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Community: Why So Serious?

by Ethan Alter March 23, 2012 6:00 am
<i>Community</i>: Why So Serious?

We could make a joke about how last night's Community episode was doing an impression of a previously hilarious show by the same name, but, much like the episode itself, that seems a bit too tortured.

So let's just say that "Contemporary Impressionists" was a potentially funny idea -- what if the gang became celebrity impersonators for a night? -- executed in a disappointing way, surprise appearance by Evil Abed in the closing moments notwithstanding. Actually, that cameo is part of a larger problem with where the show seems to be right now. Since it premiered, the Community writers haven't shied away from highlighting the character's flaws, from Jeff's rampant egomania to Annie's childishness to Abed's desperate need to view the world through pop-culture glasses. But the show used to address those sides of their personality in far more inventive and amusing ways. In both last week's return from hiatus and this installment, the humor has been overshadowed by a more dramatic edge that largely falls flat. We already know that these people aren't perfect -- that's why we like them so much. By dwelling so heavily on their flaws in such a self-serious manner, the current incarnation of Community threatens to do what we had previously thought impossible: make us want to look around for another study group to join. Here are the specific character moments that had us making happy faces and sad faces last night.

Jeff
Happy Face: Reducing the Dean to convulsions with his aviator shades-enhanced studliness.
Sad Face: His very public, very humiliating meltdown and transformation into Seacrest Hulk.

Abed
Happy Face: His re-enactment of the sewer chase scene from The Fugitive.
Sad Face: Calling his long-awaited encounter with Evil Abed "crazy and inaccessible and maybe too dark." We were just hoping for funny.

Troy
Happy Face: Explaining the plot of Lorenzo's Oil, the Lorenzo Lamas/Jamie Lee Curtis classic in which Lorenzo plays an oil tycoon that get his address book with Curtis and they give each other piggyback rides.
Sad Face: The whole storyline involving Troy's attempts to save his friend's legs from being smashed to smithereens over his debt to the celebrity impersonators hiring service. The threat of real-world violence doesn't fit the show's heightened reality.

Britta
Happy Face: Speak-singing "Jeff is in grave danger -- heh heh!" while doing the moonwalk dressed as White Michael Jackson.
Sad Face: Explaining the meaning of the word "shame" to Jeff.

Pierce
Happy Face: His pride and joy at joining the 21st century after digitizing his VHS tapes into the Selectivision CED video disc format.
Sad Face: Resignedly telling the guy manning the guest list at the Bar Mitzvah bash that he's the Brando impersonator. You can find him under "Fat."

Annie
Happy Face: Her Wizard of Oz get-up, complete with pigtails.
Sad Face: Nothing actually, mainly because she didn't have all that much to do.

Shirley
Happy Face: Her committed attempt to get into character as Fake Oprah by saying in a trembling voice, "All my life I've had to fight..."
Sad Face: Again, nothing springs to mind since she was mainly a background player here.

Chang
Happy Face: Chang getting dressed down by the Dean for firing his tranq gun in the study room, followed by his surprisingly accurate version of Renée Zellweger's annoying pouty face.
Sad Face: Every other time he appeared.

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