Friday, October 09, 2009

Community, "Social Psychology": Hurry up and wait

Spoilers for last night's "Community" coming up just as soon as I leave my purse in my duffel and my duffel in the boot of my lorry...

When I started the discussion yesterday about why Jim and Pam's wedding should disprove the need for Unresolved Sexual Tension, several commenters brought up "Community" as a show trying too hard to play the UST card with Jeff and Britta. I didn't necessarily see that in the show's first few weeks (we are, after all, only a month into the series), but I started to see it with "Social Psychology." For the first time, it felt like the show is pushing the Jeff/Britta angle because they feel like they should, and not because Joel McHale and Gillian Jacobs are particularly funny or have scorching chemistry together. During their scenes, I kept waiting to jump back to Jeff with Shirley, or, even better, the Annie/Abed/Troy psych experiment scenes.

Not that I want to keep stirring up this stupid "Community" vs. "Modern Family" feud, where fans of one show decide they must trash the other to ensure theirs has online supremacy, but what I liked about both series this week was the way the episodes shuffled the usual groupings to show how well the entire ensemble can work with each other. There was still a lot of Jeff/Britta, but there was also Jeff/Shirley, and Abed/Annie (complete with the inevitable pop culture reference to how Chandler and Phoebe never had storylines together, complete with Abed comparing himself to Phoebe). And we also got to see John Oliver's hilarious Professor Duncan return and work with Annie, and be even more smugly English than before ("she's an 8, which is a British 10" or fast-forwarding the psych video to resemble a "Benny Hill" episode). And while Senor Chang's explosion at the start of the experiment was a little over the top, the other meltdowns were hysterical, particularly Troy's, in which I think he said (through tears), "The Soul Train Awards were tonight! You promised butt stuff!"

Still a very funny show. I just hope the writers can cool it on Jeff and Britta's non-relationship unless they're going to find better things to do with it.

What did everybody else think?


DR said...

Loved the episode and I don't give two shizzlesticks about the will-they-won't-they on this show. They could keep them apart of put them together... I don't care. That fauxmance is not remotely anywhere as interesting as Jim & Pam, Booth & Brennan, Chuck & Sarah (on Chuck), or any other well known TV romance or fauxmance.

See, if the two wannabe lovers don't connect on some epic level, it really makes no difference if they ever get together. So far, I have not had a moment where I thought "Wow, those two should be together." On The Office, Bones, and Chuck, you knew right away.

Anyway, I thought almost everything worked in this episode. I couldn't find anything that bothered me. It was a really good night for TV (except for the puzzlingly predictable writing on Supernatural this season).

Chris Littmann said...

I 6,000 percent agree with you on Troy's dead-leg drag-out freak-out being a great moment. I, too, heard the quote the same way and was dying at "You promised butt stuff!" (For another great screaming, crying -- but crude -- freakout from Donald Glover, check out the video "Jerry" from Derrick Comedy.)

Really fun episode. I'm also completely smitten with Alison Brie now.

Alan Sepinwall said...

"Butt stuff" makes sense in light of his previous conversation with Annie, but it's extra funny because, I believe, Annie did not promise any butt stuff.

Anonymous said...

Funniest episode yet. Loved John Oliver telling the first psych student to leave to "go kill John Lennon again". Troy is giving Abed a run for his money as my favorite supporting character, although Abed's matter-of-fact "Yeah" when the hippie guy asked if the group was talking about him.

Anyone else catch Badger from Breaking Bad as one of the hacky sacks?

inessentials said...

It's early enough that I'm not concerned about the Jeff/Britta angle being overplayed. But Jeff/Shirley was definitely the highlight of another strong episode.

It was nice to see a suggestion of an Abed/Annie arc, which seems like a wonderfully bristly match.

I'm about ready to say that Community has produced more funny moments so far this (very young) season than any other show, with Parks & Rec running a close second. (Honorable mentions to The Office and Modern Family.)

Double thumbs-up for Community going beyond situation-comedy to being a comedy about ideas (what is a community, how one has to change to be a part of a community, Jeff's professed but unpracticed moral relativism).

Unknown said...

Abed's complete and total deadpan "I was livid" made the show for me. While I didn't think last night's was as funny as the week prior, I'm still on board with Community.

Abby said...

I really need to rewatch the Troy meltdown. I totally missed "butt stuff" and any setup thereof.

Chris Littmann said...

@Alan -- Yes, she actually made it very clear there would not be "butt stuff." This was the conversation:

Troy: "Do they do stuff to your butt?"
Annie: "No."
Troy: "Do you get paid more if they do stuff to your butt?"
Annie: "No."
Troy: "It's fine. I'll do it. I'm in."

