Jan 30, 2014

Thom Bitches About Community: "Analysis of Cork-Based Networking"

Danny Pudi
In the ashes of a failed column comes the reformed birth of Thom Bitches About Community: a weekly look at the beloved Dan Harmon sitcom that chooses to push boundaries and throw a meta cocktail into the face of every sitcom currently out there. With the return of the show's creator after a rocky, disastrous season four, we take a look at the show and try and capture what exactly makes the show worth checking out all these years later. Keep an eye out for it every Thursday night following the episode unless otherwise specified.

There were numerous questions to ask during the farewell of Troy in the previous episode. The most notable is how would the show go on. Theoretically, it could get by without Pierce, but Troy was very integral to the show. He pretty much is what kept Abed (Danny Pudi) a stable and interesting character. He also served as a strange dynamic to the show that kept things from ever feeling too serious. He was definitely a tragic loss that is far worse than say, dropping Chang (Ken Jeong) from the show entirely. 
With the departure had to come a change in dynamic. Abed couldn't just quote pop culture with someone and expect things to work out. He had to find a way to move on. In a sense, it was a rather fascinating move this time around in which he befriends a deaf girl in an unlikely way. Upon the introduction of a Game of Thrones parody during the opening scene, Britta (Gillian Jacobs) sets out to spoil the story's plot in order to annoy Abed. The thing is that Abed is always a few moves ahead. He is hooked up to deafening headphones and can barely hear anything. this is apropos for a deaf girl, who befriends him in a way that causes him to communicate through sign language, even though she can also read lips. In one of the episode's funnier gags, Abed is seen telling her in sign language that "I learned to say this in sign language." It is an essentially pointless phrase, but reflects some character growth.
Also, Annie (Alison Brie) is in charge of throwing a dance. She takes suggestions from the group and ends up going on a quest with Hickey (Jonathan Banks) to retrieve a cork board in order to hang ideas up. One thing leads to another and soon she owes the janitors access to porn on the computers. He also owes parking to a teacher. She ends up having to make a lot of requests and gets in over her head. All the while, Hickey is being very deadpan and nonchalant about it. It could help that among these numerous faces is Eddie Pepitone, Kumail Nanjiani, and Nathan Fillion. The cast is rather studded with cameos and makes the complexity of the Greendale landscape far more engrossing.
Did I mention that Chang is not my favorite character? The subplot of the other members trying to get a dance theme set up turns into a disaster. When Chang suggests that they "Bear Down for Finals," they humor him into actually doing it. Why? I have no frigging idea. It was pretty stupid and I cannot see why they kept Chang around. Even the payoff of the joke that he saw a bear on the news wasn't all that rewarding. Replacing it with Fat Dog as a theme was even less appealing and made this whole subplot feel rather stupid.

Gillian Jacobs
I realize that it is impossible to expect a new dynamic to work as well as the previous. The additions of Hickey and Duncan (John Oliver) to what I presume is the permanent replacements feels odd, as they seem too aloof and secondary at this time. Sure, Duncan's British nature gives him some sort of authenticity, but the feel of the show's diversity doesn't feel all that strong. Hickey is too stubborn and if he wasn't paired with Annie the entire episode, it would likely seem too depressing to have him around. I like Jonathan Banks a lot from Breaking Bad, but I am not sure that I am quite buying him on the show in the way that they have him set up.
In general, I was not a fan of this particular episode. While it is great to see Annie take some control over her life, it felt unrewarding overall. The dance concept was too ridiculous and the conversations that were had by varying members felt a little contrived. It was a lot of set-up without any of the typical wit. I worry that this is a reflection of things to come in the remaining episodes. I do hope that things get better, but hopefully the poisonous presence of Chang becomes less and less. I don't get it. He isn't great comedic relief, even if he wants to be taken seriously. I mean, screw his "Bear down" concept. Why doesn't anyone question this? 
The only real payoff is that Abed has managed to make it out the best in a post-Troy world. His relationship with the deaf girl was rather entertaining. I felt like they had a strange bond that provided it continued, would have made the show far more interesting. As it stands, the betrayal of the deaf girl revealing the end of the Game of Thrones parody was a nice, comedic touch that also made Britta's small role have more of an impact. She won the war. 
I just hope that this doesn't mean that Abed is going to troll around with random people for the rest of the season. I like the idea of him finding someone even stranger to pal up with and go on a strange journey. Doing what, I do not know. As a whole, this episode has me a little worried about Community's future, even with the majority of the gang together and Dan Harmon back in the helm. This rebooted feel has just become hit and miss, and mostly on the better side. I'd like to think that this is just a lackluster episode and that I am overtly analyzing the structure of the relationships. I really hope so.

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