If I were feeling especially curmudgeonly, I'd take "App Developments and Condiments" to task for going back to the "Greendale becomes a post-apocalyptic wasteland" well so soon after "Geothermal Escapism" a.k.a. "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen, Donald Glover." But as a fan of cheesy '70s sci-fi (think Logan's Run and The Omega Man), I was laughing too hard to care. And, as an added bonus, the parody was rooted in a relationship that hasn't been explored in some time -- the love/hate bond between former foosball rivals-turned-teammates, Jeff and Shirley.
Well… they can't all be winners. For the first episode back from the Olympic break, Community serves up "Introduction to Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality," an odd, disjointed episode in which its two most child-like characters -- Abed and Britta -- are taught some grown-up lessons.
After two weeks of goodbyes, Community has to say hello the new normal of a post-Pierce and post-Troy Greendale. That adjustment was always going to be a rough one, and that's reflected in the ungainly, but not unpleasant half-hour that was "Analysis of Cork-Based Networking," in which a host of famous guest stars turned up to temporarily distract us from the shrinking core cast and provide Alison Brie/Annie Edison with the finest showcase she's had since Season 3's legendarily divisive "trapped in the Dreamatorium" episode.
Perhaps because he's working on a shortened season order for the first time, Dan Harmon apparently opted against spacing out his movie parodies. Two weeks removed from his David Fincher homage, he returned to the spoof well last night with "Geothermal Escapism" a.k.a. "Community: Lave World," which sent up a whole bunch of post-apocalyptic disaster movies with a specific emphasis on the legendary Kevin Costner boondoggle Waterworld.
After a single, a triple and a balk, Community hit its first home-run of the show's fifth season thanks to the dearly departed (and entirely off-screen) Pierce Hawthorne, who bid farewell to his old study group the only way he knew how: by screwing with their minds.
Last week's double-episode bonanza brought Dan Harmon back to Community. This week brought back a less-heralded element of his original run: the occasional Dan Harmon misfire. Those were the episodes where Harmon's prodigious comic brain overthought itself, resulting in half-hours that were often immaculately constructed, but so weirdly insular that they stifled viewer laughter. It's no accident that several of those misfires -- like last night's installment, "Basic Intergluteal Numismatics" -- were carefully recreated lampoons of specific movie and/or TV genres, an area where Harmon can either excel ("Contemporary American Poultry" and "Basic Lupine Urology") or fall flat ("Pillows and Blankets" and "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux," although I liked both of those episodes more than most folks did).
Our long national nightmare is over: Dan Harmon has returned to Community to right the various wrongs perpetrated against the students and teachers at Greendale Community College during the fourth season. And yet, the first two episodes of Season 5 -- "Repilot" and "Introduction to Teaching" -- weren't so much a triumphant return, as they were a prolonged sigh of relief. The show has been -- and likely will be -- funnier than either of these installments, but at least Community sounds like Community again, and that's something to be thankful for.
In the immortal words of T.S. Eliot, "Well now that's done: and I'm glad it's over." Or maybe, "This is the way
the world Community ends: Not with a bang but a whimper" would be more apropos. Whichever Eliot line you chose to go with, Community's fourth season (and, potentially, series) finale "Advanced Introduction to Finality" was a definite off-note on which to end a season that was already often out of tune.
Question: What does a show do when it can't decide how to move forward? Answer: It looks to the past. That explains Community's penultimate Season 4 episode, "Heroic Origins," in which Abed pieces together the group's shared pre-Greendale history on a flowchart he labels the
Loom of Fate Crazy Quilt of Destiny. On the one hand, this gimmick allowed the cast to have some fun playing earlier incarnations of their characters, from Alison Brie's brace-faced Annie to Abed's Phantom Menace-trolling scarer of small children. At the same time, though, the whole thing felt kind of... well, pointless, since this trip to the past wound up shedding very minimal light on who these characters are now and what the future -- which may or may not last beyond next week's finale -- might have in store.
If nothing else, "Basic Human Anatomy" demonstrated the advantage of having an Oscar-winning screenwriter finally on your writing staff. On the heels of last week's Christmas-themed debacle, Jim "Dean Pelton" Rash swooped in and saved the series at the 11th
hour episode, penning the only successful high concept half hour so far this season. The high concept in question was body switching, that old staple of '70s and '80s comedies like Vice Versa (sorry Abed, we dig that one, Judge Reinhold and all), Like Father, Like Son and Freaky Friday (not the Lindsay Lohan version -- the 1976 Jodie Foster-starring, fortune cookie-free original), the latter of which caused buddies Abed and Troy to trade identities just in time for Troy to make a big decision about his ill-advised romance with Britta.
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