And yes, I did just go back and transcribe that scene.

Brian said...

I only saw the first half, but it helped spark a spirited discussion during commercials in "The Office" about whether the Chandler-Phoebe thing was accurate. The only one I could come up with was Phoebe trying to fake seduce Chandler so he would admit he and Monica were a couple.

Rinaldo said...

I enjoyed this episode very much indeed. I'm willing to take a wait-and-see attitude about Jeff/Britta; it doesn't interest me much, but it doesn't bore me silly like the third of Modern Family that's about the grandfather and his new wife, either. The odd thing to me (and this sort of equates to Alan's "they seem to be doing this story because they feel like they should") is that I truly don't get much interest from Britta's side, not even that she's covering up. She just seems sort of friendly and amused.

But all the characters really feel alive, as far as I'm concerned, and I found myself enjoying the fact (and this was also true of Friends at its best, to reiterate that reference) that any pairing will work, and produce a story. I loved Annie/Abed, Jeff/Shirley, Abed/Troy you name it. Even Vaughn was a fun little added note for me. I'm in.

Hal Incandenza said...

Maybe I was just feeling extra sentimental last night (having just watched the Office and then catching the late feed of Community) but I found Chevy Chase's little speech at the end strangely moving. Just me? OK.

Alan Sepinwall said...

And yes, I did just go back and transcribe that scene.

Of course you did. Butt Stuff was involved.

Otto Man said...

Anyone else catch Badger from Breaking Bad as one of the hacky sacks?

That's who that was. Outstanding.

Jen said...

I think the Jeff/Shirley dynamic was great, I really hope they do more with those two.

Also, it was very nice continuity by the show to have Pierce wandering aimlessly in the background trying to fix his ear-ocular as Jeff/Shirley were walking to class talking about Inspector Gadget.

I think this was the episode I was waiting for, where they start mixing up the character pairings. Also loved the coda at the end with everyone in the library hearing Troy/Abed's commentary about them. Those bits just might be my favorite parts of the show.

Unknown said...

Yes I recognised Matt L. Jones too - its actually his second appearance - he delivered the coffee in lat weeks episode "Introduction to Film".

Eric Christian Olsen from "The Loop" was also in there as Britta's tiny nippled boyfriend too. (That was funny).

What worries me is the overt Britta / Jeff tension which Alan has already raised - but even MORESO since this episode is actually episode SIX.

That in itself seems troublesome as episode four was scheduled and from what I understand replaced with five and then finally six.

It was a good ep for sure - but why the panic rescheduling and why actually six episodes in is all the UST stuff actually getting worse and even MORE a plot basis.

Neither of those two factors bodes well for me. On the other hand who couldn't laugh at an American show that can slip in lines like: "I seem to have left my purse in my duffel, and my duffel in the boot of my lorrie."

Unknown said...

Oh damn and I meant to second ...

For anyone that didn't see it the first time round, be sure to carefully watch the background scenes in the walkie talkie stuff - Chevy Chase playing with his headset is just hilarious!

Unknown said...

I'm enjoying both Community and Modern Family, especially for the point Alan made about being able to shuffle the cast to create new dynamics. It was an aspect that the sitcom from a few years ago The Class never seemed to get right, either leaving everyone completely seperate or contriving reasons to interact.

"Oh god it's like I'm in an episode of Degrassi!"

Q Ball said...

The Modern Family vs. Community "rivalry" is silly because we should just be lucky to have two great new comedies in one year. This might end up being the year of comedies with Community, The Office, Parks & Rec, 30 Rock, Modern Family, Cougar Family and (hopefully) Better Off Ted at the top of their game.

I knew Donald Glover would have a breakout episode at some point, his work on derrickcomedy was always ridiculously silly and entertaining.

Gooch said...

This episode sort of gets at what has annoyed me about this show from the beginning. It almost reminds me of the horrifyingly bad "Good Morning, Miami" (except that "Community" is generally funny), in that is expects us to be rooting for a particular couple to get together before we've gotten to know them enough to care one way or the other.

Hannah Lee said...

I’m enjoying Community more and more, and have found laugh out loud moments in every episode including this one. (same with P & R) I’m glad they’re mixing up the character pairings because it shows each grouping has its own special charm, and it keeps the show from being one-noted. It’s a bit like 30 Rock and Arrested Development in that some of the funniest moments fly by quickly or in the background, so it demands careful watching to catch all the jokes.

