-Hill voiceover, push-ins, doo-wop on the soundtrack, freeze-frames, the extended piano coda to "Layla" accompanying a massacre of sorts, and even a brief homage to the end of the famous tracking shot of Henry and Karen at the Copa(*). There was also a bit of "The Godfather" thrown in, with people kissing Abed's ring, while the door was closed on Jeff as if he were Kay Corleone.

(*) Poniewozik wondered why they didn't do a full-on tracking shot, and the answer to that is that they take forever to shoot, and no weekly sitcom has that kind of time in the schedule.

All of that was very well-done, and appropriate for an Abed spotlight episode, in that Abed tends to relate to people through popular culture. And it led to a very nice character moment between Abed and Jeff in the kitchen, and it's the show's commitment to its characters, and also to showing how a community works (here with the chicken taking on too much currency) that makes it something far richer and more interesting than just a live-action "Family Guy." And because the "very special episode" conversation between Jeff and Abed felt earned and true to both men, it then gave the show license to throw in the "Sixteen Candles" gag at the end.

Some other thoughts:

• The "streets ahead" running gag is apparently Dan Harmon getting one final bit of revenge against some guy who attacked him on Twitter. I'm sure others of you can fill in the background on this.

• A monkey with the name Annie's Boobs was just the comedy gift that kept on giving, wasn't it?

• Add Alison Brie to the list of sitcom actors I want to see dancing as often as possible, after she busted out both The Running Man and The Robot in celebrating her new backpack.

• Shirley had a great line about Abed stealing Sexy Dreadlock Guy and how Tyler Perry has made a lot of movies explaining why that's wrong.

What did everybody else think?

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

I thought that episode retroactively justified (for one episode, anyway) Mo Ryan and other critics who've dismissed this show as one pop culture gag after another and nothing more. I was feeling pretty left out (I haven't seen Goodfellas) even though I knew which movie it was that they were recreating.

Loved #streetsahead crossing over into the show, Troy as the creepy pharaoh, and Troy defending his monkey's right to do whatever it wants with its Twitter account (shortly after the episode finished airing, somebody claimed the name "AnniesBoobs" on Twitter in real life).

Matt said...

The "Streets Ahead" joke was the greatest example of show communicating with Internet since Aaron Sorkin's incident with TWOP.

Matt Wilstein said...

the Abed as Henry Hill from Goodfellas was spot-on. Here's the video of the opening sequence:
http://bit.ly/cbkCQ1

Reagan said...

Best Goodfellas reference ever done by any show ever. The details were so good. The voice over narration. The freeze frames. The music. The editing even. Just brilliant.

Zack Smith said...

You missed a grand opportunity to lead the review with "as soon as I get Annie's boobs a banana."

I read the lovely Ms. Brie is getting married. My mighty heart is breaking.

Creepy crush aside, this was one of the best episodes of the season -- it gave Abed some additional layers, and the parody was dead on.

Notice in Britta's cat monologue, she refers to her cat as "him" and then "her." What is wrong with her cat?

Could someone explain "streets ahead?"

I want some chicken fingers now.

Alan Sepinwall said...

You missed a grand opportunity to lead the review with "as soon as I get Annie's boobs a banana."

Oh, this may have been the hardest "just as soon as" choice I've had to make in months. In my notes, I had at least 8 different candidates, including that one.

Ang said...

Troy's line "My monkey doesn't like this caviar!" made me laugh so hard that I had to pause, then rewind so that I could hear it several more times. I am still giggling over it now, and I am still not quite sure why that tickles me so much. Oh well, just another mystery of life.

What is the story of the Twitter/streets ahead thing? Link?

LA said...

Easily the best show on NBC last night; even if 30 Rock and The Office had both been on their game, I still think Community would have reigned supreme.

Genius and hilarious.

Weck said...

All I have to say is, "Go get your f-ing shinebox!"

Anonymous said...

Re: Zack Smith

A Twitter used named "amyfairycakes" tweeted Mr. Harmon: "both Modern Family and Glee are streets ahead of your meta bull****." Harmon used his next ten or so tweets to mock the phrase "Streets ahead," and mentioned it pretty regularly later.

There's an archive of his tweets here:

http://danharmon.com/

Ctrl-F "amyfairycakes" and start reading downwards.

seaver78 said...

