Last Night on Community: 'I Don't Like Where That's Going'

Uh-oh. Having been a major cheerleader for the first season of Community -- and having done a Derek Jeter-like fist pump when NBC wisely renewed the under-watched comedy for a second season -- my hopes were high for the season premiere. Maybe that was a mistake.

This isn't going to be one of those "this show is doomed, it's the sophomore slump, they're trying too hard!" rants. But. Let me put it this way: After reading hyperbolic review after hyperbolic review about how wonderful the season premiere of Community was, I actually had to check the cable guide to make sure I was watching the same episode as the chattering class of critics. What happened here?

Let's start with the good: "Anthropology 101," was -- for the most part -- pretty funny. There was a typical amount of Community branded meta comedy, referencing everything from the show being back on the air to Donald Glover's failed efforts at becoming Spider-man to even being meta. As Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) said to Abed (Danny Pudi) while he was attempting to come up with a wacky, sitcom-y way to enliven season two, "I don't understand, is this you being meta?" Yes, Shirley. It is.

Also hilarious: @oldwhitemansays, the Twitter feed that Troy (Glover) created to highlight the inappropriate things that Pierce (Chevy Chase) says on a daily basis. (Pierce on why Jewish men wear yarmulkes: "Half a hat; saves money.") That this runner paid off with a lame joke about $#*! My Dad Says can be forgiven.

What were your problems, Hater McHaterson? you scream at your computer. Fine, here you go. I realize creator Dan Harmon doesn't want to make Community into a will-they-won't-they merry-go-round between Jeff (Joel McHale), Annie (Alison Brie) and Britta (Gillian) -- to paraphrase Abed, he wants Community to get away from the soapy relationship stuff -- but "Anthropology 101" did too fine a job of sabotaging the sexual tension.

Figure this: Jeff and Britta aren't going to be together, not after their uncomfortable and alien-like make out sessions. (Or did they French? I'll have to consult National Review.) Also figure that Jeff and Annie aren't going to be together, not after the sex offender jokes, Twilight references and right hooks. (Also, Britta saying that Jeff "stuck his tongue in a teenager" was inspired.) So what are we left with? Why should we care about these characters?

Abed is only half-right: Community might the funniest when it's about self-contained antics and pop culture references, but if it doesn't have a smidgen of heart, it becomes a live-action version of a Seth MacFarlane show. Spoiler alert: That version of the show sucks.

Speaking of sucks, if Community is really going to subject us to more Ken Jeong this season, get out the barf bag now. Egad. His one-joke shtick is about as expired as the Gollum reference he was part of at the end of the episode. Watch it below, cringe and hope for better next week.



Comments

  • Emotionally Retarded says:

    You know, I like Community, and I think the central cast is very appealing, but I honestly do not watch it much because of the abomination that is Ken Jeong. I turned it on last night, and there he was, so I switched to Big Bang Theory. The guy who plays the dean isn't that far behind.

  • jake says:

    I didn't think it was a Gollum reference, but a Spiderman reference, i.e. the green goblin, thus it fit with Donald Glover/Spiderman situation.

  • Ben says:

    You know, I actually agree. It was a hilarious episode, to be sure, and I love the satirical ones like Modern Warfare and Contemporary American Poultry, so I don't mind that they're shooting for more of those (is next week's episode a Body Snatchers homage? It sounds a lot like it), but I really do like the "soap-y, relationship-y" stuff. I mean, I love that it's just straight up trying to buck traditional television structure and progression, and it will probably get lots of great reviews because of that. But the show is definitely alienating some of its fan base, 'cause there are some really hard core Community shippers out there.
    I mean, the only reason the Annie love interest was there was because there was such a positive fan reaction to the Debate episode. People asked for that, and the show shouldn't just leave that in the dust.
    Regardless, I'm sure it'll be a hilarious season what with Apollo 13 and the stop-motion Christmas episode. But I've always loved Community's ability to be hilarious and still have an interesting sense of underlying drama.
    Also, I was shocked to read all the critics say that last season's season-closing Annie kiss was bad. That was one of the most natural-feeling moments of TV I've ever seen and I thought it was the perfect way to close off the season.

  • Clinton says:

    Going in, I was concerned about the season premier. I loved this show last year and was hoping things wouldn't crash and burn in the opening episode. I was greatly relieved. The tension at the end of act 2 was well played. They actually seem to be pushing the characters along a bit. That takes some guts. I'm interested to see where we go from here. Yes, it's comedy, but development can be a part of that.
    And who says Jeff will not end up with Britta at some point? Although last night's episode seemed to put out that fire, there's no guarantee things will stay that way forever.
    As far as Ken Jeong goes, if they can make him a foe that tries to tear the study group apart, so much the better. He'll probably pal around with Starburns and make evil plans.

  • Jennifer says:

    I agree with this review: the romantic crap being dynamited to kingdom come ruined the episode for me. Second place in awful goes to the Gollum crap.
    Betty White (and the anthropology rap) and the Twitter joking were the best parts of the episode.

  • epochd says:

    they better not lose the relationship stuff. its so funny and characters are great but w/out it won't work. arrested developement wouldn't have worked if it didn't have bateman and cera to give the show some heart. w/out heart community becomes a live action adult swim cartoon.

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