When NBC announced its mid-season lineup on Monday a mighty cry echoed across the internet: “Where the fuck is Community?” The network pulled the show from the back half of the schedule, though it will allow the entire season to be produced and to air them…whenever. People have been quick to note that this is not a cancellation, but it’s certainly not good. Hopefully NBC will put the past seasons of the show on Netflix Instant Watch, allowing people who haven’t seen the show to catch up in the wake of this internet buzz, and then be ready for the new episodes, whenever NBC decides to air them. In fact, this whole ugliness could actually pay off in the long run. If the controversy causes enough interest and breeds new fans, then maybe this could save the show instead of kill it. Maybe.
This week would be a curious episode to serve as an entry point for any new viewers whose curiosity was piqued by the shuffle kerfuffle, as it shifted focus away from the study group to focus on Dean Pelton’s descent into madness while attempting to film a commercial for Greendale. However, the episode was so goddamn funny that if new viewers, or comedy fans in general, can’t connect to it on that basic level, then just cancel the show now because it’s too beautiful for this wretched world.
Megan Ganz got sole writing credit on this episode, as she did with last season’s excellent “Cooperative Calligraphy” (the bottle episode). Writing credits on a TV show are always strange, so it can be sometimes hard to pin down exactly who wrote what (and Harmon, as show-runner, obviously gets a pass at the final draft, so the show is always in some way in his voice), but it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that both episodes transcended their central “gimmick” conceit to be just plain funny.
The episode references the documentary Heart of Darkness, which records the hellish experience that Francis Ford Coppola had filming Apocalypse Now. And, since it’s we’re in the neighborhood anyway, why not just have the Dean go full Kurtz, burning his clothes and whispering to himself in existential horror? All the better that we’ve got Jim Rash handling the herculean task of making that all meld together. Between his scheming turn in last weeks episode (and awesome pipes on the Seal medley), and his range here, Rash is really proving himself to be the season’s MVP. The best Dean moment of the night was him surreptitiously handing Annie an orange, and saying only “Scene Four”.
Pulling away from the study group also allowed the show to feature some of Greendale’s other bizarre characters. We got to see Leonard again, who think it’s a good idea to get on this television thing, because it might be here to stay. Magnitude made a silent cameo (But what was he saying? I guess we’ll never know). And we got to see Garrett again, my all-time favorite Community tertiary character. The character is super broad, but makes me laugh every damn time he opens his mouth, and props to Erik Charles Nielsen for rocking that motion capture suit.
Of course, the study group was there, too, and every member of the cast was really on top of their game tonight. Joel McHale’s gleeful impression of Dean Pelton was pretty spot on, and he did a great job with Jeff’s identity confusion as he becomes unable to imagine himself with hair (of course the hair would be Jeff’s focus) after wearing a bald cap for a week straight. And Gillian Jacobs and Donald Glover were fantastic as take after agonizing take of a hugging scene drives Britta and Troy insane (it’s difficult trying to pull a 400-year-old dagger out of America’s heart, after all).
The long hug that alarms Abed at the end has been a long time coming. Troy’s crush on Britta is well-established. Her interest in Troy gets lost in her easy hookups with Jeff, who she understands because they are both equally shallow. I don’t know what a real exploration of Troy and Britta will lead to. Getting to live and play all day as Abed’s roommate, Troy’s gone a few steps back from the manhood and poise he showed last season. Would Britta bring that back out again, or would her basic neuroses make it hell for both of them? It’s a story I hope the writers fully explore, and seems more organic than Jeff and Annie, so let’s shelve that for a few episodes, okay?
This was a loaded episode. Even if the central reference gave you a pretty good idea where the plot was going, the lines and moments along the way were so random that the episode delivered the kind of bursts of laughter that make this show so addictive. Oh, and Luis Guzman was in this! He’s good in everything (double Jordan Jesse Go reference points for those who care). And apparently “got laid like crazy” while at Greendale, so much that they built a statue to commemorate it.
When word gets out that a TV show I love is in danger of getting cancelled I try to keep it in perspective, remember that it’s only TV, and get on with my life. Fuck that. We need more Community. Get to the Twitter machine, people!
Community, Episode 3:8 “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux”: A