Loved the note from Troy's monkey (initials "A.B.") and even though I knew it was coming as soon as I heard "As far back as I can remember" the Layla montage still cracked me up.

DonBoy said...

First it was driving me crazy that Pierce/Chase pronounces Abed's name differently from everyone else. (It's Ah-bed, rhymes with "Spa bed", generally, but Pierce uses a long 'a'). I figured it was supposed to be a character bit about him being clueless. But now someone else (not in the group) said "a-bed", unstressed 'a', stressed "bed". Making me crazy.

GK said...

I try not to get drawn into pitting shows against each other, but for my money, Community is the funniest new show on TV. Maybe being 23 and entrenched in pop culture makes me the bullseye demo, but I will never fault this show for being reference heavy and it does it in such a way tha. I feel the comparisons to Family Guy are a bit unfair.

Mr. Donald Glover is quickly becoming my favorite comedian, and I really like the way the show has become less about Jeff and more about the group dynamic.

paul in kirkland said...

Couple of small things cracked me up:

- Everyone's reaction, and especially Troy's "SHOCKER!", to Brita being a vegetarian. They seem to have found a nice place for her

- The headline of the newspaper said "STAR-GATE", which was funny, but the hilarious part was the sub-head: "A reference to the Watergate, not the 1994 sci-fi Film"

I love their attention to detail on this show.

Anonymous said...

how does one post on a blog like this and never see goodfellas???

blows my mind

Hannah Lee said...

DTor who's Gilligan?

I loved this episode..it was great to have the show back from reruns.

Troy purposely tanking the interview by being creepy Pharaoh was so random and so funny. Britta with gum in her hair, Annie dancing, the camera work, the music, the chicken finger club jackets, a caviar-snob monkey...so much goodness in this episode.

While I've been thinking about adding Community to my DVD collection when it comes out, this episode sealed the deal. I so want to hear the commentary that goes along with this.

Anonymous said...

Was the pharoah a Star Gates reference? No, right?

I think this is really a good ensemble. Lead role? Scene Stealer? I think they interchange well.

I thought Starburns did well in the key scene. And the monkey note initialed A.B.

A

AL said...

Reagan, I agree--this is easily the best Goodfellas/mafia parodies I've ever seen or could ever imagine.

And having just graduated from college last May, I can say that our cafeteria's "Chicken Finger Fridays" made for a weekly war zone. So this plot rang especially true as a clever exaggeration of a genuine college experience.

Lance said...

In defense of Jacobs, I thought she was particularly funny with her line about the injustice of robots replacing auto works, and everyone's disgust at her vegetarianism. They're doing a good job of letting her remain distinctly self-righteous but also funny and not a killjoy. Tough line to walk.

Also, they really don't seem to be using Ken Jeong much, though he appears in most every episode. I wonder if it's scheduling problems with him, or if they just can't find many ways to realistically work him into plots so they're not even bothering. Might they drop him as regular for next season and save the cash?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Lance, I don't think it's scheduling. The writers have very wisely chosen not to force Chang in where he doesn't belong.

Anonymous said...

It just kills me when guys like DTor talk about what a wonderful great person Alison Brie. And maybe she is. You're in love with the character, not the person. You have no idea what she's really like.

dan s. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan said...

A little more info on Streets Ahead: http://earnthis.net/2010/04/community-is-streets-ahead/

Adam Gartenberg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Gartenberg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Gartenberg said...

I, too, thought the Goodfellas storyline was spot-on and entirely entertaining, but am wondering if anyone else got a Keyser Soze-ish vibe from the closing scene in the Dean's office?

It left me wondering if the whole thing actually took place, or if it was just a fantasy concocted by Abed in response to being questioned by the Dean (a story in which he could place himself at the center of attention, and that of course would be seen through a pop-culture lens).

JR said...

The best bit by far was the white board in Abed's bedroom listing each study group member's likes and needs.

Among the highlights:

Troy's likes? Butt stuff.
Shirley's likes? Jesus AND Baby Jesus.

Cameron Hughes said...

For those unaware, "streets ahead" comes from Twitter. Some keyboard gangster told Dan Harmon that Community sucked and some other show was "streets ahead" of it, and Harmon promptly spent the next few weeks taking the piss out of the guy and the term "streets ahead". And thus Pierce's new catchphrase was coined and minted.
Reply With Quote

Paul Worthington said...