The Jeff / Britta stuff doesn’t bother me too much, because it doesn’t really seem like a OTP or UST situation to me. Jeff’s relentless and non-sensical pursuit of Britta is just another aspect of his outrageous character, and that works for me.

This week was kind of a tipping point for me in the 8-9 hour. I’d scratched out Survivor weeks ago, when it became clear that show was going to focus its narrative exclusively on yet another self-important insane person, so I’ve been been trying to decide whether to watch Flash Forward or the NBC comedies live. Flash Forward, while starting with an interesting concept, just hasn’t done anything interesting with it and the characters are falling flat. (When you’re watching a show and start thinking about how you’d recast or rewrite it, that’s not a good sign.) So, going forward, I’ll be watching Community/ Parks & Recreation live and recording FF to catch up on later, if I feel like it. And I wouldn’t be surprised if those recordings start to pile up.

Anonymous said...

I always have to watch this show twice: once live, and again online to catch all the jokes I missed. My favorite moment upon rewatch was the look on Pierce's face when the spanish teacher accused someone in the class of being racist on their evaluation. He was sure it was going to be him! Also, did anyone catch what the spanish teacher whispered to Annie? I couldn't make it out, even the second time.

Tyroc said...

I think Jeff trying to get Britta to like him (in a romantic way) and failing makes him more human. So I like it.

And like the series a great deal so far. Chevy Chase needs more to do -- or I guess I expect him to be more Chevy. Right now his character seems kind of one note.

The Abed pop culture meta stuff makes me cringe, even if this one was a little more clever.

Overall, still really liking it. I wonder if we'll ever see their lives away from campus?

Karen said...

I don't think of Jeff/Britta as UST because I don't think there's any ST. I mean, I really don't get the sense that Britta is fighting an attraction to Jeff; he really does come off as kind of a jerk--especially if it's guys like Vaughn who float her boat.

But then Britta is, in my opinion, probably the absolutely least interesting person in the cast. Everybody else has a quirk of some sort, but she's just Pretty Girl. That's boring.

Which is what made the Jeff/Shirley scenes crackle with such energy--those are two twisted people doing what they do best. I was seriously convulsed during all their scenes. As with Troy's departure from the psych experiment. Troy and Abed and Shirley are my favorites so far. They're interesting. The leads are only interesting when they're with other interesting people.

John Oliver's Mark David Chapman joke dropped my jaw, but then I burst out laughing. This show gets away with some staggering lines.

I really love it.

VW: bialsy--a bagel-like role with cojones.

ZeppJets said...

Matt L. Jones ("Badger" of Breaking Bad fame)appeared in one of the first episodes as a confused pizza delivery man. Though he got to have funny moment with the grave realization that there are, in fact, "some worries".

Michael said...


Have you seen this remix of Abed and Troy's biblioteca rap + autotuned senor Chang?

I hope you'll post this in next week's write up as I doubt many folks will see it on this thread and it is absolutely brilliant!


Unknown said...

Alan, do you think they really are pushing Jeff/Britta that hard? I thought Shirley's comment on the whole "two white people going to school together, makes sense you'd get together" thing was more of a meta comment on the whole situation than a way of pushing it. An additional way to mock the viewer expectations of romance. I don't know that the show itself is taking the prospects of those two that seriously.

Watch, now they'll hook up next week or something and prove me wrong.

dmalato2 said...

Is it just me, or does it seem like there's a pretty big age gap between Jeff and Britta? Like 15 years or something maybe. For me, that's why their UST is thoroughly uninteresting, and even a little creepy.

Still, the show has been great every week. Definitely need more frequent John Oliver! He's great.

KB said...

Finally John Oliver made reference to Abed's Rain Man persona.

rhys said...

I think Chang knew what the experiment was, he's probably done it before. So he just went crazy at the beginning so he could leave immediately. Easiest 80 bucks he's ever made, except for the other times he's done it. Of course they never actually acknowledge that, so maybe I'm wrong.

jenmoon said...

I assumed the same thing as Rhys, there.

I really don't give a shit about Jeff n' Britta getting together, but the rest of it was so darned funny I didn't mind. I felt like Shirley's comment was kind of like "we have to have a mandatory two white people love interest thing going here, it's a requirement, might as well poke fun at that."

derrickvee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
derrickvee said...

Anyone else tired of Ken Jeong's act? He was good in Knocked Up, but I don't think he's been funny in anything since. He almost ruined The Hangover and he's tanking scenes in this new show I really want to like, and do, except for him. Less Jeong, more Chase.