The last time Community was on the air, 30 Rock hadn't kicked off what has actually been a pretty good Season 6, The Voice hadn't premiered showcasing Christina Aguilera's odd taste in headpieces, Maya Rudolph hadn't hosted the best Saturday Night Live in ages and Parks and Recreation hadn't scored such great guest stars as Paul Rudd, Louis C.K. and Kathryn Hahn. In other words, there's been lots of funny stuff on NBC of late, so Dan Harmon and the rest of the Greendale gang were going to have to bring their A-game for the show's highly anticipated return, "Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts." So how did they all fare? Here's our post-hiatus status report, along with the new details we learned about each character:
Jeff: Misanthropic as ever, Jeff spends much of the episode complaining about marriage, even as he agrees to deliver a toast at Shirley's second wedding. But even after searching his heart and downing a bunch of drinks, he can't come up with anything positive to say and instead allows his daddy issues to bubble to the surface again. Depressed Jeff is always somewhat of an iffy proposition -- sometimes it yields great comedy and other times it just feels forced. Last night fell into the latter category. We're looking forward to the return of Funny A-hole Jeff next week.
New Character Detail: As we've previously seen, Jeff has the power to argue any position as long as it suits his purpose. But here he confesses that his Kryptonite is having to argue a position that's so dumb, even he can't pretend to support it.
Britta: Jeff isn't alone in his anti-wedding feelings; Britta also repeatedly rails against the institution of holy matrimony in her typically inflammatory (and only occasionally uninformed) way. But her latent spousal side comes out when she appoints herself Shirley's wedding planner and designs a beautiful setting for the rehearsal ceremony. Watching Britta's anger transform into mania was wholly amusing and we particularly enjoyed her and Jeff exchanging their twisted version of wedding vows.
New Character Detail: Britta can make a killer flower arrangement.
Annie: In contrast to Britta and Jeff, sunny Annie is thrilled with Shirley's impending second nuptials and eagerly volunteers her services to help with the planning. In other words, same as she ever was... and that's why we adore her.
New Character Detail: Annie carries around a massive scrapbook filled with wedding ideas. Clearly, she hasn't discovered Pinterest yet.
Troy & Abed: Strongly encouraged by Shirley to behave as normally as possible at the wedding, Troy and Abed flush all of the weirdness out of their system during one prolonged stint in their Dreamatorium. Always a tight-knit pair, these guys practically seem married themselves by now -- it's like they share the same brain in addition to the same living space. If Shirley and Andre need a couple to model themselves after, Troy and Abed seem ideal... maybe minus the Inspector Spacetime obsession, of course.
New Character Detail: Troy and Abed are even weirder when they try to be normal.
Pierce: With his not-so-dearly departed dad gone, the younger Hawthorne is attempting to prove his entrepreneurial mettle, investing in a racist wireless security camera, an anally invasive trouser bench and Shirley's idea for a sandwich shop in Greendale's cafeteria. (Only the latter one seems like a smart business opportunity, though.) No longer eager to play the villain, Pierce is back to being a functional (if frequently offensive) part of the group. Is it possible that he's ready to admit that he likes having them as friends? Nah.
New Character Detail: Pierce has been fired by Hawthorne Wipes and that -- coupled with his dad's death -- means he's really and truly on his own for the first time in his life.
Shirley: It was a big episode for the study group's resident busybody, as she prepared for her second wedding with Andre (in the study room, because of their church's strict "second weddings" policy) and developed her sandwich stand idea with Pierce. We tend to run hot and cold on Shirley, but this episode proved to be a strong showcase for the character, highlighting her sharp business acumen (which we haven't seen much of before, if at all) without sacrificing her passive-aggressively sweet manner. Also, she and Malcolm-Jamal Warner make an insanely adorable couple. More of them together, please.
New Character Detail: Her trilling, Miss Piggy-like voice is also her sexy voice, according to Andre.
Dean Pelton: In the period that Community has been off the air, Jim Rash was nominated for and won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for The Descendants. However, his onscreen persona hasn't enjoyed the same kind of life-changing experience. Instead, the Dean just keeps bumbling along, not getting invited to weddings, trying (and failing) to sound smart and getting overruled on important decisions by the school board.
New Character Detail: The Dean is a blast at weddings. That's what he claims, at least.
Chang: Nowhere to be found.
New Character Detail: Greendale is almost always a funnier place when he's not present.
The Show Itself: "Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts" was middle-of-the-road Community -- solidly constructed with a few good laughs, but it didn't come close to scaling the comic heights we know the show can reach. As a standalone episode, it was fine. As the first show back from a lengthy break, it was kind of a letdown. Maybe we should chalk this one up to opening night jitters; with less pressure, next week's episode is bound to be funnier. We hope.
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