What Adam said:
I enjoyed the episode a lot --
But half-way through I thought it was too much, and, continuity obsessive that I am, that it would have to leave a lasting effect on the characters that changed the basic situation way too much, or it would have to be ignored -- and that would annoy me...

Or, as it was narrated by Ahbed, a first, it was clearly "an imaginary tale."

So I was relieved and not surprised at the very end of the episode: it was all a story Abed was telling the dean.

janine said...

One small nitpick: I thought that we established in "Physical Education" that Abed is the most secure of the lot of them. It seemed strange for me for him to be so needy of people. I wished that this episode had aired before "PE," unless, as slightly implied in the voiceover at the end, he was giving it all up for Jeff's sake.

Rain said...

There was a moment at the very end involving the handing off of a goldfish in a plastic bag. It immediately made me think of "Out of Sight" and Albert Brooks getting a goldfish from prison boss Don Cheadle. Just wondering if anyone else caught that, or if I'm totally stretching....

Anonymous said...

It's an animal that looks like a dude. Why don't I have 10 of them? Best. Line. Ever.

Anonymous said...

It's an animal that looks like a dude. Why don't I have 10 of them? Best. Line. Ever.

Anonymous said...

Alison Brie was an awesome guest host on AOTS last week. Danny Pudi was interviewed by Kevin on yesterday's show and was hilarious.

srpad said...

It is totally and completely official: Community is the highlight of NBC's comedy line up. The only show that makes me laugh more right now is Modern Family (is it sad that both are brand new shows or is that awesome?).

Alison Brie doing the robot is Bunny-with-its-paws-covering-its-ears on the cuteness scale and then talking like a robot while doing it just kicked it up one more notch.

Also I really really wanted some Chicken fingers by the end of this thing.

Mike said...

Honestly, I felt that this was one of the finest half hours of comedy television of the year. The episode felt felt epic and was absolutely hysterical throughout. I haven't laughed that hard at several of the jokes in a long time. Really really well done.

I love what they've done with Britta's character. It seemed like they were trying to make her into an actual feminist and protester at the beginning, but now they've revealed that that's just how she's trying to portray herself, and the other characters' constant dismissal of her is a true highlight of the episode.

I strongly recommend everyone pause the episode on the scene with Abed's big board where he lists all the characters' likes and needs. Some pretty funny stuff in there, such as one of Britta's likes being "thinking she's helping" and one of Troy's likes as "butt stuff." Great easter egg.

erin said...

I've laughed at other episodes of Community more, but I thought it was definitely one of the most clever comedy episodes I'd seen in ages. Absolutely adored it. Troy's line about why doesn't he have 10 monkeys was one of the highlights.

And Abed as temporary kingpin (usurping Jeff's awesome power!) was comedy gold.

Jim said...

How does Alison Brie dancing the Charleston on "Mad Men" compare with last night's Running Man and Robot? Tough call.

Kensington said...

Wait, what?

Alison Brie guest hosts Attack of the Show!?! Really?

Oh, and I'm in love with her, too. If that's creepy, then I don't want to be non-creepy.

Anonymous said...

yeah alison brie is that cool and adorable in real life too. Just watch the Attack of the Show episode she hosted.

bratcat said...

this was a great episode from start to finish. I've been critical of the overuse of popculture references in the past but this episode was epic and the details were spectacular. Here' some of my favorite bits-

Annie- my impending restraining order prevents me from going into too much detail, but needless to say she is awesome and hilarious.

Troy- the monkey jokes, the pharoh's costume, T Bone never fails to bring the funny.

Jeff/Britta- I'm so glad that they are not the Jim/Pam, Sam/Diane couple and are allowed to just be themselves. I couldn't stomach the buildup to the inevitable season 5 wedding cliche.

Pierce- Chevy is one of my favorite comedians but Pierce is hit or miss for me. When he's cantankerous it reminds of the stories about Chevy being surly in real life, I guess I long for a retired Clark Griswold/Fletch vibe from him.

Ahbed- Ahbed is our guide though this journey and is developing into a great character.

Shirley- the weak link in my mind, the character just doesn't hit at the same level as the others for me yet.

