Feb 8, 2013

Community: "History 101"

By Nico Danilovich

Happy October 19th, fellow Greendale enthusiasts! It took awhile to get here, but the day finally came, and in my opinion it was well worth the wait.

We entered Season 4 with a lot of burning questions: Are Britta and Troy ever going to become a thing? Will Shirley and Pierce’s sandwich shop fair well? Will Chang ever return? Is City College going to attack Greendale? STARBURNS ISN’T DEAD?! And of course, there were the questions that were actually on people’s minds, like: How is Pierce eventually going to be written out of the show now that Chevy Chase is gone? Will the show be the same without Dan Harmon? As for that first question, I have no idea. My personal hope is that his character passes away and the finale takes place at his funeral. As for the second question, based on last night’s episode, I’d say Community is definitely at least at the same quality as previous seasons, if not better. Each character had an entertaining storyline that achieved what it set out to do and made me laugh while doing it.

Pierce, always the odd man out, spent the majority of the episode trying to think of a joke about balls. You heard me, balls. It’s nothing impressive as far as writing goes, but it was definitely funny. And at this point, does anyone really expect much else from his character? I doubt it.

Meanwhile, Annie declared her intent to “do senioritis this year”. At first, this declaration seemed like just a cute little gag for Annie to have going for an episode. However, we soon found out there was more to this plot than just jokes. Shirley joined up with Annie, seemingly interested in pulling pranks with her, but really, she was just there to give Annie someone to talk to. As it turned out, Annie was feeling apprehensive about leaving Greendale at the end of the school year and had adopted an attitude of senioritis in order to put off having to deal with that eventuality. Although it may have not been the funniest of plotlines, it did provide us with some good Dean-related jokes (the stapler, the high heels) and an interesting look into Annie’s character development early in the season.

Then, there was Troy and Britta. (What are we calling them now, anyway? Troyta? Brittoy?) Surprisingly, Community has actually paired two main characters together in what looks like a legitimate relationship. What’s interesting about this is that of all the different pairings they could have brought to fruition, they chose to bring the one that is the strangest while still being believable. We got a surprise hand hold to reveal their newfound relationship and some classic Britta lines on how their situation has “progressed but [not] progressed progressed.”  Their scene at the fountain gave us a look into the unsurprisingly dysfunctional aspects of their relationship; Britta was awkward as always and Troy clung to the traditions of his friendship with Abed. By the end of the episode, we got a nice little moment between the two of them, reaffirming their status as a happy couple, and our brief look into their relationship was over. All in all, it was weird but funny, pretty much what you would expect from a relationship between Troy and Britta.

Then there was Jeff. Matching up with his attitude at the end of Season 3, Jeff started off the school year by being a nice guy. We saw him saving seats in class for the study group and choosing his friends over girls.  It seemed like Jeff had finally made the transition from jerk to good guy that he has always been destined to make. Then, we found out his intentions were not as pure as they seemed.  Ready to move on, Jeff had taken courses over the summer and only needed one more history credit in order to graduate early.  Used to Jeff being a selfish bastard, the group dismissed his actions as being entirely selfish. But, to his credit, Jeff really did care about his friends this time and he fought vigorously in the Hunger-Deans (Dean Pelton’s amusing version of the Hunger Games) to earn the study group a spot in the History of Ice Cream class this semester. It was a great dynamic to see Jeff being both his selfish self and yet also a nicer guy than usual. In the end, Jeff chose the study group over the prizes the Hunger-Deans offered and saved the day. It was as touching as something that predictable could be. His storyline also provided us with some hilarious moments between Jeff and the Dean, namely the dance competition.

Finally, there was Abed. With Abed’s permission, Britta had begun to provide him with therapy over the summer. Unsurprisingly, Britta “Britta’d” this and sparked the central conflict of the episode. Nervous about the “last first day of school” and the implications that held for the study group, Abed chose to follow Britta’s instructions and enter a “happy place” whenever he began to feel stressed out. This resulted in him imagining a hilarious version of Community as a more traditional sitcom, complete with a laugh track, corny jokes and Fred Willard as Pierce Hawthorne. His anxiety became even worse when Jeff announced his plans to graduate early and we got to see a somewhat creepy version of Community where everyone was a cartoon baby. Eventually, Abed was saved by the power of friendship and some classic Winger speeches were delivered, albeit inside Abed’s head. Although the idea of Abed being “broken” has been done quite a few times now, it was warranted given the character and the situation and it provided us with a pretty hilarious high concept. Although the idea of Community as a more traditional sitcom isn’t the most original idea, it was still executed well and contained a lot of strong jokes. Abed’s storyline also provided the thematic backbone to the episode by focusing our attention on the fact that this is almost certainly the last season of Community.

Also, Chang’s back and he’s got “Changnesia”! My guess is that he’s going to be a spy for City College.

Overall, the episode was pretty strong and served as a great way to return to Greendale.  If some golden touch bestowed upon the show by Dan Harmon was missing, I didn’t notice. Almost all of the jokes were funny. Annie, Jeff and Abed’s storylines all dealt with the eventuality of Community’s end in interesting ways, while Troy and Britta gave us an amusing look into their strange new relationship. As often happens, the writers sort of pushed Pierce and Shirley to the side, using Pierce for nothing more than jokes and using Shirley to advance Annie’s storyline.  However, as unfair as that may be to the two older characters, it didn’t really detract from the episode all that much. I’m hoping the sandwich shop will provide Pierce and Shirley with some interesting storylines in the future, but we’ll see. For now, I’m just glad Community is back.

Grade: B+

Nico Danilovich is a television enthusiast and amateur filmmaker. His work can be seen at www.youtube.com/lazyneighbors

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