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.
The source for the college's apocalyptic makeover this time around is a seemingly simple, unassuming social networking app that turned out to be anything but. A social media animal himself, Dan Harmon bestows the app with perhaps the most Internet-appropriate name around: MeowMeowBeanz (the "z" is what really seals the deal for its authenticity), which allows users to rate others on a scale of 1-5 smiley cat faces. Because this is Greendale, this charming game almost immediately takes a competitive turn as Shirley -- who always has a smile and a kind word for everyone (to their face, at least) -- quickly amasses the most MeowMeowBeanz, while Britta britta's her way into the lower ranks of the 1's and 2's. Next to Spike Jonze's Her, I can't think of a better, funnier and more accurate representation of the way people become addicted to their personal devices than the terrific first act of "App Developments," and if the rest of the episode had continued in that real-world vein, it would have been an instant Community classic.
But coming back from the first commercial break, the second act shifts to more familiar (but still funny) ground, as MeowMeowBeanz fever has overrun the school, turning it into a class-based system where the regally-clad 5's swan about the place, like the decadent dome residents in Logan's Run, while the downtrodden 2's are on maintenance duty. (One of the 5's -- a John Belushi-type party dude named Koogler -- is played by none other than Arrested Development mastermind Mitch Hurwitz, while two more members of cult comedy royalty, Tim & Eric, cameo as 4's.) Along comes Jeff to upset the natural order of things, working his way up through the system to expose it as the farce it is. Only he inevitably gets corrupted while delivering a command stand-up comedy performance in the talent show that represents his gateway to 5-dom and a confrontation with Shirley, where their mutual jealousy and competitive natures rises once again. Meanwhile, it falls to Britta to lead the revolution from basement where 2's are kept, installing a paramilitary dictatorship that's only brought down by the fact that the five-star rated MeowMeowBeanz is now available to the public for a mere 99 cents, thus no longer functioning as an impartial observer.
Where last week's episode suffered by spinning the cast off into distinctly separate storylines and settings, this one smartly places them in a situation where they get to function as a unit, while also highlighting a specific relationship within the larger ensemble. That, along with the spot-on sci-fi spoofery (dig those Zardoz-style undies on Starburns!), helped me overlook the increasing familiarity of watching Greendale yet again descend into every-student-for-themselves chaos. Harmon should probably get a new gimmick, but this one hasn't quite worn out its welcome just yet. Here are each characters' presumptive Internet addiction as well as their funniest lines from the episode.
Presumptive Internet Addiction: Instagram. Because what better way to chronicle his enduring love affair with his own reflection?
Funniest Line: "I'm pretty sure it's selling our information to spammers, because I'm getting a lot more email and trust me -- my penis needs no enlargement!"
Presumptive Internet Addiction: MySpace. Because she's at least four or five years behind the times.
Funniest Line: "You don't like my face?"
Presumptive Internet Addiction: Letterboxd. Because he can sing the praises of the Kick Puncher series and leave nasty comments on all the 5-star ratings of Terrence Malick movies.
Funniest Line: "MeowMeowBeanz takes everything subjective and unspoken about human interaction and reduces it to explicit, subjective numbers. I've never felt more alive."
Presumptive Internet Addiction: Buzzfeed quizzes. Because how else will she know where she should live, what job she should have and which Scandal character she might be?
Funniest Line: "Say Hitler one more time and I'm giving you a 2!"
Presumptive Internet Addiction: Yelp. Because he seems like the kind of guy who likes to leave 1-star reviews complaining about poor customer service.
Funniest Line: "Nobody is going to downvote a guy on his birthday!"
Presumptive Internet Addiction: Twitter. So she can keep track of which causes to hashtag.
Funniest Line: " I shouldn't have to put mustard on my face for this to make sense."
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