El Tigre Chino! and the Dean- Great characters who pack the biggest punch when used sparingly. They're funnier if they remain more 2 dimensional, i don't want to see them develop, just bring the funny.

Can't wait for next week's episode.

Ant$ said...

so explain the blazers

Ant$ said...

can anyone explain the blazers they wore?

Anonymous said...

This episode made me ridiculously happy!
I keep watching it on demand!

"he's gone from lovable Johnny No. 5 to evil Hal"

:)

Cassie said...

I think both Pierce and Senor Chang intentionally pronounce Abed's name like Ay-bed.

I liked the episode but since I have not seen Goodfellas, I didn't get that part of it. I am glad, though, that it turned out Abed was retelling the story to the Dean, because I was a little wary of the use of the voice-over throughout the episode.

But good stuff!

LA said...

http://g4tv.com/images/3304/Alison-Brie-Gets-a-Crazy-Tour-of-the-AOTS-Studio/56971/

Alison Brie is wearing a T-shirt that says "Pete Campbell is not my homeboy," hilarious.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of the few who didn't care for this episode. I used to love this show last fall but lately it's too much like they are all one big family and Jeff is too emotional and reactive.

They need to calm down, be less hyperactive and get grounded in an ounce of realism like they used to be. Not too much realism but at least a little bit.

Katrine said...

It just kills me when guys like DTor talk about what a wonderful great person Alison Brie. And maybe she is. You're in love with the character, not the person. You have no idea what she's really like.

Um, what? Dtor said she "grows more beautiful-- and smart and funny and versatile"--all of these are things pertaining to the ACTRESS, ie, Alison Brie, NOT the character. The ACTRESS is the one who delivers her lines in a way that makes them funny, the ACTRESS is the one who is versatile, etc.

Most of the fawning over Alison Brie on this blog is indeed over her chops as a comedienne and actress (and her looks, but they do belong to her after all). Haven't really seen anyone go on about her being a "wonderful person."

Kensington said...

What Katrine said.

Plus, Alison Brie makes a hell of an egg salad sandwich.

Andrew said...

Another small line moment that makes this show: Britta's comment in the beginning of the show telling the group how if they knew how the animals were treated they were eating; they would eat them...even faster to put them out of their misery. ROFL, classic Britta buzzkill, stupidity with righteous indignation moment. So funny.

Don Horman said...

Anonymous said...

It just kills me when guys like DTor talk about what a wonderful great person Alison Brie. And maybe she is. You're in love with the character, not the person. You have no idea what she's really like.


Gillian, please sign up for an account and post under your real name. Also, we still think you're pretty, too, so stop cracking on Allison.

bratcat said...

re: AB aka Alison Brie, aka Annie's Boobs. I made a comment a couple of episodes ago about how she always brings it with great facial expressiions, and i just noticed the pic to this recap is a great example of that. You rock AB.

Sam Garret said...

The trouble with 'streets ahead' is that it's a well-used Britishism - it just seemed weird when they were indicating it was a term Pierce had just made up.

Allie said...

I didn't get to see the whole thing until today = loved the "Goodfellas" homage. I don't know what was the best part - "Reagan" mentioned them all.

But I can't believe no one besides Alan lauded the additional homage to "The Godfather" with kissing of Abed's hand as Troy was somberly shutting the door on Jeff.

The "Annie's Boobs " gag seems like it wouldn't have worked as hilariously anywhere else. What an ensemble cast that play off each other and all fire at the same time. It's impossible to see it all on one viewing. I'm laughing too much.

It's like a modern day "His Girl Friday" in the style. I so missed it.

Anonymous said...

Apparently this episode posted series lows in both total viewers and demo numbers. If it doesn't bounce back next week - well, it's a very good thing NBC already pressed the renew button on this one.

Tom Sanford said...

Anonymous 4/26 4:11am said...
Apparently this episode posted series lows in both total viewers and demo numbers.

All of last Thursday's shows on all networks were down ..... apparently, ESPN's NFL Draft coverage and a few playoff NBA and NHL games did major damage to everyone.

Joemo said...

RE: Ratings lows

This is understandable, the entire Thursday night block was pre-empted in Portland for NBA playoffs. I assume this happened in a lot of NBA markets.

Boblog said...

i am trying to figure out what song was playing in the scen where abed teaches everyone a lesson by taking or destroying the things he gave the rest of the cast. anyone know?