Friday, March 25, 2011

TV Episode Review: Community “Critical Film Studies”

Though I didn't really enjoy tonight’s episode very much, it will forever be the night of television which gave us Chevy Chase dressed in the bondage gear of The Gimp from “Pulp Fiction” which, really, is a greater gift than any of us has any right to ask for from a TV show.  All of the characters in costume tonight were a joy to behold, most especially Britta who—I defy you to disagree—is much hotter than Uma Thurman in the same costume.  The final slo-mo scenes of the birthday party are lovingly crafted and actually made me really, really jealous that I’m not a part of the study group.  And there are other gems hidden amidst the odd little meta-commentary about Abed’s obsession with pop culture, but (and I admit that this might have to do with the fact that I haven’t seen “My Dinner with Andre”) overall the episode came off as fairly flat and lifeless, and didn’t really offer much of interest in the way of being meta in the first place. 

To make matters worse, the reference to “My Dinner with Andre” turns out to be a faulty premise in the first place:  Abed set up the “dinner scene” with Jeff because the film involves a friend having an unexpectedly enjoyable time with a weird friend who he’s been avoiding lately.  Hey that’s great, except, didn’t we just hear last week from Abed AND Troy that THEY have been avoiding JEFF ever since the incident with Britta?  I’m sad to be vindicated, but just as I was afraid of, it looks like the writers are starting to traffic in throwaway jokes and plotlines that they want us to discard arbitrarily in later episodes when they want to take things in a new direction.  It’s sloppy and it’s becoming a habit.
I'd Chang her.

The episode actually starts off pretty promisingly too:  Jeff at first seems dressed up like he’s late for a shoot of The Soup before the real reference is revealed (McHale DOES look good in a skinny tie), and his monologue about Abed as a friend is both touching and funny.  Mostly funny:  “He watched Cougartown…it’s as if he didn’t want people to like him.”  When Abed arrives dressed in clothes borrowed from a septuagenarian in an AARP commercial and Jeff says, “I like your sweater…did it come with a golden retriever?” I thought we were in for another great night of comedy.  Unfortunately, after Abed’s somewhat inspired monologue about his adventures on the set of Cougartown, where he discovers another version of himself who is both life-changing and disheartening at the same time, the episode really deflates and struggles to limp to the finish line where it manages to salvage a few nice moments.

The bloated middle is filled with alternating scenes of Jeff and Abed engaging in “serious” and unfunny dialogue while the rest of the crew mill around Britta’s workplace with nothing to do.  The latter is especially frustrating since you have a room full of funny characters dressed in even funnier costumes, all ready for the ball, and it’s pretty clear that the writers have no idea what to do with them while Jeff and Abed hash out their issues.  It feels wasteful.  Across town with Jeff and Abed there’s not much more going on; admittedly the jokes may be contingent upon being familiar with the movie being spoofed, but that’s not quite an excuse.  Community has always been best at balancing pop culture references with situational and observational comedy.  So for a good stretch we get very little to laugh at and not much to think about in any interesting way either—the meta stuff falls pretty flat, in my opinion, and the idea that we’re getting a peek into the honest and exposed version of Jeff Winger is equally dull as his stories of childhood embarrassment and adult insecurity are neither particular funny nor as endearing as the show could have made them. 

The one redeeming moment of the show’s midsection comes when Pierce storms into the restaurant to chastise Jeff for skipping the party he set up.  It’s a hilarious exchange complete with the wonderful sight gag of Pierce dressed in bondage gear in an upscale restaurant (Abed’s double take from Pierce’s chain-link jock strap to his face is priceless) and Pierce’s disgusted “Pretty gay!  Pretty gay!” as he storms out is worth rewinding to enjoy a few times for the perfect character moment that it is.  It’s also perfect in its sublime absurdity:  Pierce has no idea why he’s dressed that way, he has no shame in storming around in public in the costume, he’s clueless to the irony of his departing words, and he’s delightfully unencumbered by the meta-structure that binds the hands of the rest of the proceedings.

The show deflates again after that, though, and insists on a heavy, unnecessary fallout/reconciliation between Jeff and Abed which doesn’t really resonate and ultimately commits the mistake of keeping the rest of the cast—still dressed up as “Pulp Fiction” characters, let me remind you—off screen for a few minutes longer when they’re really the only thing worth our full attention during the episode.  It felt somewhat like a misfire but even more like a missed opportunity.  As I said, had you shown me the first five minutes of this episode last week, I would have wet several pairs of pants in giddy anticipation of the full episode this week.  Instead, the show tonight pursued all of the wrong avenues and pushed all of the potentially great interactions to the margins.  I think Abed says it best when he finally gets a look at all his friends in costume:  “Cool cool cool cool cool.”  Indeed they are; indeed it could have been…

Overall Rating:  8.1/10

Great Lines, Interesting Moments, What Not and Occasionally What-Have-You:

“Abed was being weird, and by that I mean he wasn’t being weird.”

Jeff’s wallet gift really is an awesome gift for someone like Abed.

“Well I’m hot and my balls are touching a zipper!”

Funny moment between Jeff and the waiter:

“I’ll have a salad.”
“Excellent choice.”
“Yeah, I nailed it.”

Abed’s TV alter-ego is “Chad”, whose ultimate legacy will be making Abed poop his pants.

This week’s final Troy/Abed moment is the best they’ve had in weeks.  Troy’s reaction to the bill is hysterical:  “It said market price.  What market are you shopping at?”  

No comments:

Post a Comment